Central Bohemia is a historical region in the centre of the Czech Republic. The region surrounds the city and region of Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. Central Bohemia is known for its alluvial plains and agriculture industry, as well as the karst mountains in the western part of the region. There are 12 smaller districts that make up Central Bohemia, and all are easily accessible from the capital. Because of its proximity to Prague, Central Bohemia is a great destination for a day trip. For those that want to explore further and dive deeper into the varied history, culture, and natural wonder of Central Bohemia, this is the post for you.
Check out: How to spend 3 days in Prague.
History of Central Bohemia
Bohemia has a rich history dating back to the Moravians and the Holy Roman Empire; Charles IV, King of Bohemia, was also Holy Roman Emperor in the 14th century. By the 16th century, the region was under Habsburgs rule, and less than 75 years later Bohemia was struggling with the aftermath of the Reformation. Nearly 30 leaders were executed, which promptly stopped any revolt, and their lands given to Catholic loyalists.
During the 17th century, Bohemia was predominantly independent, although they were still under Habsburg rule. After the Austro-Prussian War in 1866, the region was divided between the Austrians and the Hungarians, and by the end of World War I was the core of the new Czechoslovakia.
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Places to visit and things to do in Central Bohemia
From exploring the Elbe River to wine tasting and visiting the many beautiful castles in the region, there’s plenty to do in Central Bohemia. This is a sampling of what we did during our four day trip to Central Bohemia.
The town of Kutna Hora
Kutna Hora is one of the more well known cities in Central Bohemia, for a variety of reasons. With a history that stretches from the early 12th century into modern times, the town has plenty to see and do. During our visit, we explored several churches, the ossuary, a chocolate museum, and a silver mining museum.
Things to do in Kutna Hora
Churches of Kutna Hora
Saint Barbara’s Church, with its unique three-tented roof, flying buttresses, and mining-related stained glass, is a highlight of Kutna Hora. Saint Barbara is the patron saint of miners, so the church’s interior leans heavily toward the town’s industrial core. It is one of the most important European Gothic cathedrals and easily rivals St Vitus in Prague. The Sedlec Monastery, nearby, houses the Church of Our Lady and Saint John the Baptist, and the Sedlec Ossuary, or the bone church. From the 14th century onward, the Ossuary was the most desirable place to be buried, and bodies simply piled up. Between the plague and the Hussite War, over 40,000 people were buried here, and something had to be done. In the 15th century, the bodies were exhumed and reburied in a lower chapel, and in the 18th century the family hired a woodcarver to make sense of the piles of bones. The result is the exceptional bone-filled church we see today. This is a must-do on your trip to Kutna Hora.
Learn About the Central Bohemia Mining and Minting Industry
For those interested in the industrial history of Central Bohemia, a trip to the Czech Museum of Silver and Medieval Silver Mine is a must-do. Located at Hradek (Little Castle), the museum and the adjacent mine experience showcase the most complete collection of mining artefacts, archaeological and numismatic finds from the region, as well as some mining-related art and geology. There are two tours to choose from; each highlights a different aspect of the mining and minting industry. In town, visitors can visit the Italian Court, which is the former royal palace and royal mint. In the 14th century, Wenceslas II adapted it to serve as the mint, while his future successor Wenceslas IV further adapted it to serve as the royal palace. It was one of the most important places in Bohemian history. Today, visitors have two tour options, one that follows the mining and minting industry, and one that follows the path of the Czech royal family.
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How to get to Kutna Hora
Kutna Hora is easily accessible by train or bus from Prague. It is just one hour by train from Prague to the main station at Kutna Hora, which is a six-minute local train ride from the city centre. Buses take about an hour and a half, but stop in the city centre. You can also drive from Prague; it takes one hour along the main highway.
Where to Eat in Kutna Hora
Restaurace V Ruthardce
We had lunch at the Restaurace V Ruthardce, located near the Tower of St James in the old town. It is considered one of the best restaurants in Kutna Hora, and there’s definitely an emphasis on great food made with love. We sat in the garden, a shady space with long communal tables and smaller, more intimate tables under the trees. The interior of the restaurant is classic and old, with a large fireplace and heavy wooden tables. Food here is delicious, and very clearly the owners care about making the entire experience wonderful. I had the fresh fish, which was tasty. The drinks menu includes Czech beer or soft drinks. Prices are reasonable, and this is a great place for lunch or dinner.
Factory, a Bistro Cafe Bar
We had dinner at Factory, a cafe bistro bar located in the centre of town. It is a popular pizza, pasta, and burger bar. I had a really great burger, which came with thick, crispy chips and a small side coleslaw. They also serve Neapolitan-style pizza (thin, crispy crust), and al dente pasta. Factory is a great choice for an easy, inexpensive, delicious lunch or dinner.
Where to Stay in Kutna Hora
We spent the night at Hotel Mědínek Old Town, a 52-room hotel perfect for travellers, families, or businesspeople. The rooms are spacious and well-appointed with comfortable furnishings and views of the city centre.
The town of Melnik
Melnik lies on a high ridge overlooking the confluence of two rivers just 35km north of Prague. It’s very close to the city, perfect for a day trip, and easily accessible by car, bus, or train. As Melnik lies in the alluvial plain of the Vltava and Elbe Rivers, it is among the most important agricultural regions of the Czech Republic; it’s also a very important river port city. The main products grown here are fruits, vegetables, potatoes, sweet corn, and sugar. 96% of Czech wine is produced in this region.
Melnik dates back to the 5th century, when Slavic tribes settled various towns in the area. It was granted town status in the 13th century, and later passed through the queens of Bohemia as a dowry town.
Things to do in Melnik
Melnik Chateau and Wine Tasting
The Melnik Chateau, which is adjacent to the imposing church, has a rich, and sometimes mythological, history. It is said that Princess Ludmila, grandmother of Saint Wenceslas, lived in the original wooden castle, and over the years 23 Czech princesses and queens resided in the chateau. Over the centuries, the building was renovated multiple times, from a simple wooden castle to an impressive stone one. It underwent a Gothic renovation in the 13th century, and in the 14th century Queen Elizabeth added the chapel.
Today, the castle is owned by the Lobkowicz family, although they lost it during the war before regaining ownership. The interior of the chateau is incredible, with an extensive art collection, period furnishings, a Hall of Maps, and three wine cellars – among many other wonderful features.
We participated in a lovely wine tour and tasting in the wine cellars of the chateau. The first cellar has a press and fermenting tanks, while the second and third are where the wine is stored. The third cellar also has a filling and corking station. During our visit, we sampled the local Ludmila wine, a sparkling Chateau Melnik, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and a Traminer.
For more information about the castle and the tours offered check here.
Please note that photography is not allowed inside the castle.
Climb the Church Tower
The Church of Saints Peter and Paul lies at the highest point in town, overlooking the rivers, adjacent to the chateau. It is a working church, built in the 11th century and expanded in the 14th and 15th centuries. The interior is “worthy of a cathedral,” with gracefully soaring Gothic vaulted ceilings and elaborate stained glass. The frescoes date to the 15th century, from the final stages of the medieval renovations, and have gone through minimal modern restorations. The church also has an ossuary in the crypt, where the bones of 10,000 people are stacked and decorated neatly around the walls.
The Baroque-era bell towers, though, are the highlight of the church. On a clear day, the views stretch across the river confluence and the plains beyond. Visitors can climb up and circle the top of the tower and the clocks.
How to get to Melnik
By bus: You can take a bus from the Nádraží Holešovice and Ládví stations in Prague that will take you to the Mělník Bus Station. The journey takes around 40 minutes depending on traffic. The Mělník Chateau is 1.5 km away from the bus station (2o minutes on foot).
By train: You can take the train from Prague. It needs around 1 hour to reach the Mělník Train Station. The Mělník Chateau is 1.6 km away from the bus station (25 minutes on foot).
By car: You can rent a car and drive to Mělník which is only 30 km away from Prague.
Where to eat in Melnik
Restaurace Na Hradbách
Dine at Restaurace Na Hradbach, a traditional Czech restaurant located at Hradby Melnik, the medieval fortification in the old town centre. The menu consists of local and regional dishes and a variety of Czech beers.
Restaurace Šalanda U Císaře
The Restaurace Šalanda U Císaře is also located in the old town. This modern hotel, restaurant, and spa is a popular place to go for lunch. The menu changes daily, featuring a variety of traditional local dishes over the week. Guests can dine on the new outdoor terrace in good weather or slip into their new beer spa.
Where to stay in Melnik
Hotel Olympionik is located near the train station in Melnik, a short walk from the old city and the chateau. Its spacious rooms come equipped with luxury toiletry amenities, wifi, laptop safe, and minibar.
Castles of Central Bohemia
Central Bohemia has numerous castles, chateaus, and fortresses. During our visit, we had the opportunity to visit some of these beautiful, historic former royal residences. Many are easy to get to from Prague or the surrounding towns; travellers with a car can explore at leisure or stay overnight nearby to explore the region.
This 12th century hunting lodge lies deep within a dark forest and has a rich history ranging from a royal residence to a prison. During its heyday, it was one of the most important castles in the Czech Republic. A tour of Krivoklat Castle highlights the library (with over 52,000 books!), Royal Hall, and Gothic chapel, as well as the many important events that took place in the castle over the years.
It was damaged by fires several times, and thus deteriorated and was converted to a prison. In the 19th century, the Fürstenberg family purchased the castle and renovated it following yet another fire in 1826. Today, the castle is a museum and theatrical performance and festival venue. One of the most popular festivals is a traditional Czech wood carving festival, where visitors can purchase wood carvings from the artists or watch traditional artisans at work.
For more information about the castle and the tours offered you can check here.
How to get to the Křivoklát Castle
By car: Located just 50 km away from Prague, the easiest way to reach Křivoklát Castle is by car.
By train: You can get a train from Prague to the town of Beroun (40 minutes). In Beroun you need to change the train to Křivoklát. The castle is only 10 minutes on foot away from the train station.
Where to stay near Křivoklát Castle
Hotel Grand Litava Beroun
Beroun, a town located about half an hour from Krivoklat is the ideal place to stay to visit both Krivoklat and Karlstejn Castles. The Grand Hotel Litava has just 100 rooms, all with historic city neighbourhood views, comfortable beds, relaxed seating areas, and large workspaces. The spacious rooms include a laptop safe, complimentary wifi, and a mini bar.
Where to eat near Křivoklát Castle
Blackdog is a pub and grill bar with two locations (Prague and Beroun). It began in 2010 as a food stand, owned and operated by a native New Yorker, and is now the premiere restaurant in Beroun. The menu consists of burgers, barbecue, and Tex-Mex cuisine like quesadillas and tacos. All of the food on the menu is prepared with seasonal and local ingredients, creating a true farm-to-table experience. Among the most popular dishes are the Texas barbecue, because the kitchen prepares it on-site using a custom smoker, and the made-to-order burgers, prepared with local beef and cooked to perfection. The beer menu highlights local, small Czech breweries. Definitely make reservations to dine at Blackdog, as it gets busy with locals and visitors alike.
Karlstejn Castle is located only 40 minutes southwest of Prague, and is a fascinating fortress overlooking the lower town. It was built in the mid-14th century by Charles IV, and was used primarily as a royal treasury, home to the crown jewels, holy relics, and Imperial Regalia. Because of its close proximity to Prague, Karlstejn is one of the most famous and most visited castles in the Czech Republic.
Tours of Karlstejn Castle showcase the variety of architectural styles that resulted from the many renovations of the castle over the years. Do not miss the Chapel of the Holy Cross or the tower, which has exceptional views across the valley. The Chapel was the central part of the castle, and it is where the most important jewels, regalia, and papers were kept – locked behind four doors with nineteen keys each.
For more information about the castle and the tours offered you can check here.
How to get to the Karlštejn Castle
By car: Karlštejn Castle is just 40 km away from Prague.
By train: You can take a train from Prague or the town of Beroun to Karlštejn and then walk to the castle.
Where to eat near the Karlštejn Castle
Restaurace Pod Dračí Skálou
Restaurace Pod Dračí Skálou is located just five minutes away from Karlstejn Castle. It is the perfect place to enjoy a meal following a tour of the castle. The menu is all traditional Czech dishes, like grilled trout, goose liver, dumplings, and potato pancakes.
Český Šternberk Castle
Český Šternberk Castle sits on a prominent rock overlooking the Sázava River, 45 minutes away from Prague. It is still held by the same family that constructed it nearly 800 years ago and is considered one of the most well preserved Gothic castles in the Czech Republic, although there are some later Baroque elements to it.
Some of the most impressive rooms in the castle include the Knights Hall and Hunters Hall, but there are 15 rooms that are open to the public, all furnished with period furnishings so visitors can see how the residents lived here over the centuries. Český Šternberk Castle is also known for the 545 etchings from the Thirty Years War, as well as elaborate frescoed ceilings. The etchings are one of the most complete and extensive collection of monothematic etchings in Europe.
In the summer, Český Šternberk Castle hosts a falconry event, harking back to the time when the castle was an important hunting lodge. This culturally significant event is on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.
For more information about the castle and the tours offered you can check here.
How to get to the Šternberk Castle
By car: The easiest way to get to Šternberk Castle from Prague is by car. It is a short 45 minute drive from there (50 km).
By train: You have to take the train from Prague either towards Benešov or towards České Budějovice. You then have to change trains in Čerčany. From there you take the train towards Světlá nad Sázavou and get off at the Český Šternberk stop. From there the castle is 10 minutes on foot. The total journey time is around 2 hours.
By bus: The bus departs from the Praha–Roztyly bus station (Metro C – red line). From there you can take either the line Praha – Benešov – Český Šternberk or Praha – Vlašim – Český Šternberk . From the Český Šternberk bus stop it takes only 5 minutes on foot to get to the castle. The total journey time is again around 2 hours.
Where to eat near Šternberk Castle
Hotel Samechov Restaurant
Hotel Samechov also has a restaurant attached to the hotel. They serve traditional Czech dishes with a modern twist. Breakfast, which is included in the room rate, is served in the hotel’s restaurant.
Where to stay near Šternberk Castle
Hotel Samechov is a small boutique hotel halfway between Prague and Brno, perfect for travellers keen to see the Czech countryside and castles. There are only 20 rooms at the hotel, all newly renovated and equipped with modern amenities and comfortable beds. The hotel hosts a lot of corporate events but is a popular vacation destination over both summer and winter holidays.
Click here for more information on the best castles to visit in Central Bohemia.
Central Bohemia is a great place to visit. Our trip through the region was filled with history and culture, as well as local and traditional food and drink. With such easy access from Prague, any of the above castles or towns are perfect for day trips, but I suggest staying longer to explore the charming small towns, taste delicious wines or walk through the vineyards and cellars, meet locals, and learn about the fascinating Bohemian history.
Travel Passionate was a guest of Czech Tourism and the Central Bohemia Tourism Board on this trip, but as always opinions are my own.