Since visiting Krakow, Poland over a decade ago, the nearby Central European city of Prague in the Czech Republic has been on my personal bucket list. Both cities have castles and fairy-tale like towers rising high above busy market squares where sweet regional treats are sold out of tented stands. However, as I planned our summer road trip through Central Europe, I read about high season crowds in Prague. Thus, I decided to skip the capital city and instead travel to a more natural side of the Czech Republic with my family. Our family explored the northern part of the country where sandstone rock formations provide for scenic, family-friendly hiking opportunities. We loved hiking to the Pravčická Brána Arch in Bohemian Switzerland. If you’re driving in the Czech Republic, many of these hikes would make good day trips from Prague.
If you are planning a trip in Winter months, check out these tips for visiting Europe in Winter.
Driving in the Czech Republic? These Kid-Friendly Hikes Make Great Day Trips from Prague
Top Places to Visit in Northern Czech Republic – Best Day Trips from Prague
When I was researching our trip to travel to the Czech Republic, the two areas that most interested me were Bohemian Switzerland National Park and the Adršpach-Teplice Rocks (pictured above). They are both similar being heavily forested areas in the middle of the Czech countryside. Both feature rock formations, streams, gorges, and even boat tour. In between these two destinations, I found an excellent mid-week deal on a stay at a hotel in a ski resort town. We stayed in Harrachov, a town located in a mountainous area just a few miles south of Poland. Both Bohemian Switzerland and Adršpach-Teplice Rocks would be great day trips from Prague if you’re planning on driving in the Czech Republic.
Places to Visit in Czech Republic – Bohemian Switzerland National Park
This popular national park region actually sits right on the border between the Czech Republic and Germany. The Czech Bohemian Switzerland National Park continues into Germany as the Saxon Switzerland National Park. There are interesting sandstone features on both sides of the border. The famous Bastei Bridge (Basteibrücke) is on the German side while the Pravčická brána arch is on the Czech side. Even Americans will find these features vaguely familiar from various movies and paintings. These areas are most easily reached by driving in the Czech Republic making them possible day trips from Prague.
Pravčice Sandstone Gate – Pravčická brána in Bohemian Switzerland National Park
The most popular hike in the Bohemian Switzerland National Park is up to the Pravčická brána arch. The arch was featured in the most recent film rendition of the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. Pravčická brána can be reached via a strenuous 45-minute climb from Hřensko or a less strenuous 70-90 minute hike from Menzi Louka featuring some interactive displays for children towards the beginning of the trail.
We hiked up the longer trail via Menzi Louka and back down the shorter, steeper trail to Hřensko where our car was parked. For those not interested in a round-trip hike, there is a bus system connecting many of the trails in the region. The walk from Menzi Louka to the arch is by far the more scenic of the two trails with sandstone features on one side and views of the valley beneath on the other. My kids enjoyed hopping along a honeycomb of sandstone rock features as we climbed our way gradually up the hillside to the top.
Upon arriving at Pravčická brána, you’ll want to pay the small fee to access the area under the arch. There you can enjoy a beer or an ice cream under the largest sandstone arch in Europe with one of the best views in the Czech Republic. This is arch is a familiar symbol to the Czech people and a source of national pride. It’s one of their treasured national landmarks — like the Yosemite Valley to Americans. Inside the fee area there are many photo ops of the valley below and a trail that leads to a stunning viewpoint of the arch. The arch is certainly one of the best places to visit in the Czech Republic.
Edmund Gorge along the Kamenice River in Bohemian Switzerland National Park
Like many families, we combined the half day hike to Pravčická brána with a half day hike along the Edmund Gorge, which includes a 20-minute narrated boat ride through the narrowest section of the gorge.
We began our day by driving into the Czech Republic from Germany. Then we parked our car in Hřensko. We received a small postcard-sized map of the region’s hiking trails in both Czech and German languages as we paid for our parking space. The super handy map shows the location of all bathrooms and restaurants along the network of hiking trails. Then we set out on the yellow trail up through the Edmund Gorge (Edmundova soutěska.) The first twenty minute stretch of hiking from the road to the boat ride through the gorge is quite a lovely stroll — though it just gets better. The hike after the boat ride is even more scenic.
Boat Ride on the Kamenice River in Bohemian Switzerland National Park
Not speaking Czech or German, we missed out on the humorous narration of the ride through the gorge. Sometimes the narrator, rocked the boat from side to side. At one point some water shot out of a rock near the boat. Even though our language skills caused us to miss out a bit, the scenic ride is beautiful and needs no narration. During the summer there are several boats maneuvering through the gorge at the same time. It was fun for the kids to watch as our boat passed other boats filled with families.
There is a snack bar with food and restrooms just a short hike beyond the boat ride. We indulged in ice cream bars. There looked to be all sorts of local drinks and treats available as well. At the first opportunity, we crossed the Kamenice River on the green trail. Then we hiked an exhausting 20 minutes of steep switchbacks up to Mezna where there is a restaurant and, to the delight of my children, a playground.
The green trail continues along a quaint country road connecting Mezna with Menzi Louka where there is parking, a bus stop, a restaurant and the trailhead to Pravčická brána.
Saxon Switzerland National Park – Germany – Day Trips from Prague
As we were coming from Germany, we spent the night prior to hiking in Bohemian Switzerland National Park on the German side of the border at Albergo-Toscana, a charming Italian-themed bed and breakfast in Bad Schandau. That afternoon and evening we took the opportunity to enjoy the area around the Saxon Switzerland National Park. We explored a trail system called the “Labyrinth” (Felslabyrinth Langenhennersdorf) and walked the iconic Bastei Bridge.
I admit that it took quite a bit of research and translating various tourist websites for me to discover the location of the Felslabyrinth Langenhennersdorf. However, as it turns out, it was totally worth it. My children loved the place! While the rock passages are numbered, there were several numbers that we never quite found. My children still think it is funny that I lead them through the exit of the Labyrinth at the very beginning of our adventure by accident.
After a tasty dinner at Barthel´s Restaurant in Bad Schandau, where my children discovered wiener schnitzel for the first time, we drove up to Bastei. Unfortunately, we were running out of daylight, but I’m glad that we did not miss walking across the Basteibrücke; the view of the sandstone formations is amazing!
Places to Visit in Czech Republic: The Charming Czech Ski Resort Town of Harrachov
After finishing our exhausting hike to Pravčická brána, we hit the road for the town of Harrachov. The original plan had been to simply stay there overnight. However, due to impending stormy weather, we also spent most of the following day in town. What a treat!
The highlight of our stay in Harrachov was walking around town and trying out the different restaurants. Some of our best meals of our entire month in Europe were in this charming resort town! Our first night we ate at an Italian pizzeria, Pizzeria Verde Rosa; after hiking all day we easily devoured our pizza and pasta as well as some fruity lemonade drinks. We also enjoyed our lunch at Terassa (pictured above) the next day; my kids loved that they had outdoor play area within sight of the dining tables. Later that afternoon, just as it was beginning to rain, we found a traditional wooden stall on the roadside in two selling cinnamon and sugar covered pastry treats cooked right on the spot.
Walk to Mumlava Waterfall
Most tourists in town make a visit to the Mumlava waterfall (Mumlavský vodopád) just a short 30-45 minute stroll outside of town through the forest. The stream is beautiful and refreshing, and the pine trees above shade the trail perfectly. We walked from the waterfall to the opposite side of town to try out the summer bobsleds at Bobová dráha. This was our first experience of many on these fun little sleds during our time in Europe; at first my kids rode slowly, but after our third or fourth try, they came zooming down the hill.
Our family room at the Orea Resort Sklar **** Harrachov resort was the perfect place to get a good night’s rest; our suite had a long hallway with a bedroom on either end and two bathrooms in the middle. Both bedrooms had a balcony with a view of the mountains!
Places to visit in Czech Republic: Adršpach-Teplice Rocks
Photographs of the Gothic Gate at Adršpach Rocks (Adršpašské skály) are what first enticed me to abandon my plans of going to Prague. Instead, I decided explore the Czech countryside. There’s some amazing photography out there of these rock formations! As we traveled to the area, we actually had to re-arrange our itinerary again. A rainstorm was forecast during the afternoon that I had planned to be hiking among these rocks. Fortunately, we were able to make it all work out. We spent a bit more time in Harrachov and a bit less time in Krakow. As a bonus, we arrived at Adršpach first thing in the morning before the crowds descended for the day. This place is no secret among the Czech and Polish people!
At the entrance to the Adršpach Rocks there is a huge parking lot. There are also food stalls from which we bought lunch after our hike. After paying the fee, there is a beautiful lake with ducks and fish. My children wanted to hike around the lake. However, I was anxious to explore the rocks before the area got crowded.
Hiking at Adršpach Rocks
Despite our early start, we shared the trail with dozens of families. My children ran through the passageways as I tried to navigate the English map. The map provided fun descriptions of the rock formations. The narrow canyons really are remarkable! Taking the green loop trail clock-wise, the first half of the trail lays flat through the rocks. The return portion of the loop is a much more interesting. The trail requires hikers to go up and over the rocks providing views from every possible angle.
Boat Ride at Adršpach Rocks
At the far end of the loop, there is a lake that has been used for tourist cruises for over 150 years. There are statues of figures from Czech fairy tales and legends along the shore of the lake. The the guide cracks jokes about these statues throughout the boat ride. Of course, these jokes were in the Czech language. Unlike our previous boat ride, this experience seemed to be more about the jokes than the scenery. We sat awkwardly as everyone in the boat laughed around us. Then a woman behind us took pity on us poor monolingual Americans and translated. It was quite the cultural experience for my children, on every subsequent tour, they inquired if we would have a tour guide that spoke English.
Trail to Teplice Rocks
Beyond the lake there is a trail several kilometers long leading to the Teplice Rocks; there were a surprising number of families continuing on to this other set of rocks. The trail looked interesting with stairways ascending and descending steeply though the gorge. We followed it for at least a kilometer so. On the trail, we climbed rocks, walked through a large meadow and hiked along a stream. Then we ultimately decided that for the sake of time we had to turn back around and hike back towards the green loop trail.
The green loop trail without detours to the lake is 3.5km; the brochure that we received upon entering says to allow three hours to complete just that loop. I believe that we were only hiking for four hours including our detour off the green loop trail onto the more strenuous yellow connector trail and the boat ride. Thus, the loop can probably be completed in just a couple hours.