10 Must-Go-To Stops in Czech Republic with Eurail
Roughly the size of an American state (think “South Carolina”), exploring the Czech Republic by train will bring you to an oversize assortment of attractions. Imagine 10 centuries of spectacular architecture in Prague, to the glorious natural beauty of the Beskydy Mountains. Despite its size, the country maintains one of the most extensive rail networks in the former Eastern Bloc. It reaches every corner of the ancient kingdoms of Bohemia (in the west), Moravia (in the east), and the remnants of Silesia that form the Czech border with Poland.
The Czech Republic by train
The country is hard-wired for train travel. It has one of the best-established and most extensive rail networks in the Old World, and at a level of comfort that might surprise you. With a Eurail Pass, you can comfortably see everything the Czech lands have to offer. No need to ever worry about buying tickets, parking, or changing your schedule.
1. The capital of the Czech Republic: Prague
Arguably the most beautiful capital on the Continent, Prague (Praha in Czech) is unarguably the most popular destination in what used to be called “eastern” Europe (with the expansion of the European Union, it’s now more “central” than anything else). Take in the sights at Prague Castle, crawl your way through storied beer halls, or hit the floor in some of Europe’s best-rated dance clubs.
Don’t forget to take lots of pictures. The soaring Gothic spires, tiny cobblestone lanes, and ornate Baroque churches in Staré Město — “Old Town” — can make even the simplest snapshots works of art. With its centrally located main train station, you’ll land just steps from Wenceslas Square, in the very heart of the best attractions.
The largest city in Moravia, Brno has a quirky sense of style, marked by an unusual type of architecture, Functionalism, that took over in the Twenties and Thirties. You’ll get your first taste of it at Brno’s sprawling main train station, built in 1938. The big highlight is the recently restored Villa Tugendhat, a masterpiece of modern architecture built by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in 1930.
In contrast, you’ll find tons of unusual modernist cafés, restaurants and shopping malls while strolling around relaxed downtown. The main train station is located just south of historic Old Town. It has great connections to nearby castles and national parks.
3. Karlovy Vary
Often called by its German name, Carlsbad, Karlovy Vary is one of Europe’s great resorts. Visitors have long come to “take the waters” at the town’s twelve thermal springs. In addition to luxury health and beauty treatments, Karlovy Vary is also home to a crowd-friendly film festival. Over 200 international films are shown at open-to-the-public screenings every July.
Stroll the neoclassical promenade and sip salubrious spring water from free public fountains. Then try the celebrated local liqueur, Becherovka, known locally as the city’s thirteenth spring. The city’s main train station, Horní Nádraží, is less than a 10-minute walk from most of the sights. From there you can take regional trains out to attractions like the breathtaking hilltop town of Loket, used as a setting in Casino Royale.
First, start with a beer. The Czech Republic drinks more pivo per capita than any other country on earth (sorry, Germany!). This is primarily because of Pilsen (Plzeň in Czech), where the eponymous pilsner beer style was invented in the 19th century. Train is by far the best way to get here. The original beer producer, Pilsner Urquell, offers extensive brewery tours just north of the old Art Nouveau main train station. On the other side of the station is the historic Old Town.
The city has plenty beyond suds, including one of the region’s best soccer teams, Viktoria Plzeň, as well as quirky museums and great restaurants.
5. Český Krumlov
You can see why painters like Egon Schiele flocked here. The scenic South Bohemian town of Český Krumlov sits on a hairpin crook in the Vltava River, with its fairytale castle perched on the hilltop high above. Another UNESCO World Heritage site, the town is filled with museum-quality medieval architecture. It often serves as location for Hollywood movies.
For a good and relaxing time, book one of the many raft or canoe trips in the summer months. You can also hop a train to Hluboká or another one of the many South Bohemian castles.
6. Český Raj
Also known by the English translation, Bohemian Paradise, this beautiful “geopark” and wilderness preserve is a great way to get back to nature. Numerous hiking trails crisscross the region, whose unusual topography includes karsts and explorable caves. One route to include when you see the Czech Republic by train is a trip to the castle town of Jičín. It’s about 2 hours from Prague with a single transfer in Nymburk. From here you can set out on your tour, or start out at the cake-like Baroque chateau in Mnichovo Hradiště.
Once just a fort on the road from Krakow to Prague, thousand-year-old Olomouc is now home to a preserved architectural core that is second only to that of the Czech capital. It also has the largest density of students (over 25,000) in central Europe, bringing a youthful party vibe to the ancient buildings.
The city is home to a number of cool cafés, bars and casual restaurants, like the nonsmoking Moritz brewpub in the former Jewish neighborhood. From here, you can take direct trains to Prague and Ostrava, as well as to Warsaw and elsewhere in Poland.
8. Kutná Hora
The ancient Bohemian mining town of Kutná Hora can be a destination on its own. Though at just over an hour away, it also works as a possible day trip from Prague. Gawk at the artistically arranged piles of human bones at the Sedlec Ossuary, the final resting place for over 40,000 bodies dating back to the Middle Ages. Then stroll through St. Barbara’s Church, one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in central Europe.
During warmer months, cool off with a tour of the old silver mines deep below the city. There are two train stations in town. The “město” station is closest to the city, while the shortest to walk to the Sedlec Ossuary is from the Kutná Hora hlavní nádraží station.
Don’t let the almost-impossible-to-pronounce name throw you off (try “chrome-yair-zheezh”). This adorable Moravian burg halfway from Brno to the Beskidy Mountains was named a UNESCO World Heritage site for two reasons. One is the remarkable Bishop’s Palace, a sprawling Baroque chateaux filled with giant paintings by Titian, Cranach the Elder and other artistic masters.
Two is the city’s Flower Garden from 1665. It’s an immense, sculpted collection of herbal plants, orchards, hedge mazes and blossoms of all kinds. When you get out at the Kroměříž train station, you’ll be just across the Morava river from the beautiful gardens behind the Bishop’s Palace.
10. South Moravia
It’s the Czech Republic’s chief wine-producing area. South Moravia shares a border (and a long wine making tradition) with Austria’s Weinviertel viticultural region. It also boasts a ridiculous amount of Renaissance castles and palaces, built by the region’s former noble families.
Start out in the hilltop castle town of Mikulov, then take a train out to the ornate, Habsburg-era chateaus at Lednice and Valtice, where the Czech National Wine Salon offers guided tastings of the very best Moravian wines — generally dry whites — in the old castle cellar.
With worthy towns all over, this country is best explored by rail. Do you plan on seeing the Czech Republic by train? Check out your pass options on the Eurail website.