Breaking the journey between Prague and Vienna

If you’re planning on travelling around central Europe it’s likely that both Prague and Vienna will feature on your travel itinerary. With seven direct modern RailJet trains departing every two hours throughout the day, the journey between these two capitals takes around four hours and costs as little as €19 each way. See the Seat 61 website for further details.

Whilst I would never advise against visiting either of these cities, they have become somewhat saturated with tourists and travellers. If you’re looking for something a little more authentic or relaxing, consider breaking the journey at one of the places mentioned below.

Note – Some of these suggestions require a short onward journey from the train station. Fortunately the integrated public transport system throughout Czechia is efficient, convenient and inexpensive. See the IDOS website for connection details. Perhaps more importantly, all of these stations have left luggage facilities, so you can safely deposit your luggage while you explore (further details here).

1. Kutná Hora

I’ve already written about Kutná Hora, as it’s an excellent day trip from Prague. The main attraction in this small city is Sedlec Ossuary, a Roman Catholic Chapel with a macabre atmosphere. Referred to as the Chapel of Bones, the various displays comprise of bones from an estimated 40,000 to 70,000 people. The most impressive feature is the chandelier made with every bone in the human body. It’s not the largest attraction, so doesn’t take much of your time, yet is one of the most popular in Czechia and is thus worth a visit. The city centre is also very pleasant, with several impressive churches and cathedrals (it’s a UNESCO world heritage site). Essentially it’s similar to Prague, but without the hordes of tourists. Whilst there are a few direct trains from Prague to Kutná Hora, it’s not may be better to change in Kolín as there is no left luggage facility at Kutná Hora.

Skulls and bones on display in the Chapel of Bones or Sedlec Ossuary in Kutna Hora

Sedlec Ossuary – the Chapel of Bones

2. Pardubice

It was only recently that I ventured to Pardubice, despite passing through on the train many times. Famous for the Great Pardubice Steeplechase, gingerbread, and the home of Semtex plastic explosives, this small industrial city is situated on the Labe River, approximately 100 km east of Prague.

The city centre is around 25 minutes walk from the main train station (alternatively, you can take a trolleybus). There are several historical buildings of early gothic architecture in the vicinity of Republic Square (Náměstí Republiky); the most notable is Zelená Brána, a tower gate which leads to Pernštejn Square (Pernštýnské náměstí), where you find the impressive neo-renaissance city hall. Pardubice château and fortress is situated nearby, and houses an East Bohemian museum within the complex.

Pernštýnské náměstí and Green Gate in Pardubice on a rainy day. The buildings are a mixture of Gothic, Renaissance and  late-baroque

Zelená Brána and Pernštýnské náměstí

3. Litomyšl

Although I’ve not been to Litomyšl, it’s been on my ‘to visit’ list for a while as the Renaissance château in the town centre, which dates from the 16th century, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I’ll no doubt get here at some point! Like many towns in Czechia, there is an impressive square featuring a variety of Renaissance, gothic and baroque buildings. To reach Litomyšl, alight at Česká Třebová, and take the service bus to Litomyšl (30 minutes). You may also require an additional change in Brno or Pardubice.

aerial photo of the Litomyšl Renaissance château

Litomyšl Renaissance château

4. Brno

Czechia’s second largest city has been largely neglected as a tourist destination, as the majority of visitors head straight for Prague. However this is gradually changing, and people are slowly beginning to discover this cultural hub of South Moravia. Enhanced by it’s gothic-style architecture, the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul assumes an imposing position over the city, and is considered a national cultural monument. Slightly to the west of the centre is Špilberk Castle. Once a former prison of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it is now part of the city museum. Several other notable buildings in the centre, including the town hall, and an underground labyrinth of tunnels beneath the vegetable market square all make for interesting few days exploration.

Brno does not boast the medieval charm of Prague, so try your best to avoid making that comparison.

The Bishop´s Palace in Brno, with the gothic style Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul in the background

The Bishop´s Palace and the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul

5. Mikulov

Whilst the majority of visitors perceive Czechia as a beer producing country, the climate of Southern Moravia provides ideal conditions for growing grapes. Consequently, a number of towns and villages in the region, including Mikulov, are scattered with vinyards and small independent wineries. Why people skip this picturesque wine producing town south of Brno is beyond me. After my first visit it’s apparent as to why this region draws comparisons with Tuscany. Although Mikulov is fairly small, the town centre is beautiful, and wandering along the narrow cobbled streets you’ll have no problems finding a cafe, restaurant or wine shop. 

For the more active travellers, you can make the 20 minute hike to Svatý kopeček (Holy hill) for stunning panoramic views over the town and surrounding landscape. If you’re staying longer, I highly recommend a trip to the nearby Pálava Hills. The train journey from Břeclav takes 30 minutes, or alternatively, you can take a direct bus from Brno (or Vienna).

Mikulov Castle on top of a small hill surrounded by the old town

Mikulov town centre and Castle

6. Valtice and Lednice

Connected by a 7 km lime tree avenue, these two South Moravian towns form The Lednice–Valtice Cultural Landscape; a 200 km² area inscribed on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1996. With an impressive number of Châteaux and cultural monuments, there is plenty to keep you occupied for at least a couple of days. Like Mikulov, it’s situated in a stunning part of Czechia, particularly suited to those who like cycling and walking. Obviously the local wine should not be missed either! Both towns are easily accesible from Břeclav (only 10-20 minutes by train or bus).

Landscaped garden and statues in front of Valtice Chateau in the Czech Republic

Valtice Palace

 

 

2 thoughts on “Breaking the journey between Prague and Vienna

  1. Carol Jean Leisch

    HI I really like your take on Eastern Europe. May/June 2016 I spent 8 weeks solo and really loved it. For ex: BRNO was a low key delightful spot to spend Mother’s Day eating brunch at a side walk café. The other small towns you mentioned I have not been to but they sound delightful. BTW I saw this link when you posted as Goulash on the forum. At the time I was curious why you picked that name…well now I know! I would like to know more about your travels esp POLAND> I am considering volunteer teaching for a week in Poland but I don’t know much about the country except I can travel there on a budget.

    1. greengoulash@outlook.com Post author

      Hi. Thanks for your comment!
      Whilst I’ve been to Poland several times, mainly to the larger cities, I don’t feel I can provide much information. The southern part near the Slovak border is probably the most scenic. From Krakow you have easy access to the Wieliczka Salt Mine and Auschwitz-Birkenau, and then to Bielsko-Biała and the Beskid Mountains. I find that the rest of the country is quite flat and boring/tiresome to get around. Plenty of places I still want to visit though: Torun and Malbork spring to mind. It’s a reasonably big country for European standards, so don’t plan too much. Absolutely no complaints with the culture, people, food or drink.
      Good to hear you enjoyed Brno!

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