This That and the Passport
Olomouc, Czech Republic
When researching a day trip from Prague, Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad) seemed to be the obvious choice. However, reading up on summertime reviews we found many complaints about how crowded it gets. That is one of the drawbacks of traveling during the height of the season but we don't really have a choice with the kids' school schedule. We decided to pass on Karlovy Vary since we wanted a more authentic experience so we looked up other possibilites and came up with Olomouc.
How we got to Olomouc
From Prague we took the 9:30 Pendolino train. We had made reservations before arriving in Europe and at the station it was very easy to find our way to the train. It was very nice, clean, comfortable and had wifi service which of course the kids loved. After a scenic 2hr and 15 min ride we arrived at a "throwback to the Soviet era" train station (the kids' description).
The old town is about a half hr walk away and we went down a major street. Initially all the buildings looked very non-descript 20th century but as we approached the old town things began to change.
At this point it was 12:30pm and we were all hungry and hot so we decide to stop for lunch. The Tripadvisor app recommended a restaurant close to where we were called "Mediterano". Good pizza, excellent fresh salad, amazing gnocci with spinach and refreshing water with lemon and herbs, and of course terrific Czech beer!
After lunch we made our way to the Tourist Information Office, located in the Town Hall. Here we picked up detailed maps with all the explanations in English and we set off to explore the town on foot.
Olomouc is the second best preserved old town in the Czech Republic. It also has a really interesting astronomical clock. Best of all, it is totally undiscovered by tourists!! This is the reason why we came. As much as I love Prague, I wanted to see something with more of a local flavour and not geared to tourism. This hit the spot. The city plazas were empty in the morning, but in the afternoon all the locals were out. Moms with strollers, people having drinks, ice cream and shopping. It was a very nice atmosphere. This is a college town and is supposed to be much livelier during the school year when the University is in session and all 20K students are added to the mix.
We spent the afternoon exploring the different squares, visiting all the fountains and the Cathedral. At this point we had been on the road for about 3 weeks and it was one of those days where the kids got to release pent up energy. It was nice to have all that space to goof around and not be on a schedule.
It was a beautiful summer day and we also enjoyed going in and out of the many jewlery and antique stores surrounding the squares. We bought postcards and mailed them from the post office- a little tradition our family has.
One of the highlights for all of us was the astronomical clock. The only other one in the Czech Republic. It was great to see it up close as it was modified during the Soviet era and it has proletariat figures instead of the traditional religious ones.
Our return train was at 5:16pm. Since when we arrived it took us a half hour, walking downhill, to reach the old town we decided on plan B for the return to the train station (plan B being public transportation instead of walking uphill). We figured out the tram schedule in order to maximize our time in the town. We bought tickets at a little kiosk and then had coffee at the "Dolce Vita" cafe. For about 13 bucks we had a capuccino, a beer, 2 chocolate sundaes, another elaborate ice cream, and warm raspberries with whipped cream on vanillia ice cream. Prices are definitely not tourist prices :)
Olomouc deserves much more than half a day. I feel that we barely scratched the surface. However, I don't feel too bad as this was supposed to be kind of a day off from tourism and it proved to be perfect for that. This map shows how much of the town we walked. We spent about 4 full hours here and were able to cover major landmarks at a leisurley pace.
We took the 5:16pm train back to Prague and were back to the apartment by 9pm. A long but succesful day!
Some of what the kids said about Olomouc:
"We arrived at 11:00 into the modern part of the city. The train station felt very soviet and made you feel small and insignificant"
"I loved the city as it was smaller and there weren't many tourists. The old city was also very condensed so getting to see all the sights was manageable. My favorite part of the day was seeing the town hall and the astronomical clock. Unlike the crowded clock in Prague, we were the only people looking at this one so we got to see many of its details."
Click here for more information on Olomouc!
Use the map above to explore great places to stay nearby and enjoy this town for more than a day. (We use and trust Booking.com. If you book from this site we get a small comission to help us maintain our blog.)