The Czech Republic’s silver lining

This old silver mining city has a richness of sites to see. This church and cathedral are two of the most important.

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. He has been a journalist for more than 20 years and has travelled the world full time since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.

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The best things to do in Kutná Hora

Just a short trip from Prague, visiting Kutná Hora takes you into a treasure trove of sights, built when this wealthy mining town was at its most opulent.

From the main World Heritage churches, to the legacy of the industrial days, there are so many things to do in Kutná Hora.

The evenings are pleasantly calm in Kutná Hora.

This old medieval city is close enough to Prague – about an hour’s drive – that many visitors come just as a day trip from the capital. But they miss one of the best things to do in Kutná Hora: explore it without the crowds.

Once all the tourists have left, I’m able to walk around the historic centre of the city with few people in my way. As the sun sets and an orange glow pervades the main square, I’m glad that I decided to spend the night here.

Things to do in Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

That’s not to say you won’t enjoy a day trip to Kutná Hora from Prague. There are so many things to see in Kutná Hora that you’ll easily fill your time, exploring the World Heritage churches, the creepy bone church, the mining heritage, and much more.

If you would like to do a guided tour of Kutná Hora without the hassle of organising any public transport, I would recommend this day trip from Prague.

For such a small city, it has a wealth of sights – because of the wealth that built these sights. The riches that were found here created riches that have lasted until today. And this collection of architectural treasures is one of the main reasons I would recommend you find time to visit Kutná Hora.

What is Kutná Hora known for?

Kutná Hora is famous for the silver mines that were worked here in the medieval times, making the city one of the wealthiest in Europe. That wealth was used to build the grand sights that Kutná Hora is known for these days – including the Church of St Barbara and Cathedral of Our Lady at Sedlec (together a World Heritage Site) and the Sedlec Ossuary, known as the ‘Bone Church’.

Is it worth visiting Kutná Hora?

It is definitely worth visiting Kutná Hora to see the incredible collection of heritage sites in (and around) the historic centre. It’s easy to do a day trip from Prague to Kutná Hora, or there is more than enough to see in Kutná Hora to justify staying overnight. Highlights include the World Heritage churches, the Bone Church, the Italian Court, and the castle.

The historic centre of Kutná Hora is fascinating – wealthy Middle Ages glamour rolled into an old trading hub – and that’ll be a focus for many people. But there are more things to do in Kutná Hora than just the obvious.

Before I start to talk about some of the specific Kutná Hora attractions, let’s look at the background that gave rise to them all, and made this one of the best places to visit in the Czech Republic.

Mining in Kutná Hora

From about the 13th century, Kutná Hora became one of the most important cities in Central Europe – and it was all because of the silver in the ground here.

Great wealth came from the mines in the area that were digging up silver at a great rate. While much of the money flowed to other parts of the region, enough stayed in the city to build the magnificent buildings you find in the streets and on the squares in the centre of the city.

Things to do in Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

I’ll mention more of these buildings shortly but, to give you some examples, the Royal Mint and the Royal Residence show the status that was once found in Kutná Hora, as does the Jesuit College, one of the city’s most impressive buildings (and easy to spot as you approach the Church of St Barbara).

Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

The silver mines were officially abandoned in the late 1700s but the decline had been coming for quite a while.

War, natural disasters, and the plague had all taken their toll on the city. What had once been a dominant centre of business faded.

Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

But the silver lining for us today is that so much of the historic part of the city still remains.

Kutná Hora has a new lease on life and it’s become an extremely popular place for tourists. I can see why. Not only is it easily accessible, but it has two masterpiece churches (that are included on the World Heritage List), a quirky bone church, and a beautiful city centre.

World Heritage

The two most important sites in Kutná Hora bookend the area that you’re likely to explore – from the Cathedral of Our Lady at Sedlec near the main train station to the Church of St Barbara in the historic centre.

Both churches, they are the core components of the World Heritage Site in Kutná Hora (which also includes much of the historic centre). What’s particularly interesting is that although they’re just 30 minutes’ walk from each other, the designs of these two churches couldn’t appear further apart!

Church of St Barbara

The Church of St Barbara is the main church in Kutná Hora, dominating the skyline of the city with its hulking position. Inside, it can feel can feel a bit dark and oppressive, but that’s a natural result of its scale and density.

Church of St Barbara, Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

Although construction on the church started in 1388, it wasn’t technically finished until 1905. This means that, inside, you have a vast collection of influences in the art and design aspects, spanning more than five centuries.

The overall size of the Church of St Barbara is impressive inside but it’s all these details that are particularly interesting.

Church of St Barbara, Kutna Hora, Czech Republic
Church of St Barbara, Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

It’s fitting that the church feels darker inside compared to the sunny day I am enjoying in Kutná Hora.

St Barbara is the patron saint of miners and this church was erected in her honour by the miners who made this city so great.

Even for all those years when the building didn’t even have a roof, miners would come here to pray. Having some spiritual goodwill was important in those dangerous days.

Church of St Barbara, Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

It’s easy to see why visiting the Church of St Barbara is one of the most important things to do in Kutná Hora, and I would recommend making it a priority for your trip.

You’ll find the Church of St Barbara at the southern end of the historic centre of Kutná Hora. The address is Barborská, 284 01 Kutná Hora. You can see it on a map here.

The Church of St Barbara is open in January and February from 1000 – 1600.
In March, it’s open from 1000 – 1700.
From April until September, it’s open from 1000 – 1800.
In October, it’s open from 1000 – 1700.
And in November and December, it’s open from 1000 – 1600.

Entrance to the Church of St Barbara for an adult is 160 CZK (US$6.30), for a concession it is 120 CZK (US$4.70), for children aged 6 – 15 it is 50 CZK (US$1.95) and free for children below the age of 6.

I would suggest buying the combined ticket for the Church of St Barbara, the Cathedral of Our Lady at Sedlec and the Ossuary at Sedlec. That costs 300 CZK (US$11.70) for adults, 230 CZK (US$9.00) for concessions, and 95 CZK (US$5.70) for children aged 6 – 15.

Cathedral of Our Lady at Sedlec

The Cathedral of Our Lady at Sedlec is the further from the main tourist area of the city. As you arrive, you notice some industrial buildings around and it does seem a little out of place to suddenly have such a large church dominating the area.

Cathedral of Our Lady at Sedlec, Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

But, of course, this would have looked very different when the foundation stone was laid.

The cathedral was first built here around 1300 but was burned down during the 15th century. It sat as a pile of ruins until it was rebuilt and opened again in 1708.

The architect for the reconstruction was a man called Jan Blažej Santini Aichel, whose name you may recognise if you’ve been reading my other stories about the Czech Republic. He also designed the Pilgrimage Church of Saint John of Nepomuk on Zelená hora.

Cathedral of Our Lady at Sedlec, Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

He created a masterpiece on the site here at Kutná Hora as well. He took what remained of the High Gothic style of the original church and incorporated that into his ideas for a Baroque building.

Although the Cathedral of Our Lady at Sedlec looks relatively traditional from the outside, what you end up with is an interior that is striking for its height and bright walls with vibrant painted art. Everything inside appears so large and warm, a glowing tribute.

Cathedral of Our Lady at Sedlec, Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

Just as I think visiting the Church of St Barbara is a must-do in Kutná Hora, so is the Cathedral of Our Lady at Sedlec.

You’ll find the Cathedral of Our Lady at Sedlec about 20 minutes walk northeast from the historic centre of Kutná Hora. The address is U Zastávky, Sedlec, 284 03 Kutná Hora. You can see it on a map here.

The Cathedral of Our Lady at Sedlec is open from April to September from 0900 – 1800 every day except Sunday when it is open from 1100 – 1800.
From November to February, it is open from 0900 – 1600 every day except Sunday when it is open from 1100 – 1600.
In March and October, it is open from 0900 – 1700 every day except Sunday when it is open from 1100 – 1700.

Entrance to the Cathedral of Our Lady at Sedlec also includes the Sedlec Ossuary (Bone Church). The cost for an adult is 160 CZK (US$6.30), for a concession it is 120 CZK (US$4.70), and for a child it’s 50 CZK (US$1.95).

I would suggest buying the combined ticket for the Church of St Barbara, the Cathedral of Our Lady at Sedlec and the Ossuary at Sedlec. That costs 300 CZK (US$11.70) for adults, 230 CZK (US$9.00) for concessions, and 95 CZK (US$5.70) for children aged 6 – 15.

Main sights

Beyond the two World Heritage churches, there are a few other key sights that I think are the top things to see in Kutná Hora. As you plan your itinerary, I would recommend including these Kutná Hora attractions.

Sedlec Ossuary

There are plenty of people who come to Kutná Hora just to see the Sedlec Ossuary, also known as the Kutná Hora Bone Church. Even if it’s not your main reason for a visit, it’s likely to be a highlight of your time here.

The church building (officially known as the Cemetery Church of All Saints) was first built in the 14th century as the church for the cemetery around it. When the burial grounds were reduced in size, some of the skeletons were moved to the church’s ossuary here and, later on, the rest were too.

Bone Church, Sedlec Ossuary, Kutná Hora, Czech Republic

Exactly when the bones started to be arranged into art pieces at the Sedlec Ossuary isn’t clear, although legend says a half-blind monk did the first pyramids in the 15th century. Most of what you see today – the chandeliers and the coat of arms of bones, and all the other decorations – are from 1870.

I’ve got a whole story about what to expect when you visit the Sedlec Ossuary – and it’s certainly an eerie experience. If you’re coming from Prague, you might be interested in this day tour that includes a focus on the bone church.

Hrádek

The name Hrádek literally means ‘Little Castle’, but don’t expect this to look like some of the other castles you’ll find in the Czech Republic. It’s really just a grand house with palatial features and some fortification elements.

The building itself is interesting – built originally in 1312 and later turned into a luxurious residence before being used as a school. A visit here gives you a look insight one of the earliest examples of a Renaissance residence in Bohemia.

But the main reason I recommend visiting today is to see the Silver Museum that Hrádek now houses. There are two museum tours you can do – the first takes you through the history of Kutná Hora and gives you an excellent introduction to the city. The second tour is about the silver mining indsutry here and even takes you down into a tunnel of an original medieval mine.

Italian Court

The Italian Court appears much more palatial and is one of the key attractions in Kutná Hora. Originally the Central Mint of Prague, it got its name because the experts in minting at the time were Italian.

The building has always been important in the city. It was where the king would stay when he came to visit the silver mines; it was where coins were both produced and stored; and it eventually became the town hall of Kutná Hora.

When you visit the Italian Court these days, you’ll be able to see some of the important rooms within the heritage building. There’s also a museum about minting coins, as well as a separate exhibition about some of the interesting characters who faced judges (and executioners) here.

Historic centre

The historic centre of Kutná Hora still follows the medieval layout of when it was developed many centuries ago, when the needs of miners was the main consideration. But in the dense maze of buildings are exquisite examples of Gothic and Baroque architectural works.

There are lots of things to see in the historic centre of Kutná Hora – too many to list, in fact! But these are a few of the highlights to look out for.

Three Kings House

Starting on the eastern side of the historic centre, near the Italian Court, take a look at a building known as the Three Kings House.

It’s obvious how it got its nickname – because of the facade of the house which has a freso painting of three Bohemian kings – Wenceslaus II, Vladislaus II, and Wenceslaus IV. While this is not the most significant sight in the centre, it’s a popular spot for photos.

Sancturin House

A block away, you’ll reach Palacky Square, where gatherings are often held throughout the years (you might be lucky enough to stumble on something happening).

The buildings around the square, with their colourful facades, offer a nice tableau of the architecture in Kutná Hora. But one of the highlights here is Sancturin House.

In the basement of Sancturin House, you’ll find the small Museum of Alchemy, run by a local character who will spin quite a few good tales for you (if the museum is open, that is… which can be a bit irregular).

Stone House

Continuing west, head next to the Stone House. Built between 1485 and 1499, it’s the most important civic house in Kutná Hora and considered a heritage gem of Bohemia.

The stone facade is impressive, with the window box jutting out from the centre and intricate carvings around the top. You can tell a noble person once lived here because of the knights on the gable.

A permanent exhibition in the Stone House tells the story of life in the city during the medieval days, as well as presenting a collection of sculptures from the important monuments.

Stone Fountain

Another block further west, you’ll find more stone – this time, the Gothic Stone Fountain in the middle of Rejskovo Square. This enormous cylindrical structure dominates the streetscape here.

Dating from the 15th century, it was used to hold water that was brought into the city by wooden piping that stretches for kilometres. It wasn’t until 1890 that the locals stopped using the fountain as a reservoir for drinking water.

Jesuit College

From the fountain, head south towards the Church of St Barbara and you won’t miss the Jesuit College, one of the most impressive buildings you’ll see in Kutná Hora.

Constructed from 1667, the Early Baroque building is impressive for its scale and its elegance – like most Jesuit buildings, there’s nothing too ostentatious about it.

These days the building houses the Gallery of the Central Bohemian Region (GASK), which specialises in art from the 20th and 21st centuries. There’s an excellent permanent exhibition about the development of modern art in the Czech Republic, plus a range of temporary shows.

Museums

Beyond the ones I’ve already mentioned, there aren’t really any major museums in Kutná Hora that I would say are must-see sights. But, having said that, there are some small places that may be of interest.

Dacicky House

One of the more worthwhile museums in Kutná Hora is the Dacicky House, a historic home that has been converted into a museum that takes you through some of the reasons why the city’s historic centre has been listed as a World Heritage Site.

Dacicky House is named after one of its inhabitants, Mikulas Dacicky, who was a controversial character during his life (1555 – 1626), a writer and a poet, but also a drunkard and a rambler!

Tyl House

Another museum named after one of its inhabitants is Tyl House, where 19th-century writer JK Tyl was born. The main exhibition here is about his life, as he’s considered an important figure of the Czech National Revival (and wrote the text for the national anthem).

You’ll also get to see some of the house, which was built in its current form in 1823 on top of Gothic foundations.

Printing House Museum

The wealth of Kutná Hora attracted artisans from across Europe, and one of the industries that boomed here was printing. At a time when printing was still a prized skill, the Kutná Hora Bible was printed here in 1489, for instance.

You can discover more about this history and see original machinery spanning many centuries at the Printing House Museum. There’s an English audioguide and lots of interactive exhibits.

Chocolate Museum

The Chocolate Museum in Kutná Hora celebrates one of the best chocolate factories in the world, Koukol and Michera, which was founded in the city in 1918. It exported its chocolates and bonbons across the world and won international competitions.

The company closed in 1958, after it was nationalised and the owner had to flee the country in the Second World War. But, never forgotten, some fans opened the Chocolate Museum in 2016 with an exhibition about Koukol and Michera. There’s also a small chocolaterie on site that offers sales and tastings.

Tours

Kutná Hora is not large and you won’t have any trouble finding your way around the city. But there’s so much heritage here – seemingly every building in the historic centre – it can sometimes be a bit overwhelming. How do you know what everything is and which are the most significant sights?

It’s why I think a tour is a great way to visit Kutná Hora. You’ll not just be guaranteed to see the most important places, but your guide will be able to share all the stories behind the city.

Group tours

Most of the tours to Kutná Hora leave from Prague, which is great because it saves you all the hassle of organising public transport to get to the city. Although the train is quite straightforward, it does add another layer of stress to the day (particularly if you’re travelling in a group or as a family).

Church of St Barbara, Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

When you’re choosing a tour for a day trip to Kutná Hora, one of the things to look at is whether it includes the entry fees to the main attractions. It doesn’t necessarily matter either way, but just make sure that’s reflected in the price, so there are no unpleasant surprises.

If you’re looking for a small group experience, I would recommend this tour from Prague, which includes a hotel pickup and entry fees to the main attractions.

Or there are some other good options here:

Private tours

Some of the best things to do in Kutná Hora can get a bit busy, especially at the peak times when all the tour groups arrive. One advantage of taking a private tour is that you can change things a bit to avoid some of the crowds.

If you are travelling in a group, it can often be more comfortable and convenient to have a private tour as well, with the guide just focused on your needs. Luckily, there are some good private tours to Kutná Hora from Prague.

Cathedral of Our Lady at Sedlec, Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

My top recommendation for a private tour to Kutná Hora is this day trip from Prague. You’ll have your own driver so can tailor the tour to your interests – but, note, the price doesn’t include entry fees for that reason.

Where is Kutná Hora?

Kutná Hora is a city in the middle of the Czech Republic, in the Central Bohemian Region. It’s about 60 kilometres directly east of Prague, which is the best city to use as a base to visit Kutná Hora, if you’re not staying overnight. Alternatively, Kutná Hora is about 120 kilometres northwest of Brno.

How do you get to Kutná Hora?

With public transport, the best way to get to Kutná Hora from Prague is by train. There’s a direct train to the main station that takes about 50 minutes but to get to the historic centre you’ll need to change to a local train to the Kutná Hora město station. You can check the timetable here

Are there tours to Kutná Hora?

Yes, there are lots of tours to Kutná Hora and they are a great way to make the most of a day trip from Prague.
While it’s easy enough to get there and see everything independently, it does take longer to do it yourself and involves a bit more work. I would recommend either this small-group tour from Prague or this private day trip.

If you’re short of time, I understand why you may want to just do a day trip to Kutná Hora. As I’ve discussed in another story, Prague is actually a great base to explore the region and there are lots of day trips from Prague that you can do.

But you really do get a different impression of Kutná Hora if you stay overnight and see the city without the crowds of tourists. If you’ve got time to do that, it’s something well worth considering.

THE BEST ACCOMMODATION IN KUTNA HORA

For a city full of heritage, there’s actually a good range of different places to stay in Kutná Hora, including some quite modern accommodation.

BACKPACKER

If you’re looking for a backpacker option, there is a good chalet at the Autokemp Santa Barbara campsite.

BUDGET

For something affordable but comfortable, Pension Bed&Breakfast is probably the best place.

APARTMENT

For a nice modern apartment, you should definitely try Penzion Apartments Benešova 6.

LUXURY

And if you want to splurge, you can stay in a castle filled with modern art at Chateau Třebešice!

UNESCO logo

This site is on the UNESCO World Heritage List!
I'm on a mission to visit as many World Heritage Sites as I can. Only about 800 more to go... eek!

3 thoughts on “The Czech Republic’s silver lining”

  1. I love clicking pictures of churches! The beauty is simply astounding! The best I’ve ever clicked are at the Notre Dame Church in Canada. Would love to visit the ones you’ve been to in Czech Republic!

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