Only a short train ride from Decin main train station (hourly trains, they take about 15 minutes) is the small town Benesov nad Ploucnici (in German: Bensen am Polzen). Don't let the first impression with shabby townhouses and abandoned former plants scare you away: The town's small centre with market square, town hall, castle complex and churches is interesting, restored to a certain degree and safe.
The main attraction is the castle complex that consists of lower and upper castle and gardens. Both castles (and the castle and Parish church) go back to the 16th century and were built by the family von Salhausen from neighbouring Saxony. The architecture is quite remarkable and typical for Saxony, not the Bohemia (have a look at the special roof shape on picture 2 e.g.) The quality of the art works/embossments is excellent. Unfortunately the church and chapel were closed.
The castles are accessible with tours only. The guide spoke only Czech but we got a paper in German giving info on history, interior/art works. Sadly, not much of the interior is originally preserved after a big fire in 1969.
See website for info on opening hours and admission fee, please. Photo permit was CZK 500 (ROTF!) so no pictures of the interior, sorry.
There is actually not *that* much left of the castle gardens. But it's still enough to spend some time there once you're in the area. First of all don't miss the rosarium - see separate tip. The other gardens are free, though.
Another small door on the left (southern) side of the Long Drive takes you to a small garden that is designed somewhat like a Japanese garden. Nice and offers good views.
An English style park is south of the castle, large lawns alternate with shade providing trees. The large pond is unfortunately separated from the park by a street nowadays. There is also a large playground for kids in the most distant part of the park.
The park along the river below the castle is also very nice. A promenade and bike trail runs through it. The views of the rock on the opposite bank of the river is stunning. A hint: There is a nice path in the shade of the trees that winds up on the northern side (from the town) to the castle from there.
Part of the castle complex is the rosarium, designed in the 17th century. It is not overly large but very beautiful - right by the entrance is the Sala terrena with stunning frescos created by Guiseppe Bragaglia - reminded me of the one in Valdstejn garden in Prague. On the opposite end of the rosarium is the gloriette with sculptures by local artists.
Not only is the rosarium a great place to relax and forget time - the views of the city and the surrounding landscape are also amazing.
Open daily from May to Sept, weekends and holidays in April and Oct.
Admission fee CZK 15, combined ticket with castle CZK 90
Decin's castle sits on a rock on the right bank of the Elbe/Labe river. It can look back on a history of about 1000 years - the present buildings, however, are results of the thorough construction works in the late 17th and then again late 18th centuries when the castle was owned by the Thun family. There are still some Renaissance structures preserved, though, especially in the western and southern wings, these dating from the period when the castle was a property of Saxon nobles (Salhausen first, then Bünau).
The whole complex is quite large. Access to the castle is best through the so called "Long Drive", a cobbled alley with walls to both sides, leading from the town straight up to the plateau on which the castle is. On the lower end is a gate with two openings: the left one leads to the castle, the right one to the town centre/church of the cross. Farther up a small gate on the left takes you to a small garden, another one to the right is the entrance to the rosarium (separate tip).
The ticket office is right before the upper gate of the Long Drive on the left side. A bridge leads to the main castle. The courtyard facades are beautifully decorated (see pictures). The castle is only accessible with guided tours that are in Czech mostly (other languages upon reservation in advance, surcharge). Audio guides available in other languages. The interior is well restored. You see numerous beautiful rooms, furniture not original but fitting, the chapel, stables etc, highlight IMO are the uncovered fresco and secco wall decorations from the 18th century.
Open daily, Admission fee CZK 70, combined ticket with rosarium and regional museum in the Eastern wing: CZK 90.
The catholic parish church in Decin-Podmokly is dedicated to the Saint Francis of Assisi. It was built 1856 - 61 in Neo-Romanesque style. It has only one nave, arcades on the long sides that open to alcoves remind of side naves, some of the alcoves are turned into chapels with altars or have sculptures.
The original main altar, a Neo-Gothic woodcarved piece, is now in a side chapel. It was replaced by a magnificent (Saxon) Renaissance altar of sandstone created by Franz Ditterich in Freiberg in 1605 which was moved from Krasny Studenec, a small village in the region, to Decin-Podmokly.
The church's door is usually open but you can only peek inside through a wrought-iron fence.
Right on the street that leads up to the Zoo and Pastyrska stena is the Synagogue. It was built 1906-07 in pseudo-oriental style with obvious elements of Czech Art Nouveau (Secession). It is the only Synagogue in the Czech Sudeten region (where until 1945 a German majority lived) which survived WWII.
Since 1996 the Jewish community is again owner of the property. It is nowadays used as exhibit and congress centre - not for services anymore, sadly.
Open daily on workdays from 8-15 h. Small charge if they have an exhibit.
The Zoo in Decin was founded 1949. It is one of the smaller zoos, but a very beautiful one, located in a forest on the plateau high above the left bank of the Elbe/Labe river (Decin-Podmokly).
You can see 330 animals of 115 species. The kids will probably enjoy the bigger animals the most: Grizzlies, cute deer, goats ... but the smaller ones are interesting, too. There is a large playground also, an inexpensive restaurant, picnic spots.
The zoo is open all year round, in summer 8-18 h, in winter until 16 h only.
Admission fee is CZK 90 for adults in summer, CZK 70 in winter. In October special price is CZK 50. Reduced family tickets available.
This is the name of a sandstone rock that towers up on the left bank over the Elbe/Labe river. As far as I know (from the German name "Schäferwand") it means "shepherd's wall". The views from there are absolutely gorgeous - see the pictures! The elevation difference to the river level is about 150 m - nothing for people with fear of heights (although you can enjoy the view from a safe terrace set back a few meters).
The the left (north) you see the begin of the river canyon in the sandstone massif of the Bohemian-Saxon National Park, vis-a-vis are the castle of Decin and the old town, to the right (south) you see the begin of other mid-range mountains, the Ceske stredohori.
Access is either walking or driving up a narrow street from Podmokly, take a signposted turn right at Teplicka street or walk (hike!) up a steep path that starts right at the Tyrs bridge.
There is a restaurant on top, never had anything there, sorry. It is also the starting point of several walking/hiking paths that mostly lead through woods. Nearby is the zoo, see separate tip.
Decin's regional museum found its home in classicistic building that goes back to a hunting lodge of the Thun family built in 1735. It is located in Podmokly (Bodenbach) across the river from the castle. The permanent exhibit is on history of the town and castle, the traffic on the river and also on Gothic art/sculptures. You'll learn that until 1945 about 95% of Decin's population were Germans, especially if you get a guided tour by the former chief historian of the town (now retired), like yours truly did :-)
When I was there they had a special exhibit on the changes in the 19th and 20th centuries in Decin, especially very interesting photographs.
Don't miss to have a closer look at the Gingko biloba in front of the museum - a beautiful old tree!
Address: Československé mládeže 1/31, 405 02 Děčín IV
Opening hours: Tue - Sun 9-12/13- 17
Admission fee: CZK 30
One of the oldest monuments in Decin is the Old town bridge (Staromestsky most) than spans the small river Ploucnice (Polzen in German). It was built 1574 by Valentin Preussler after an older bridge at the same place was destroyed by a flood in 1560. Nowadays it is an important Renaissance structure in Decin. It is 84 m long, has four arches and since 1714 it is decorated with an ensemble of sculptures by Josef Brokoff depicting the saints Vaclav, Vitus and Nepomuk.
Apparently this is also a romantic place. See picture 1 :-)
1687 - 91 the church of the Cross was built during the thorough Baroque reconstruction of the castle as castle church. The architect is unknown but most likely related to the Archbishop's court in Salzburg - who was the brother of the owner of castle Decin, Maximilian von Thun und Hohenstein. Three townhouses were torn down for the construction of the church.
Salzburg's and Italian influence on the architecture is obvious. The dome is almost 40 m high. A part of the balconies is separated by glass windows as patronage box for the castle owners. This box is connected with the castle (actually, the gloriette in the Rosary) by a covered walk inside the northern wall of the Long Drive.
The main altar is a 8.77 m tall marble cross in which the small wooden cross from the previous nearby Gothic church is inserted. The frescos are younger, from 1791. Since 1826 the church of the Cross is Parish church of Decin.
The church is open during the day in summer but you can only peek inside through a wrought-iron fence.
Since the rock on top of which the castle sits reaches almost to the Elbe/Labe river and made it quite inconvenient to get from the park on the northern side of the castle to the southern side with the pond etc. the owners wanted a tunnel through the rock. The work was done 1808 - 10.
After construction of the tunnel was one problem left: crossing the small canal in which the water flows from the pond into the river. A small wooden bridge was replaced by an iron bridge in 1830/31. This is one of the oldest and only one preserved in its original location in the Czech Republic.
Get a beautiful view of Decin from Pastýrská stena (Shepherd's Cliff). You can drive up to the charming little restaurant which looks like a little castle at the top of the cliff. Just follow the signs to the Zoo which is also on top of this hill. I prefer to walk up by following the trail that begins about 100 meters north of the railroad station where the road goes under the railroad tracks and the railroad tracks pass through a tunnel in the cliff. Don't follow the road under the bridge just follow the path parallel to the west side of the railroad tracks. It'll take you up a steep zigzag path (definitely not handicapped accessible). You can check out the view from a lower lookout about halfway up, then you can continue up the hill to restaurant and best view.
The Thun Chapel was built in a forest in a hill of Letna above Podmokly and used to be the family tomb until 1930s. It is open on Sundays during the Spring and Summer. It is worth a see, there is a hotel and restaurant (of not very high quality but okay) in former monastery too.