České Budějovice: Castles, Beer & More!
CONTRIBUTED BY CALIFORNIA GLOBETROTTER
The capital of South Bohemia, České Budějovice is home to a large industrial center, which helped it to grow. The historic city center shows the wealth that the city once enjoyed with colorful, unique, intricate buildings which helps draw people in who are looking for something a little less touristy besides just Prague. Like Cesky Krumlov, the town is a little hidden treasure for the Czech Republic! Just a few hours from the German border, it made for the perfect day trip!
The town is also renowned for their beer, the Budvar Brewery, which they are very proud of. Some might recognize the name as Budweis in English. But it is not to be confused with the Anheuser-Busch Budweiser beer in the States.
And just a short drive of about ten minutes sit the Hluboká Castle, perched upon a hill overlooking the surround village below. Well worth a visit for the magnificent endless gardens and the unique appearance of the castle.
The city of České Budějovice was founded in 1265 by King Ottokar II of Bohemia. České Budějovice enjoyed economic prosperity due to the position it served between trading routes and those who were loyal to the crown were rewarded.
The city continued to prosper and grow expanding beyond its city walls. Today, there is still a huge influence of German and Czech speaking citizens, who also speak very good English.
The main attraction of the city center is the stunning Town Hall which depicts the wealth the town enjoyed in its past. It sits in the southwest corner of the large square and certainly dominates all other buildings.
Caddy corner from the Town Hall is the St. Nicholas Cathedral and the Black Tower. It is a simple triple-aisled church with a large organ. I always check out the inside of churches so that I can admire the stunning beauty of the architecture and frescos. And when these aren’t available, then I just enjoy the peace of such a sanctuary.
Just in front of the church is the Black Tower, which dates back to 1577 and originally served as a belfry and the town’s observation tower. The tower is open for tourists to walk up the 225 steps to the top only during the tourist season between April-September. Therefore, we weren’t able to go up for a view of the town.
Just a short 5 minute drive outside of the historic city center, you can find the Budvar Brewery. It is one of the Czech Republic’s most successful breweries and exports beer to around 70 countries. In the United States, it is called Czechvar. The Czech Budweiser can not be called Budweiser in the States because of the ongoing lawsuit between them and Anheuser-Busch Budweiser. Only in North America can Anheuser-Busch call their beer “Budweiser”.
The original Czech Budweiser has been in production since 1785 and Anheuser-Busch Budweiser started using the name in the US and registered it 2 years later. Even a third company began using the name Budweiser in České Budějovice which finally led to the dispute between the rights of the name.
For just 120kc (about 10 euros), we did a 45 minute tour in English of the brewery. During the tour, we learned about the history of the brewery, their brewing process and even sampled the beer.
Now, if you’re looking to sit down and enjoy some of that amazing beer with a good meal, I highly recommend strolling through the allies in town before coming upon Masné krámy, a restaurant which is an absolute must. There is an old saying that says, “Those who haven’t been to the Masné krámy restaurant, haven’t been to České Budějovice.”
We knew we had to go, and so we searched it out before stumbling upon it. You could smell the deliciousness of the restaurant wafting down the street, even before entering the building. We knew we had found the right restaurant!
So we went in, order a beer and enjoyed a wonderful dinner. I order a traditional duck roast with blaukraut and Knödel. It was honestly one of the best ducks I have ever eaten as it just fell to pieces as I cut into with a perfect crispy crust. Hans enjoyed a traditional goulash with Knödel which he said was also quite superb!
And just another 10 minutes from the city, is the small village of Hluboká which one of the country’s most beautiful aristocratic residences sits perched above the town. The Hluboká Castle was built in the 13th century by Wesceslas I, remodeled in the 15th century and again in the 18th century, leading it today to look similar to the English Neo-Gothic style modeled after Windsor Castle in London.
We enjoyed the early afternoon walking around the castle and the gardens before we made it into town. We chose not to go into the castle as it seemed each part of the castle had a different tour which had a different price. While perusing the website of the castle, I felt that the inside of the castle was as similar as many other castles. So we chose not go in.
The castle has 11 towers which give it a very Medieval look and I could certainly see the similarities between this castle and Windsor castle, having been when I was younger.
This is definitely a castle that the residents of the village below enjoy walking up to and spending their afternoons here. We saw more locals than we did tourists, as we went during the off season. Having researched, the castle is beautiful year round from flowers in the Spring to the colorful fall leaves and snow.
After our full day checking out the castle, the town and doing the Budvar Brewery tour we headed back to the castle to get some sunset pictures of the castle and the lake below. While the sunset didn’t quite reach the castle, we did enjoy a STUNNING sunset of pinks and purples reflected back on the lake! I’ve never seen anything so beautiful before!