Castles and chateaux – the greatest Czech treasures

Castles and chateaux – the greatest Czech treasures

Proud royal castles and lovely chateaux, charming gardens, ancient treasures, legends and mysteries. Impregnable fortresses, defiant forts, fairytale chateaux and whimsical summer palaces in expansive landscaped parks – these are places where the past comes to life. Tours are livened up by guides in historical costume, period music and dance, swordsmen and falconers. You will sometimes even come across a ghost! One of the most popular castles in the Czech Republic is Karlštejn Castle, where the Czech crown jewels are displayed. The castle and chateau in Český Krumlov with the Baroque theatre and revolving auditorium in the chateau gardens are presented to you as whimsically playful.

State Castle and Chateau Český Krumlov

In the chambers and courtyards of this UNESCO-protected gem, you will lose track of both time and space. On a rocky projection, fringed by the river Vltava, lies the second largest castle and chateau complex in the Czech Republic – the State Castle and Chateau Český Krumlov. Since 1992, this architectural gem has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the town’s historic centre.

Photo: By Norbert Aepli, Switzerland (User:noebu) - Own work, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=795649

The original Gothic castle consists of 40 structures and palatial buildings with five courtyards. A tour of its chambers will allow you to travel in time and space and witness the development of architecture from 14th to 19th century. Passing through its Renaissance rooms or its Baroque apartment feels like being in a fairytale. And when you enter the Eggenberg Hall and see the Golden Carriage, you will be speechless with astonishment.

 

On the last, fifth, courtyard there is the Baroque Chateau Theatre. It is one of the two well-preserved theatres in Europe, with the other one being as far as in the Swedish Drottningholm. In the theatre you can still see not only the preserved stage, auditorium, orchestra pit or stage machinery but also costumes and props.  The tower dates from the half of the 13th century and it is a prominent symbol of the town’s rich history. Inside you can find a belfry with four bells and a dungeon, more than four metres deep. You should not miss out on the marvellous chateau garden from the Baroque era, either.

Archbishop’s Chateau in Kroměříž

Enter the world of aristocratic luxury, opulence, art and good taste. The former summer residence of the Archbishops of Olomouc with its picture gallery and an extensive library is currently listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Photo: Von Christof Halbe - Selbst fotografiert, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=655340

Pass through the centuries at Prague Castle!

Which is the largest castle in the world? The one in Prague of course! You can wander around its courtyards, palaces, museums and garden all day long and whilst doing so, admire the overwhelming beauty of a place which has been the seat of Czech kings, emperors and presidents for a thousand years. The whole castle grounds are dominated by the monumental St. Vitus Cathedral, which is one of the most beautiful in Europe. Discover the secret of this symbol of the Czech Republic and a place which makes Prague one of the most beautiful cities in the world, a place where time has stood still.

The most famous dominant feature of Prague Castle is the St. Vitus Cathedral. When you enter it, you will find yourself in a place where time has literally stood still. The beautifully decorated interior created by medieval masters is lit to perfection by the rays of sunlight which stream through the beautiful stained-glass windows. Above all make sure to view the stained-glass windows by the Czech Art Nouveau artist Alfons Mucha. The cathedral also houses the tombs and remains of important saints and Czech rulers. You can see the tomb of St. Wenceslas here – the patron saint of the Czech lands, St. John of Nepomuk, as well as the last resting places of the emperors Charles IV and Rudolf II. Make sure to also take a look at the imposing mosaic of the Last Judgement above the Golden Gate and make the climb up to the main tower, which offers one of the most beautiful views over Prague, city of a hundred spires.

Photo: By Stefan Bauer, http://www.ferras.at - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=952840

No visit to Prague Castle would be complete without a tour of the Golden Lane. This tiny lane adjacent to the ramparts will absolutely amaze you with its picturesque look. According to legend, the colourful miniature houses here were inhabited by alchemists working for Emperor Rudolf II, who longed to discover the legendary Elixir of Youth and the Philosopher’s Stone. Don’t forget above all to view house No. 22, in which the world famous Prague writer Franz Kafka worked.

Photo: By Maros M r a z (Maros) - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=222315

Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance…A tour of Prague Castle is like a walk through a textbook on architecture. Over the course of a few hours, you can visit the Romanesque Basilica of St. George with its mystical interiors, the Gothic Royal Palace, the extensive Baroque courtyard, the Renaissance Summer Palace of Queen Anne as well as the ultramodern greenhouse in the Royal Gardens. Simply put, Prague Castle offers something for everyone. All you have to do is go there and allow yourself to be carried away by the story of one of the most important monuments in the Czech Republic.

The true treasures of Prague Castle are hidden inside. You can take your pick from the many museums and exhibitions which are held here all year round. Would you like to see works from masters such as Titian or Rubens with your own eyes? Then visit the Picture Gallery at Prague Castle. If you have your children with you, don’t forget to treat them to a visit to the Museum of Toys. You can top off a tour of Prague Castle in one of the beautiful gardens, walk along “Deer Moat” or set out for the “New World”, an enchanting area of the city not far from Loretánské náměstí, where the studios of important Prague artists can be found in multicoloured houses.

Karlštejn Castle

Karlštejn Castle and its guarded treasure. Karlštejn Castle holds an absolutely exceptional position among Czech castles. It was established by the Czech king and Roman emperor Charles IV as a place to store the royal treasures, collections of holy relics and the crown jewels. The very impressive layout of the castle buildings from the settlement outside the castle walls right up to the Imperial Palace and the towers rising over it will captivate you with their ingenuity. In the castle Chapel of the Holy Cross, you will then merely contemplate the pictures of Master Theodoric in silent wonder. Set out for the most-visited castle in the Czech Republic and discover the treasures it has hidden for centuries!

Karlštejn Castle was completed in 1365 and apart from its beautiful decoration, it also stands out among the others for its stepped layout according to the importance of individual parts of the castle. At the lowest point, you will find the settlement outside the castle walls with the Burgrave’s Palace and its originally designed well, the two-storey Imperial Palace spreads out above this with the bedrooms of the king, his court and noblewomen, on the next level, the smaller Marian Tower with chapels reaches for the sky and at the very top you will find the dominant Great Tower, in which the Czech royal treasures were supposed to be stored. Climb from the pikes to the gold and precious stones!
 

The Chapel of the Holy Cross located in the highest High Tower enjoyed such esteem that Charles IV entered it barefoot as a sign of humility and had it fitted with three iron doors and nine locks. Its decoration is inspired by the description of Heavenly Jerusalem in the biblical book of Revelations. The chapel was used as a repository for the crown jewels and held Charles’ collection of the remains of saints. The chapel with four windows, partially glazed with precious stones, cross vaults with profiled ribs, frescoes from the life of Christ and 129 unique panels depicting the saints by Master Theodoric make a visit to this sacred room a truly ethereal experience.

Apart from beautifully furnished rooms, you will also find duplicates of the Czech crown jewels at Karlštejn as well as the crown jewels of the Holy Roman Empire, not to mention a well 80 metres deep where raising and lowering of the well buckets was accomplished by a wheel which used to be trodden by people.

Karlštejn has been a great muse for artists since time immemorial. According to one legend, Karlštejn Castle was intended only for the secular and spiritual needs of King Charles IV, so women were forbidden from entering. Another legend tells of a blind musician who used to play the lute accompanied by his faithful dog. The Prince of Brunswick was visiting once with a treacherous butler who wanted to poison the nobleman. He passed him a goblet with poison, but the prince offered this to the blind lute player to slake his thirst as he had been playing so beautifully all day. The faithful dog did not let his master drink from the goblet, jumped onto his lap and drank it himself.

Lednice Chateau

Visit Lednice Chateau and see marvellous representative halls, private rooms of the princely family, children’s rooms and a haunted cave! Lednice Chateau is the jewel in the crown of the Lednice-Valtice Complex and, at the same time, one of the most beautiful complexes in the English Neo-Gothic style in the whole of Europe.

Photo: By Holgereberle - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22505155

Several tour routes lead through the chateau interior, from representative halls, to the princely apartments, rooms of the small princes and princesses and the Puppet Museum. The French garden with its palm-tree greenhouse, Masonic wall and chateau grounds, which freely blend with the open countryside, are also worth a look. The park also includes several islands, a Roman aqueduct, the Minaret viewing-tower, Moorish Water-Tower and jetty that serves as the departure-point for cruises.

Hluboká nad Vltavou Chateau

Neo-Gothic jewel of South Bohemia. Hluboká Castle is the ideal destination in South Bohemia for history buffs, incorrigible romantics and even those who worship sport. The castle owes its current appearance to the Schwarzenberg family and is often described as the most beautiful Czech castle. A piece of Windsor England in the middle of South Bohemia. That’s how one could sum up the magical Hluboká Castle, which got its present appearance in the 19th century after a Neo-Gothic reconstruction. Hluboká Castle was originally founded as a guardian castle in the middle of the 13th century by Bohemian kings. Within the context of the Romantic modification of the noble residence, the Schwarzenbergs founded an expansive landscaped park in the mid 19th century.

Photo: By Czcharlie - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28047470

The castle with its 140 rooms and 11 towers offers several tour variants. During the tour of the castle, one can peek inside private rooms and lavish ceremonial halls with carved paneling, coffered ceilings, elegant furnishings, crystal chandeliers and rich collections of paintings, silver, porcelain and tapestries You can also check out the lookout tower and the castle kitchen with lots of kitchen equipment preserved from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. In the Castle riding hall, you can view the exposition of South Bohemian Gothic and Dutch masters from the collections of the Aleš South Bohemian Gallery.

Průhonice Park and Castle

Neo-Renaissance castle and nature just a few kilometers from Prague! Discover one of the largest landscaped parks in Europe, with an area of 240 hectares, located in the rugged valley of a meandering river. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage List along with the historical center of nearby Prague.

Photo: Von Zp, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3225713

The Park is an ideal place for relaxation or a romantic stroll. The end of May, when the rhododendrons bloom, is definitely a great time to head to Průhonice Park. However, you can go at any time of year and you will always find something to see. Apart from its artistic and historical value the park is also dendrologically significant, containing about 1,600 species. The collection of rhododendrons, comprising around 8,000 units in 100 species and cultivars, is truly exceptional. Průhonice park has more than just artistic and historical significance. In recent years, the park has become a haven for numerous plant and animal species. Precious forest and meadow communities are conserved in its territory.

Frýdlant Chateau

Terra felix – land of joy – was the name given to the Frýdlant estate under the reign of Duke Albrecht of Waldstein.This ambitious European politician gained a fabulous fortune after the Battle of White Mountain and his estate did nothing but flourish. However, after his murder a Swedish garrison established itself in the chateau and the location did not manage to evade the hardships of the drawn-out Thirty Years War. The castle, converted into a chateau during the Renaissance, was already opened to the public in 1801. It thus became the oldest castle museum in Central Europe. One point of interest for you is the armoury, where you will find thousands of weapons dating from the 12th century up until World War One as well as an exhibition devoted to Albrecht of Waldstein.

Photo: CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1126842

Bouzov Castle

Visit the romantic castle gem of Central Moravia and be transported back to the days when it was the seat of the Teutonic Knights! The medieval Bouzov castle is definitely one of the castles in Moravia which you can’t miss. And not just because a number of movies were filmed on its premises - from Czech fairy tales to the Italian princess Fantaghiro, but also because unlike other medieval settlements, this castle has never gone to ruin. Starting in the late 15th century it was in the hands of the Teutonic Knights.

Photo: By Pudelek (Marcin Szala) - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37560688

 The castle, which is near Olomouc, acquired its present appearance after an extensive reconstruction in the late 19th century. The project and reconstruction plans were drawn up on the basis of the requirements of the Archduke Eugene Habsburg, Grand Master of the order, who also funded the entire construction from his private resources. The castle is fully furnished and equipped. The furniture comes mainly from the private collections of Archduke Eugene Habsburg and partly from the collections of the German order. Modern equipment was then tailor-made specifically for the building. The most valuable part of the castle is the Neo-Gothic chapel, fitted with a Gothic altar and decorated with the tombstones of the masters of the Order from the years 1395 to 1515 The Castle Armoury, the original Gothic hall of the old castle, is equipped with samples of weapons.

From the guided tours you can visit several routes dedicated to representational and residential premises of the castle with fortification elements and technical facilities, such as the historic distribution of heat and water, or you can ascend the watch tower as well as visit the courtroom and observatory. In the cellars of the castle, your kids will enjoy the exhibition Dragons and Dragonslayers, which is devoted to life-size fairytale dragons and the knights who fought them.

Bečov nad Teplou

This is a story straight out of a detective novel. The year is 1985 and the criminal police are searching for some sort of valuable item which is located somewhere in the country and which an unknown foreigner is interested in. They only have a few clues and it is almost impossible to solve the case. In the end, they find some treasure hidden under the floor of the chateau chapel in Bečov nad Teplou: a beautifully decorated golden casket dating back to the 13th century used to store the remains of St. Maurus. The reliquary is one of the most beautiful examples of medieval goldsmithery and is the second most valuable relic in the Czech Republic after the crown jewels. You will find the reliquary and details about its story in Chateau Bečov.

Photo: By I, Ondřej Žváček, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2872367

 

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