The Czech Republic is known for its well-preserved fairytale castles, dating back to medieval times and ruled by a myriad of Bohemian monarchs and nobles. Scattered throughout the countryside, filled with opulence and/or fortification, here are the best Czech castles to see when you visit that fascinating country.
1. Prague Castle
Prague, the capital of Czechia, is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, and the most visited city in the Czech Republic and one of the reasons is because of its enormous castle – the largest ancient castle complex in the world. The highly-recognizable complex includes stunning palaces, courtyards, exquisite gardens, spectacular views, and museums.
Built in the ninth century for Prince Bořivoj in the Romanesque style, the castle underwent changes in the 14-century that gave it a more Gothic look. The castle served as the seat for Czech kings for a thousand years. Places to see include St. Vitus Cathedral, St. George’s Basilica, The Golden Lane, Old Royal Palace, The Treasury, and Rosenberg Palace.
Because of its immense size, the best way to see the entirety of the UNESCO World Heritage Site is from across the Vltava river. Approximately 2.5 million people visited Prague Castle in 2018.
2. Castle Český Krumlov
Sitting high up on a rocky perch surrounded by a natural moat, the Vltava River, the impossibly stunning, fairytale Cesky Krumlov Castle is the second largest castle complex in the Czech Republic. Also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Europe’s most iconic buildings, the Gothic castle consists of 40 building structures, five courtyards, fountains, a Baroque theater, and pretty gardens, seamlessly blending styles of Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance architecture. Unlike most castles, this one was not built for kings, but to local nobles and later dukes. As it passed from generation to generation of the Eggenberg family until 1717 when it passed to the Schwarzenberg family with whom it stayed until 1947 when it was given to the local government.
Visitors can get stunning views from two different areas – climbing the stairs to the top of the colorful tower, or from a viewing platform a short walk after entering the castle’s main doorway. Whichever one you choose, the views of the South Bohemian village and Vltava River are memorable.
3. Hluboká nad Vltavou Castle
Constructed in the 13th-century in beautiful South Bohemia, the neo-Gothic façade of Hluboká nad Vltavou Castle is the epitome of romance. It was initially meant to serve as the personal castle of Přemysl Otakar II, often dubbed in history as the Iron and Golden King and as one of the greatest rulers of Bohemia.
Visitors can take a variety of tours to peek into the 140 rooms and 11 towers which include the lavish private quarters, library, kitchen, and ceremonial halls of the Schwarzenberg family. You can see examples of finely carved paneling, coffered ceilings, elegant furnishings, crystal chandeliers, rich tapestries, and beautiful paintings.
The castle was originally built in the Gothic style, but renovations over the centuries took on elements of Renaissance, Baroque, and in the 19th-century, was modeled to look like Windsor Castle in England.
4. Karlštejn Castle
Gothic Karlštejn Castle, founded in 1348, was established by the Czech King and Roman Emperor Charles IV to house and protect the Royal Coronation Jewels and his collection of holy relics after the Hussite Wars of the 15th century. After 1480 the castle took on a Gothic appearance; in the 16th-century, a Renaissance-style; and in the 19th-century, after centuries of lying in near ruin, restored as the Gothic castle.
The well-fortified castle sits on a steep hill (you have to walk up to get to it), overlooking the charming Karlštejn village and is surrounded by lush countryside.
Apart from beautifully furnished rooms, visitors will also find duplicates of the Czech crown jewels as well as the actual crown jewels of the Holy Roman Empire.
5. Bouzov Castle
Constructed in the early 1300s, the romantic medieval Bouzov fortress is situated in the heart of Moravia and has historical importance for having served as the seat for the Teutonic Knights since the late 15th century. Due to its picturesque “Harry Potter” qualities, mystique and intrigue, this medieval complex is a popular film site for Czech fairy and movies.
The stunning Gothic masterpiece has two functional drawbridges, a watchtower you can climb for panoramic views, an armory, and a neo-Gothic chapel with a Gothic altar and the tombstones of the masters of the Order from the 14th to 16th-century.
The most memorable way to experience the castle is with a guided evening tour where staff (and some guests!) dress up in period as they chauffeur visitors through the castle and its grounds.
The highlight for children is that they can receive a ‘Knight Certificate’ after exploring the life-size exhibition of Dragons and Dragon Slayers in the castle’s cellars.
6. Loket Castle
A lesser-known Czech castle is that of the tiny town of Loket. The castle was founded in 870 AD, but it wasn’t until the 12th-century that it was built in stone, surrounded on three sides by the Ohře River. Once known as “the Impregnable Castle of Bohemia”, because of its thick walls, it is one of the oldest and most valuable historical stone castles in Czechia.
King Charles IV (aka Prince Prince Wenceslas) was held a prisoner in the castle as a child but later in life spent time hunting in the nearby woods. The castle was almost completely destroyed by fire in 1725 but was restored in the early 19th-century.
Loket Castle is admired for its Gothic style, rich history, and unique location. Visitors can see the Margrave’s House, he archeological hall, and the cathedral.
Some of the more interesting features of the castle include the Chamber of Torture in the castle’s authentic basement prison and the legend that the castle is haunted by a dragon and a gnome that antagonizes children with messy hair.
7. Trosky Castle
The ruins of Tosky Castle perched on two basalt volcanic plugs, giving it a split-level appearance and which made the castle impregnable. The castle features two towers named Baba (Old Woman) and Panna (Virgin).
Wars and fires how turned the structure into a grand ruin; it’s abandoned but makes a fantastic subject for photographing. There are no guided tours, but there are rumors of underground tunnels that you can try to find at your own risk.
8. Pernštejn Castle
Founded in the 13th century, the perfectly preserved Pernštejn castle seems to defy the laws of gravity and time. Perched on a rock above the village of Nedvědice, Pernštejn the Gothic and Renaissance style is stunning but even more impressive in that it has never been conquered.
It is often referred to as the “marble castle” due to marble-like stone which frames the doors and windows; renovations revealed 16th-century paintings beneath the plaster wall.
9. Bezdez Castle
On the edge of a steep hill more than 1,000-feet above sea level in Northern Bohemia, overlooking gently rolling hills is the romantic Bezdez Castle. The domineering Gothic castle of Bezděz dates back to 1264, founded by the “Iron & Golden King” Přemysl Otakar II, but the castle complex was completed during the reign of Wenceslas II.
The background of the castle as it is steeped in Czech history, folklore, and romantic myth. In the Baroque period, the castle became a Benedictine monastery and pilgrimage site. Lastly, in the 19th-century the abandoned Bezděz became an attraction for romantic souls, among them the famous Czech poet Karel Hynek Mácha and composer Bedřich Smetana.
The Romantic Movement’s passion for medieval monuments helped preserve the castle, which is a sole preserved example of an unaltered castle of the 13th-century. It is often called the “king of all castles” for its original early Gothic appearance, which has never been tampered with.
10. Lednice Chateau
Located near the Austrian border in South Moravia is the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lednice Chateau, one of the most beautiful English neo-Gothic complexes in Europe. Unlike most medieval castles that sit atop nearly inaccessible mountaintops surrounded by thick forests, the Lednice castle was established on a level park-like area.
The town of Lednice belonged to the royal Liechtenstein family in the Middle Ages; the main chateau began as a Gothic fort in the 13th-century; during the Renaissance that the chateau was constructed as a villa and in the 17th-century was used as a summer residence by the ruling Princes of Liechtenstein. By chateau had been reconstructed into its current neo-Gothic style.
Visitors can tour the inside where you’ll find rooms decorated with bright turquoise and red color palettes, carved wooden furnishings, coffered ceilings, spiral staircases, and a puppet museum. Outside you can explore a minaret and a grotto.
Whether you’re fascinated by medieval architecture or you’re a history buff, Czech castles have something for everyone’
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About the Author
Patti Morrow is a freelance travel writer and founder of the award-winning blog Luggage and Lipstick. TripAdvisor called her one of “20 Baby Boomer Travel Bloggers Having More Fun Than Millennials.” Patti is the author of the book “Girls Go Solo: Tips for Women Traveling Alone,” and has over 150 bylines in 40 print and online publications, including The Huffington Post, International Living Magazine, Washington Post Sunday Travel, Travel Girl, Travel Play Live Magazine, and Ladies Home Journal.
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