Once the second most important city in Bohemia after Prague, Kutná Hora is still known as ‘the treasure chest of the Bohemian Kingdom’. Its wealth came mainly from silver mines and it was here that the first Bohemian silver coin introduced by the currency reform of Wenceslas II was minted.
Having fallen into oblivion due to the exhaustion of the mines and the devastation caused by the Hussite wars and the fire of 1770, Kutná Hora has regained its splendour thanks to tourism. In 1995, recognition came that did justice to the rich historical heritage and uniqueness of this town: it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
About an hour’s drive from Prague, Kutná Hora will allow you to get your fill of excitement in a single day, with a pretty town centre, interesting monuments to visit, good wine to taste and a spooky chapel where the decorations are made from… human remains! human remains!
The centre of economic life in Kutná Hora was once the so-called Italian court, where the first Bohemian mint was established when Wenceslas II invited Florentine experts to mint the first coins. In addition to an exhibition on the history of the mint and the minting of coins, the Italian court also houses the curious Museum of Mysterious Faces, which will let you discover the dark side of this city: you will learn about witches, thieves, heretics, judges and executioners.
The exhausted mines are today a testimony to Kutná Hora’s rich past and a popular tourist attraction. If you suffer from claustrophobia instead of entering the narrow underground passages of the mines, you can read about their history in the interesting Czech Silver Museum housed in an old castle.
The architectural jewel of the city is St Barbara’s Cathedral, which can rival in grandeur and opulence the magnificent St Vitus Cathedral in Prague. Construction began in 1308, but the cathedral was not completed until the 19th century. Take a look at the 15th-century frescoes, some depicting miners at work, and after visiting the interior treat yourself to some time outside the church. From the terrace there is a beautiful view of the city.
Another important religious building is the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in nearby Sedlec, a perfectly preserved example of the quality achieved by Cistercian architecture in the 13th century. It is called ‘the temple of light’ because of its imposing windows that let in the sun’s rays, creating amazing visual effects.
Most tourists come to Kutná Hora to visit the macabre yet interesting Sedlec Ossuary, a medieval chapel with a bizarre decoration. More than forty thousand perfectly disinfected human skulls and bones have been used to form chandeliers, pyramids, crosses and coats of arms: a spectacular reminder of the transience of the human condition and the existence of death, inciting both awe and wonder.
For a chilling experience visit the ossuary during one of the night tours that are organised in the summer, when the extraordinary spectacle of life and death created by real human remains is illuminated with a dim light. Unforgettable… unless you die of fright!
The ossuary is located in the underground chapel of All Saints’ Church in Kutná Hora at the cemetery of the Cistercian Abbey, which can be reached on foot from the railway station; from the church you can then take a shuttle bus to the city centre.
The wine tradition of this region has been rediscovered and enhanced by the Wine Cellars (in Czech Vinné sklepy Kutná Hora, s.r.o.), a family-run business that has been producing organic wines since 2009. From the centre of Kutná Hora, you can take an easy 6km cycling trail that will take you to visit the vineyards.
Wines from the area such as Pinot noir, St. Lawrence, Müller Thurgau or red Tramin are becoming increasingly popular on the international wine scene for their spice and mineral content.
Kutná Hora is only 80 km from Prague and is easily reached by train in about an hour; some trains are direct while others require a change in Kolín. Travelling by bus is a bit more complicated as there are no buses every day, so we do not recommend it.
Those who prefer to rent a car can reach Kutná Hora in an hour, having the freedom to choose the time of departure and to be able to stop along the way if they wish.
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