According to the Guinness Book of World Records, The Czech Republic has the most castles per square mile in the world. It will always be up for discussion what counts as a castle. In the Czech Republic you have two kinds; Hrad (a bigger castle that was used by military, royalty or similar) and Zámek (hard to explain, but the French word chateau might be the best).
I got the idea to make this blog post when I visited the castle Bezděz during the weekend. So let’s start off with that one.
The castle, located in the north of the country was finished 1280 and is on a hill 604 metres (1,982 ft) above sea level. As with many other older castles on hills, you have to walk up to it since no cable car, or similar, is available. The hike from the parking is almost 1.5 km.
This castle has been used by a king as a base for hunting and relaxation, as a fortress and a monastery. The majestic large guard tower still remains in the middle and can be climbed (by small spiral staircases of course) for a nice view at the top. Parts that are accessible to visitors are the castle precincts including the royal palace, burgrave’s house and the unique early Gothic Chapel (which is still well preserved).
Entrance fee: Adults 80 Kč, 6-18 years old 60 Kč. Free for children under 6. Includes a free, short guided tour in Czech.
More info: https://www.hrad-bezdez.eu/cs
Probably the most obvious choice. Since I like to quote Guinness World Records here, let’s use one for Prague Castle. It is the largest ancient castle in the world, occupying an area of almost 70,000 square metres (750,000 square feet), at about 570 metres (1,870 feet) in length and an average of about 130 metres (430 feet) wide.
The castle consists of many buildings with the most eye-catching being Katedrála svatého Víta (St. Vitus Cathedral). Other buildings included in the castle: 4 more churches, 4 palaces, 5 halls, 4 towers, 6 other building and 7 gardens.
This is also where the Czech president lives and it attracts over 1.8 million visitors annually (i.e. you won’t be alone there). If you are in or is planning to go to Prague, this is probably already on your list.
Entrance fee: There are 3 different “circuits” you can take, which lets you visit different things. Two circuits cost 350 Kč for adults and 250 Kč for children aged 6-16 (free under 6), with a family ticket (1-5 children under 16 with max. 2 adults) for 700 Kč. The third circuit is 250 Kč for adults, 125 Kč for children and 500 Kč for a family ticket.
Due to being close to Prague (30 km, 19 mi), it is one of the most visited castles. It was founded in 1348 by Charles IV, King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor.
The core of the castle consists of three different parts; The Imperial Palace (Císařský palác), the Marian Tower (Mariánská věž) and the Big Tower (Velká věž). The Big Tower is 60 meters (200 ft) high and have walls 4 to 7.5 metres (13 to 25 ft) thick. The Imperial Regalia (now in Vienna) and Czech Crown Jewels (now in Prague Castle) was kept here in the chapel (behind four doors with nineteen locks to each key).
The strangest story probably comes from the The Well Tower (Studniční věž). It was the first part of the castle to be built, since you need water for a castle. They made a well, but didn’t find any water even at 70 metres (230 ft) depth (even lower than the nearby river). An underground channel was therefore excavated to bring in water from a nearby stream. The reservoir had to be manually refilled roughly twice a year by opening a floodgate. Due to the huge strategical weakness, the channel was kept secret. Only the emperor knew the location. The only other persons aware of its existence were the miners, who were however allegedly massacred on their way from the castle after the construction.
You will have to walk up the hill from the nearby (nice) village with the same name as the castle.
Entrance fee: Sightseeing tour in Czech: 170 Kč for adults, 110 Kč for children over 6 and seniors (65+), 20 Kč for children up to 6 years old. 540 Kč for a family ticket. Sightseeing tour in English: 270 Kč/180 Kč/20 Kč/860 Kč.
More info: http://www.hrad-karlstejn.com/en/
Hluboká nad Vltavou Castle
This might be the most overlooked castle. Not that it is unknown or doesn’t have any tourists, but when people write lists about Czech castles, this one is sometimes left one. And I have no idea why. If you are looking for a fairytale castle in the Czech Republic, this is the one. Maybe it is because it is a little bit inconvenient to get to from Prague (2 hours, 150km south). This might be one of my favorite castles though.
It started out as a gothic castle in the second half of the 13th century, being rebuilt many time and reaching its current appearance during the 19th century when Johann Adolf II von Schwarzenberg ordered the reconstruction of the castle in the romantic style of England’s Windsor Castle.
The Schwarzenberg family used to be the owners of this castle, but the last owner Adolph emigrated overseas to escape from the Nazis 1939. The year after it was seized by the Gestapo and then confiscated by the government after the end of World War II.
The (very wealthy) family lost all of their Czech property through a special legislative Act in 1947.
It is surrounded by a nice park, made in English style (to go along with the Windsor look) created 1841 to 1871.
There are 5 different tours you can take. Representation rooms, Private apartments, Chateau kitchen, Chateau tower and a special winter tour if you arrive later in the year (October-April).
Entrance fee: Tours: 100-260 Kč.
More info: https://www.zamek-hluboka.eu/en
State Castle and Chateau Český Krumlov
I don’t think I can recommend the small city of Český Krumlov enough. Usually you have a castle somewhere in a city. Here, the castle and the city goes hand in hand (they were built at the same time, starting around 1240). In a city of only 14.000, you have the second-largest castle and chateau complex in the country. Since 1992, this architectural complex has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The original Gothic castle consists of 40 building structures with five courtyards and a large rococo garden.
The Vltava River, which also flows through Prague, is going around the small city, with the huge castle complex looking out over it from the other side of the river. No cars are allowed in the center, but there are big parking spaces just on the other side of the castle walls.
It is quite touristy now, but it is still one of the more romantic small cities you can visit.
Entrance fee: Tour (In Czech/In English): Family: 410/700 Kč, Adults: 150/260 Kč, Children/Seniors: 110/180 Kč.
This lesser known castle is according to the CzechTourist site “one of the most beautiful complexes in the English Neo-Gothic style in the whole of Europe”. It contains a palace and the largest park in the country, which covers 200 km².
In the 17th century it was a summer residence for the ruling Princes of Liechtenstein. The castle got its current look in 1846-1858. It was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1992.
Entrance fee: 1st circuit (The ground floor-The prestige halls): Adults: 150 Kč, Children/Seniors: 100 Kč, Family: 400 Kč. Extra 50 Kč/person for tours in English and German. 2nd circuit (The first floor- the princely apartments): Same prices as above. 3rd circuit (The second floor-the picture gallery): Adults: 50 Kč, Children/Seniors 30 Kč.
Bonus: KUNĚTICKÁ HORA CASTLE
This is probably not a castle you will find in your Czech guidebook, and probably not something you will go to either. But I will include it on the list since it is very close to where I live and a castle that I have been to many times.
The castle, just outside the city of Pardubice, was involved under the religious wars in the 15th century. It was occupied by Diviš Bořek, the recognized Hussite commander, and with the assistance of local inhabitants he built an ingenious system of fortification in a period of two years.
It sits on top of a hill, but it used to be higher, but during the centuries the stone was extracted and used, for example, for constructions in Pardubice. From the top of the hill, you can see the nearby cities Pardubice and Hradec Králove.
Entrance fee: Adults: 80 Kč, Children 6-18 years old: 60 Kč. Free for Children under 6 years old. Family ticket (maximum 2 adults and 3 children): 220 Kč.
More info: https://www.hrad-kunetickahora.cz/cs
There are just too many castles to cover in one blog. I have missed some big ones (like Vyšehrad in Prague and Pernštejn Castle), and some smaller ones. But if you are interested in reading more, I suggest you visit the CzechTourist site at http://www.czechtourism.com/a/castles-chateaux/