No one can doubt that Prague is home to a large number of places to which to dedicate a good trip. However, in its surroundings there are other lesser-known attractions that can perfectly rival those of the capital and which are worth a visit.
Near Prague you can visit a spectacular spa town, visit a crypt that mixes the beautiful and the sinister, visit several castles or even cross the border to see the German city of Dresden. All these excursions, plus some others, can be easily done on your own or, many of them, also with organized tours.
1. Taste the waters of Karlovy Vary
If you want to feel as if you were a member of the European aristocracy of the 19th century in the Czech Republic, you have to visit Karlovy Vary. This city is considered one of the most beautiful in the country and is an excursion you should book if you have traveled to Prague.
KarlovyVary is located about 120 kilometers from the capital, in an area of lush forest not too far from the border with Germany. Its entire historic center is filled with impressive rococo-style buildings that you can't help but admire as you stroll through its streets.
However, the fame of Karlovy Vary came from its hot springs that attracted members of high society to the city, including historical figures such as Goethe or Beethoven.
The size of the city center makes it easy to get around on foot. Although there are many places to stop, here are the main ones in brief:
- Dvorak Park: in this park you will find the first colonnades with medicinal water fountains.
- Colonnade of the Mill: this building from 1881 is located on the promenade next to the river, in a large esplanade.
- Colonnade of the Market: erected in wood in 1883, this structure is located on the main pedestrian street. During the summer it hosts various concerts, as do other areas of the city.
- Pavilion of the Thermal Springs: you will recognize it as a contemporary building. Inside there is a large fountain with water flowing at 72º C.
- Peter and Paul Church: not all places are related to water. This orthodox church deserves a quiet visit.
How to get to Karlovy Vary
- On your own: it is quite easy to get to Karlovy Vary from Prague, as there are frequent buses from the capital that make the trip in about two hours. There is also a bus that connects the airport of Prague with this locality.
- Excursion: if you prefer an excursion to Karlovy Vary from Prague you will be able to choose between several types of excursions according to your convenience.
2. Karlstejn Castle, a real treasure close to Prague
Very close to Prague, just 30 kilometers away, is a small town with a castle that makes it one of the best excursions that can be done from Prague. Given its proximity, I recommend you to spend a few hours to visit it.
During your visit you will find several rooms of great interest. Above all appears the Chapel of the Holy Cross and its Great Tower of 60 meters high.
In the 14th century Emperor Charles IV ordered the construction of a building in which to safely store the royal treasure and crown jewels. The result was Karlstejn Castle, which served this purpose for two centuries until those riches were moved elsewhere. Since then, the castle has been used as the residence of several kings.
How to get to Karlstejn Castle
- On your own: the village of Karlstejn is very well connected to the capital. Trains run every 30 minutes from the central station in Prague, linking the two towns.
- Organized tour: another option is to hire one of the organized tours that depart from the Czech capital to see this castle.
3. Spend a day in nature in the National Park of Saxon and Bohemian Switzerland.
Those who want to leave the city for a few hours and wander through extraordinary natural surroundings can book a tour of the national parks of Saxon Bohemian Switzerland, only about 130 kilometers from Prague, right next to the German border.
The most popular route (because of its obvious interest) hides some of the most spectacular rock formations in all of Europe, such as the Pravcice Gate, a natural stone arch 21 meters high and 27 meters wide.
During this route, some gorges of the Kamenice River are crossed, for which, in certain sections, it is necessary to take one of the boats that are there for this purpose.
Most visitors to the park leave from Hrensko, 3 km from the entrance, or Mezni Louka (6 km away), another common starting point for hikers.
How to get to the Saxon-Bohemian Switzerland National Park
- On your own: really, if you are only going to spend one day it is not worth going on your own, as you will need to combine a couple of transports. But if you can spend a night there, the best is to get to Decin (which has an interesting castle and other attractions) and from there transfer to Hrensko very early in the morning (there are buses every few days).
- Organized tour: this is the best option if you only want to do one route and return to Prague.
4. Don't miss the Sedlec Chapel in Kutna Hora
Lamps made of human bones, a large shield also made of skeletal remains or niches full of skulls are part of what you can see in the impressive chapel of Sedlec. If you want to know a place that causes a contradictory impression, between the beautiful and the sinister, I recommend you to book an excursion to Kutná Hora.
The chapel of bones (nickname by which Sedlec is known for obvious reasons) is located within the complex of the church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, about 15 minutes from the center of town.
This ossuary is considered the largest in the world, with about 40,000 human bones and perfectly complements the organized tours that are organized to see all the attractions that Prague has at night.
Among other buildings that should be visited is the huge cathedral of Santa Barbara, without forgetting the beautiful bridge with statues leading to the temple, the Jesuit College and other charms that you will find strolling through the cobbled streets of the area.
How to get to Kutná Hora
- On your own: there are direct trains with a high frequency between Prague Central Station and Kutna Hora, so you can get there in about 45 minutes.
- Organized excursion: you will be able to book organized tours to Kutna Hora, although given the proximity of the city you can also get there by public transport.
5. Don't forget the Nazi horror at the Terezin Memorial
Those who think that the atrocities committed by the Nazis cannot be forgotten as an antidote for the future (or simply to pay homage to the victims) have the country's largest concentration camp, Terezin, close to Prague.
Booking the excursion to Terezin is a good choice for the type of visit in question. Although it was originally just a group of fortresses, the Nazis turned the place into a concentration camp where it is estimated that up to 35,000 people were murdered.
In 1947, two years after the camp was liberated, the Terezin Memorial was created so that what happened would never be forgotten. The guided tour goes through several of its rooms. This is an essential place, but it will not be easy to forget.
How to get to Terezin
- On your own: Terezin is less than an hour away from Prague and there are buses that connect both places very frequently.
- Organized tour: since the visit to Terezin is guided, the most convenient way is to choose one of the excursions from Prague that includes everything you need.
6. Pilsen, for beer lovers
Just the name of this city, Pilsen, will make beer lovers want to visit it. No wonder, since it is a paradise to learn the secrets of this drink.
The best known place in the city is the Pilsner Urquell factory, which can be visited (always with a guide) both in the morning and in the afternoon. This visit ends, of course, with a tasting of several of the beers produced there.
There is another factory that can also be visited, that of Gambrinus. However, if you go on your own, you will have to organize your time well in order to see both of them. In case you still feel like it, when you return to the Czech capital you can always visit the best breweries in Prague.
At the end of the visit(s) you will find that the city hides some unexpected secrets. The most spectacular is the Great Synagogue, the third largest temple of its kind in the world.
How to get to Pilsen
- On your own: it is not complicated to reach Pilsen by public transport from Prague. The distance is not very far, only about 100 kilometers, and there are both buses and trains that connect the brewery city with the capital.
- Organized tour: if you prefer to take everything prepared, from the tickets to the reservation of the guided tour, the best option is to hire a good organized tour.
7. Get to know the essence of Central Europe in small Ceský Krumlov
Ceský Krumlov is an essential visit if you want to feel like you are in the Middle Ages. This small town is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful in the whole country and I recommend you to book an excursion from Prague.
The medieval center of the town, as well as the Latran district (located at the foot of the castle) are part of the list of World Heritage Sites of Unesco. Also, overlooking the town is an imposing 13th century castle, one of the largest in the Czech Republic.
The castle of Ceský Krumlov was the residence of several kings and its interior, which can be visited, is really impressive. In addition to its rooms, it is worth strolling through the garden that surrounds it and approach the revolving theater of Baroque style that is there.
How to get to Ceský Krumlov
- On your own: from Prague you can get there by bus with the RegioJet company. Choose this option if you can afford to spend a night in the town, as it is also worth contemplating its illuminated streets after sunset.
- Organized excursion: if you prefer to spend the night in Prague, the best option is to hire an organized excursion.
8. Get off the beaten path in Ceske Budejovice
Visiting Prague's Jewish quarter, its castle, touring and discovering the nooks and crannies of the Charles Bridge and seeing cities like Karlovy Vary or Pilsen are activities not to be missed if you travel to the Czech Republic. However, there are also some places that, for one reason or another, are often left out of the tourist routes. One of them is Ceske Budejovice.
In its time, the salt and silver trade made it one of the largest in Bohemia. From that splendor remain buildings such as the Central Square, the largest arcaded square in the country and monuments such as the Black Tower or the Cathedral of St. Nicholas.
How to get to Ceske Budejovice
- On your own: you can go without problems from Prague(Na Knížecí station) to Ceske Budejovice by bus in about 2 hours and a half, or you can combine the visit with the nearby Ceský Krumlov, spending a night in the area.
9. Tour the Konopiště Castle museum.
Those who were not satisfied with the all there is to see in the Prague Castle district are in luck: near the capital, just 50 kilometers away, you will find another building of this type that you can reach without any problems: the Konopiště Castle.
As soon as you arrive in the area you will be impressed by the magic of its landscape. The castle, located on top of a hill and surrounded by a moat, is located in the middle of a forest and near a beautiful lake.
Konopiště Castle was built in Gothic style to serve as a military fortress. However, over time, various alterations were made to turn it into a romantic building.
How to get to Konopiště castle
- On your own: from Praha Hlavni nadrazi station there are several trains to Benešov, from where you will have to walk a couple of kilometers to get to the castle. Buses also depart (although less frequently) from the Praha Roztyly terminal.
- Organized excursion: there are comfortable half-day excursions that depart from Prague and make a complete visit to the castle.
10. Cross the border to Germany's Dresden
Just 150 kilometers from Prague is an interesting destination that you can visit in one day. The peculiarity is that to do so you will have to leave the Czech Republic and enter neighboring Germany.
Although in its time it was one of the Baroque capitals of the continent, the ravages of World War II ended with part of the heritage of Dresden. Despite that, you can still find highlights such as the Zwinger Palace, examples of late Baroque in Europe, the Opera House and the Frauenkirche church.
How to get to Dresden
- On your own: the offer of trains from Prague to this German city is very wide. Departing from the central station of the Czech capital, in just an hour and a half you will be in Dresden.
- Organized excursion: to spend the day it may be more convenient to hire an excursion that usually includes tickets to the most popular places in Dresden.