Czechia: Home to the Most Castles in Europe

With almost a thousand castles and another 1100 stately homes, Czechia tops the list of places to visit for those in search of aristocratic residences. In fact, one castle in Prague is considered the largest ancient building in the world. So how did Czechia become the land of castles?

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ceiling of the Church
A ceiling in the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary at Karlstejn Castle near Prague in Karlstejn, Czechia. Photo: Matej Divizna / Getty Images

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. 

Przemysław Bociąga

is a Polish journalist and essayist based in Warsaw. An anthropologist and art historian by education, he specializes in combining cultural phenomena with compelling narrative. He has authored and co-authored several books covering lifestyle and history. The most recent of them is “Impeccable. The biography of masculine image”. He has contributed to many leading magazines, both in print and online, and teaches cultural anthropology to college students.

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