Walks through the city
Dear Visitors, welcome to the royal city of České Budějovice!
We are delighted that you have chosen our beautiful and ancient city for your destination, and hope you enjoy your stay. The brochure you are looking at will help you do so, and will introduce the main points of interest in our city. Take a pleasant, unhurried walk through our streets, soak up the atmosphere, admire the square and architecture, view the city from the Black Tower, indulge in our excellent Budvar beer and savour a traditional South Bohemian meal. Enjoy your visit in peace and at ease. I believe you will fall in love with České Budějovice and return again and again.
Wishing you a pleasant stay.
Ing. Jiří Svoboda
Lord Mayor of České Budějovice
It has been 750 years since Czech King Přemysl Otakar II founded the city of České Budějovice at the confluence of the Malše and Vltava Rivers. The layout of the newly founded city was ingeniously measured out by burgrave Hirzo of Zvíkov, connecting a network of streets to the central square with an area of 133 x 137. Two churches and a number of burgher houses were built around the square, including the town hall. The entire city was surrounded by fortifications with lookout towers and three city gates.
Soon after its foundation, České Budějovice became the metropolis of power and economy in South Bohemia, and a support of royal power. In the 14th Century King Charles IV increased its privileges and the city was the centre of trade and craft. České Budějovice also flourished from the mining of silver and minting of coins in the nearly town of Rudolfov.
The fortified city stood aside from the pressure of the Hussite movement and its economic boom was subdued only by the Thirty Years’ War and an extensive fire in the second half of the 17th Century. The city’s renewal continued for decades in the Baroque style, changing its architectural character. A number of religious buildings and institutions were constructed here, such as the bishop’s residence, but also numerous secular buildings.
The industrial development of the 19th Century led to many changes in transport and production. In 1832, the first wagon on the horse-drawn railway departed from České Budějovice to Linz. It was the first railway on the European continent. Also founded were a pencil factory, enamel factory, tobacco factory and breweries. Fortunately, industrial development did not destroy the city’s historical centre.
The 20th century brought far-reaching changes in all spheres of life. We can still find many examples of modern architecture of the 1920s and 1930s. Towards the end of the 20th century, the population approached 100 000. The city is the home of the South Bohemian University, many specialised schools, scientific institutes, the South Bohemian Theatre with three ensembles, the South Bohemian Museum and numerous private museums and galleries.
Of the important enterprises, let us name the breweries Budějovický Budvar and Budějovický měšťanský pivovar (formerly Samson), Madeta dairy, Koh-i-Noor Hardmuth and Gama pencil factories, and the Robert Bosch and Motor Jikov machinery companies.
Once the borders were opened, tourism boomed and we have plenty to offer visitors to the city. Not only important monuments in the city, but also cultural and sports events and shopping. Nature lovers will also find plenty to enjoy. České Budějovice is surrounded by a picturesque landscape of ponds, rivers, forests and the hills of Blanský Forest and Novohradské Mountains, the sites of architectural gems such as Hluboká Chateau or the town of Holašovice with its country Baroque buildings and is Český Krumlov with its chateau and historical centre, both UNESCO heritage sites. České Budějovice is a friendly and hospitable city. Come and find out for yourself.
The treasure of České Budějovice is the historical city centre with numerous valuable religious and secular buildings. The following two walking routes will allow you to discover the most important monuments.
Some of the monuments and sites, such as the Erratic Boulder, the Iron Maiden Tower, the armoury and Bumerin bell are surrounded by legends. You can learn about these during the night-time theatrical tours of the city, which offer a unique and interesting experience. You will see places that you may have missed before, and find out things that had remained a secret.
WALK NO. 1:
Přemysl Otakar II Square – St. Nicholas Cathedral – Black Tower – Kněžská Street – former Church of St. Anne – South Bohemian Museum – South Bohemian Theatre – Dr. Stejskal Street
Přemysl Otakar II Square has always been the natural centre of the city and is almost perfectly square, measuring 132 x 137 metres. After the city's foundation, it was the site for markets, and later witnessed other important events in the city. Around the circumference of the square stand 48 historical buildings, the most important of which is the Town Hall. Its imposing appearance served to reflect the importance of the city. The present-day appearance of the historical town hall is in the Baroque style dating back to 1727-1730, based on a design by builder A. E. Martinelli. The monumental façade is emphasised by three towers, of which the highest central one is equipped with chimes from the year 1995. Four allegoric statutes on the parapet of the town hall represent the bourgeois virtues of Justice, Courage, Wisdom and Caution. The extensive façade bears the city’s coat of arms above the central window, surrounded by the county coats of arms of Moravia, Bohemia and Silesia. The grandest room inside the building is the ceremonial hall, whose vaulted ceiling is decorated by a fresco depicting the biblical scene of Solomon’s Judgement dating back to 1730.
In the middle of the Square stands one of the symbols of the city, the Baroque Samson’s Fountain. It was created in the years 1721-1726 by stonemason Zachariáš Horn, while the sculptures were created by Josef Dietrich. The top is adorned by a statue of the biblical Samson wrestling with a lion. The fountain is among the largest in Bohemia and holds about 200 m3 of water. Not far from the fountain is the Erratic Boulder, marked with a cross. In the past, there was an execution scaffold here, and to this days legend says that anybody who crosses the Erratic Boulder after ten p.m. will not find his way home and will wander the city until the morning.
From the Square, continue to the St. Nicholas Cathedral, originally a Gothic building from the 13th Century. However, it burned down in the 17th century and today’s appearance is Baroque. There are three statues situated on the façade – St. Wenceslas, patron of the Czech lands; St. Nicholas, patron of the České Budějovice bishopric; and St. Auratian, the patron saint of České Budějovice. The interior of the church is very simple. The most important part is the main altar from the 18th century with a painting of St. Nicholas.
Next to the church stands another symbol of České Budějovice, the 72 metre high Black Tower, sought by visitors for the unique panorama of the city and surrounding area from the gallery. The Gothic-Renaissance tower was completed in 1577 and served as a belfry and watchtower. There are six bells in the tower, the largest of which is called Bumerin, weighing in at 3 429 kg.
From the Black Tower, go down U Černé věže Street where there are two buildings worth seeing. One is the architecturally valuable Wortner’s House, whose façade is decorated with battlements and corner towers. It was built in the middle of the 16th century in the style of receding Gothic and upcoming Renaissance architecture. Today, it houses the Aleš South Bohemian Gallery. Opposite stands the Art Nouveau U Hájíčků department store from the year 1911. Let us return to the Black Tower and take Hroznová Street to the corner of Kněžská Street and Kanovnická Street, the site of Kneissl’s House decorated with the oldest sgraffito designs in the city. Across from Kneissl’s House stands the Baroque Chapel of the Mortal Anxiety of the Lord, which currently serves Greek Orthodox believers. Kněžská Street will take us to the former Church of St. Anne with the Capuchin monastery, which was established by Queen Anne in the early 17th century during her visit to České Budějovice. Today, it serves as the Otakar Jeremiáš Concert Hall. Kněžská Street leads into Dukelská Street, at the start of which stands the representative Neo-Renaissance building of the South Bohemian Museum, which was opened in 1903. In the museum, you can visit the permanent exhibition devoted to the history, ethnography and nature of South Bohemia, as well as thematic exhibitions. Next to the museum, built in the same style, is the Slavie Cultural Centre standing on the very banks of the Malše River, just like the neighbouring Empire-style building of the South Bohemian Theatre. The original construction dates back to 1819 and was most recently reconstructed in 1990.
On the façade stands a bust of Josef Kajetán Tyl, which recalls the fact that he performed here for the last time in his life. On the other side of the theatre is a monument to Emmy Destinn, a world-famous opera singer who died in České Budějovice in 1930. Walk around the theatre along Dr. Stejskal Street back to the main square.
WALK NO. 2
Přemysl Otakar II Square - Krajinská Street – Meat Shops – Hroznová Street – Piarist Square – Česká Street – Rabenštejn Tower - Panská Street – Blind arm of the Malše River – Iron Maiden – Biskupská Street
From Přemysl Otakar II Square, enter Krajinská Street. On the corner with the Square, you will first encounter Mallner’s House with Gothic elements on the façade. On the opposite corner diagonally is Puklice's House with a corner tower, in which burgrave Ondřej Puklice of Vztuhy was murdered in 1467. A little further on, you will come to one of the most famous monuments in the city – the former Meat Shops. In 1364, Emperor Charles IV ordered the meat shops to be moved from the square to this brick building. Today’s appearance retains the Renaissance style of the mid-16th Century. In the 1950s, the meat shops ceased to function as a market and an acclaimed restaurant was established here.
On the corner of Krajinská and Hroznová Streets is the monumental Komerční banka palace from the years 1912-1913, built largely in Art Nouveau style. Many important artists of the time contributed to the lavish decoration of the interior. Other houses in Krajinská Street generally have Classicist facades with Renaissance or even Gothic interiors. Worth mentioning is the very nice Renaissance Zátka’s House from the 16th century, birthplace of JUDr. August Zátka, a leading local politician and patriot. Today it houses a hotel.
Walk some way down Hroznová Street to reach Piarist Square with several architectural gems, notably the Dominican Monastery with the Church of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary. This site was transferred to the Dominican order immediately after the foundation of the city in 1265 and the order resided here for more than 500 years. They were followed by the Piarists, and finally by the Redemptionists. The building went through several architectural styles, but is mainly Gothic. In the 14th century, the church was decorated with coloured frescoes depicting the lives of the saints. The Gothic cloister with a paradise garden is adjacent to the church. The monastery is surrounded by a garden with Baroque statues by Josef Dietrich. In the middle of the 15th Century, the “White” monastery tower was built.
Another important monument on Piarist Square is the former city armoury, which is distinguishable by the high, stepped Gothic style gable. The building also served as a granary and salthouse. Somewhat hidden behind it is the polygonal bastion, originally a part of the town fortifications. Today it houses a gallery.
From Piarist Square, enter the picturesque Česká Street, with preserved arcades of burgher houses leading almost along its entire length. At the end, turn left to face the landmark Rabenštejn Tower, which was also a part of the city fortifications. Originally dating back to the 14th century, it was rebuilt to its present form in the 16th century. From the tower, walk down peaceful Panská Street. In the interior of house no. 14, you can see a preserved Gothic log house.
From Panská Street you will arrive on the embankment of the Malše River cut-off behind the Dominican monastery, and looking across the river you can see Sokolský Isle with a swimming pool, Sokol sports club and other sports and relaxation facilities.
Continue along the blind arm of the river around parts of the preserved city fortifications, which enclose the inaccessible bishop’s garden with the Otakarka Tower. Another fortification tower is the Iron Maiden dating back to the 14th. It is named after the instrument of torture, which was allegedly located inside and is the subject of various legends.
Next to this tower is the Iron Bridge, from which there is a nice view of the confluence of the Malše and Vltava Rivers and the edge of Háječek Park on the left. Astronomy enthusiasts can visit the observatory and planetarium located here. Across the bridge on the left on Zátkovo nábřeží embankment rises the Palace of Justice. There are two statues on the embankment – St. John of Nepomuk and the Virgin of České Budějovice, who protects the city.
From the bridge, walk down Biskupská Street, where you can see the Bishop’s Residence. This Baroque building from the 18th century still serves as the bishop’s residence and administrative centre of the České Budějovice Bishopric to this day.
This street opens onto Široká Street with old burgher houses with Gothic foundations and Classicist facades.
Biskupská Street will lead you back to the main square. If you turn left on the corner, you will walk down Radniční Street to Česká Street, where you can find the remains of the salt store next to the high school building. Salt was originally transported to České Budějovice by horse and carriage, then by boat and later via the horse-drawn railway. The horse-drawn railway led down Česká Street, and another monument to it is the Classicist Nissel’s House on the corner with Piaristická Street, where the passenger ticket office, platform and offices were located.