Where was the Institute for Research on Piglet Breeding located? After the war, what was renamed a boarding school, and what a center of trade unions? Today, Czech castles belong to their rightful owners, they can be visited and admired. Will you go on such a trip with us?
There are many interesting places in the Czech Republic. These are both beautiful natural areas and monuments that attract crowds of tourists. There are also places that combine the beauty of nature and architectural wonders. The perfect example? Castles in the Orlice Valley. If you haven't had a chance to meet the famous six buildings yet, it's time to catch up!
Bohemian Loire Valley
If you love nature, but also historic architecture is nice to your heart, you don't have to choose. You don't have to go far either - a beautiful tourist trail awaits you near the border with the Czech Republic. The Valley of Castles and Palaces on the Orlica River is the Czech equivalent of the Loire Castles Route. If you don't have much time for your holiday, you don't need to book a ticket to France. At your neighbours, you will see six historic complexes on the banks of the Divoká Orlice River. The view of the picturesque Eagle Mountains adds charm to the nine-kilometre route.
The tourist trail stretches in the vicinity of the border. Just pass the crossing in Międzylesie or Kudowa and you can start your trip. It is really worth it, which is confirmed not only by the votes of visitors, but also by the title of the Best European Tourist Destination (EDEN). The route has enjoyed it since 2017. When you enter it, you will see four palaces from the Baroque and Renaissance periods, two medieval castles, as well as other historic buildings that are worth paying attention to. we start?
Častolovice Chateau – once a dormitory, today white peacocks
The first on our list will be the chateau in Častolovice. It was built in the 13th century as a defensive castle, but later rebuilt in the Renaissance style. Today it is a tourist pearl of north-eastern Bohemia. It stands on the longest tributary of the Divoká Orlice, on the Bělá River. You can visit it with a guide, but remember - no photos are allowed! In July and August it is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9am to 6pm. In May, June and September every day at the same hours. You will have an hour to walk around the complex, and the ticket costs 150 CZK.
The interiors impress with a well-thought-out design, which was taken care of by Countess Diana Phipps Sternbergova. Guests are most impressed by the Knights' Hall with a Renaissance coffered ceiling. The room is over 300 m², and in addition to its size, it stuns with the number of works of art. You will see a lot of paintings from the Baroque era (but not only).
Apart from the halls, arcaded cloisters full of flowers and a zoo with an enclosure for deer and white fallow deer are wonderful. The animals living here know their guardian well. The zoo itself is very popular among tourists. Every year, it is visited by over 80,000 people who want to see the mini zoo and peacocks (they are also white!). If you come here, take a look at the rose garden - the second favorite corner of the countess. It has almost two hundred species of roses, many of which come from England.
New Kostelec Castle - piglets in the salons
The next place on our list is the New Palace in Kostelec. Today, it is teeming with life and serves as an important cultural center. It hosts numerous festivals, concerts and exhibitions. The initiator of all events is the owner František Kinský. If you are lucky, he will guide a group of visitors around the estate. His family reclaimed the property in the 1990s and immediately began rebuilding.
The castle itself is not old - it was built in the 19th century - but like the others, it also suffered during the war. The library, the most beautiful room in the entire palace, has been preserved. The Hall of Mirrors, rented for wedding ceremonies, makes a huge impression on tourists. If you are planning to get married and dream of a castle scenery, this may be a bull's-eye. And if you just want to see the historic arrangement, you can visit the interiors with a guide. From April to October they are available on weekends from 10am to 4pm, and from May to September daily (except Mondays) from 9am to 5pm. A new group starts every hour, so you have plenty of opportunities to join the volunteers.
The palace is surrounded by a large park in the English style. There is a cafe nearby where you can stop for something sweet or coffee. On the ground floor of the palace you will see an exhibition, thanks to which you will learn more about the history of the village. The rooms are full of family heirlooms, Biedermeier furniture, paintings and photographs. There are also books and items brought by family members from various trips. The decor captures the heart. It's hard to believe that after the war, the Institute for Research on Pig Breeding was located within these walls!
Doudleby Castle - unique sgraffitto
The third monument on the trail over the Orlice River is the Baroque-Renaissance Doudleby Palace. After the war, it was threatened with demolition, it was so dilapidated. It was built at the end of the 16th century as a summer hunting residence. It is surrounded by an English-style park. The visit will take you to Italy, specifically to Tuscany. The building is designed by Italian architects, which can be seen immediately after entering the complex. You will see columns in typical Tuscan style and Renaissance arcades. Noteworthy is the unique sgrafitto, i.e. intricate ornaments covering the facade. Quite an interesting attraction is one of the largest tiled stoves in the Czech Republic.
Like previous castles, you will visit this one with a guide. From April to May, it is available to tourists on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. From June to August from Tuesday to Sunday from 9am to 5pm. In September on the same days, but from 10 am, in October from Saturday to Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm. The ticket is more expensive than in the two previous castles (the price is 160 CZK), and the walk takes about 50 minutes. During your visit you will see: Mirror Room, Women's and Men's Salon and Music Salon. The former granary houses the Natural History Museum, and the chapel houses the collection of Madonnas.
Potštejn Palace and Castle - an idea for a night tour
Fourth (and fifth) on the list of famous Czech castles is the Baroque chateau in Potštejn. During the communist period, it housed the center of POH, i.e. Czechoslovak trade unions. It comes from the 18th century and its history is quite turbulent. It passed from hand to hand, coming under the care of successive families (or organizations). Since the 2000s, it has been owned by the Nováček family, who restored it. She made the palace available for sightseeing, thanks to which for 140 CZK we can see both the halls and the underground.
Lovers of luxurious interiors from the old days will be enchanted by the Marble Room, with Czech crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. The library is also interesting. In turn, the underground will steal the hearts of those who love secrets. Tourists are shown around them by a figure in a monk's habit. The youngest can play in the park maze or put on original costumes for the duration of the tour. It is worth noting that it is possible to walk around the palace at night (with a guide).
Within the complex there is a park with old trees and a garden with beautiful roses. Outside the palace, you will see the castle, or rather the remains of a 13th-century building. The Gothic monument can also be visited. If you decide to spend some time in Potštejn, you can use the services of a cafe or pastry shop. Another interesting option is overnight stay. Have you ever slept in a baroque palace?
Litice Castle Hrad Litice – an echo of the past
The last point of the list is the 13th-century Litice Castle, which is located on a hill surrounded by dense forests. From the 17th century it fell into ruin, which can be seen with the naked eye today. The southern palace has survived to the present day, the tower of which you can visit on your own or with a guide. The remains of the walls surrounding the building and the entrance gate remain after the times of splendour. The history of the residence is also presented in a small exhibition.
Last year the castle was closed due to the instability of the rock mass between the second and third gates. From May 23, 2023, it can be visited again. In addition to the renovation, a few new items appeared, including two copies of paintings. The ticket costs 130 CZK and the visiting hours are 9-17. Except for April, because then the castle is waiting for guests until 4 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. It is closed on Mondays.