Kutná Hora, Czech Republic – Off the Beaten Track

I came across Kutná Hora by chance a few years ago when trying to avoid motorway driving as I travelled from Prague to Bratislava.

St. Barbara Street looking towards St. James’s Church
St. Barbara Street looking towards St. James’s Church

Although only about 50 miles east of Prague, it seemed a world apart. I found it had many fine historic buildings and good bars and restaurants, like Prague, but without the crowds of tourist.

Since then, day trips from Prague have become more popular, but it is still very much Off the Beaten Track as far as most visitors to the Czech Republic are concerned. As a Senior, you probably have the freedom to time your visit outside the busy summer tourist season and then you can appreciate Kutná Hora as I did, almost by myself.

Human bones arranged in Sedlec Ossuary
Human bones in Sedlec Ossuary

Many tourists are drawn to Kutná Hora to see the Sedlec Ossuary which contains strange arrangements of human bones. Although fascinating in a macabre way, don’t linger too long. Head off and stroll around the beautiful sights of this historic city, with its ancient squares and streets, including the picturesque St. Barbara Street.

As I strolled around the town, I got the feeling of faded glory. Indeed from the 13th to 16th Centuries, Kutná Hora competed with Prague for economic and political dominance, with its wealth based upon silver mining.

A combination of flood damage to the mines, repeated plagues and the Thirty Years War led to its demise. Nevertheless, many great buildings remain, and Kutná Hora, and the adjoining town of Sedlec, have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Wander round the town and admire them, but make certain you allow time to relax over refreshments in one of the bars or restaurants in the main square (Palackého náměstí), whilst viewing the impressive architecture all around.

St. James's Church towering over the city
St. James’s Church towering over the city

You will probably need to relax, bearing in mind that it is about one and a half miles from the Sedlec Ossuary to the historical centre of Kutná Hora.

My Highlights

1. Chapel of All Saints and its Ossuary in Sedlec. The ossuary is estimated to contain the bones from over 40,000 people, many arranged in strange decorations and even as a coat of arms. Although quite a disturbing place (particularly for a Senior), I felt curiously drawn to look around the various exhibits and marvel at the workmanship.

Coat of Arms in the Ossuary
Coat of Arms in the Ossuary

2. Church of the Assumption of Our Lady and Saint John the Baptist in Sedlec. This architecturally interesting church was built in Gothic style around 1300, but remodeled in so-called Baroque Gothic style in 1700.

3. The Gothic St. James’s Church. Its 280 ft tower dominates the centre of Kutná Hora and somehow seemed to find its way into many of my photographs.

4. The Stone Fountain, built in 1495 as a water supply, connected to a spring by wooden pipes. This polygonal structure has lost its decorative statues, but is still an impressive sight. Nearby is the Marian Plague Column, built in about 1715 to give thanks for the end of one of the many plagues which struck the area.

The Marian Plague Column
The Marian Plague Column

5. The Italian Court. This building was originally a mint with Italians providing the expertise. Coin-making workshops were arranged around the central courtyard.  After reconstruction in the 14th Century, it became a royal palace.

6. St. Barbara Street (Pod Barborou ulice). This has the Jesuit College on one side and a panoramic view on the other side, looking towards St. James’s Church. The balustrade along the street has several statues, similar to Charles Bridge in Prague. The beautiful Church of St. Barbara gradually comes into view as you progress down the street.

7. Church of St. Barbara. It is not surprising to find a church in Kutná Hora dedicated to St. Barbara, in that she is the patron saint of miners. Construction of this outstanding Gothic building commenced in 1388, but it was not completed until 1905. It is notable for its five naves and its medieval frescoes depicting life in a mining town.

Church of St. Barbara
Church of St. Barbara

Getting There and Accommodation

Several budget airlines fly from the UK to Prague including Jet2 from five UK airports.

Avoid the shepherding tourist trips from Prague, by taking the hourly train or bus (a journey of about one and half hours); the Kutná Hora Information website gives details about these services. Seniors need to be 70+ to get rail discounts! I drove there in a hire car and had no problem in parking.

If you wish to stay over in Kutná Hora – and there is certainly enough to justify a two day visit – there are several small, attractive hotels. Check out the best prices at trivago.