I had the good fortune of visiting Prague, the city of Spires and ‘the heart of Europe’, according to many.
After spending much longer than I thought I would, I ended up taking a few amazing day trips from Prague.
Three things made me stay longer than I had originally planned
Getting a reputable teaching English gig, making great friends with expats and locals alike, and the exciting opportunities for learning and growth that the Czech Republic has to offer.
Prague alone is brimming with history and quirky fun facts, which I’m a sucker for, an absolute geek if you get me going. The countryside and surrounding towns are equally beguiling.
The following are trips I’ve taken and can personally recommend. If you’re visiting Prague, allow yourself at least an extra day to explore more than just the capital city. You won’t be disappointed.
Wandering what to do outside of Prague? We’ve got you covered with the best places near Prague worth visiting!
Best Day Trips from Prague
Visit the small town of Kutná Hora, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to see one of the most impressive Gothic churches, St. Barbara, as well as the Cathedral of Our Lady and the historical Italian Court. Then walk ten minutes to Sedlec Ossuary, a church filled with artistically arranged bones. This is probably one of the most popular day trips from Prague!
Terezin Concentration Camp
Terezín is a fully preserved concentration camp used as transit camp during the Nazi Occupation. Once called the Jewish ‘Ghetto’ with a prison in The Small Fortress, over 150,000 Jews were held, overworked and tortured before being transported to Auschwitz or Treblinka.
Plzen: Pilsner Urquell Brewery
Imagine Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets barley and hops. Enter through the famed, double-arched gate pictured on every Pilsner Urquell’s label and take the brewery tour with a sliding wall – ceiling to floor -showing a film projected along a 30-foot crescent wall. You’ll pass over stepping stones through the “purest” water used in beer brewing, and of course you’ll be treated to a tasting in the end. If you don’t want to wait that long for a sample, buy a can of Pilsner from the vending machine in the entrance lobby.
Karlštejn Castle is located approximately 20km west of Prague. It is the most visited and one of the most beautiful castles in the Czech Republic. Although quite touristy, Karlštejn Castle is worthwhile and historically interesting. If you’re not keen on taking the tour of the castle, don’t bother going. You can find all the same food and souvenirs back in Prague, but I recommend the tour.
Construction of the castle was completed in 1365 under the reign of Holy Roman Emporer Charles IV. There is a national forest around the castle with some very nice hiking. Nearby in the village of Svatý Jan Pod Skalou you can visit a beautiful monastery including the ‘holy cave’ that it was built upon.
While Karlštejn is one of the most beautiful castles in the Czech Republic, it is also the most exploited by the tourist industry. The village below the castle is filled with tacky souvenir stalls, very expensive restaurants, and to complete the carnival an ‘erotic city’ porn shop. Fortunately you can make your visit a lot more enjoyable by taking 12km or 20km hiking trips in the unexploited forests of the ?eský kras protected area around Karlštejn, hopefully relieving you of some of your unease after visiting the Castle itself.
Everything is within walking distance. When you arrive at Karlštejn you cannot actually see the castle, turn right at the station exit, walk 200 meters then turn left over a bridge into the village, or just follow the flow of tourists and you’ll get there. The village starts about 500 meters from the train stop, the castle is a short (but slightly tiring) half kilometer hike up a large hill.
Hiking at Karlstejn
A trip to Karlštejn starts with a trip to the castle, which was the the seat of Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. The 50-minute tour is delightful, and well worth the time. There is a lovely and picturesque hike available to the Svatý Jan Pod Skalou monastery through the ?eský kras protected area (Bohemian Karst or Czech Karst in English). While at times rugged (it actually is 12 km, and not the 8 km marked), it is more than doable for those who are in good shape and have the proper equipment. It begins at the castle walls (look for the red markings near the trailhead at the castle walls).
Note: The hike is likely to be too challenging if you are not in good physical condition and lack proper hiking shoes. Specifically, the path meanders through forest, stream, several steep uphills, some slippery rocks and tricky downhills. There are numerous locations during the hike where you have no cellular service, and you are unlikely to see another human being for kilometers at a time.
Another thing to remember is that the path markings while clear after some experience reading them, first appear rudimentary, so always follow the red markings on the trees. The green trail marks also are fine–they track the red markings until approximately 1km before the monastery, and there is a clear sign marking the turnoff to the monastery.
Once you arrive at the monastery (which closes at 4 PM), you have the choice to take another hike to the town of Srbsko, where you catch the train back to Prague. The hike from the monastery to Srbsko actually is 8km, and not 5km, as indicated. The yellow signs purportedly indicating the path to Srbsko are nearly impossible to find. Alternatively, if you call a taxi from the local restaurant in Svatý Jan Pod Skalou (75 meters from the monastery, on the right), this is a 12km hike, punctuated by round-trip train rides and taxis. This option is highly recommended, and as of June, 2007, there is someone at the restaurant who speaks English. If you choose to hike to Srbsko, be prepared for an all day, 20 km hike. If you do decide to hike to Srbsko (and assuming you can find the yellow signs), the Srbsko train station is directly across the blue bridge. There is no place to purchase tickets. Those can be purchased on the train, however. Although you will see little mention of it on the signs, the town of Beroun is closer and larger, making for an easier and faster train journey back to Prague. The best choice is to ask the manager of the pub near the monastery to request a taxi to take you to the Beroun train station.
Extra travel tip
For the more adventurous, there are also several open pit abandoned mines that have filled up with water and have become a popular place for Czechs to go swimming. They are a bit difficult to find but if you ask around and have a good map you should be able to find them. Be warned that they are officially closed to the public because access to them is somewhat dangerous.
Getting to Karlstejn from Prague
You can take a train from the main station (Hlavní nádraží) in Prague to Karlštejn or from Smichov train station (see time schedule). For groups of 3 or larger the cost for a return ticket is 30k per person.
Trains run every hour, you can pick them up either in Srbsko, Beroun, or in Karlštejn. If you are in Svatý Jan Pod Skalou, you can hike to Srbsko (8 km), take a taxi to the Beroun train station, or take a bus that runs from the village to Prague every two hours or so. Check the bus schedule at the bus stop or ask at the restaurant when the next bus will be to Prague. The taxi to the Beroun station is the easiest option.
?eský ráj, literally meaning “Czech Paradise”, is an outdoor junkie’s dream. Walking, rock climbing, bicycling… you could probably even take a hang glider up there if you have one. Explore the region for castles, castle ruins, Shire-like dwellings, rock dwellings, or go mushroom picking. It’s a wonderful day trip from Prague for exploring the outdoors!
Máchovo jezero (Mácha Lake)
A section of the Mácha Lake hosts a small water park in the summertime, called Stare Splavy Aquapark, with slides and huge inflatable playgrounds that children and adults alike lark around. It has a beach for sunbathing, food stalls, umbrellas for hire, and is a great spot for people watching.
Best Trips Outside of Prague – 2 or More Days
Apart from day trips from Prague, there are a few other nearby towns and attractions that warrant at least staying over for the night or for a weekend trip.
The town of Karlovy Vary attracts many visitors throughout the year to partake in the mineral water, drinking from ornate porcelain spa cups with built-in straws. Many people visit for relaxation and spa treatments. It’s also famous for an annual film festival, as well as the location where James Bond Casino Royale was filmed. Stroll the colonnades sipping the water’s healing powers and take in the stunning architectural surrounds.
Loket, meaning “elbow”, is named due to its location on a bend in the Oh?e River. It’s a sleepy little town and provides a well-deserved break for big city dwellers. For nice, decently priced accommodation, try the Lazy River Hostel with friendly service.
This fairy tale-like town was my absolute favorite destination outside of Prague. Besides the castle presiding over the town, there are unique shops and delicious restaurants and pubs on the river. In the summertime, rent a raft to float the river, stopping off at a couple of quiet riverside watering holes for a beer. I can recommend Hostel 99, located at the entrance to town with staff who had intended to stay a weekend then never left.
For fresh mountain air, go hiking around Špindler?v Mlýn in the summer or go skiing in the winter. Few foreigners make it this way, but it’s a peaceful mountain getaway with a variety of restaurants and friendly locals.
We hope you explore a bit more of the of the outside of Prague – from day trips from Prague to the best places to visit from Prague for a weekend getaway!