Early in our research of interesting places to visit in the Czech Republic we came across the small town (pop. 21,000) of Kutná Hora less than an hour train ride from Prague. What caught our eye was its “Bone Church” (the Kostnice Ossuary), but it has so much more to offer including a UNESCO noteworthy historical town center and recently discovered medieval silver mine.
The Kostnice Ossuary is a small chapel built in 1511 to house the bones of an estimated 40,000 to 70,000 people from unearthed graves. The burial ground the bones were taken from was considered holy after the local abbot sprinkled soil on the ground from his trip to the holy land in 1278. The bones were arranged by František Rint in 1870 and include an enormous chandelier featuring every bone in the body.
While I will admit I was intrigued by the Ossuary, I really enjoyed our stroll through the town center with small winding alleys, views of grape vines and the river below. We also visited St. Barbara’s Church, one of central Europe’s most famous gothic churches. While it doesn’t come close to rivaling the churches we visited in Spain in terms of size or grandeur, it has an interesting history and at only $4 is worth a stop.
Our most unexpected find was an educational tour of the silver mines with tunnels directly below the main town streets. The mine was only discovered in 1967 despite having been originally dug from the 14th to early 16th centuries. During Kutná Hora’s prime it was second only to Prague in terms of population. Our tour included history, a visit to a small mining museum and an actual trek through the mining tunnels used 600 years ago. If you are claustrophobic than this damp underground tour is definitely not for you as there are areas where you have to duck and pathways so narrow that you had to turn sideways to fit through. If not we would recommend putting on your miner’s gear, flashlight, helmet and all and learning a bit more about the town’s history. One note – the tour is available in Czech with written materials available in multiple languages as well as a limited number of English tours per day. While we took the Czech tour as it met our timetable, we would suggest taking the English tour if you can manage it.
If you are looking for a day trip from Prague to escape the crowds or endless architectural wonders (or even a place to spend a night or two), we highly recommend Kutná Hora.
TIPS: The train system is easy to navigate, but do make sure to take the fast train which takes less than an hour. If you get on the local train your ride will be over 2 hours! If you are in reasonable shape you can walk to everything notable in the town, though there are local buses if you prefer a ride. Buy your train ticket to Kutná Hora Mēsto. You will need to get off the train at the Kutná Hora Hlavní Nádraží stop and then transfer to the local train to the city center (Mēsto) which is included in your fare. From there we visited the historical town center, St. Barbara’s Church, the silver mines and then walked the 3 km to the Ossuary on the other side of town and another 10 minutes to the train station where we departed back to Prague.