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By Joann Plockova in Prague—
One of Prague’s most endearing attributes is that you can hop on a train and find yourself in a completely different environment in a just a short trip. Only kilometers outside the city you can experience the stunning Czech countryside, visit the country’s numerous castles and chateaus or just breathe in the fresh air through a romp in one of its forests.
The options for day trips from Prague are nearly endless, but here are two classics.
In less than an hour you can arrive in Kutna Hora from Prague’s main train station. Dating back to 1142, the town has a rich history in silver mining and a city center that boasts UNESCO status since 1995.
Along with the Italian Court, the Gothic Stone House and the Gothic St. James’ Church, Kutna Hora’s architectural offerings include St. Barbara’s Cathedral, which was established in 1388 and took 500 years to complete. Just next door is a former Jesuit College that now houses the Czech Republic’s second largest art gallery. Opened in 2010, Central Bohemian Art Gallery – known as GASK – includes both permanent and temporary exhibitions with a focus on 20th-century Czech avant-garde art, but also includes the work of international artists like recently featured Damien Hirst.
Kutna Hora’s most famous attraction, however, is Sedlec Ossuary. Here, over 40,000 bones from those buried there (including victims of the 14th century plague) have been decoratively arranged. The work dates back to 1870 and includes bones that now form a bell, a coat of arms and a chandelier. You can see the name of the artist – Czech woodcarver Frantisek Rint – written (yes, in bones) on the right hand wall.
Just 45 minutes from Prague by train, Karlstejn is one of the Czech Republic’s most well-admired castles. Perched on top of a hill, this Neo-Gothic structure was founded in 1348 and built by Czech King and Roman emperor Charles IV as a place to protect family jewels.
The castle’s beautiful surroundings only enhance its charm. You’ll get to enjoy it with a good walk from the train and then up the hill, so put on your walking shoes. After your tour, you can explore the lovely forest setting with a walk on a wooded path. There are some restaurants (and unfortunately kitschy tourist goods on the walkway just below the castle), but it’s not a bad idea to pack a lunch to enjoy outside.
For train schedules from Prague to both locations, check idos.cz.