Authentic renaissance architecture is not too frequent in the old town. The reason is obvious: The city went through a big fire in 1641 and most of the older buildings were destroyed or badly damaged. However, there are a few houses which have survived all misshaps through the centuries.
Photo 1 and 2: A house dated 1557 in ul. Knezská behind the cathedral
Photo 3: House in the corner of market square towards the cathedral, dated 1568
Photo 4: House in ul. Ceska
The white building with the gothic stepped gables was built in 1531 and originally served as arsenal, then as a storage from salt which was imported from the Salzkammergut region in Austria.
Nowadays it hosts a private motorbike museum. That day the more impressive exhibition was on the outside, the museum must have attracted some kind of club of vintage moped owners. I have not counted the bikes but there were at least 50.
The cloister behind the church should not be missed. It is a quiet spot in the middle of the city. All four wings are preserved. On the walls you will find some medieval frescoes. The outside walls show some baroque refurbishments, like the reddish stucco pillars and the oval windows of the upper storey.
There are some renovation works going on, which are urgently necessary. It is high time to save the gothic structures from decay. The building would need a thorough restoration instead of these small measures.
Note the ancient stone well in a corner of the inner garden.
Photographers, the best atmospheric pictures can be taken through the dusty windows like in (photo 1).
More photos in here!
Ceské Budejovice has two rivers, Malce (with hacek on the c, pronounced "Mal-tshe") and Vltava. No wonder the city used to be prone to floodings before the Vltava was regulated in the 1950s and 1960s. The Malce passes the southern edge of the old town and then enters the Vltava. Together with a dead-end arm they form an island west of the old town which is the location of several sports sites.
A walk on the river bank is pleasant, but watch out for cyclists. The Malce is crossed by two arched steel bridges. The large neobaroque complex on the opposite river bank (photo 1) is the palace of justice.
Along the way you will pass a medieval tower, once part of the town's fortifications. The tower used to protect the southwestern corner of the old town and was nicknamed the "Iron Virgin".
The church was originally built for teh Dominicans. In the 18th century the Piarist order moved into the former Dominican monastery and opened a high school in the convent buildings. Church and convent date from the late 13th century and are the oldest buildings in the city.
The high and long gothic choir of the church is a typical feature of Dominican architecture. The interior of the basilical nave has been refurbished in the baroque era; the stucco ornaments and the impressive pulpit give testimony. The altars are neogothic. The magnificent organ on the western gallery is a work of the 17th century.
Some medieval frescoes have been rediscovered underneath the plaster and restored, among them a giant St Christophorus in the southern nave. Look at him and you can be sure you won't die that day.
If you visit the church, don't miss the adjacent cloister (see separate tip).
The church can be visited daily from 10.00 to 18.00 unless there is a service going on. There is a small entrance fee of CZK 10, to be paid at the cash desk at the door, which includes the visit to the cloister.
This side street in the northwest of the old town is probably the most beautiful street view in the centre. The slightly curved lane is a one-way street with pleasantly little car traffic (but watch out for cyclists). The houses along it are all in good shape. There are a couple of small pubs and cafes.
It leads towards Rabenštejnská vez (Rabenstein Tower), a fortification tower built in the 14th century. It once protected the northwestern corner of the old town.
When standing in front of the tower, turn around and look back, and you'll see the narrowest house in town (photo 5).
Behind the choir of the cathedral there is a little chapel, baroque like the main church. It is a weird structure with two short 'steeples' and a dome, all in all much higher than long and wide so it appears almost like a small tower.
The chapel is nowadays used by an orthodox community for their services.
The yellow, basilica-shaped building was erected in the 16th century as a market hall for the butchers. In there they all sold their meat.
Nowadays it hosts a restaurant with local cuisine which is often recommended but I haven't been.
Location: Krajinská, corner Hroznova ul.
This building in the corner of the main square towards the cathedral is sort of a "grey mouse" and easily overlooked. Only if you deliberately decide to notice it, you'll see how excellently it has been designed. It is a building from the 1930s in the shapes of Bauhaus architecture. Its proportions fit perfectly into the row of renaissance and baroque facades around it. Nevertheless it is a modern design. The side facade opposite the cathedral is more revealing.
The main church of the old town was built in the 17th century, after its precedessor had been destroyed in the big fire of 1641. The church served as parish church until Budweis became the seat of a bishop in 1785. Only then it obtained the status of a cathedral. The freestanding Black Tower (see separate tip) serves as its bell tower.
The church is dedicated to Saint Nicolaus (Nicholas), the patron saint of the merchants, which indicates origins in the middle ages. His statue is standing above the middle portal.
The interior of the baroque church is rather plain and will find the liking of those who don't appreciate baroque opulence. The proportions and the simple stucco ornaments in the vault create a pleasant appearance.
My guidebook mentions irregular opening hours - we found it open on a Saturday morning around 10 a.m.
This innocent looking stone in the pavement of the main square, marked with a little cross, indicates the spot where the pillory used to stand.
Look for it a few metres from the Samson fountain in southeastern direction.
The Black Tower is the landmark of the city. It dates from the 16th century and withstood the devastating fire that destroyed most of the city in 1641. It serves both as bell tower fro the adjacent cathedral and as lookout for the watchman who had to live up there.
If you feel energetic you can climb the tower's 225 stairs and enjoy the view over the city from the gallery, whcih must be fabulous according to the photos I saw.
Large printed photos are displayed on some pillars on the eastern side of the square. They show photos of various street views and buildings from around 1900, each of them together with a modern photo. It is interesting to compare how the city has changed, and how much has been preserved. The exhibition is tourist-friendly: Explanations are given in Czech, English and German.
The construction looks like this is another temporary exhibition, though, so please don't blame me if it is gone some day...
The city hall is the most beautiful building in the main square. Its pale blue and white facade with the three spires occupies the southwestern corner. Construction works began in 1727 and were finished within three years.
Above the windows the facade displays the coats of arms of Moravia, Bohemia and Silesia (i.e. the three regions in the kingdom of Bohemia) and, below, the coat of arms of the city. Gargoyles in the shape of dragons protrude from the attika. The four statues on the rim represent allegories of four virtues (justice, fortitude, modesty and wisdom).
The facade has two arched entrances; the right one is of particular interest to tourists. In there you'll find the tourist information office, access to the inner courtyard, and free public toilets in remarkably good shape.
The carillon in the middle spire plays at every full hour.
This weird rusty thing is a recent addition to the market square - an art work which has been put up for the summer 2013 exhibition "Art in the City" - no idea if it will stay!
I strongly suspect that it was originally a steel tank for some huge machine, which the artist has transformed by cutting the pattern into its walls and installing a spiral staircase inside. It is meant as a lookout and can be climbed during certain opening hours (photo 5).