Czech Republic: Daytrips from Prague
It would take a lifetime to see all the sights of Prague, though for most travellers three days should be enough to visit the most important places. Being in Prague you cannot miss the State Opera, the National Museum and Wenceslas Square with its statue of St. Wenceslas.
You also need to see the Charles Bridge, the Rudolfinum and the Prague Castle with its famous St. Vitus Cathedral on the other side of the river.
The Jewish Quarter and the Old Town Square with the Old Town Hall with its astronomical clock (the horloge) and apostles are also very important.
If you have seen all these sights and you still have a day or two in Prague left then I suggest you make a little trip to one of the Czech cities. There are always two possibilities for traveling - by your self or with a travel agency. The first possibility is definitely more exciting, but you should be well prepared otherwise you just come to a city looking at buildings and sights not knowing what they really are or what they mean. I would suggest this possibility to people who do not mind spending couple of hours in trains (cheap but mostly quite dirty) and busses and who do not get upset if the train is 30 minutes late. Going on a tour with a travel agency is definitely more expensive (at least the double of what you pay going by your self), but the agency bus takes you directly to the place and you have a guide that shows you all the most important things and gives you historical background in your native language.
There are many cities and places of interest outside Prague but the most important are these: Karlstejn Castle, Konopiste Chateau, Kutna Hora, Cesky Krumlov and Carlsbad.
The Karlstejn Castle is the most outstanding medieval castle founded and built by Emperor Charles IV. between 1348 - 1355 A.D. as a depository for the Empire's coronation jewels and state documents. This huge gothic castle is situated about 38 km southwest of Prague. Even though it is the most important castle in the Czech republic, most people prefer the visit of Konopiste Chateau (built in the 13th century and later converted, the chateau was the property of the successor to the Austrian throne, Frantisek Ferdinand d'Este prior to the First World War). There are two reasons for that. First the Konopiste Chateau has nicer equipped interior and second, the bus drops you of directly by the chateau. If you want to visit Karlstejn, you better be in good physical shape. Even though you paid for a guided tour and you expect the comfort of coming directly to the place, the bus drops you off under the hill on which the Karlstejn castle is situated as only the cars of residents can go further. The tour up to the castle takes roughly 30 minutes. Just one tip for the ones who decide to go on their own - there is a train going every hour to the Karlstejn castle from the Smichovske nadrazi - train station. The price of a ticket is roughly 1USD. The duration of this trip (to Karlstej castle or to Konopiste chateau) is 3 hours with a travel agency and roughly half a day on your own.
Kutn?Hora is an old mining town founded in the 13th century, which was once famous for its silver mines. These mines can be still visited by tourists. The mine tour takes roughly 30 minutes and is really interesting. You definitely have to visit the gothic St. Barbara Cathedral with its valuable murals and the former royal mint, which once coined so-called Prague groschen. The St. Barbara Cathedral is the second biggest cathedral (after the St. Vitus Cathedral in the Prague Castle) in the Czech republic. Originally it was supposed to be even bigger than the Prague cathedral, but the citizens of Prague didn't like this idea and stopped the financing. Kutn?Hora has retained the character of a medieval city and rightly belongs to the most important UNESCO heritage sites in the Czech Republic. The duration of this trip is 5 hours with a travel agency and it can take up to the whole day when you do it by your self.
Cesky Krumlov is a medieval town located in the southern Bohemia that has still retained its medieval character. The mighty Renaissance castle - once the seat of the powerfull Lords of the Rozmberks and the Schwarzenbergs - houses rich collections of period furniture, Flamish tapestries, historical weapons. Besides the castle you should also visit its unique and exceptional baroque theatre. In the whole world there are only two theatres of this kind that have been preserved in such an untouched baroque originality and authenticity without any former or modern alterations until today. This is one of the longest trips and takes 9 hours with a travel agency (almost 2 hours by bus one way) and the whole day when you go on your own.
The world famous spa city of Carlsbad is situated in a picturesque, forested valley. It is famous for its 12 thermal springs. The people from Carlsbad like to say that the 13th spring is the Becherovka - traditional Czech liquor made in Carlsbad (herbal taste, high alcohol volume). I would also recommend a visit of the glass exhibition at the MOSER factory. As you stroll through the city along the spa colonnades, you have the chance to try not only the mineral springs, but also the delicious local wafers and the traditional Becherovka. The duration of this trip is 9 hours with a travel agency and it takes the whole day when you do it by your self. There is a bus going to Carlsbad many times a day from Florenc bus station.
One important information at the end: all castles, chateaus and museums are closed on Mondays and during the winter. Unfortunately the castles and chateaus could be closed also because of some special reason, so it is better to check by phone in advance anyways.
© Ondrej Opletal, Prague, April 2003
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