Last year at this time we were getting settled into Prague and starting to explore the surrounding area. Having been to Prague on vacation a few years before, Fernando and I felt that we’d been able to check most of the big sights in the city off our list, and at any rate, we figured we had a long time ahead of us to explore. (Turns out we were wrong about that last point!) We hadn’t ventured out of the city yet, though, so that was what we had planned for the fall.
After a couple weeks, our (my?) homebody tendencies started to get the best of us. And there was the desire to travel farther afield. But we did make it to these three nearby places before we left:
1. Kutná Hora
Two words: Bone Church. While technically about a half hour on foot from Kutná Hora in the tiny village of Sedlec, this ossuary is my number one recommendation to people who are visiting Prague who have time to venture out of the city. I’ve been to other ossuaries since this one, but they weren’t nearly as cool as the Sedlec Bone Church.
Not sure what I’m talking about? As the English name “Bone Church” implies, this is a little church decorated in bones. Between 40,000 and 70,000 skeletons, to be exact. As it was told to us, the majority of these are from people who died of the plague in the 14th century. But don’t worry, you can’t catch the plague from the bones. At least I don’t think you can.
The bone chandelier that is the ossuary’s most famous feature was, unfortunately, being renovated while we were there. But the piles of bones, altar, and—my personal favorite—coat of arms, still made for a worthwhile visit.
But enough about the Bone Church. What about Kutná Hora? We weren’t really expecting much, having gone specifically to see the ossuary. But as it turns out, it is actually a pretty cool town. (Unbearably hot on the day we went, but that’s a different story.) A former mining town, the main sight (like in so many towns in Europe) is the church, St. Barbara’s Cathedral. Paying homage to the town’s silver-mining history, the most memorable details in this impeccably clean cathedral (odd what sticks with you, isn’t it?) are the carvings of miners.
Being as Luca was still napping twice a day at this point, we didn’t have time for anything else. But on our next visit we want to be sure to check out the GASK art gallery and go wine tasting at the facing vineyards, both of which are located on the path immediately before you arrive at St. Barbara’s.
2. Karlštejn Castle
It’s true what they say—the most impressive part of Karlštejn Castle is the view of it from the train.
From what I’ve read, it isn’t much inside, although it is where the crown jewels are kept if you are interested. (We didn’t see them, so I can’t weigh in on whether they are “worth it.”)
But if you are in Prague in the fall, there’s something else to enjoy at Karlštejn—Vinobraní! What is Vinobraní, you ask? Technically translated as “vintage,” Vinobraní is a celebration of the Czech harvest and, more specifically, burčák—a young, fermented wine that continues fermenting in your stomach. (Doesn’t that just sound delicious?) Some people love burčák, some people hate it, but regardless of which camp you end up falling into, you gotta try it. And not just once. See, every producer makes their burčák a little different so while you might hate the first glass, you could very well love the second—and not just because you already a little tipsy.
Will you be in Prague later this month? Vinobraní 2017 is September 30-October 1. Check it out!
3. Chateau Mcely
Technically, this one isn’t a “day trip” as the whole point is to spend the night. But if you live in Prague or even are just there for long enough that you can spare a relaxing night away, you MUST go to Chateau Mcely.
Located about an hour drive from Prague, this “five star chateau eco-chic hotel” is, oddly enough, the perfect destination for dogs and little ones. Yes, you read that right. In addition to sprawling grounds to explore, our room was set up with amenities for the two cutest members of our family. And not just standard amenities like a baby crib. No, there was a new stuffed animal for Luca and a letter from the Chateau’s very own Princess Nely—the local adaptation of the Plaza Hotel’s Eloise. And for Bella, there wasn’t just a dog bed and bowl, there was a brand new ball (too bad she doesn’t play fetch) and even a special room service menu for four-legged guests.
In addition to beautiful grounds and a spa that caters to all bipedal members of your family, regardless of age, Chateau Mcely has one of the top restaurants in the Czech Republic. Unlike the fancy restaurants in Prague, though, this one features both a kids menu and a kids corner to keep your little one occupied so you can actually enjoy your meal.
Photo Credit: Vitezslav Valka / freeimages.com (Karlštejn Castle)