Best Small Towns in the Czech Republic
Most visitors to the Czech Republic only visit Prague, which is undoubtedly amazing (it was my home for 9 years), but may feel a bit too touristy at times. On this page I will introduce some of the best “alternative” small towns to visit if you have an extra day or two in the Czech Republic and want to see some lovely historical monuments and sceneries without the crowds. These places, some only an hour or so by train or bus from Prague, are visited by locals more than foreigners, which is reflected in the prices of tourist attractions, restaurants, and hotels.
The Most Popular Ones
Let’s first get the most popular day trip destinations out of the way: Český Krumlov (historical UNESCO town and castle in South Bohemia), Karlovy Vary (biggest Czech spa town and site of the popular film festival – every year in July), and Brno (second biggest Czech city and a good place to stop on the way from Prague to Vienna).
These are all certainly worth a visit if you have the time and budget, but they are not exactly the focus of this page, because 1) you have probably already heard about them and 2) you won’t escape the tourist crowds there (the main street in Český Krumlov has as many tourists and souvenir shops as the main streets of Prague Old Town). That said, some of these popular destinations can be combined with some of the alternative ones listed below, because they are in the same region or have good train or bus links.
I will order the towns listed below roughly by their distance from Prague. The first ones are just about an hour away from Prague, so they can be visited as day or even half day trip from the capital. The ones further down are in more distant regions and will be more viable as multi-day trips or as day trips from Brno.
So these are the best alternative small towns to visit in the Czech Republic:
This UNESCO World Heritage town is almost as old as Prague. For a long period of history (roughly from 13th to 16th century) it was rich and powerful enough to compete with Prague, being even as alternative residence of several Czech kings. Several important political events took place there in the Middle Ages.
The name Kutná Hora is most likely derived from (silver) mining, which was also the reason behind its power (and eventual decline). It was the place when the Czech currency was minted during the Middle Ages.
The best known landmark of Kutná Hora is the huge, five-naved Gothic church of St. Barbara. Other places with visiting are the Sedlec Ossuary and Jesuit College.
Getting to Kutná Hora
Every hour or more often during the day there are trains from Prague main station, either direct to Kutná Hora or with a change in Kolín, taking 50 minutes. This is by far the best options, because the other alternatives (trains from Prague Masaryk train station or buses from Háje metro station) take as much as double the time.
Jičín is a small historical town located about 75 km northeast of Prague. It has a well-preserved historical centre with a rectangular main square and mostly Renaissance and Baroque houses. There are also remnants of fortifications.
In Czech culture, Jičín is the location of several fairy-tales and cartoons (the most popular being the stories of Rumcajs the good robber). The town even markets itself as the fairy-tale town and holds a fairy-tale festival every year in September.
Jičín lies at the border of popular tourist region Český ráj (Czech Paradise or Bohemian Paradise), known for rock formations, old castles and ruins, and other natural and historical sights scattered in beautiful nature. The sandstone rocks Prachovské Skály start almost immediately at the north-western end of Jičín. This region is a very popular weekend destination for Prague inhabitants.
Getting to Jičín
Buses from Prague to Jičín leave from Černý Most bus station and reach Jičín in about 1 hour and 20 minutes.
There is also a train station in Jičín, but it is outside main train lines. You can get there from Prague by train via Nymburk.
If you have a car, the best route is from Prague to Mladá Boleslav (D10 motorway) and then road number 16.
By the way, Mladá Boleslav is the home of Škoda Auto (the big car maker, whose history exceeds 100 years). The city itself is industrial and not that nice, but there is a Škoda museum.
Tábor, a town 75 km south of Prague whose name means “camp”, is in many ways unique. Although there was an earlier settlement, the city itself was founded by the Hussite rebels in early 15th century and served as their main base and military camp during the Hussite Wars. The Hussites, named after Church reformer Jan Hus, revolted against the Catholic Church and famously defeated more powerful enemies, including crussades, in several battles.
Tábor is situated on a high rock overlooking the river Lužnice. There are remnants of an old castle Kotnov, which was actually built in the 13th century, long before the Hussites came. Most of the castle was destroyed in fire in 1532 and only a characteristic round tower remains – and also the area called Parkán, where you can have a nice view of the river and surroundings.
The very centre of Tábor is Žižka Square (Žižkovo náměstí), named after the most famous Hussite army leader. There is also Žižka’s statue in the middle. Under the square there is a network of underground passages, accessible to the public and perhaps the best known tourist attraction of the city. The passages were built in the 16th century (long after the Hussites), originally as shelters from enemy attacks and fires. Entrance to the passages is from the Old City Hall building (Radnice). There is also a Hussite museum in the City Hall.
Next to the City Hall in one corner of Žižka Square there is the Church of Transfiguration of Christ on Mount Tabor (Kostel proměnění páně na hoře Tábor) with the tallest church tower in South Bohemia.
Besides the town itself you can visit the Chýnov Cave (10 km east of Tábor).
Getting to Tábor
The best way is by train, as Tábor is on the main line from Prague to České Budějovice and Linz. Trains leave at least hourly from Prague main train station and take one hour and 15 (the fastest non-stop trains) to 30 minutes.
Domažlice is a small historical town near the German border, about halfway between Prague and Munich. It is the capital of Chodsko, a specific region with unique history and traditions. Its inhabitants, the Chods (Chodové – literally the Walkers), were free farmers with significant privileges granted by the kings in exchange for protecting the border; this arrangement lasted for almost four centuries (from the 14th to the 17th). Every year in August, there is a festival in Domažlice, dedicated to their heritage and rural culture (Chodské slavnosti).
Domažlice is quite small (11,000 inhabitants), and majority of the importan historical buildings are concentrated in a small area around two squares: Náměstí Míru (Peace Square) and Chodské náměstí. You can visit a castle (Chodský hrad), which includes a castle tower and a museum of Chodsko.
In fact, part of Domažlice’s history is closely linked to the above listed Tábor and the Hussites. One of Hussites’ greatest victories against the crusaders took place here in the Battle of Domažlice in 1431. One street in Domažlice is named after Prokop Holý, the Hussite army leader.
You will also find streets named after other important figures linked to Domažlice: Jan Sladký Kozina, the hero of Chods’ uprising of 1695 (after a local ruler took their privileges from them) and Czech writer Alois Jirásek, whose historical novel Psohlavci (The Dogheads) popularized the Chods and their culture.
Getting to Domažlice
Travel to Domažlice takes longer than the towns listed above, but there are good transportation links by both road and rail. International express trains from Prague to Munich stop in Domažlice, which is a regional railway junction. Travel time from Prague is about 2.5 hours by the fastest trains. More train and bus connections are available with a change in Plzeň (Pilsen).
Kroměříž is a beautiful historical town in Moravia, the eastern part of the Czech Republic. It was founded in 1260 AD, originally as summer residence of the Bishops (and later Archbishops) of nearby Olomouc. As a result, you can find several churches and other Church-related historical buildings in Kroměříž. The best known is the Baroque Archbishop’s Palace and its gardens, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (parts of the Oscar-movie Amadeus were filmed here). It is located at Velké náměstí (Great Square), the historical heart of the city.
Getting to Kroměříž
Kroměříž is about 60 km to the east from Brno, which is also the best starting point for the trip. Buses from Brno to Kroměříž take about one hour. They are better than trains, which require a change in Kojetín. If you come from Prague, train is actually a good option – take one of the very frequent express trains to Přerov and then a regional train to Kroměříž.
If you have a car, Kroměříž is directly on the D1 motorway from Prague and Brno – exits number 258 (Kroměříž západ = west) or 260 (Kroměříž východ = east). By the way, the exit numbers mark the distance from Prague in km.
The last one on our list is too small to even be called a town – Lednice is a village of mere 2,000 inhabitants. However, it is a centre of another UNESCO World Heritage Site: the Lednice-Valtice Area. Its uniqueness is especially the landscape and the combination of cultural and natural attractions – a result of about 800 years of settlement. There are two castles (one in Lednice and another in nearby Valtice), both with large parks, separated by a group of ponds.
The entire region around Lednice is famous for its wine (having the warmest climate in the Czech Republic) and traditional South-Moravian rural culture with numerous events throughout the year. It is also a popular cycling and hiking destination.
Getting to Lednice
Lednice is very convenient to visit if you are on a multi-city Central Europe trip and travelling between Prague and Vienna or Bratislava. The nearby town Břeclav is a big railway junction and the last stop before the border on the main train line from Brno to Vienna or Bratislava. Virtually all express trains stop here. Travel times to Břeclav are 3 hours from Prague, 30 minutes from Brno, or one hour from either Vienna or Bratislava.
From Břeclav to Lednice you can take a local bus (Břeclav – Lednice – Pavlov – Mikulov), which has short intervals and takes less than 20 minutes.