Prague is an incredible city, but there are also so many other places to visit just a train ride away! Exploring the smaller towns of the Czech Republic is a perfect way to experience Czech culture without all the crowds and bustle of a big city.
Enter Kutná Hora, a small town in Central Bohemia less than an hour outside of Prague. On top of it’s beautiful cobblestone roads and Gothic architecture, it also has a fascinating history in the Czech Republic. Kutná Hora's close proximity to Prague makes it an easy day trip and perfect excursion outside the city.
During the Middle Ages, Kutná Hora was one of the most important cities of the Kingdom of Bohemia due to the silver discovered there in the 13th century. The establishment of silver mines brought the city its wealth and prestige: in its prime, the Kutná Hora mines produced roughly one-third of all silver in Europe. However, the flooding of the richest mine and the devastating Hussite wars in the 15th century led to the decline of the mines and, consequently, the town’s prestige. Now a small city of 20,000 people, Kutná Hora remains a popular tourist destination and capstone of history, art and architecture in the Czech Republic.
My Day in Kutná Hora
I arrived in Kutná Hora, with friends I’ve met through CIEE, around 1 pm (after missing our earlier train - oops!). Traveling from Prague to Kutná Hora is incredibly easy. I recommend taking the Cesky Drahy train, which takes less than an hour and will only cost you $5.
The first thing we did was walk and explore the city center. The windy and narrow cobblestone streets give you plenty to explore, and you can stop at many cute cafes and restaurants along the way. The colorful buildings were reminiscent of those in Prague, but the quieter and small-town feel of Kutná Hora made it feel like a calm and peaceful escape from the bustling city I’ve started to call home.
Two of the main tourist attractions in Kutná Hora are St. Barbara’s Church and Sedlec Ossuary (aka the “Bone Church”).
St. Barbara’s Church
St. Barbara’s Church is a beautiful Gothic-style cathedral and a symbol of the mining town’s glorious past. Construction of the church began in 1305 – then was interrupted in 1558 when the silver began to run out – and finally finished in 1905.
You have to pay a small entry fee to go inside, but trust me, it is definitely worth it. The columns, gold statues, colorful paintings and elaborate stained glass windows make it easy to spend at least an hour inside. In the corner of the building is a windy staircase, which brings you to the upper level of the church where you can admire even more art and overlook the choir and seating area below.
In addition to wandering around Kutná Hora’s charming cobblestone roads, going inside St. Barbara’s Church was definitely one of my favorite parts of the trip.
Sedlec Ossuary, aka the “Bone Church”
Sedlec Ossuary, better known as the “Bone Church,” is the main tourist attraction in Kutná Hora - and for a good reason. The Gothic style Bone Church is like nothing else you’ll ever see, with bones of approximately 40,000 people organized into elaborate sculptures and designs. In the center is a chandelier made of at least one of every bone in the human body. It’s not a light and airy trip, and the sheer number of human bones makes you wonder if what you’re looking at is even real.
Curious how all these bones ended up here? In the 13th century, clay from Jerusalem was scattered on the floor of the cemetery, making it a holy ground and highly-desired burial spot. But after the Black Plague and Hussite Wars, 40,000 people needed burial here, so the bones were stacked in the basement of the church. Then in 1870, woodcarver Frantisek Rint was hired to arrange the bones in the Baroque-style design that we find today.
While the Bone Church isn’t an easy visit, it’s a must-see attraction if you’re traveling to Kutná Hora.
One of my favorite things about Prague is the easy access to travel, and you don’t have to go to another country to experience something new. The Czech Republic is home to many beautiful and historic towns, and I’m so glad I was able to experience one of them this past weekend in Kutná Hora!