Kutná Hora, an easy day trip from Prague, is well worth seeing, especially in warm weather. Its famous ossuary is the main attraction, but this fabulous little city has plenty more to offer.
Kutná Hora was founded circa 1142; the first building was Sedlec Abbey, Bohemia’s first Cistercian monastery. The monastery turned out to be located in an unexpectedly lucrative location; on silver deposits.
In the 13th century, silver mining began in the area. The deposits were rich, and the city became so as well; Kutná Hora competed with Prague in many aspects through the next few centuries. From 1300 through the late 16th century, Prague groschen (silver coins) were minted there.
Now, Kutná Hora is under UNESCO protection; it was added to the World Heritage List in 1995. A day spent in the town will show you why.
The Church of St. Barbara is one of the country’s most magnificent buildings, established in 1388 (though not completed until 1905). The first architect on the church is thought to have been Johann Parleř, the son of Petr Parleř. (The elder Parleř worked on many projects for King Charles IV, including St. Vitus’s Cathedral in Prague and the Charles Bridge.)
The church’s soaring roof is a staggering sight, and one that may have you clutching at a pew to stay upright. It is one of Central Europe’s most famous Gothic churches.
The Italian Court is the former site of Prague’s Central Mint. The area gets its name from Florentine bankers brought from Italy by King Wenceslas II in 1300 to implement monetary reform. Other mints in the country were closed, and the groschen were minted in the Italian Court (in Czech, Vlašský dvůr).
The court became a royal residence during the reign of Wenceslas IV. Nowadays, the court contains a museum.
Kamenný dům contains an exhibit of the lives and culture of Kutná Hora’s burghers from the 17th through the 19th century.
The Czech Museum of Silver includes two tours. One shows relics of Kutná Hora’s past and how it grew to become one of the most important cities in Bohemia, second only to Prague itself. It also contains exhibits showing the types of coins minted in Kutná Hora.
The second tour takes visitors into a medieval silver mine; put on protective gear, turn on a flashlight, and walk 250 meters through a narrow gallery. (Any would-be visitors who are pregnant, have heart and/or lung disorders, suffer from claustrophobia, or who have reduced mobility, are not permitted to enter the mine.) Advance reservations are strongly recommended.
The Tyl House showcases an exhibit on the life and times of Josef Kajetán Tyl, who wrote the lyrics to the Czech national anthem. Tyl was born in this house in 1808.
The Church of St. John of Nepomuk, while not as awe-inspiring as the Church of St. Barbara, is a beautiful, richly decorated building dating from the 18th century. The church charges an entrance fee.