Czech Republic: From Prague Castle to Česky Krumlov Castle, a land of castles and fairy tales

For hundreds of years, Czech Republic was the land of knights and castles, royalty and moats, and drawbridges. Though the country boasts hundreds of castles and palaces across its hills and mountains, several impressive castles are close enough to Prague to be seen within one vacation. Still depicting the spirit of their peak days as royal medieval fortresses, these five castles are worth a closer look.

Prague Castle
Founded in the 9th century, the Prague Castle is one of the oldest castles in the region. During its long history, the Castle housed Bohemian Kings, Holy Roman Emperors, and Presidents of Czech Republic. Today, the Prague Castle is said to be the biggest ancient castle, and gleams as the jewel glistening above the Vltava River as the centerpiece of Prague.

What to do: Plan to spend a day to tour the soaring Cathedral, extensive gardens, and regal palaces within the Prague Castle.

Karlštein Castle
Founded in 1348 by Czech King and Roman Emporer Charles IV, this castle sits high on a hill overlooking the sleepy Vltava Moldau River. The town below advances up the hill with quaint shops and Czech-style restaurants, making the trek up toward the Karlštein Castle an experience in itself.

What to do: Plan to take the horse-drawn carriage up the steep grade road, from the only parking at the bottom, and enjoy the old-world feel of the village and castle to the sound of the horses’ clip-clop over cobblestones.

Křivoklát Castle
Approaching Křivoklát Castle from the surrounding hills creates a breathtaking experience, every time. Křivoklát looks like the castles born of fairy tales, built in the 12th century and washed a majestic white. Inside, find a Gothic chapel, an extensive library, and a memorable collection of Gothic-era art.

What to do: Take the tour, and see firsthand the notorious dungeons and prison torture instruments.

Loket Castle
This middle ages castle of the 12th century sits near the Czech-German border, and was once thought to be the key to the kingdom of Bohemia. Perched high above a dramatic promontory overlooking the Ohře River, the Loket Castle is a sight worth beholding, especially notable for its complete reconstruction by the townspeople of the village of Loket after its ruins during Communism.

What to do: Visit the charming town of Loket during one of their Festivals, and participate in the glimpse into medieval life.

Česky Krumlov Castle
One of the best preserved medieval towns in the world, ranked Number Two by the UNESCO World Heritage list, second only to Venice, Italy. Česky Krumlov, near the Czech-Austrian border, is the second largest castle in the Czech Republic, after the Prague Castle.

What to do: Tour the extensive gardens above the Castle, see a theater production hosted in the gardens amphitheater, or raft down the moat-like Vltava River below.

Czech Republic, home to hundreds of castles and palaces, is truly a fairy tale world to discover.

Jennifer Lyn King, a native of Texas, lives in the Czech Republic, where she writes from her home near Prague. She is the author of The One Year Mini for Busy Women. Read her blog on Red Room. All the photos above are copyright Jennifer Lyn King.