Prague is one of the most visited cities in Europe, and it is rightly earned because the city is truly magnificent. However, just a short train ride out of the city takes you to a wonderful town called Kutna Hora. Therefore, if you ever find yourself visiting Prague or the Czech Republic, then Kutna Hora is a place you must not skip on your trip.
Kutna Hora is a UNESCO World Heritage town, and there are numerous reasons to visit this incredible place. The main draw to Kutna Hora is Sedlec Ossuary, also known as ‘The Bone Church’. Despite being small, this Roman Catholic church is decorated with the bones of an estimated 40,000-70,000 people! Additionally, the town is renowned for being a former silver mining town, and has some of the most striking Gothic and Baroque style buildings. However, the most prominent one for me was the Church of St. Barbara.
History of Kutna Hora
Before we dive into what you can do in this fascinating place, let’s give a bit of an overview of the history behind the town. Kutna Hora became famous because by the end of the 13th Century, over a third of all silver in Europe came from the silver mines here. Additionally, Kutna Hora became a favourite residency amongst many of the Bohemian Kings in the area.
Unfortunately, in 1546, the richest silver mine became flooded and consequently, after years of misfortune, owed to various wars and the plague, the town became impoverished and unable to repair the mines. Then, in 1770, just to add salt to the wound, a huge fire broke out in the town completely devastated the town and as a result, all the town’s silver mines were abandoned. Nowadays, Kutna Hora is becoming a popular destination to visit due to it’s proximity to Prague, making it an easy day trip and has so much to offer visitors.
Getting to Kutna Hora
Getting to Kutna Hora is incredibly easy, and there are numerous ways to reach the town. If you chose to hire a car and make your own way there, then it will take you about an hour to drive here. Any Sat Nav/google maps system will get you to the town with ease and no problems at all! I would advise checking for parking in advance as a precaution.
By Public Transport
If you decide to take public transport then you can get the train from Prague’s central station. From here, trains usually depart every hour, normally heading towards Brno. Once you arrive in Kutna Hora station, you will be around 2.5 miles from the town centre. So, you can now take either the local train or bus to get into town. Normally, a train leaves every 5 minutes after the Prague train arrives going towards ‘Kutna Hora Mesto’ or local city bus no.1 (bus stop outside station). Please note- if you are getting the bus or train and visiting Sedlec Ossuary first, then if you are on the local city bus no.1 towards Autobusove nadrazi. After that, you need to get off at the 2nd stop on the bus, or the 1st stop on the local train towards Kutna Hora mesto.
Grab a guide
Finally, you could book a guided tour which is what I chose to do for convenience. I went with Discover Prague Tours, and my guide Petra was fantastic. DPT organised everything and made the day so enjoyable. We met outside the Astronomical Clock in the old town in Prague, then made our way to the main train station. Additionally, they arranged all the transport and tickets too, making life easier. I highly recommend these guys if you choose a guided tour. It only cost me £30 and included transportation costs, entrance to all the places on the itinerary. As well as expert knowledge from our guide Petra, a lovely Czech lady who really knew her stuff!
My top sites to see in Kutna Hora that I am going to talk about today are:
- Sedlec Ossuary (The Bone Church)
- Church of St Barbara
- Italian Court
- Medieval Silver Mine
Sedlec Ossuary- The Bone Church
Perhaps one of the most unusual places to visit in the World, Sedlec Ossuary may seem a bizarre place to go, right? It is a small church in the middle of the Czech Republic with the bones of between 40,000 and 70,000 people. But this place is not some weird tourist attraction. Rather, it’s a very significant place that has been preserved throughout the ages and has a fascinating history.
The first thing to mention before we go any further into talking about Sedlec Ossuary is respect. Remember, this is a burial ground and they are real people’s bones in the Church. Therefore, you will be reminded before you go in to the Church by the staff but keep this in mind at all times. You are allowed to photograph in the Church, but no flash. Additionally, you’re NOT allowed to touch any of the bones.
Why all the bones?
So, let’s talk about the elephant in the room- why all the bones!? Well, this is quite an interesting story. In 1278, an abbot from the monastery in Sedlec traveled to the Holy Land and collected soil from Golgotha (the site where Jesus was crucified). Upon his return to Kutna Hora, he sprinkled the soil collected from Golgotha all over the cemetery. Therefore, this immediately made it the most desired burial spot with people all over Europe wanting themselves and their loved ones to be buried there. Additionally, the Plague and wars fought, the burial ground became incredibly overcrowded. Then in 1511, they began exhuming skeletons and stacking their bones in the chapel. Finally, in 1870 Frantisek Rindt was tasked by the Schwarzenberg family to decorate the chapel using the bones.
Outside Sedlec Ossuary, there are a couple of souvenir shops where you can get a variety of gifts themed about the area. I collect fridge magnets from my travels as they are small and easy to pack. However, there were lots of other cool items like (fake) skulls and jewellery to remember your time here. The Bone Church is open all year round (except Christmas), please check opening times before you visit. The entrance fee is 90 czk or around $34 USD/£3 GBP.
Church of St Barbara
Once you’ve completed your visit to Sedlec Ossuary, it’s time to head into the old town. I would recommend getting a taxi or continuing on the bus/train to Kutna Hora old town. Second stop of the day was to the Church of St Barbara. So, if I am being totally honest, after we’d finished up at the Bone Church, I thought the rest of the day would be fairly mediocre in comparison- but boy I was wrong! Approaching the Church of St Barbara, it really took my breath away. If you love old buildings, then St Barbara will not disappoint.
The Church of St Barbara is a beautiful Gothic and Baroque style church with a long history! Construction of St Barbara began in the 14th Century. However, due to various delays, was not actually completed until the early 20th Century! The Church got it’s name from the patron saint of miners- St Barbara. So, an apt name for this silver mining town. So, let’s head inside St Barbara! It has several levels you can travel up, and from the roof you get a lovely view of Kutna Hora. Additionally, once inside marvel at the alters and ceilings which are decorated with medieval frescos alongside beautiful stain glass windows. I absolutely loved my time here and was one of the most beautiful churches I’ve ever visited. The Church is open all year round except December 24th, and costs 120 czk ($5 USD or £4 GBP).
Italian Court and Medieval Silver Mines
Due to the town’s prominence through silver mining, the Italian court became the seat of the Central Mint in Prague. During reconstruction work in the 14th Century, it eventually became a part-time royal residence of the King Wenceslas IV during his visits to the silver mines. Nowadays, the Italian court is a beautiful building you can visit in the old town and it has a small museum about the history of coin minting, where you can take tours through the Royal Residence and learn about the coin minting process here. The Italian Court is open all year round to visit and costs approximately 95 czk ($4 USD or £3 GBP) to tour the Royal Residence.
For the more adventurous among us, you can also tour some of the medieval silver mines. I didn’t get an opportunity for this, but will definitely be back to Kutna Hora again to do this. More details here about the silver mine tours!
Where to eat?
Kutna Hora has a plethora of places to eat to suit all tastes, but I personally would chose one of the amazing Czech restaurants that Kutna Hora has to offer. Czech food is delicious and nothing washes it down better than a Czech beer! Our restaurant of choice was Restaurant Dacicky, a short 8-minute walk from St Barbara’s or 10-minutes from the Italian court. This was hands down the best meal I had during my entire visit to the Czech Republic. The restaurant has a medieval theme to it, and once you’re sat down in the banquet style tables, you feel like you’ve been transported back to the 14th Century. The waiting staff all wear traditional Czech clothing and traditional Czech music plays.
The menu offers a great selection of Czech dishes and drinks to try. So, we decided to try a selection off the ‘Old Bohemian and Moravian Specialities’, including the pork knuckle and my favourite, the beef baked in cream sauce and bread dumplings. Finally, I washed it down with a pint (or two) of Kutna Hora lager. As well as being delicious, I also found the meal to be incredibly good value. In total for two main courses and 4 beers between 2 of us, our bill came to 532 czk ($24 USD or £18).
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Kutna Hora and I believe that you should try and make time for at least a day trip here. Additionally, for those with a bit more time, I would consider extending your stay here overnight. There are numerous hotels within Kutna Hora and it allows you more time to enjoy at the sites and explore the town a little bit more! There was so much to do here and I will definitely be returning in the future to explore Kutna Hora in greater depth! Finally, make sure you pack good walking shoes, souvenir money and your camera! This place will NOT disappoint!