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Top day trips from Prague

The research is in, guys, and while it means you might have to extend your stays in the Czech Republic for a few more days to fit everything in, it doesn’t change the facts—there’s more to see and do in the Czech Republic than just exploring Prague. While the capital city is exciting, historic, and full of culture, there are other features and locations in the country that you would be truly remiss in your travels to skip. “But,” you may be asking, “Where should I start?” Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with our list of five of our favorite places outside of the Czech capital—in even better news, a few of them are even close enough to explore as a daytrip!

1. Český ráj/Bohemian Paradise

Český ráj or Bohemian Paradise is just that—a beautiful little patch of wilderness in the middle of the Bohemian countryside. While much of the Czech Republic is gorgeous, Český ráj is a special case given that in the 1950s, it was the first designated protected nature reserve in the entire country. What makes the area so special, you might wonder? As they say, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, but the answer, in short, is a lot of things.

To give a more detailed explanation it should be noted that Český ráj is rather a unique place in Bohemia, and is made up of land that once contained active volcanoes. Now, the countryside is full of precious minerals and stones and interesting hunks of sandstone rock rising up out of the rolling hills. The rock is extremely delicate and malleable, causing it’s formations to take on inimitable shapes after centuries of erosion caused by natural elements and, unfortunately, even mankind. Because of this, certain areas in the almost 200 km² area of the nature preserve are off-limits to people in efforts to preserve the rock formations and cut down on the graffiti that sometimes gets carved into their surfaces.

The paradise, though, still contains ample amounts of things to do, from hiking through the permitted zones to climbing hills to see old fortresses to cycling to visiting some of the many chateaus that dot the region. In short there really is something for everyone, including the rare chance to take in some of the most beautiful natural sights not only in the Czech Republic, but in the whole of Europe!



2. Český Krumlov

Our next suggested city to explore is located just a bit farther from Prague, but the town of Český Krumlov is so gorgeous, the trek is well worth it. If you follow us on social media, you know that we have a particular soft spot for the South Bohemian city, and it’s well deserved. Český Krumlov, which is located about 2 hours south of Prague, is a picturesque, fairy tale of a medieval city nestled along the Vltava River and the gently rolling countryside. The city, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, boasts one of the largest castle complexes in the country besides Prague Castle, as well as expansive gardens around it, ripe for strolling and exploring.

In addition to the castle, Český Krumlov is also one of the prime places in the country to go take in a show, as it maintains one of the few surviving baroque court theaters in the world. Built in the late 1600s, the theater, which was renovated in the 1760s, is still in working order with same props and scenery to this day, although due to preservation, only gives 2 public performances a year. If you miss out on a performance during your trip, don’t worry! Český Krumlov is also home to a unique outdoor revolving theater on the castle grounds that is also a treat to attend in the warmer months.

Aside from the castle and theater, the town of Český Krumlov is a quaint example of what a small, yet thriving town looked like in medieval times, with it’s narrow cobbled streets and old city walls. There’s nothing more enjoyable than taking a stroll through the winding streets on a sunny day and stopping on a bridge to take a peak at the river flowing beneath you. In the summer months, the town is also a destination for canoeists, who beat the heat paddling down the Vltava, usually with a few stops for beer along the way. If you want to do as the locals do, wave and say, “Ahoj!” as you see them pass by!



3. Karlštejn

Perhaps one of the most well-known castles outside of Prague lies just 45 minutes southwest of the city, making it the perfect place to explore for a few hours in the morning or afternoon and still leave time to enjoy Prague by night. Karlštejn castle was built by the famed Bohemian king and Holy Roman Emperor, Charles IV and served as one of his primary residences outside of Prague. Heading to the castle promises a day full of exploring the slightly “Game of Thrones-esque” lifestyle that nobles and knights in the 14th century enjoyed.

The castle, which is small, yet heavily fortified, is full of beautiful old furnishings, a chapel, and even a replica of the Czech crown jewels, which, contrary to popular belief, are not held at the very top of Prague’s St. Vitus Cathedral. At one time, though, the very gems that Charles IV commissioned as well as some of the imperial jewels from the Austrian Empire and other important documents were held in Karlštejn due to its historic reputation as secure fortress. The castle, which sits at the top of a steep hill, is not easy to approach (well, for the old time-y armies on horses that is…these days there are steep, yet paved paths for those taking in the sights), though the fantastic views from the parapets make the climb more than worth it.

Not a castle person? While I, personally, might not agree with you there, there’s more to see and do at Karlštejn besides just exploring the castle. At the bottom of the hill on which the castle sits, a cute little town exists where you can stroll through the streets and imagine what it must have looked like when the castle was full of nobility rather than just re-enactors. Shops and restaurants line the streets, serving up a variety of Czech specialty dishes, ice cream, and souvenirs at a slightly lower price than those you’ll find lining the streets of Prague.

Karlštejn is also a fantastic destination for any nature lovers who are visiting the capital. While it’s close to the city and easily reachable by train, bus, or car, it’s also surrounded by perfect examples of Czech nature, complete with rolling hills, hiking trails, and even massive “lakes” made from old quarries (which each have interesting names, such as “Serbia” and “America). The surrounding area was actually a headquarters of sorts for the Czech “tramping” movement that rose to popularity during communism as a way to get away from politics, the city, and prying eyes. No matter which activity you choose to do there, Karlštejn has something for everyone!



4. Kutná Hora

Kutná Hora is an ancient and fascinating city located east and slightly south of the Czech capital. Whether by train, bus, or car, the trip (which takes about 45 minutes to an hour) is a scenic one, traversing through the Czech countryside, which, in my opinion, strongly resembles the landscapes I always pictured when thinking about fairy tales and knights and dragons as a small child. The town itself is no less picturesque, and contains some of the oldest Czech history.

Perhaps you might decide to take a trip to see the famed “Bone Church” in the neighboring village of Sedlec (a small, very modern commuter train can transport you the 2 km journey in a matter of minutes). What has been dubbed a church is actually an ossuary with a small chapel and cemetery, in addition to containing dirt from the hill of Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified. It is one of only 3 ossuaries in the world to be able to boast such a pedigree, making it a must-visit sight for Christian pilgrims and just interested tourists alike. There really is nothing else like the chapel, which has been decorated with the slightly macabre, but historically beautiful remains of those who came before us. I promise, it’s not as creepy as it sounds!

Not a fan of being around so many bones? Don’t worry, we realize it’s not for everyone! Luckily, Kutná Hora has a wealth of other sights to keep you occupied for the rest of the day. The city itself plays host to a myriad of buildings with great historic and religious significance, from gorgeous old monasteries to buildings the served as the head of the town’s Hussite, or local Czech Protestant, factions during the Hussite wars, which protested corruption in the Catholic Church. Kutná Hora is even home to St. Barbara’s Church, which was built by one of the same minds behind St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague, which leads to some striking similarities and even more beautiful differences.

Aside from religious history, Kutná Hora was also the epicenter of a bustling medieval silver trade, having been the prosperous site where most of the Bohemian Kingdom’s mines were located. This small city might not seem so different from others above ground, but beneath its streets lays a dizzying labyrinth of chutes and tunnels where the ore that made Prague the capital city of Europe and the jewel of King Charles IV’s reign was wrested from the ground by tireless workers. The mining of silver is not and has never been easy, and for those adventurous (and not claustrophobic) few, there is a chance to explore the tunnels yourself, with the safety of a hardhat, a guide, and a trusty flashlight. If you’re not too keen on traversing the dark, rocky caverns beneath the town, Kutná Hora is also home to the old palace that served as a mint (the Italian Court). In addition to all of this, the city is also host to a number of churches, museums, and delicious Czech pubs to feed any hungry explorer’s appetite. It’s a daytrip that you’ll regret not taking!



5.  Brno

Located two and a half hours from Prague by train, bus, or car, Brno is maybe not the best city for a daytrip, seeing as it’s such a long way away. Still, as the second largest city in the country, it’s definitely worth visiting. While all of the other places on our list have been firmly located in the Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic, Brno is located in the eastern region of Moravia, which plays host to some of it’s own history and culture which is slightly different from Bohemia, it’s western counterpart. Moravia is home to rolling hills, friendly, open people, and a great deal of delicious wine, owing to its slightly warmer climate—in short, it’s the perfect place to spend a few days.

Brno, which is Moravia’s largest city, is home to a stunning and historic city center, with the modern times mixed in as old and new architectural works sit seamlessly next to each other. It is a city where dragons have roamed (thanks to a rogue alligator during the medieval ages), the clocks chime an hour early at 11 am (due to a successful strategy to end the Swedish siege during the 30 Years War), and a castle sits on top of a hill, overlooking it all.

The castle, called Hrad Špilberk was founded in the 1200s and served as an “ordinary” residence for royalty and other nobility as well as a formidable fortress, which the Swedes would discover during their unsuccessful attempt at taking the city by siege during the Thirty Years War—but that, my friend, is a horse of another color. This all changed during the 1700s, though, when Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II converted it into a military fortress and subsequent prison. It’s cells, which were known to be some of the harshest ones in all of the Austrian Empire, are open for the public to walk through (and even try their hands at ghost hunting, should the urge strike you : ). Later on, Špilberk would serve as military barracks, although the Nazis put its cells to use as a prison again during the days of Czech and Moravian occupation.

So why visit such a dank place, you may ask? The truth is that Špilberk is hardly dank, with the exception of its old jail cells. The fortress, which is situated on top of a hill, is surrounded by a beautiful and well-maintained park that locals flock to when the weather is nice. The panoramic view from the fortress walls is also not something to easily dismiss and when you look down from on high and see the whole of Brno and the surrounding countryside sprawled out around you, you’ll agree that the climb was well worth it. In addition to walking around and taking in the sights, Špilberk is also home to a museum the frequently hosts new and interesting exhibits.

If you want to explore Brno even further, there’s a plethora of things to do besides checking out old military fortresses. The city has a laundry list of different historical buildings to check out, including the Church of St. Peter and Paul, which sits above most of the city on a hill not far from the city center. The church, which was completed in the 14th and 15th centuries, was actually built at the site of an old 11th century chapel.

Tired of climbing uphill to get to all of the sights? How about heading down? And by that, I mean underground, that is! Brno is actually home to a medieval labyrinth of tunnels under one of its larger squares, Zelný trh (vegetable market, in English). While the tunnels have been there for ages, they’ve jut recently been opened to the public to explore in designated areas, so you, too, can explore the city beneath a city that was once part of daily city life.

In addition to all of this, Brno is home to the UNESCO protected modern architectural wonder Villa Tugendhat, which is a shining example of functionalist building at its best. Brno also cultivates an abundance of folk festivals and fairs with people wearing traditional folk costumes (or kroje), eating traditional foods, and singing and dancing to traditional music. It’s the kind of stuff you won’t get to see in Prague, making Brno definitely worthy of a visit!

by Brianna Tichy with contributions from Alena