Why you should visit Kutná Hora
Many people only come to Kutná Hora to visit the famous Sedlec Ossuary (i.e the bone chapel) on the outskirts of town. Those people are seriously missing out on the best parts of Kutná Hora. While interesting and macabre, the Sedlec Ossuary will take about 20 minutes of your time and you’ll feel disappointed if you took the train from Prague just to see this. I actually think it’s over-rated. This post will explore the highlights of Kutná Hora and give you a few tips on how to get there while also avoiding the crowds at Sedlec.
The best way to Kutná Hora is by train. I’ll get into more detail at the bottom of this post. But what you have to know for now is that the train arrives at Kutná Hora’s Hlavní Nádraží (main train station) which is actually in the middle of nowhere, about 3km from the town center. Luckily there’s a small train that meets the main train and which does the commute between the main train station and the downtown station (Kutná Hora Mešto). That small train makes 3 stops, including at Sedlec. There’s where you’ll see the hordes of tourists who’ve been following you since Prague rush off the train. Stay on the train instead. It’ll take you about 5 minutes until you get to the downtown stop. From there it is an easy 10 minute walk to the center of Kutná Hora .
Above: Barborská street
The highlight of Kutná Hora is Barborská street and Saint Barbara’s Church. Barborská street will remind you of the Charles Bridge in Prague with its 13 statues lining the route to the church. That’s because it was actually inspired by the Charles Bridge. Barborská street also has some great views over the town and a forest and river below. At the end of the street is Saint Barbara’s Church, an enormous church which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague is the only other church in the country which rivals Saint Barbara’s. Unlike St. Vitus however, you won’t have to deal with hordes of tourists.
Below: Saint Barbara’s Church
Construction of the church was started in 1380, was interrupted by the Hussite Wars, and then abandoned in 1558 when the silver that made Kutná Hora rich ran out. It was finally completed in neo-Gothic style at the end of the 19th century. It’s a magnificent church, famous for its six-petalled ribbed vaulting. But what really impressed us were the beautiful stained glass windows, all hand-painted.
You can also go up to the gallery level of the church where there’s an outdoor balcony looking out over the gardens and countryside. The gallery level also has a totally different perspective on the church with close up views of the organ and the ceiling.
Back outside, it is worth walking around the gardens of the church.
Below: More views of the statues on Barborská street. The white building is a former Jesuit College built in the mid-17th century.
The town is full of little cobble-stone streets and interesting buildings. Another tourist highlight in Kutná Hora is the Czech Silver Museum where you can wear a miner’s helmet and explore about 500 m of medieval mine shafts (unfortunately the museum was closed by the time we got there). There’s an interesting story here: it was the residence of Jan Smisek, the administrator of the royal mines in the 15th century. He grew rich by illegally mining the silver right under the building.
Below: Some of the pretty streets, colourful buildings and views in the area just below Saint Barbara’s.
Below left: St. James church, built between 1330 and 1420, is the oldest church in town.
Above right: The Stone fountain was built in 1493 and brought in water, through wooden pipes, from a well 4 km away.
Kutná Hora is a great little town to walk around in and explore (and that’s not even including a visit to the Sedlec Ossuary which I’ll get to soon). A lot of people will want to know how it compares to Český Krumlov; In our opinion Český Krumlov is more spectacular. But Kutná Hora is more enjoyable because it has less tourists and a pleasant small-town vibe. Most stores are open 8am-11am on Saturdays, the rest of the weekend they’re closed. Instead locals go about their lives; in the main square there was a festival featuring old cars, a merry-go-round for the kids, and a rock band for the adolescents. In the park below Saint Barbara’s church there was a band playing Johnny Cash songs. It’s a pretty town, accessible and friendly. Maybe not as sexy as Český Krumlov but beautiful in it’s own way and, long term, a place you could stay in longer (versus Český Krumlov where the tourist crowds start getting to you after a couple of days).
I would suggest that day trippers visit the town first then take a taxi to the Sedlec Ossuary before taking the train home. In our case, we decided to overnight in Kutná Hora, which was a smart decision because we had the streets to ourselves when we took a walk (in the rain) later that evening:
The next morning we took the taxi to the Sedlec Ossuary, a 10 minute ride from downtown Kutná Hora which cost 85 Kč (the equivalent of $5).
Most people equate Kutná Hora with the Sedlec Ossuary, otherwise known as the bone chapel. It is famous and one of the most popular destinations for tourists visiting the Czech Republic.
Below: the very small and ordinary-looking Sedlec Ossuary from the outside.
Below: The first view you’ll get walking into the chapel.
The chapel is estimated to contain the skeletons of between 40,000 and 70,000 people, whose bones have been artistically arranged to form decorations and furnishings.
Below left: Signature, in bone, by the ‘artist’ František Rint. Right: Schwarzenberg family coat of arms.
Below: The chandelier contains at least one of each bone in the human body.
Legend has it that bones started to be arranged in the ossuary in the 15th century by a half-blind monk. When the Schwartzenberg family purchased the monastery in 1870 they allowed a local woodcarver (František Rint) to get creative with all the bones piled in the crypt. Rint disinfected and bleached the bones with chlorinated lime and extended the previous work, also adding the chandelier and the coat of arms.
According to the church, the work “Is not a celebration of death, but it symbolizes the equality of people in front of the throne of god”. Hmm. I’ve already warned Spanky that I don’t want her making bar stools and lampshades with my remains when I die…
The Sedlec Ossuary is also an easy 10 minute walk to Hlavní Nádraží, the main train station. So when you’re done at the Ossuary (20 -30 minutes should do it) you can walk over and take the train back to Prague from there.
Because nothing is very well indicated for someone who doesn’t speak Czech (something the tourist authorities could do a lot better with), I’ll be very detailed on my tips on how to get to Kutná Hora from Prague.
We stayed at Penzion U Brany while in Kutna Hora. Very nice. Recommended.
Getting to and Seeing Kutná Hora
– Prague’s train station is at the Hlavní Nádraží metro stop. Coming up from the metro brings you right into the train station. Fantastically easy.
– The tickets office is very close by. You can literally get off the metro and be at the ticket office within a minute. When you come in, domestic tickets are on the left, international on the right. Go to the left.
– Tell them you want a return ticket to Kutná Hora Mešto (downtown). They speak English. If you want to check schedules before going to the train station go on this site but use Kutná Hora Hlavní Nádraží as your destination. On Saturday mornings train usually leave at 8am, 10am and noon (but check the site in case of changes to the schedule).
– When looking up at the big board announcing the platform to board at, note that the final destination will be listed as Brno. You’ll see the stops along the way (including Kutná Hora) being flashed. They seem to announce the boarding platform about 15 minutes before departure. In the case of Kutná Hora you’ll see a lot of tourists and there’s a chance you might not even get a seat on the train (might have to stand up).
– Prague to Kutná Hora’s Hlavní Nádraží takes about an hour.
– As I mentioned at the top of this post, there is a small train at the platform closest to the train station. These are co-ordinated to meet the trains that arrive at Kutná Hora Hlavní Nádraží. The small train leaves the station 5 minutes later and has 3 stops, including Sedlec (where the Ossuary is). The final stop is Kutná Hora Mešto, right next to downtown Kutná Hora. Total journey on the small train from Hlavní Nádraží to Mešto is about 10 minutes.
– I’ve recommended NOT getting off at Sedlec. See it before leaving Kutná Hora. The reason being that everyone gets off that train to see the Ossuary. Come back later when not competing with the crowds from the train.
– When you’ve finished exploring Kutná Hora, whether it’s for a day trip or overnight stay, take the taxi from downtown Kutná Hora to the Ossuary. It’ll take about 10 minutes and cost about $5.
– Explore the Ossuary, then walk to the main train station. To get there: Walk out of the front gate of the Ossuary and walk straight down the small street (you’ll see tour buses parked there). You’ll get to a larger street where you have to choose between going right or left. They’ll be a Tobacco museum on the opposite corner. Turn left on that big street.
– Keep walking on that street. You’ll eventually see a rise in the road ahead – that’s the bridge over the rail line. You’ll see the sign for the train station. Follow it and you’ll get to Kutná Hora Hlavní Nádraží (ie main train station).
– From there you can take the train back to Prague.
Don’t wan’t to plan anything? Take this tour from Prague, they’ll take you to every sight covered on this post.
Please let me know if you’ve been to Kutná Hora and what you thought of the town!
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