From the cities, to the towns, to the tiny villages, the brilliantly elaborate and evocative baroque architecture in the Czech Republic is what makes it really special. It’s Europe at its most picturesque, whether you’re wandering around the wonderful Lesser Town in Prague or the majestic Špilberk Castle in Brno, the amazing gardens in Kroměříž or the fairytale landscape in Český Krumlov.
The baroque period lasted from around 1600 to 1750, giving rise to the ornate churches, palaces and castles that changed the face of the Czech landscape. It was a vision of movements, dynamism, and faith, incorporating graceful curves, arches and spirals, with splashes of colour and gold everywhere you look.
Prague is the most famous example of baroque at its most beautiful, known as the ‘golden city of 100 spires’ — and with good reason. Built in 1613, the Church of Our Lady Victorious was the city’s first baroque church, and draped in marble and gold it oozes decadence and charm. The handsome bridges that curve over the Vltava River further illustrate the mastery of the era. The most famous is Charles Bridge, which spans 16 arches and is lined with 30 statues and religious figureheads, all with animated expressions, as though people were turned to stone during a surge of emotion.
Outside the capital, the small city of Kroměříž is one of the most stunning in the Czech Republic — its gardens and castle were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998. The baroque castle, located in the northern part of the town, boasts four impressive wings and richly decorated interiors. Its surrounding gardens are also a masterpiece in baroque splendour, intricately designed and perfectly manicured.
But baroque goes further than buildings, also influencing the music, art, literature and theatre of the Czech Republic. Walk past a church in Prague and you’ll probably hear heavily ornamented notes on the air; wander into the art gallery in Kroměříž’s Castle and you can marvel at the ornate paintings that adorn the walls.
There’s no better time to visit the Czech Republic than in the autumn, when the temperature drops and the evenings draw in. This is when the 19th-century lamps emit a warming glow, illuminating the faces of the baroque statues. It’s a magical time to discover the Czech Republic’s wonderful, winding streets, and if you follow your nose, you’re sure to find yourself in a huge square with a bustling Christmas market — the aroma of smoked ham, hot pastries and cinnamon filling the air. As winter approaches, and the first snow of the season hits the ground, the Yuletide atmosphere in Prague, Olomouc, Český Krumlov and Brno is simply intoxicating.