Every month, Kafkadesk dispatches some of its writers to explore Central Europe and give you new ideas for your next trips. This month’s destination: Kutná Hora.
Whether you’re living in the Czech Republic and planning your next getaway destination, or visiting Prague for a few days and eager to see more of the country, Kutná Hora might be exactly what you’re looking for. A UNESCO heritage site since 1995, Kutná Hora is a small town of Central Bohemia, located one hour east of Prague, and considered one of the must-see gems of the country by locals and tourists alike.
Kutná Hora, a regional powerhouse that fell into oblivion
Kutná Hora used to be one of the most prosperous and powerful cities of Bohemia. Not long after the first Cistercian monastery of the region was built in the neighbouring town of Sedlec in the 12th century, silver mines were discovered and German minors quickly came flocking to the mountainous surrounding area. From the 13th to the 16th century, Kutná Hora grew so prosperous that it competed with Prague itself for financial and political dominance, especially when it started producing the Prague groschen coins – one of the strongest currencies at that time – under the reign of Wenceslas II. The city is, furthermore, associated with major events of Czech history: the famous 1409 Decree of Kutná Hora – reforming Charles University – was signed in the city, which also became the battleground of one of the most decisive battles of the Hussite wars, opposing legendary Czech general Jan Žižka to troops of the Holy Roman Empire. However, the town’s influence slowly faded away when the silver and copper mines started running dry in the late 16th century.
Repeatedly scarred by floods, fires and plague, Kutná Hora fell into anonymity and despair for several centuries, before being recently exhumed from the dusty pages of history. Today, the city is hailed as one of the must-see destinations of Bohemia. And rightly so. The size and magnificence of some of its buildings – something one could only find in Prague – come as a reminder of the town’s past glory.
How to spend one day in Kutná Hora
When visiting Kutná Hora – and any other Czech city for that matter – our primary advice is: don’t rush. Everything is within walking distance and all the main sights can be visited in one day while still leaving you plenty of time to wander around and get lost in the streets and alleys of the medieval city center. Despite its small size, Kutná Hora is home to numerous cafés, restaurants or bars where you can lay back for half-an-hour or more with a book in your hand, or simply enjoy the warmth of the sun if the weather is merciful. Among our favourite places to do so, we would recommend you try the Blues Café, where you can also have a bite to eat while shopping for old vinyl’s, or Kavárna na Kozím plácku, which also moonlights as a pension if you ever want to spend the night. You won’t have any trouble finding a place to eat, but if you don’t want to take any risk, try out Pivnice Dačický, offering both traditional Czech food and more … original meals, set in a slightly over-the-top “rustic” decor, but still very enjoyable. For more mainstream international food, check out Bistro Barborská or Restaurant Harmonia, both also located in the city center.
Don’t worry, there’s more to Kutná Hora than just eating and drinking. What are the main sights? The Cathedral of St. Barbara (entrance fee: 60 Kč) is a must-see: dedicated to the patron of miners, the construction of this Gothic church of impressive dimensions started in the late 14th century and finished over one century later, due to the Hussite wars. Take the Barborská street (don’t the statues remind you of something you’ve seen in Prague?) and have a look at the former Jesuit College (80 Kč) turned into a gallery of contemporary art. One can hardly visit Kutná Hora without making a stop at the Museum of Silver, from which you can also book tours to visit the former silver mines located in the city’s underground. Finally, to have a complete overview of how influential the city once was, visit the Italian Court (around 100 Kč) – thus named after the Italian experts who came to lead the minting reform – and which also happens to have been one of the favourite residencies of several Bohemian kings.
But the best is yet to come. The main “attraction” will please those of you with repressed morbid tendencies. Slightly off from the city center (a 20-minute walk) stands the world-renowned Sedlec ossuary and chapel (90 Kč), artistically displaying the bones of tens of thousands of plague or Hussite wars-related deceased. If the original idea was, presumably, initiated by a (rather peculiar) 16th century monk, the current aesthetics is the result of later inputs by several artists and artisans. It is, without a doubt, one of the strangest things you will ever see in the Czech Republic. And it’s definitely worth the trip.
How to get there
Direct trains leave from Prague’s main railway station more or less every two hours. You can also take buses at Prague Florenc bus station. The trip takes between 60 and 90 minutes. Kutná Hora can easily be planned as a one-day trip – or even a half-day outing if you manage to take an early ride. You should also know that Kutná Hora train station is located 3 km away from the city center. You can either walk there (20 to 30 minutes) or take one of the buses that leave in front of the station’s entrance: the local bus n°1 or the express bus.