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- Czechia: Home to the Most Castles in Europe
- The Fir Tree and the Christmas Miracle (photo-revision)
Although Wales claims to have the most castles in Europe per square kilometer, in absolute numbers, another country takes the top spot. Contrary to intuitive guesses, it’s neither Bavaria nor the Loire region in France but Czechia.
Czech castles: invited by landscape
Usually associated with urban rather than noble culture, Czechia was for a very long time part of the Austrian Habsburg Empire, one of the biggest and most powerful countries of its time. As part of a Central European empire, it appreciated its central role – Czechia, with its unmatched geographical features, was famous for turning noble residential architecture into fabulous venues.
The castles of Czechia vary widely, as its central location and magnificent landscapes made it a suitable place for both military-style fortified castles (some of them with residential parts) and maisons de plaissance, palaces meticulously inserted into the surrounding landscapes. In the wine region of Morava, you can also encounter dozens of chateaus.
Where gothic meets Art Nouveau
If you want to stay in a castle that once belonged to a Czech king, head to the 700-year-old Goldenstein in Branná. An hour’s drive from the historic town of Olomouc, Chateau Goldenstein is a good choice for ski-lovers. Also open to the public is the former residence of Rudolf II, Zbiroh. This huge and luxurious castle surrounded by vineyards was also captured in works by famous art nouveau Czech painter Alfons Mucha. You can even stay in the space where the master artist resided for almost two decades.
Alas, the largest of them all – Prague Castle in the center of the country’s capital – is not open to overnight guests. At least not those without a special invitation. The reason is simple: it’s still in use as the residence of the Czech president.
Prague Castle also holds a record of some sort. It is recorded in the Guinness Book as the largest castle in the world. Though it encompasses some seven hectares of land, this claim may be a bit biased, as Malbork castle, now in northern Poland, is three times that large.
Should then Hradčany, as the Prague Castle district is called, be deprived of its record? Not entirely, as it’s probably the largest still inhabited castle in the world – although England’s Windsor Castle currently claims the record. Construction of Hradčany castle started in the 9th century, so it’s already a thousand years of Czech castle entanglement.