Medieval castles in Czech Republic

Decin Castle

Perched atop its cliff where the Ploučnice meets the Elbe, Děčín Castle is one of the oldest and largest landmarks in northern Bohemia. In the past several hundred years it has served as a point of control for the Bohemian princes, a military fortress, and noble estate. The forerunner of the Děčín Castle was a wooden fortress built towards the end of the 10th century by the Bohemian princes. The first written reco ...
Founded: 993 AD | Location: Děčín, Czech Republic

Veverí Castle

According to legend, the castle Veveří was founded by Duke Conrad of Brno in the middle of the 11th century. Nevertheless, the first written mention about the castle is from the years 1213 and 1222, when King Přemysl Otakar I used the fortified castle as a prison for rebellious peers. Initially, it was apparently a wooden or masonry residence situated near the Romanesque church of the Assumption of the Vi ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Brno, Czech Republic

Bítov Castle

Bítov Castle is located on a steep promotory towering above the meandering River Želetavka. Built in the 11th century, Bítov is one of the oldest and largest Moravian castles. A Přemyslid fortified settlement originally stood on the site and included the Chapel of Our Lady. The fort was rebuilt in the first half of the 13th century as an impregnable Gothic castle guarding the southern boundaries of th ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Bítov, Czech Republic

Nový Hrádek Castle

The ruins of Nový Hradek castle dates from the 14th century, on a promontory overlooking Dyje river. It is situated in the National Park Podyjí, accessible from the villages Podmolí or Lukov, but only on foot or by bicycle. The first historically proven owners of this territory were the Premonstratensian monks from the Louka monastery in Znojmo, who exchanged it with the Moravian Margrave John Henry ...
Founded: 1358 | Location: Znojmo, Czech Republic

Konopiste Palace

Konopiště is a palace, which become famous as the last residence of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir of the Austro-Hungarian throne, whose assassination in Sarajevo triggered World War I. The bullet that killed him, fired by Gavrilo Princip, is now an exhibit at the castle"s museum. The castle was apparently established in the 1280s by Prague Bishop Tobiaš as a Gothic fortification with a ...
Founded: 1280s | Location: Benešov, Czech Republic

Hasistejn Castle

Hasištejn (Burg Hassenstein) is a ruined medieval castle situated near Kadaň, Klášterec nad Ohří and Chomutov. The castle, first mentioned in Maiestas Carolina, was probably founded by Friedrich of Schönburg to guard the way from Prague to Saxony. The castle was seized by Václav IV of Luxembourg in the early 15th century and given to Nicholas of Lobkowicz. The most renowned inhabitant of the cas ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Chomutov, Czech Republic

Strekov Castle

Střekov Castle (Schreckenstein) is perched atop a cliff above the River Elbe, near the city of Ústí nad Labem. It was built in 1316 for John of Luxembourg, the father of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, to guard an important trade route to Germany. After changing hands several times, the castle was acquired by the Lobkowicz family in 1563. Its strategic importance led to occupations by Imperial Habsburg, Saxon, ...
Founded: 1316 | Location: Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic

Bezdez Castle

Bezděz Castle construction began before 1264 by order of Přemysl Otakar II. It was one of the most important royal castles in the Czech lands until its destruction in the Thirty Years" War. A year after Přemysl’s death, the castle Bezděz, which was still unfinished, became the place of imprisonment of Queen Kunhuta and her underage son Václav II (or Wenceslas II), kept under lock and ...
Founded: c. 1260 | Location: Bezděz, Czech Republic

Cornstejn Castle

Cornštejn Castle stands on a strategic location, surrounded by magnificent landscape of the Dyje (Thaya) River Valley. It was built on royal demesne land which was subordinated to Bítov Castle and which was pawned and later (1308) granted as a fief to the noble family of Lichtenburg. In the 1320s Raimund of Lichtenburg, King Wenceslaus II’s favourite, decided to strengthen the security of Bítov ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Bítov, Czech Republic

Kost Castle

Kost Castle is is privately owned by Kinský dal Borgo noble family. It was first proposed by Beneš von Wartenberg in 1349 as a possible construction site and was completed by his son Peter von Wartenberg. It retains most of the original features and is overall very well preserved and maintained. The castle is known for its so-called 'White tower'. In about 1414 the family of Zajíc von Hasenburg moved there; later the ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Libošovice, Czech Republic

Buchlov Castle

The Buchlov royal castle was built in the first half of the 13th century, but archaeological finds suggest that the area around Buchlov castle was settled in the oldest periods of civilization. The first castle was created with two massive prismatic towers situated on opposite parts of a rocky plateau. A high palace on the southern part of the yard was built at the same time and it was surrounded by a wall. The second co ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Buchlovice, Czech Republic

Hrubý Rohozec Castle

Hrubý Rohozec is a castle in Turnov. The original structure was connected to a polygonal tower by a defensive wall. Its purpose, in the 14th century, was to monitor the trade route running below it. Between the two parts of the castle Jan von Šelmberk, and later Konrad Kraiger Kraigk, built Gothic palaces. During the Renaissance the Wartenberg family rebuilt the complex in the style of a chateaux. Albrecht ...
Founded: c. 1280 | Location: Turnov, Czech Republic

Hazmburk Castle

Hazmburk (Hasenburg) is a Gothic castle ruin located on a mountain peak near the town of Libochovice. The castle was home to Zajíc noble family of which Zbyněk Zajíc was the first to own the castle (since 1335). After 1586, it remains desolate and later, in the period of romanticism, it became a source of inspiration for writers, most notably K.H. Mácha. The castle is open to public in summer and can be either acce ...
Founded: c. 1335 | Location: Libochovice, Czech Republic

Stramberk Castle

Štramberk Castle ruins have an unknown origin (according to an old tale, the site of its original planned location was on the opposite hill Kotouè, but that was prevented by dwarves from the cave Devil's hole). Apparently, it was made to protect country boundaries. According to the most recent information, the castle was built either by members of the aristocratic family, Benešovic, or more precisely, ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Štramberk, Czech Republic

Kadan Castle

In the 13th century, the town of Kadaň was promoted to a 'Royal City'. It began to thrive and a new town was built on the heights above the river, with a castle and Franciscan monastery. The castle was mentioned first time in 1289. It was established as a four-wing Premyslid castle with a housing palace over the river. It served as the seat of the royal burgrave – the administrator of the Kadan region. The ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Kadaň, Czech Republic

Jánský vrch Castle

Jánský vrch castle stands on a hill above the town of Javorník in the north-western edge of Czech Silesia, in area what was a part of the Duchy of Nysa. For most of its history the castle belonged to the Prince-bishops of Breslau (Wrocław) in Silesia. The castle is first mentioned in written sources in 1307, when it was still the property of the Princes of Svidník. In the 1348, they sold ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Javorník, Czech Republic

Krupka Castle Ruins

Krupka castle was probably founded by John of Bohemia sometime around the year 1320 when the king wanted to boost fortifications in the border region with Saxony. King John donated the castle, together with the town of Krupka, the tin mines and Trmice in 1330 to the Meissen noble Thimoteus (Těma) of Kolditz. Thimoteus subsequently purchased the Kirchlice fort and in 1335 made a contract with the Lords of Bergau to adju ...
Founded: c. 1320 | Location: Krupka, Czech Republic

Kynzvart Castle Ruins

Kynžvart was once significant castle, located at one of the highest elevations on the territory of the Czech Republic (827 m), used to stand near the famous Kynžvart Chateau of Austrian Chancellor Metternich. Its original name was Königswart (Royal Guard) as it was built as a border stronghold of the kingdom in the 13th century. The castle frequently changed its owners and it even served as a hideaway for thieves i ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Lázně Kynžvart , Czech Republic

Benesov nad Ploucnici Castle

The dominating feature of the Benešov nad Ploučnicí town is actually two castles from the 13th century, the Lower and Upper castles. There is a permanent exhibition of Chinese art and day and night tours are available as well as social meetings.  The history of the castle started in the 13th century when a settlement of tradesmen and shopkeepers began under the castle Ostrý. The people were satisfied there, the set ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Benešov nad Ploučnicí, Czech Republic

Tolstejn Castle Ruins

The Tolštejn Castle (now reduced to ruins) was built in 1278 as part of the Zittau region"s defense structure. George of Poděbrady ordered the castle to be seized shortly after the Hussite Wars and after many conflicts, the Tolštejn dominion was taken by 1471 by two Saxon princes, Ernest and Albrecht. During the Thirty Years War, the army of the Austrian Emperor occupied the castle. In 1607, the Swedi ...
Founded: 1278 | Location: Varnsdorf, Czech Republic

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

São Jorge Castle

São Jorge Castle is a Moorish castle occupying a commanding hilltop overlooking the historic centre of the Portuguese city of Lisbon and Tagus River. The strongly fortified citadel dates from medieval period of Portuguese history, and is one of the main tourist sites of Lisbon.

Although the first fortifications on this hilltop date from the 2nd century BC, archaeological excavations have identified a human presence in the Tagus valley as far back as the 6th century BC. The first fortification was, presumably, erected in 48 BC, when Lisbon was classified as a Roman municipality.

The hill was first used by indigenous Celtic tribes, then by Phoenicians, Greeks, and Carthaginians as a defensible outpost that was later expropriated by Roman, Suebic, Visigothic, and Moorish peoples. During the 10th century, the fortifications were rebuilt by Muslim Berber forces, these included the walls or Cerca Moura ("Moorish Encirclement").

Kingdom

In the context of the Christian Reconquista, the castle and the city of Lisbon were freed from Moorish rule in 1147 by Afonso Henriques and northern European knights in the Siege of Lisbon during the Second Crusade; this victory was the only notable success of that failed crusade. According to an oft-repeated legend, the knight Martim Moniz, noticing that one of the doors to the castle was open, prevented the Moors from closing it by throwing his own body into the breach, thus allowing Christian soldiers to enter at the cost of his own life. With the taking of the castle Christian forces were able to maintain the defense of Lisbon until the end of the 12th century.

When Lisbon became the capital of the kingdom in 1255, the castle served as the alcáçova, a fortified residence for Afonso III, in his role as governor. It was extensively renovated around 1300 by King Denis I, transforming the Moorish alcáçova into the Royal Palace of the Alcáçova. Between 1373 and 1375, King Ferdinand I ordered the building of the Cerca Nova or Cerca Fernandina, the walled compound that enclosed the entirety of the castle. The master builders João Fernandes and Vasco Brás were responsible for its construction. This wall, which partially replaced the old Moorish walls, was designed to encircle previously unprotected parts of the city. Completed in two years, it had 77 towers and a perimeter of 5,400 metres.

The castle and the city resisted the forces of Castile several times during the 14th century (notably in 1373 and in 1383–1384). It was during this period (the late 14th century) that the castle was dedicated to Saint George by King John I, who had married the English princess Philippa of Lancaster. Saint George, the warrior-saint, was normally represented slaying a dragon, and very was popular in both countries.

From this point onward many of the kingdom's records were housed in the Torre de Ulisses, also known as the Torre Albarrã, until the reign of Manuel I. The Portuguese National Archive is still referred to as the Torre do Tombo. Between 1448 and 1451, the master builder was paid several stipends for his work on the palace. These public works continued until 1452, with additional payments being made for labor and materials to convert the building from a fortified castle to a royal residence.

Around the early 16th century, following the construction of the Ribeira Palace beside the Tagus river, the Palace of Alcáçova began to lose its importance. An earthquake occurring in 1531 further damaged the old castle, contributing further to its decay and neglect. In 1569, King Sebastian ordered the rebuilding of the royal apartments in the castle, intending to use it as his official residence. As part of the rebuilding, in 1577 Filippo Terzi demolished one of the towers near the principal facade of the Church of Loreto. However, many of the works were never completed after the young king's apparent death during the Battle of Alcácer Quibir. The following Portuguese dynastic crisis opened the way for sixty years of Spanish rule and the castle was converted into military barracks and a prison. On 30 December 1642, Teodósio de Frias the Younger was appointed master builder to continue the works begun by his father, Luís de Frias, and his grandfather, Teodósio de Frias. This was part of a greater plan by the Spanish forces to recommission the fortification.

However, after Portugal regained its independence following the Portuguese Restoration War, the works were taken over by the Portuguese government. On 6 November 1648, Nicolau de Langres was called upon to take over the design, execution and construction of a new fortification that would surround the Castle of São Jorge and the city walls of Lisbon. In 1650 the military architect Mateus do Couto was named master builder of the project and reconstruction took on a new formality: although the military engineer João Gillot built new walls in 1652, construction again followed Couto's plans between 1657 and 1733. In 1673, the Soldiers' Hospital, dedicated to São João de Deus, was installed on the grounds beside the Rua do Recolhimento. At the end of the 17th century the Recolhimento do Castelo was constructed along the southeast angle of the courtyard, and in 1733, new projects were initiated by master Custódio Vieira.

The 1755 Lisbon earthquake severely damaged the castle and contributed to its continuing decay: apart from the walls of the old castle, the soldier's hospital and the Recolhimento were left in ruins. The necessity of maintaining a supporting military force within the capital city required expansion of the site's role of garrison and presidio. From 1780 to 1807, the charitable institution Casa Pia, dedicated to the education of poor children, was established in the citadel, while soldiers continued to be garrisoned on site. Inspired by the events of the earthquake and the following tsunami, the first geodetic observatory in Portugal was constructed in 1788 at the top of one of the towers of the castle, later referred to as the Torre do Observatório.

Republic

As part of the commemorative celebrations marking the foundation of nationhood and restoration of independence, the government of António de Oliveira Salazar initiated extensive renovations at the site. Most of the incongruous structures added to the castle compound in previous centuries were demolished and there was a partial restoration of the Recolhimento. In addition, on 25 October 1947, a monument dedicated to Afonso Henriques, presented by the city of Porto, of a replica created by Soares dos Reis (in 1887) was installed on the grounds.