5 Czech Castles to Check Out

Loket, Czech Castles

Castles and Europe go hand in hand. They just do. When people think of European Castles, probably countries like Germany and France come to mind. And yet just a little further to the east, the Czech Republic is home to some undeniably gorgeous castles. Like in the rest of Europe, they come in different shapes and sizes and from different periods of history but they are all worth seeking out. Here are 5 Czech castles you need to check out, pun intended.

 

Karlštejn Castle

Karlstejn Castle, Czech Castles

Found above the small town of Karlštejn, southwest of Prague, is the dramatic Karlštejn Castle. This castle lies upon a steep hill top, looming high over the quiet streets of the town below. With its gothic style it makes quite an impression, especially in poor weather that amplifies its menacing mood.

The castle dates back to 1348 AD, built by the King of Bohemia Charles IV, likely where it gets its name from. For several centuries Karlštejn Castle kept safe the Bohemian crown jewels after the Hussite Wars of the 15th century. Such an important decision makes sense when you see how well fortified and located the castle was. With three gates, fortified ramparts and several high towers, the compact castle would have been hard to attack. This is on top of being located on a hilltop with steep slopes.

To reach the castle, you must first walk up through the town as the main street winds its way up into the hillside. Rounding the first corner in town, you’ll be granted your first view of the castle and what a view! The walk up to the castle isn’t light, but for those either unable or unwilling to walk up there are horse and carts you can hire to take you up. Due to its proximity to the ever-popular Prague, Karlstejn is a common day trip from the nation’s capital.

 

Loket Castle

Loket Castle, Czech Castles

Certainly a lesser known Czech castle is that of Loket, a tiny town near the spa town of Karlovy Vary. However, just because it is less well-known does not mean it isn’t worth visiting. The castle of Loket dwarfs the modest town around it and fascinates with its abundance of local folklore.

Loket, which translates as elbow, gets its name from sitting in a bend in the Ohre River. This formidable castle was founded in 870 AD, but it wasn’t until the 12th century that it was built in stone. Its appearance as a Gothic fortress didn’t take shape until the 13th century when it was expanded and given additional fortifications. It was in Loket Castle that King Charles IV was held prisoner as a child but later in life enjoyed spending time at while hunting in the nearby woods. Unfortunately, the castle was almost completely destroyed by fire in 1725 and was restored in the early 19th century.

One of my favourite parts of visiting this castle was learning about some of the entertaining local legends. For starters, Loket was the site of a meteorite landing in 1400 AD, with several mystical legends revolving around the extraterrestrial stone. One legend stated that every time they threw the meteorite in the well out of superstitious fear, it would reappear elsewhere soon after. The castle was also said to be plagued by a local dragon and haunted by a goblin obsessed with harassing children with unkempt hair. The legends really add to an already stunning castle.

 

Špilberk Castle, Brno

Spilberk Castle Brno, Czech Castles

While it may not be the most spectacular castle here, Špilberk Castle in the city of Brno has surprising depth. Situated just outside the city centre, the castle is a splendid spot to get a view out over the city while also adding to Brno’s skyline. Brno is more a student city than one driven by tourism, but that doesn’t mean it lacks attractions and Špilberk Castle is one of them.

The castle was built by the Kings of Bohemia during the 13th century and would become the seat of the Margraves of Moravia, vassals to Bohemia. Over time the castle was converted into a fortress and later used as a prison. Throughout the years protestants, soldiers, revolutionaries and state prisoners from across the Austro-Hungarian Empire were imprisoned here. It was also used by the Nazis during their occupation of Czechoslovakia.

Špilberk is surrounded by sizeable fortifications that you gradually weave your way through as you climb the gradual hill it lies on. Inside the main fortress are several multi-layered courtyards and some great views atop its inner walls. The keep houses the Brno City Museum and access to a view tower. Information can be found here. A visit to Špilberk Castle is a recommended endeavour for those in Brno looking for a nice view or to learn more about the city.

 

Prague Castle

Prague Castle, Czech Castles

The city of Prague has a lot of attractions popular with tourists but its castle may be its best. Prague Castle is an immense site and a true treasure of the city. Home to a myriad of sights, Prague Castle is home to gorgeous courtyards, striking churches, breathtaking views and turbulent history. In all honesty, this may be the most important of the Czech Castles.

Prague Castle’s history dates back to the late 800s, when a church was built upon the castle grounds. From the 10th century it would become the royal seat, with a Romanesque style palace erected in the 12th century. During the reign of Charles IV, the castle was rebuilt in a Gothic style and was at the peak of its power as the royal seat of the Holy Roman Empire. Unfortunately, the castle was abandoned during the Hussite Wars and was only shortly used afterwards before the Habsburgs moved the capital to Vienna. After WWI, it became the Presidential residence and saw a great deal of reconstruction.

Really the best way to see the entirety of Prague Castle at once is from the across the Vltava river. This is because Prague Castle is simply massive, in fact being regarded as the largest ancient castle complex in the world. There are so many parts of the castle to visit, from the St Vitus Cathedral, to the Golden Lane, to the gardens, that it’s hard to mention them all. If you want a fully comprehensive visit to Prague Castle, you best allow several hours in order to cover it all. If not, just freely wander the complex and take in its magnificence.

 

Český Krumlov Castle

Cesky Krumlov Castle View, Czech Castles

I’ve already expressed how painfully beautiful Český Krumlov and its castle are in my Fairytale Towns of Central Europe post. This charming Bohemian town really is a highlight of the Czech Republic and that is in large part because of its delightful UNESCO heritage-listed castle. Sitting over the banks of the Vltava River and across from the picturesque old town, I can’t imagine a better setting for a medieval castle.

The first mention of Cesky Krumlov Castle can be found in a poem by Ulrich of Lichtenstein around 1240 AD. Unlike many of the castles on this list, the castle didn’t belong to royalty but to local nobles and later dukes. As such, its history is quite a bit less tumultuous. As it passed from generation to generation of the Eggenberg family, the castle saw Baroque renovations in the late 17th century. In 1717, the castle was passed over to the Schwarzenberg family with whom it stayed until the 1947 when it was given to the local province.

What is particularly interesting about Český Krumlov Castle is the blend of styles it incorporates, with elements of Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance architecture. This combination, plus the way it curves along with the shape of the river, gives the castle a wholly unique look. Walking through the grounds, you’ll be struck by the unusual passageways that lead you from one courtyard to the next. But first make sure to stop by the Bear Pit, where depending on circumstances you may be able to see the castle’s furry defenders. If you continue walking up from the castle you will find the extensive and peaceful castle gardens, that spans 7 hectares. A mighty castle for a small, but pretty town.

 


Have you visited any of these castles? Are there other castles in the Czech Republic people should visit? Please share in the comments below.

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5 Czech Castles to Check Out via @travelsewhere


This post is part of Wanderful Wednesday at SnowinTromso and Monday Escapes at Tin Box Traveller. Please head on over for more great posts.

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45 Comment

  1. I’ve been to Pragues Castle 10 years ago, almost can’t remember it anymore. I absolutely love exploring castles though and these ones seem pretty stunning!

    1. David says:

      Thanks for coming by Van. Hope you get to explore these castles one day and make new memories 🙂

  2. Allison says:

    I had no idea that the Czech Republic had so many castles. I love visiting castles when I visit Europe so I’ll have to check these out the next time we’re over there.

    1. David says:

      The Czech Republic even has more than these, these are just the ones I’ve been to! Visiting castles is really one of the coolest things to do in Europe.

  3. We loved our time in Prague earlier this year, and Prague Castle was definitely a highlight of that beautiful city! Obviously I still have a lot of exploring left to do in the Czech Republic because this post has me wanting to go back already!

    1. David says:

      Glad you enjoyed Prague Ashley, it really is an impressive city. Hope you get to go back one day.

  4. I’ve been to Prague and to Karlštejn castle:) #wanderfulwednesday

    1. David says:

      Awesome Tanja, they both pretty impressive aren’t they! Have a great day.

  5. Ruth says:

    I am a castle lover, so, I can’t get enough of them. I visited the Prague and Cesky Krumlov castles. Will like to stop by more castles in the Czech Republic.

    1. David says:

      Haha me too Ruth. Hope you get to stop by them one day.

  6. Hi David,
    You are so right when you said that usually people think of France and Germany when they think of castles. We really enjoyed Prague Castle and your lovely pictures, reminded us a great memory! We didn’t think that Czech Republic had so many beautiful castles so thank you for sharing them with us. Great list! Well done David! Keep up the great work!

    Patrick and Cécile from http://www.travel4lifeblog.com

    1. David says:

      Thanks for stopping by Patrick and Cecile, glad you enjoyed Prague Castle. Hope you get to visit the others one day.

      1. travel4lifeblog says:

        If we do, we will let you know! 🙂

  7. Lolo says:

    It’s true, when I think of the Czech Republic I dont really think of castles. However we have checked out a few of them. Our favorite was by far the Hluboka Castle near Ceske Budejovice which I HIGHLY recommend visiting! https://caliglobetrotter.wordpress.com/2016/02/07/ceske-budejovice-castles-beer-more/
    #WanderfulWednesday

    1. David says:

      Ooh, thanks for the suggestion Lolo. I’ll have to add it to my list.

  8. Sam says:

    As you say France & Germany come to mind when we think of European Castles, so I also had no idea that there were such lovely castles in the Czech Republic. I love old buildings, so I will need to take another trip to check these out 🙂

    1. David says:

      It’s surprising how many great ones there are in the Czech Republic. Hope you get to see some next time Sam.

  9. Ooooo I love a good castle, so with this post you are really spoiling me! I never knew that the one in Prague was the largest ancient castle complex in the world, and I loved reading about the legends of Loket. Thank you for all the history and information you have provided!

    1. David says:

      Glad you enjoyed reading Angie. Prague Castle is immense and really epic, highly recommend it.

  10. I have not been to a castle yet! I absolutely love the look of them and can’t wait for the opportunity to visit some. These castles in the Czech Republic look amazing. I love the look of Karlštejn Castle and Loket Castle! Your photos are gorgeous!

    1. David says:

      Hope you get to visit a castle soon Kelly! They’re pretty great and thanks!

  11. What amazing 5 Czech Castles. Love the history you provided about each one. I have been to the Prague Castle which is amazing and I recommend this to others to visit. I would especially like to visit the Český Krumlov Castle along with the town you mentioned on my next visit to Czech. Looks like an interesting place to see. Your photos are stunning! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    1. David says:

      Thanks for reading Stephanie. Glad you liked Prague and Cesky Krumlov really is wonderful.

  12. Kreete says:

    Awesome post! I have only seen the Prague Castle myself, but intending to go back to Europe next year for some more travelling and I might go and see some of the other ones listed here too. I have pinned it for the future reference!

    1. David says:

      Thanks Kreete! I hope you get to head back next year, let me know if you do end up seeing these!

  13. Lauren says:

    I’ve only been to Prague Castle, but the view from up there is absolutely amazing! So worth a visit! The other castles you mentioned look lovely as well! Your pictures are stunning 😀

    1. David says:

      Totally agree Lauren, love looking out over the city.Thanks!

  14. Lisa says:

    Oh, castles are fabulous. Never realized Prague had so many. Thanks for giving a little bit of history on each one, I love that! Your pictures are really great too.

    1. David says:

      Thanks Lisa, glad you enjoyed reading. Some real gems in the Czech Republic.

  15. Jenn says:

    We were supposed to go to Prague in May, but it didn’t work out. Seeing these castles makes me want to go to this country even more! Thanks for providing such great information and history on these castles, along with the beautiful photos!

    1. David says:

      Hope you get to go there one day Jenn. Thanks for reading.

  16. We also tend to look for places lesser traveled and love to take photographs in a bit of another setting than usual. Still learning though. You had a great castle tour in the Czech Republic. What an inheritance of the past!

    1. David says:

      Glad to hear from a kindred spirit Marcelle. Very well put!

  17. Garth says:

    Great post, we’ve only visited Prague Castle, and as you say it’s massive, and we loved wandering around, it’s just so impressive. Maybe one day we’ll get to see all the other castles in the Czech Republic that you’ve highlighted.

    1. David says:

      Thank Garth, glad you enjoyed exploring Prague Castle. Would highly recommend a return trip for the others but I know how busy you and Phil are.

  18. Very nice. I’d never heard of Loket castle before so I’ll have to check (sorry…) that one out sometime!

    Greetings from Luxembourg. We also have superb castles here, you know? Google Vianden, Bourscheid and Beaufort, to name but a few. Another country for you, perhaps? ;o)

    1. David says:

      Haha, hope you get to some time Jonny. I did visit Luxembourg as a child but I have almost no memory of there. Would love to return one day!

  19. What’s not to love about a castle – I haven’t been to the Czec republic but these look amazing. Can’t believe I still have not been to Prague! #mondayescapes

    1. David says:

      Thanks Corey, I hope you get to visit Prague one day.

  20. Thank you for sharing a great list of castles in Czechia. Great article

  21. I’ve managed 2 out of 5 so far so that’s decent going! Now just need to head back and explore the other ones. I am going back to Prague in January but I feel it will be too cold for too many day trips! Great post and cool that you share my love for castles!

    1. David says:

      Good to hear Alexei, I actually think winter would be a great time to see them as they’d be extra scenic covered in snow. Love them castles!

  22. Lisa (Travel Loving Family) says:

    I really need to go and visit the Czech Republic! My boys love castles and they would really enjoy exploring these five:) Thanks for linking to #MondayEscapes

  23. Hello. I am from Czech Republic – small town of Třeboň (South Bohemia). Here is beautiful chateau too (the same family as Český Krumlov) and well preserve middle ages town and very special countryside made by people for centuries (biospheric reservation of Unesco). There are maybe hundreds castles and chateau in CZ. You shoud try Hluboká nad Vltavou (near České Budějovice, same family as ČK and Třeboň), you should see Jindřichův Hradec (second or third largest after Prague and Český Krumlov) – this city has more things to be seen in its museums and so on. And you should realy try Konopiště – south from Prague. Litoměřice are also very beautiful with the old town below. And in Moravia is it Kroměříž (bishop´s castle), Lednice & Valtice (UNESCO), Vranov nad Dyjí (south Moravia near Znojmo) or Jaroměřice nad Rokytnou. You should even try Lysice in a very small town, not well preserved from outside but very beautiful inside. There are so many – depends on what are you looking for. You can se it here (it is possible to view in English): http://www.hrady-zamky-cr.cz/

    1. David says:

      Thank you for all these castle recommendations Ivana. I will definitely come back to this list the next time I get to visit the Czech Republic!

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