Pardubice town is only an hour by train from Prague, which makes it a great option for a day trip. Perfect for a stroll through a historic part of the town, visiting an art exhibition at the castle museum and enjoying a coffee in a retro style coffee house.
Pardubice town & Me
As a little girl, I went to Pardubice a few times, as my aunt and uncle lived there and we sometimes visited our three cousins. However, I don’t remember much about Pardubice at the time only their flat!
The next time I visited was about 20 years ago to see my brother and his wife at a dancing competition. The competition was held on the outskirts of the town, so the only thing I remember is how cold it was walking there! (it was the middle of the winter).
So, when I visited recently, I wanted to make sure that I explored as much of Pardubice as I could in one day. It was again a freezing January day and I only had a limited amount of daylight, but it was still a pretty magical day as you can hopefully see from my photos.
Reasons to go to Pardubice
- Easy & comfortable train journey from Prague
- A great mix of history, shopping, coffee places and other events
- Perfect any time of the year
- Easy town walk (mainly flat, no hills)
What is Pardubice famous for
- Traditional gingerbread
- Horse racing – the Great Pardubice Steeplechase – the Czech horse jockey Josef Vana has won 8 times and holds the world record. Fun fact, he lived in the next house to us, when I was growing up!
- The explosive called Semtex (the only explosive that apparently can’t be detected by a dog)
Where is Pardubice
Pardubice is about 65 minutes east of Prague, travelling by fast train.
Best season or time to visit
You can visit Pardubice any time of the year and there is plenty to see and do. We visited in early January when the only thing that was open was Pardubice Castle and we still spent the whole day there and had a great time!
If you go during summer, you’ll have a longer day, which means that you can see more of the town.
June – Pernstyn Night
Usually held at the beginning of June, Pernstyn’s Night is a great opportunity to experience Pardubice as it would have been in medieval times.
The main town square is filled with stalls selling traditional gingerbread, handmade crafts and pottery. There are different musical performances, swordsmen showing their craft and medieval jugglers competing for your attention.
July – The Czech Open Chess & Games Tournament
If chess is your thing, you can come and watch or even take part in this event which usually takes place during the whole of July.
You can also sign up to compete in other games such as crosswords, puzzles, sudoku or solving Rubik’s cube.
October – Great Pardubice Steeplechase – Horse Race
The second Sunday in October is the busiest time for travelling to Pardubice, so depending on whether you are a fan or not, you might like to make the visit to the races as your main attraction for the day or avoid Pardubice altogether.
The Great Pardubice Steeplechase is one of the oldest horse racing events in Europe dating back to 1874.
The race is nearly 7 km long and has 31 different jumps or obstacles that the horses and riders need to tackle. The most famous (and probably not for a very good reason) is the Taxis Ditch jump, which is so hard to tackle that horses can break their legs if they jump wrongly.
How to get to Pardubice from Prague
I find that the easiest way to travel to Pardubice is by train. These are frequent (about every 20-30 minutes in peak times) and fairly fast. Pardubice is on the way to Olomouc and other major towns in Moravia so you will see a lot of trains with different destinations, including Slovak Republic. Pardubice is usually 2-3 stops on the fast train.
Hlavni Nadrazi – The Main Train station is the best train station to catch your train from Prague.
In busy times, you might need to purchase a reserved seat for the train (it’s a few crowns extra), but most of the time, you’ll be fine just buying the basic ticket.
Buying a return ticket is not necessarily cheaper than a single ticket (ticket just there or back), but what is cheaper is if you buy a ticket with another person. The group discount starts with just 2 people and you don’t need any special card or train discount card for this.
How long is the journey
65 minutes by a fast train from Prague – Main Train Station (close to the Wenceslas Square in the centre of Prague).
The train and bus station is not in the centre of Pardubice, so you either need to walk (about 15 minutes) or get a town bus or a taxi.
The walk from the train station is fairly straightforward – the centre is signposted and it’s mostly just a case of following one main street.
Make sure that you add this to your journey time, when you travel back to Prague. If you end up at the Pardubice Castle, the walk back to the train station is 2 km – about 20-25 minutes.
- Return train ticket for one person – 300 CZK
- Refreshments & Drinks – slightly cheaper than in Prague
Where to eat & drink
There are plenty of restaurants and pubs in the town serving traditional Czech food, but also a lot of Italian Pizza style restaurants and different world cuisines.
We normally bring sandwiches with us from home, but you can buy ready-made or open sandwiches at any supermarket, bakery or coffee place.
Where to shop or what to bring back with you
The obvious choice is Pardubice Gingerbread, which you can buy in the specialist shops in the town or the train station.
How to experience Pardubice & my favourite Highlights
Lose yourself in the old town streets
Walk to the main square through the Green Gate and then get lost in the side streets walking around the main town. Make sure you look around to see all the old houses, different colours and house decorations – they are so beautiful!
Visit Cafe Bajer
Have a coffee or a hot chocolate in Cafe Bajer next to the Green Gate as you enter the main square. Entering the cafe will transport you to the end of 19 century as the cafe is decorated throughout with old coffee and chocolate tins, coffee-making machinery and various old advertisement signs.
Walk around the castle
Walk around Pardubice Castle, including the outer walls and castle ramparts and you’ll meet the most amazing and colourful of Pardubice inhabitants – the castle peacocks! There are quite a lot of them and a few different types too.
The walk around the castle walls is brilliant – not only because you see the whole castle, but you’ll also see the back ends of the houses from the old town with their wooden balconies, old gardens and individually finished roofs, windows and walls.
At the end of the walk, you’ll also see some tame goats which are kept on the top of a second world war bunker.
When I arrived, I saw the smaller ones outside of their pen on the top of the walk! They clearly know how to get out and get back into their pen, because when I started to walk away, they went back to their food inside their pen.
Buy fresh pastries from local bakery
Buy fresh pastries from the local bakeries on the main walk to the Green Gate and the main square. I bought some delicious cakes and rolls from Sazava Bakery – the Spelt & Apple Strudel Pastries or Poppy Seeds Cakes are particularly good and you can’t go wrong with any of the savoury rolls (like Bacon & Melted Cheese on a roll).
Pardubice is the 10th largest city of the Czech Republic with a population of about 92 thousand and about a further 27 thousand in the outlyings areas of the town.
History of Pardubice
Pardubice was originally founded in the 13th century by the first Archibishop of Prague, Arnost of Pardubice, who was at the King Charles IV court.
The gingerbread tradition
Gingerbread baking tradition in Pardubice goes as far back as the 16th century. In the olden days, being a gingerbread baker was a very specific job and they were protected by a local bakers guild. You had to have special permission to bake gingerbread and gingerbread recipes were guarded very closely in each family.
Nowadays, there are only two main companies that bake the traditional Pardubice Gingerbread – one that was established in the 1990s and one that has been going for over 100 years.
(The Gingerbread Cottage is not in walking distance from the centre, which is why I’m not mentioning it. It’s also not where the Pardubice gingerbread is made and it’s not linked to the actual gingerbread making families in Pardubice.
It’s, however, a great place to visit with children and have a fun introduction to gingerbread making and the story of Hansel & Gretel – which is a traditional German story, not a Czech one, which has Jenicek a Marenka as the main characters).
Pardubice during the industrialisation period
The middle of 19 century – 20 August 1845 to be precise – saw the first train arriving in Pardubice on its way from Prague to Olomouc.
There is a rather sad story linked to this date, as the main engineer Jan Perner was making final checks at the railway tunnels when he was killed in an accident. He was only 30 years old and as you walk from the train station, you can see his statue guarding the current train station.
The famous Great Pardubice Steeplechase opened for the first time on 5 November 1874.
Pardubice was also crucial in advancing Czech aviation, when local man Jan Kaspar made the first long distance flight on 13 May 1911 from Pardubice to Velka Chuchle close to Prague. I thought it was quite a good coincidence that he flew from Pardubice and landed on another famous horse racing stadium.
Don’t miss out these Hidden gems
- 16th century house archway in Pernstyn Street (and the little square hidden behind)
- Machonova Passage – designed in cubism style by Ladislav Machon, who also designed the Svandovo Theatre in Smichov, Prague and a house for the celebrated Capek brothers. He was originally from Pardubice and through his father related to Jan Perner – the train engineer (they also share the same grave at Pardubice cemetery)
What to see & Visit in Pardubice
Pardubice Castle or chateau
The Pardubice chateau that we see today, was rebuilt by the famous Pernstejn family in the 15th and 16th centuries. The original castle dates back to the end of the 13th century.
Pardubice chateau is a rare example of the remodelling of a moated castle into a chateau as most of the time, people just built a new chateau in a different location.
To show off their vast wealth and importance, they made sure that the only entrance to the chateau was via a single main road and street directly leading from the main town square. The Pernstejn family is closely linked to Pardubice and the whole Pardubice region.
Whilst Pardubice castle is now an art gallery and a museum, it’s still worth visiting. The good thing is that the exhibitions are in a different part of the castle and you can visit them individually.
When I visited, there were exhibitions on the history of coins, Czech paintings from 19 & 20th centuries, as well as displays of glass art and local history. The Pardubice chateau area is free to enter, you only need to pay to go inside the different exhibitions.
The Green Gate & The town tower
The Green Gate (spoiler alert, it’s actually not green!) is at the beginning of the old town square guarding the town. It was built at the same time as the town – at the beginning of the 16th century.
At the time, the gate was called Prague Gate as the road to Prague from Pardubice started there. A few years later, it was unfortunately damaged by a fire and had to be rebuilt. It was lavishly restored, turrets added to the roof and the whole roof was finished with metal sheets made of copper.
Over the years the copper oxidated and turned green, which inspired people to re-name the tower to ‘Green Gate’.
If you visit during good weather, it’s worth visiting the town tower, where you can view Pardubice town and nearby villages and countryside. There is also an exhibition about the history of Pardubice, which is a great introduction to this interesting town.
The Main Square – Pernstejn Square
The square is full of colourful houses dating back to medieval times, although most have been built or updated at the end of the 19th century. Each house has a slightly different colour, decorations and beautiful finish. It’s worth just walking around the square to see some amazing examples of historic houses.
The biggest building is the town hall from the end of 19th Century built in the Renaissance style.
old historic town
Winternitz mills – automatic mills
The Automatic Mills were built in the early 20th century by brothers Winternitz with the help of a famous architect Josef Gocar.
At the same time, Josef Gocar was designing a spa building in the nearby spa town about 10 km outside the Pardubice. During these years, he also worked on the well known Black Madona House in Prague, which is now a Cubist museum, restaurant and coffee place.
I love these historical connections, so standing in front of the not so well known Automatic Mills in Prague, knowing that I have also visited the Cubist-inspired Black Madona House in Prague feels pretty special! And smug! Of course! But, then I’m happy to be a history boffin!
The Automated Mills stand near the river Chrudimka, where the first mill was built at the end of the 16th century.
The mills are no longer working, but when they were, they used to produce wheat and rye flour. The output was about 280 tons per day, which seems like a lot! The production finished in late 2018 and now the whole complex is being re-modelled into an art and event place.
The mills are now a listed building and one of the 10 such large building complexes in the whole Czech Republic.
At the time I visited (early 2022) it was not possible to visit the inside of the mill complex, but there is a great little cafe and bakery just outside the mills, where you can have a break and then carry on walking by the river Chrudimka.
The Horse Racing Stadium
The horse racing season usually starts in May and finishes in October. The main horse racing event is taking place each year on the second Sunday in October, when the town becomes very busy with visitors.
If you come during the rest of the year, you can still visit the horse racing stadium for a guided tour.
STAY IN TOUCH
Hope this blog post inspires you and as ever I’d love to what you think! Let me know in the comments below or catch up with me over on Instagram.