I spent the first semester of my sophomore year in college studying in Prague and everyday I fell more and more in love with the Czech Republic. The streets of Prague were incredible, but I wanted to get away from the tourists and crowds to really see the raw beauty the Czech Republic had to offer. From spectacular Gothic architecture to cities with healing waters featured in Queen Latifah movies, I found many unique and amazing aspects of the country. Here are five of my favorite day getaways from Prague:
Train or bus ride estimated time: 2-3 hours. Estimated cost: 7-13 euros
Situated in western Bohemia west of Prague, Karlovy Vary is the Czech Republic’s largest and most famous city known for its spas and healing waters. Europeans have traveled to this city for centuries to rehabilitate in the more than 300 hot springs and the warm-water Teplá river. According to the city legend, the town’s thermal springs were accidentally discovered in 1370 by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. By the 19th century, it was a popular destination for celebrities like Beethoven and Goethe. My personal favorite fun fact was that the Grand Hotel Pupp was the featured location in the movie Last Holiday. This city is also home to the Moser Museum and Glassworks Factory, which is home to beautiful and intricate pieces of glass-blowing.
Train or bus ride estimated time: 2 hours. Estimated cost: 8-11 euros
The beautiful city of Český Krumlov is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located on the banks of the Vltava River. It is a popular destination in the country because of its architectural heritage that is more than 500 years old. Encircled by a bend in the river, the town features a 13th-century castle with Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque elements. Other great things to see in the city include history and art museums or an amazing sunset from Křižák Hill. If you’re looking for something different from the city, hike through the nearby forest to a ruined castle.
Train or bus ride estimated time: around an hour. Estimated cost: a whopping 4 euros!
For those wanting to spend a day exploring a city with a incredibly rich history, Terezín is the perfect stop. Most famously inside the city is the memorial/museum for the transit camp that was used to hold Jews and other prisoners of the Nazis during World War II. Many who were sent to Terezín eventually were transferred to Auschwitz where most faced death. Though the camp was used by the Germans for propaganda during the war (such as managing to get the Red Cross to agree the camps were not inhumane) the majority of those who went through Terezín did not survive. The on-site memorial truly illustrates these efforts and portrays Terezín’s terrible but enlightening history of inmates trying to find humanity even though being put in terrible situations. It is an great historical and cultural experience to visit this incredible site.
Train or bus ride estimated time: <1 hour. Estimated cost: 8-10 euros
Larger than London during the 14th century, Kutná Hora was the economic and geographic center of a trade network that spanned Europe and reached the Middle and Far East. The silver deposits mined in the city were minted into a currency called groschen. This beautiful, well-preserved medieval town is also today protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site. There are plenty of things to do such as rocking a traditional white miner’s uniform to tour the famous old silver mines, visiting the gothic-style Church of Saint Barbara, and going to the 19th century Sedlec Ossuary, or “bone church,” decorated with elaborate arrangements of the bones of thousands of victims of the Black Death and Hussite religious wars.
Train ride estimated time: 2 hours. Estimated cost: 15-25 euros
I opted to do an adventure trip with my study abroad program and I had the best time exploring the natural landscapes this town had to offer. I was amazed to see how small Český Raj was and how we ran into the same locals everyday. This town is truly a “bohemian paradise” as the oldest protected landscape area in the Czech Republic and an UNESCO Geopark. My adventure tour included rafting on the Jizera river, rappelling down the rock formations, hiking the Pantheon (the largest rock ruins of a castle in the country dating back to the 15th century), and an expedition through the caves. It was a great escape from the crowded city centers of Prague and other European capitals and a great reminder of how beautiful the great outdoors is.
If you’re looking for something a little further…
Visit Krakow, Poland
Train or bus ride estimated time: 6-8 hours. Estimated cost: 6-15 euros
A beautiful city with a rich and haunting history, Krakow is a must-see during your travels in Eastern Europe. Miles away from Krakow is the concentration camp turned memorial/museum Auschwitz.
Visit Budapest, Hungary
Bus ride estimated time: 7-8 hours. Estimated cost: 15-30 euros
Budapest is one of my favorite cities because there is something so unique about it compared to many other European capitals. From spending your day in the famous baths to walking along the Danube River on the Chain Bridge you will see the beauty of Budapest everywhere you turn.
Visit Vienna, Austria
Bus ride estimated time: 4 hours. Estimated cost: 10-20 euros
There is plenty to discover about Vienna, Austria and its locals including the incredible architectural masterpieces it holds in its many museums and buildings to its rich and sophisticated culture it illustrates in activities such as the opera.
Read more here in my Ultimate Guide to Vienna, Austria
One of my favorite things about Europe was how cheap and reliable transportation from one place to another can be. It allows you to dig deeper into a country’s history and culture by exploring more than just the big tourist cities that everyone has seen pop up more than a million times in their Instagram or Pinterest feeds. Traveling is better when you can really dig deeper into a country and small towns full of locals with great stories.
Have you been to any of these cities or did I leave out a great city to see? Let me know in the comments.
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