There are more castles per capita in the Czech Republic than any other place in the world. More than 2,000 structures exist in the country, which is fair given the Czechs are surrounded by a number of countries and have been invaded, conquered, divided, and annexed numerous times over their existence. Let’s take a look at some of these fortresses:
The largest castle in the world is located in the Czech Republic capital of Prague, where the best view of the city can be found atop the main tower of the stronghold. A highlight of Prague Castle grounds is the St. Vitus Cathedral, which features beautiful stained-glass windows, as well as the burial plots of Czech saints and emperors. The whole site combines many different aspects of Czech architecture and design from across the centuries and is a feast for the eyes. A hidden room within the castle walls hides the Bohemian Crown Jewels and even Adolf Hitler spent a night in the structure, after the Nazis invaded and occupied Czechoslovakia.
Thought of by many as the second most popular tourist attraction in the Czech Republic, Karlštejn Castle is a Gothic-style castle located 30km southwest of Prague. Built by King Charles IV, the fortress was needed to guard the crown jewels, holy relics, and other treasures belonging to the royal family. Unfortunately, many rooms at the landmark are hidden from tourists due to earlier robberies. Apparently, you can even drink water from a hand-powered well, although the Sip Advisor will take his bottled options (water, beer, etc.) over the natural stuff. If castles aren’t your thing, a golf course is located nearby and shares the same name.
Cesky Krumlov Castle
Not only does this landmark house an impressive main castle, but there are also a number of mini castles, making the town seem almost maze-like. In the castle moat, visitors can see a family of brown bears, the protectors of the site. Special to the Cesky Krumlov grounds is the Baroque Theatre, which is one of the world’s most preserved theatres, including stage, orchestra pit, machinery, costumes, stage curtains, and much more. The area was made a national monument in 1989 and a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1992.
Cesky Sternberk Castle
This stronghold is still owned by the same family that built it in the mid-13th century, after it was returned to the Sternberg’s in 1992, following the fall of communism and Velvet Revolution. The name of the castle, Sternberk, translates to Star Mountain, which kind of sounds like a world in a video game, such as Super Mario Bros. or The Legend of Zelda. The complex is one of the best preserved medieval castles and tours are highlighted by a visit to the Knight’s Hall, which holds a number of historic items. There are also 545 copper engravings on display, which detail the entirety of the Thirty Years’ War.
This picturesque bright red castle was built in the middle of a lake, atop an island and connected to the mainland by a stone bridge. The castle’s gardens are a major attraction and the site is visited by over 120,000 tourists each year. Nearby, is a park that offers attractions such as the Renaissance Chapel of the Holy Trinity and a fish pond where boats can be rented for a trek across its waters. The castle’s name, meaning “Red Lhota” comes from the red tiles that make up its roof.
Originally built around 1289, the Zleby Caslte has changed its look many times over the centuries. Beginning as a Gothic style structure, it was rebuilt in Renaissance style, following the Hussite Wars in the 15th century. Later, it was changed again to a Baroque style and it has remained this way since. Tours at the castle take visitors in one of two directions: either to the kitchens or to the high tower and its dungeons. Travelers could ask for a nice meal before being ushered to the dungeon to meet their maker! Also in the area is a population of white deer, as well as various birds and other animals.
One of the first Gothic style castle in the world, Hluboka was built in the mid-13th century and contains many expensive furniture pieces, particularly in the “Morning Guest Room,” which includes woven tapestries from Brussels, hand-painted Chinese vases, and other objects of art. The fortress was even featured in a scene from the Owen Wilson-Jackie Chan film, Shanghai Knights. The castle is close to the city of Budějovice (where the real Budweiser was created and is still made today – the next Czech article du jour), so tourists can always get smashed before or after their castle visit.
Czech Republic: Magic Eye
- 1.5 oz Crème de Menthe
- Czechvar Beer
Some people have it on their bucket list to stay overnight at a castle, but not the Sip Advisor. On my bucket list is “Own a Castle!” Can you imagine the parties I could throw if I had my own palace? The booze would be flowing like blood did during the Middle Ages and we would pour one out for all the homies that perished with the walls!
Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3 Sips out of 5):
Originally, I was going to pick up a bottle of Absinthe for our jaunt through the Czech Republic, but then I learned of the country’s long history with beer and decided to go that route, instead. While I can’t call this my favourite beer cocktail, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it could be. To get the whole drink effect to look its best, I put the shot glass already into the empty goblet and used a pourer to get the beer around the shooter, so as to mix it up as little as possible. It all led to a rare success in the Sip Advisor’s Creation Kitchen!