Few destinations can match the Czech Republic’s historic heart for spellbinding castles and glorious chateaux ...
Kutná Hora used to be known as the Silver Treasury of the Bohemian Kingdom. Indeed, its former wealth is evident to this day and can be seen as you explore its medieval streets in search of the mysteries of the silver mines.
This historic UNESCO-listed town 80 km east of Prague is home to a host of incredible buildings, not least the awe-inspiring Cathedral of St Barbara, which is one of the most famous gothic churches in Europe.
Kutná Hora is the very epitome of a medieval royal city. A tour of the silver mine at the Czech Museum of Silver provides an essential insight into how the city established its wealth. Working your way through the narrow rock crevices deep beneath Kutná Hora, you can experience how medieval miners worked back in the 14th century. The fascinating tour covers the entire process from the extraction of silver ore to the minting of coins.
Nearby Sedlec is also not to be missed, as this is home to the sublime 12th century Cathedral of the Assumption of Our Lady and St John the Baptist – the oldest Cistercian cathedral in Bohemia.
A recent addition to the UNESCO World Heritage list is Průhonice park – a stunning English-style landscaped area of woodland, streams and glorious botanical gardens. Founded in the 1885 by Count Arnošt Emanuel Silva-Tarouca, Průhonice park has gradually expanded to its current size of nearly 620 acres. The park is set in a tranquil valley and provides hours of outdoor pleasure as you explore the network of paths, which cover some 27 km.
Central Bohemia is full of magnificent castles and chateaux, perhaps the most famous is the magnificent Karlštejn castle, which was built in 1348 by Czech King and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, to safeguard the royal treasures and crown jewels. Legend has it that this castle was off-limits to women. But today the whole family will delight in its range of incredible artefacts and attractions. These include 129 paintings by Master Theodoric of Prague in the chapel of the Holy Cross, the amazing castle well and the replica Bohemian Royal Crown. From the tower you can gaze over the Berounka river valley, a wonderful view at any time of year.
Worth a visit is Český Šternberk Castle, which has remained in the Šternberk family since 1241. Just a few kilometres away is Konopiště, a distinctive medieval Bohemian château full of rare art. It is one of the most important Czech chateaux, and boasts a host of attractions, including George the bear and a gorgeous rose garden.
The castles and palaces of Central Bohemia offer something for everyone. There’s Mnichovo Hradiště, home to a gorgeous park that’s perfect for a romantic stroll. Hikers and outdoor enthusiasts should head to Veltrusy, another Central Bohemian gem. Here you can rent bikes and explore the vast castle park and observe fallow deer. Another reason not to miss Veltrusy is the picturesque palace, which is featured in the Oscar-winning film “Amadeus”.
If you have young children, then don’t miss the fairy-tale château of Žleby, with its mini-zoo. The magnificent interior of the château evokes mythical characters and your little soldiers will enjoy the armoury, which houses one of the largest collections of historical weapons.
Also in Central Bohemia is the presidential summer residence of Lány Chateau and its splendid park which is open to the public; then there’s the beautiful chateau in Hořovice, or the ruins of Okoř castle, which contrast with castles of Křivoklát or Kokořín, which are intact.
Rich in history, and full of terrific natural attractions and outdoor pursuits, Central Bohemia is perfect for those who wish to get to know the Czech Republic a little better. Θ