The 5 best day trips from Prague

Take your adventure beyond the city and explore nearby treasures on one of these top day trips from prague
Karlovy Vary
Karlovy Vary
By Auburn Scallon |
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The capital city of Prague sits comfortably in the center of Bohemia (the name for the western half of the country), and the Czech borders also include Moravia to the east and the small Selisian area running along the northeastern border with Poland. This rich region of historical importance is filled with plenty of sights, sounds and spa towns to give visitors a well-rounded look at the diversity of Czech culture outside of the city centre's main attractions, museums and things to do. A well-connected network of trains and comfortable bus services make it easy to navigate your journey without the necessity of renting a car.

Kutna Hora to the east and Karlštejn Castle to the west offer interesting sights and an escape from the crowds of the capital with accessibility that could get you home in time to make dinner reservations. The birthplace of beer attracts a lively crowd south to Pilsen, while Karlovy Vary’s quiet streets to the west are designed for relaxation. The less famous town of Liberec to the north gives families and independent travelers an option for everyday fun in a more residential setting. Read on for the details on the multi-faceted character of Czech life outside the capital city.

Best day trips from Prague

1
Kutna Hora, Prague

Kutna Hora

Jump on an eastbound train to Kutna Hora for easy access to a different side of Central European style in roughly an hour. While silver used to draw the crowds to this former mining town, the Sedlec Ossuary (commonly known as the “bone church”) is what earns its place on traveler’s itineraries these days. The UNESCO-protected city center also holds lesser-known, but still impressive architectural sights to keep your eyes entertained.

DO:

Explore the church scene, from the human-bone chandelier at the Sedlec Ossuary, to the Gothic beauty of the Church of St. Barbara, to the sunlight-filled arches in the Cathedral of the Assumption of Our Lady and St. John the Baptist. One all-access ticket gets you into all three places for under $10.

EAT:

Grab a seat on the patio at V Ruthardce for a view of St. Barbara’s beauty paired with traditional Czech cuisine. Start with some kulajda soup as a starter before trying a traditional pork knuckle or roast duck with dumplings.

DRINK:

Kutna Hora isn’t necessarily known for its lively nightlife, but you can take in a mellow night of music in the intimate, living-room atmosphere of the Blues Café.

STAY:

Honestly, an evening train back to Prague is the most common way to end a day trip to Kutna Hora. Those who do prefer to make a night of it can enjoy a comfortable bed and central location at Hotel Mědínek.

If you do just one thing…

Plan your route before arrival. Wear your walking shoes to get from the train station to the Ossuary, then jump on a tourist shuttle from the Ossuary to St. Barbora for easy access to the city center.

2
Karlštejn Castle

Karlštejn

This 14th-century royal residence established by King Charles IV is worth a little effort to reach the beauty behind its walls. Adventurous travelers may like to try a scenic, 3-to-4-hour bike ride to reach these castle grounds just southwest of the Czech capital. For the less energetic among us, a forty-five-minute train will save your energy for a thirty-minute hike (or taxi) leading from the train station to the Karlštejn Castle.

DO:

Come for the castle, stay for the castle. Give yourself plenty of time to wander around this fortified palace known for its hilltop location, impressive decoration, and tiered layout of buildings and lookout points surrounding the High Tower.

EAT:

Restaurace A Penzion Pod Dračí Skálou is tucked just off the tourist path to the castle, meaning somewhat smaller crowds fighting for a seat. Go for a hearty traditional meal of grilled meat and dumplings (lighter options also available) to refuel after an afternoon of exploring.

DRINK:

Like Kutna Hora, Karlštejn is much more of a day trip rather than a nightlife destination. With that said, the Greek restaurant Taverna U Ezopa’s outdoor patio makes a nice celebratory stop for a post-hike drink just a few streets away from the train station for your trip back to Prague.

STAY:

Again, while an evening trip back into Prague is the obvious choice, you could create a special occasion and splurge on an overnight riverside room at the Romantic Hotel Mlyn Karlstejn. Soft lighting, draped fabric, and attentive service transform this former mill into a space that inspires romance and relaxation.

If you do just one thing…

Make guided tour reservations in advance to get access to the areas of the castle that you definitely want to see. Many of the interior rooms are only available through guided tours.

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3
Pilsen
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Roevin Urban Capture

Pilsen

If that name of this town looks familiar, you might be a beer fan. Pilsen is the birthplace of pilsner, the style of pivo (beer) that the Czech Republic is most famous for. This fourth-largest city is reachable by an easy one-hour train or bus ride to the south. An education in adult beverages may be the strongest initial draw, but the sights and sounds of the city give all visitors plenty of reasons to step out of the pub and look around.

DO:

Two of the most interesting perspectives on this city lie above and below ground. Take the time to climb the country’s tallest church spire at the Cathedral of St. Bartholomew before returning to ground to admire the slender arches and Gothic architecture of the church itself. Next, head down into the Pilsen Underground’s maze of tunnels for a glimpse of how local life in medieval times stayed connected.    

EAT:

You can’t go wrong with a Pilsner brewery-approved pub for a taste of Czech food and culture. Choose from Na Splice’s rowdy, 550-seat beer hall next to the brewery, or the smaller offshoots of Na Parkanu or U Salzmannů in Pilsen’s historic center. For something different, try a meal of svíčková, a beef sirloin served in a vegetable cream sauce and cranberries, reminiscent of a Czech twist on Thanksgiving dinner.

DRINK:

The brewmaster tradition in this town extends beyond just its namesake beverage. Beer Factory Brewery and Restaurant serves some of the city’s best craft beers with a menu of Czech meals and bar snacks in a modern, industrial environment. Conversations about hops, degrees, and flavor combinations are likely to dominate conversations throughout the establishment.

STAY:

If you want the ability to stumble upstairs after a night of sampling beers, U Salzmannů offers a simple guesthouse located above the restaurant. For a quieter night, try the warm, exposed brick rooms of the parkside Green Gondola wellness hotel.

If you do just one thing…

Cross the photo-worthy arched gate to the Brewery Museum and taste unfiltered Pilsner Urquell straight from the source. There aren’t too many places that can boast 175 years of experience.

4
Karlovy Vary

Karlovy Vary

Pastel buildings and a peaceful vibe define this spa town, also known as Carlsbad, that sits roughly two hours west of Prague by bus (about three hours by train). Kings and commoners alike have come to “take the waters” since the fourteenth century. Today the mineral water bubbling up through the ground has been tapped into sixteen free-flowing springs consumable through a spout of specially designed “spa cups” for sale in every shop and cart you pass. Each tap is housed in elegant open-air structures open to the public and ranging from historical columned walkways to intricate wood-carved colonnades.

DO:

Spa treatments have a slightly different meaning in Central Europe: think more health-focused than pampering in fluffy white robes. Stress, asthma, or allergy symptoms will melt away after forty-five minutes of deep breathing while wrapped in a blanket at the salt chamber of Elizabeth Spa (also referred to as Spa 5).

EAT:

For a reasonably priced lunch off the tourist path of restaurants lining the river, try the fresh salads and Italian fare at Vertigo Pizzeria. Caffeine addicts congregate inside the pop-art-decorated walls of the independent Republica Coffee.

DRINK:

Ignore any misguided claims of absinthe as the “traditional Czech spirit” and taste a truly local liquor at the Jan Becher Museum. Becherovka is an herbal digestive often cited as a remedy for everything from sleepless nights to stomach problems, whose recipe has been kept a tight secret since the turn of the 19th century. Try a Beton (Becherovka and tonic) for a refreshing summer cocktail or sip this golden liquor straight up after a meal.

STAY:

James Bond fans may want to sleep with one eye open at the luxurious Grand Hotel Pupp, a featured location in the film Casino Royale. For a comfortable option a tighter budget, go for the friendly service and sunlight-filled rooms at Apartmany Victoria.

If you do just one thing…

Turn your eyes to the ground in front of the Grand Hotel Pupp. The names etched into the courtyard bricks act as a hall of fame guestbook for celebrities who have stayed in the hotel, from Ludwig van Beethoven (1812) to Leonardo DiCaprio (1994).

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5
Liberec
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Cermivelli

Liberec

For a kid-friendly excursion or a less guided look at everyday Czech life, jump on a bus and head one hour north to experience the low-key vibe of Liberec. The sixth-largest city in the Czech Republic is popular among young families and university students and surrounded by natural beauty. The walkable layout and tram line through town makes it easy to navigate a variety of lesser-known sights to entice the more independent-minded traveler.

DO:

The Liberec town hall mirrors its counterpart in Vienna, both designed by Austrian architect Franz von Neumann. Get to know the local mascot—white tigers (bílí tygři) —either in person at the Liberec zoo or on the ice by taking in a local hockey match of the team with the same name. Keep young travelers occupied with a water park and laser tag housed inside the kitschy Centrum Babylon Liberec.  

EAT:

For the best in seasonal breakfast, homemade cake, and quality coffee try Kavarna Bez Konceptu (“café without a concept”) or Café Mikyna. The centrally located Chicago Grill keeps locals and transplants fed with American-style burgers and sandwiches, and Balada offers up Czech cuisine inside eclectic décor (think cabinets converted into tableside seats).

DRINK:

On a warm day, join the locals on the grass at the reservoir, where Restaurace na Liberecké přehradě serves cold beer alongside soft drinks and snacks to families gathered to swim and sunbathe. For a late night of dancing, join the student set crowding Top Star’s three floors of retro, pop, and electronic music, while an older crowd gets down under a disco ball at Jimmy’s underneath FX Šalda Theater.

STAY:

Hotel Liberec offers basic accommodation on a budget smack in the center of town. For a quieter, upscale bed-and-breakfast experience, try Bílý Mlýn’s intimate guesthouse on the secluded edge of the Liberec reservoir.

If you do just one thing…

Take a cable car ride up to Ještěd, a former radio tower turned restaurant and hotel that sits atop the surrounding mountain range. On a clear day, you can see Poland, Germany, and the Czech Republic from this viewpoint.

Or stay in town for one of these shindigs

Christmas markets
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Roderick Eime
Things to do

The 10 best events in Prague

To that end, the diversity of world-renowned events you'll encounter in this inspired and elegant capital city is impressive and could very easily influence the timing of your visit.

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