Travelling by train is one of the best ways to explore Europe, and there are few places that offer train adventures quite like the Czech Republic. Prague may lure a traveller in, but other cities and towns in the country can truly capture a traveller’s heart, as bloggers Megan Starr and Aram Vardanyan discovered when they embarked on a rail adventure through the Czech Republic.
There are several worthwhile train options in the country, but when Prague, Olomouc and Ostrava team up, you won’t find a journey like it anywhere else. The itinerary below is based on our recent train journey in the country and how we explored these three unique cities.
One of the best things about a Czech rail trip is that you can be fairly spontaneous with your travel plans, as there are frequent trains running between all of the destinations. It is also eco-friendly and an affordable way to explore this fascinating central European country.
The Czech Republic's sixth most populous city is one that is well-preserved and with a deep-rooted history – definitely worthy of a spot on every Czech train adventure itinerary.
While Olomouc's past shines through its famous Baroque architecture and squares, its hip coffee shops, local eateries and colourful street art give the city a youthful and quirky vibe.
There are several trains leaving Prague for Olomouc daily. After arriving in Olomouc, it’s best to hop on a tram from the train station to the city centre, which is about two to three kilometres away. The trams run from the front of the station and travellers can take the number 1 or 7 or the express (X) tram to the centre.
Olomouc is a city that is best visited on foot; we found the Old Town to be easily manageable and there are plenty of parks within the centre and surrounding it that allowed us to breathe in the fresh, autumn air.
We began the day with a stroll around Bezručovy Sady (also referred to as English Park), which sits between the city's walls and the Mill Channel of the Morava River. Inside the park, we discovered a few ways to access the Old Town, including a staircase that led us to St. Michael's, a Baroque church dating back to the 13th-century that was later destroyed by the Swedes, only to be rebuilt in 1676.
Once in the Old Town, track down one of Olomouc's most beloved coffee shops: Kafe Jak Lusk sits right on the edge of the town and offers everything from tasty coffee to hearty breakfast bowls. Kikafe is a small cafe in the centre that offers a different type of espresso daily and has some of the most skilled baristas in Olomouc.
In the heart of the Old Town, in the Upper Square, is the 18th-century Holy Trinity Column. The 35-metre-tall, ornate Baroque column is the work of Ondřej Zahner and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
While perusing Olomouc for examples of notable Baroque architecture, don't miss out on the six Baroque fountains in the centre. Each has a name (Mercury, Jupiter, Hercules, Neptune, Triton and Caesar) and its own unique story behind it.
Among the other famous historical sites we loved visiting were the Church of St Morice (a 13th-century Gothic church), the Olomouc Astronomical Clock (a 15th-century clock on the façade of the Town Hall), Olomouc Castle and the St Wenceslas Cathedral.
There’s an array of places to eat in Olomouc, including budget options. For a bite on the go, opt for Chlebíčky (affordable sandwiches), or Špagetárna (pasta and sauce combo options).
For a tasty place to get lunch or dinner, head to Long Story Short Eatery & Bakery, where customers are greeted with seasonal combinations and an ever-changing menu. In the heart of Olomouc is Restaurant U Mořice, a beer bar and eatery with a lot of Czech food options, including smoked pork knee that will feed at least three people for an affordable price.
Don’t leave the city without trying Olomoucké tvarůžky, a pungent soft cheese that is on most menus in the city. While it’s an acquired taste for some (my partner, Aram), others, like me, will love it.
There are many accommodation options in Olomouc, but one of the top places to stay is the Theresian Hotel & Spa, situated a stone's throw away from the Old Town. Another solid option is Miss Sophie's Olomouc – the boutique hotel also has some of the best coffee in the city.
Find out more about visiting Olomouc.
Located in the far east of the Czech Republic is Ostrava, right on the edge of the Polish border. The city, just shy of 300,000 inhabitants, has an industrial history and an innovative future. It also has several incredible day trips (a few of which we recommend below).
Ostrava is easily reached from Olomouc or Prague via České dráhy. The city has five train stations, the main one being 'hlavní nádraží'. Svinov is also a station where you will find several day trip options from Ostrava. Getting around Ostrava is pretty easy thanks to reliable tram and bus lines. View the timetables for the DPO-Public Transport.
Upon arrival, our first stop was the New City Hall Viewing Tower. At a height of 73 metres it granted us a stunning panorama of the city, where we were able to see the Beskydy Mountains in the background. Insider tip: Go at dusk – the sky was so colourful!
Next, pay a visit to the Lower Vítkovice area (DOV) to get a glimpse into Ostrava's steel and industrial history, as well as a peek into the city's revitalisation.
This area is easily reached by public transport from all over the city and the once industrial hub has transformed itself into a cultural, social and educational 'playground'. Many of the city's concerts and events take place there and at its cultural quarter, Hlubina. To understand the city's past, Lower Vítkovice is a must for any Ostrava itinerary.
Another important place to visit in Ostrava is Ema Heap (also known as Slag Heap). Situated on the Ostravice River’s right bank, it is 314 metres tall and consists of around 28 million tonnes of mined material.
The heap is thermally active and the burning material can reach temperatures of up to 1500C. As a result, the area has a unique microclimate that allows wildflowers to grow there even during the winter months. This is a fantastic place to hike and escape the city.
There are some wonderful places located outside of the city. Two of the best day trips from Ostrava are to Štramberk and Pustevny, small villages located in the Beskydy Mountains. We were lucky to visit both places during this trip.
Tiny Štramberk has so much to offer. From its well-preserved historic centre to the Trúba castle tower, it is one of the best weekend getaways in the Czech Republic.
It is most famous for its Štramberk ears, a tasty treat that is reminiscent of gingerbread, and it can be found all over the city, but be sure to stop into Cukrárna U Hezounů and grab some to take home. They are the perfect snack for the other legs of your train journey, too.
Located in the beautiful Beskid Mountains is the small village of Pustevny. The area is renowned for its hiking trails and wooden buildings built in a traditional folk style by architect Dušan Jurkovič. There’s even a ski area.
Start the day by hiking to the Radegast tower, a small monument to the Slavic God of the same name. Hike the short trail before heading to have lunch at nearby Libušín.
The restaurant offers an array of Czech dishes and the atmosphere is colourful and inviting – the perfect place to relax before continuing the journey to Stezka Valaška, an elevated nature trail consisting of walkways through the forest canopy. The views from there were epic and one of our trip highlights.
Ostrava has no shortage of delicious restaurants and one of the town’s favourites is HogoFogo Bistro, located in a cosy building in the city centre. We loved their rotating menu (that even contained vegan options) and hip interior. It was the perfect place to enjoy a glass of wine or local beer with friends or a travel companion.
Beer enthusiasts should head to Radegastovna na náměstí (Radegast) in the city centre. You'll find a place packed with locals and a social atmosphere. Be warned – it gets very busy, so try to get there early.
The Imperial Hotel Ostrava is a fantastic lodging option and is a famous hotel in the city. It has been around since 1904 and has modern rooms and a delicious breakfast buffet for guests.
Get more information about visiting North Moravia and Ostrava.
Prague has something for everyone. The city is one of the best city breaks in Europe and, while it is easily walkable, it also has a great public transport system, in the form of buses, trams and metro lines.
Start the morning in Vinohrady at Sweet and Pepper Days, home to the most mouth-watering breakfast sandwiches, which pair perfectly with one of their speciality coffees.
Then go in search of some of the city's highlights, as well as some of the lesser-known attractions. One of the most famous sights in the Old Town is the renowned medieval Prague Astronomical Clock, which dates from 1410.
While most people gather in front of the clock to watch its hourly show, for an elevated view pop into the Illusion Art Museum just across from it and make your way to one of the upstairs rooms. We also recommend allowing time for the museum’s array of bewildering optical illusions.
In the Old Town, we visited Restaurace Mincovna, where we had a chance to devour elevated Czech cuisine in a more modern setting than some of the other restaurants in the Old Town.
After exploring some of the most notable places in the Old Town, venture north to the Žižkov Television Tower. The historic TV tower gives panoramic views, and there is a restaurant and cocktail bar at the top called Oblaca that's worth checking out.
In the evening, one of the best things to do in Prague is to take a beer and tapas tour – Prague City Adventures offers perhaps the best. We were able to take a beer tour in the Žižkov neighbourhood, which gave such a different perspective than the bars we had previously visited in the Old Town. Prague is a city that never under delivers, no matter how many times you visit.
Miss Sophie’s Boutique Hotels offer a unique experience, along with a great breakfast and delicious coffee. Prague has four Miss Sophie’s hotels, each with its own appeal and aesthetic. There are locations at Charles Bridge, Downtown (near the train station), New Town and in trendy Žižkov.
Travelling by train is a fantastic way to explore the Czech Republic, regardless of the time of year. Not only is it a superb transport system – it’s also an eco-friendly way to travel.
If you're planning on travelling by train in Europe, check out our train travel tips.
Find out more and start planning your trip to the Czech Republic.
Top image: Trúba castle tower of Stramberk © ethylalkohol/Shutterstock