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In the heart of the Czechia countryside is Cesky Raj, a picturesque region dominated by dramatic sandstone rock formations, lush valleys, meandering rivers and caves. Also known as the Bohemian Paradise, the area covers almost 1400 square kilometres and became a UNESCO Geopark in 2005 thanks in part to its diverse variety of flora and fauna.
A popular summer getaway for outdoorsy types, there are plenty of active adventures in Český Ráj including cycling, kayaking down the Jizera River, paragliding, horseback riding, hot air balloon rides and rock climbing. There are also countless hiking trails that serve up sweeping views and lead straight to another attraction: Czech castles.
There are about a dozen castles and chateaus scattered throughout Bohemian Paradise, each with a unique trait like a rose pink facade, towering on a volcanic top or even being built right into a cliffside. Here are some of the best castles to see in Cesky Raj.
The ruins of this 14th century medieval castle have played a starring role in fairytale movies, thanks to its huge cylindrical tower that looks like something straight out of a fantasy.
If you don’t have a fear of heights, climb up Frydstejn’s steep, narrow steps to the enviable perch overlooking the serene Bohemian countryside.
Two square fortifications make up the State Castle of Trosky, which were precipitously built on two craggy volcanic tops back in the 14th century. Nicknamed ‘The Old Hag’ and ‘The Virgin’, both towers have excellent viewpoints and the site regularly hosts medieval-themed events like fencing and period fairs.
Visiting the Chateau of Sychrov is sure to leave you tickled pink. Considered one of the best known castles in Czechia and a popular historical site, it has passed hands among nobles throughout the centuries, and was extended and rebuilt in the Gothic style.
Featuring expansive grounds with an English-style park, a highlight is wandering around the courtyard to see the uncommon blush facade that blankets the castle. Inside, the public is welcome to tour the opulent interiors, which include the former prince and princesses suites, a Royal Suite, the elegant dining room and chapel.
Hruba Skala Castle
The Bohemian Paradise is famous for its rock towns, and the Hrubá Skála castle has a front row seat to one of the best: the Hrubá Skála Rock Town (Hruboskalsko).
The castle is perched right on top of the formation, which has jaw-dropping views of the valley below. The rocky towers soar up to 55 metres high and are surrounded by steep canyons, and there are spots where you can walk right onto the rocks or enjoy viewpoints looking out to the castle.
Hrubá Skála dates back to the 14th century when it was built as a medieval castle, which eventually turned into a Renaissance-style chateau with a neo-Gothic church. Today, guests can head up a spiral staircase to enjoy the view of the Rock Town and nearby Trosky castle, and there’s also a hotel and restaurant inside. Click here to book
Vranov – Pantheon
Another one of the photogenic castles in Czech Republic is found in the village Malá Skála, where a rock castle juts out of the cliffside. This one goes by a few names–usually Pantheon, Vranov or Skála which is the Czech word for ‘rock.’
The castle was built on a steep, narrow ridge 130 metres above the Jizera River, and was eventually renovated to include a Pantheon and neo-Gothic chapel which was once used as a hunting lodge. Many visitors combine a visit here with Frýdštejn, since they’re less than two miles apart.
This fortress is a photographer’s dream, with a serene pond in front casting a perfect reflection of its imposing stone facade.
Originally built in 1371, its prominent White Tower is five storeys high and looks out at the Plakánek valley which has forest, lakes and is popular with cyclists. If you stand in just the right spot, its irregular trapezoidal base means you can see all four corners at once.
The interior holds expositions about life in the Middle Ages, and Kost hosts a medieval tournament inside the castle walls, corporate events and even weddings. You can also stay inside Hrad Kost, in an apartment with a full kitchen, living room, bedroom, bathroom and winter garden.
Tour the Czech Republic castles
Cesky Raj is a one hour drive from Prague or Kutna Hora, which makes this one of the best places to visit in the Czech Republic if you’re looking for a city break. Book one of these tours to see the Czechia castles in Bohemian Paradise:
Here are some accommodation options if you want to stay overnight in Český Ráj:
- EA Zamecky Hotel Hruba Skala: Not many people get to say they’ve slept in a real castle, which makes a stay here so unforgettable. Guests rave about the grand views from the outdoor terrace at Hruba Skala castle, and the on-site spa. Click here to book
- Hotel Stekl: Another option in Hruba Skala is Hotel Stekl, which has elegant, traditional rooms and perks like free parking and breakfast. There’s also easy access right outside to hiking and bike trails, and great views of the surrounding forest. Click here to book
- Apartmany Cesky Raj: This pet-friendly apartment in Lomnice nad Popelkou has tons of space with a separate bedroom, lounge area, dining room and kitchen when makes it a great option for longer stays. Click here to book
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