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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Find out more about visiting Olomouc.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Get more information about visiting North Moravia and Ostrava.
If you are looking for a place to stay in the beautiful city of Prague, explore our guide to the best places to stay in Prague.
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.
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