The enchanting scenery at the confluence of the Labe and Orlice rivers, an eventful history of one of the oldest Czech cities, a convenient position only 100 km from Prague, and an unusually elegant combination of Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and modern architecture: that is Hradec Králové, a city that is definitely worth a visit!
Gočár’s Architecture - Inspirational functionalismThe golden era of architecture in Hradec Králové started at the beginning of the 20th century, after WWI, when development required new creative impulses in urban planning. And one such impulse came with the new city plan by architect Josef Gočár, which thanks to the radial circular principle of housing development is still timeless today. Gočár’s Hradec includes modifications of the square, the school premises, the diocese seat, and today’s city hall. Jan Kotěra was another distinct Czech architect, Gočár’s predecessor, and the author of the art nouveau museum building. Their original and miscellaneous buildings gave Hradec the name Salon of the Republic.
White Tower and Cathedral of the Holy Spirit - An impressive bell tower touching the skiesThe White Tower standing at the very centre of the city is a majestic dominant feature of Hradec. It earned its name thanks to the bright colour of the Hořice sandstone it is constructed from. This Renaissance tower reaches the height of 72 metres and visitors can not only enjoy a beautiful view of Hradec, but also of the remote peaks of Krkonoše and the Orlické Mountains. The construction started in 1574 and it was financed by the donations of citizens. Seven years later, the impressive bell called Augustin, weighing eight tonnes, was hung on the fourth floor of the tower!
In the vicinity of the tower, there is the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, the history of which is enveloped in secrecy. The foundation deed of the church has not been preserved and, as such, we can only presume that it was built by Czech Queen Elizabeth Richeza in 1307.
Modern Art Gallery - The legacy of a merciful clergymanThe Hradec gallery is home to quite a unique collection within the Czech Republic as its depositary does not include any socialist realism (unlike most other collections). The gallery has a coherent collection of Czech cubism and a lot of surrealistic works of art from the 1920s to 1970s. Today, the 1953 gallery is seated in the art nouveau building at Velké náměstí. An interesting fact is that the idea to found a gallery started with the Bishop of Hradec, Doubrava, who donated his personal collection of artworks in his will in 1919.
East Bohemian Museum - From mammoths to an ornamental beltThe East Bohemian Museum is seated in the art nouveau building designed by architect Josef Gočár in 1913. Its monumental design will catch your attention at first sight. The ground plan of the building has a lot in common with the ground plans of medieval temples – for example, the shape of the Latin cross. However, the exterior is pure art nouveau with its unique ornaments on the façade, the fair-faced brickwork, and geometrical division. At present, this largest regional museum has about three million exhibits in its archaeological, natural and historical collections. One of the valuable exhibits is a belt decorated with gemstones, which allegedly belonged to Queen Elizabeth of Pomerania, the widow of Charles IV.
Cruise along the Labe - Against the river stream on a steam boatPaddle steamers remind us of the human ingenuity of the 19th century, when this method of slow travelling was quite common. You can get on a paddle steamer, such as Primátor (Mayor), Královna Eliška (Queen Elizabeth) or Pirátská plachetnice (Pirate’s Sailboat), and go on an hour-long cruise that will take you from Smetanovo nábřeží around the art nouveau East Bohemian Museum to the beautiful Sander Hydraulic Power Plant, then back against the Labe stream through the picturesque suburban landscape.
Tips for Trips around Hradec KrálovéIf you have an extra day or two, you can take a trip to nearby Třebechovice pod Orebem. The local Museum of Nativity Scenes has the most admired Czech nativity scene in its collection: called Proboštův. It was completed in 1926 after more than 40 years and it contains about 2,000 carved parts! The Renaissance Chateau in Častolovice is also worth visiting. The carved cassette ceilings there are simply breath-taking. The neo-Gothic Hrádek u Nechanic is a piece of England in East Bohemia. And lastly, we also recommend visiting the monumental castle in Kunětická hora, known for its sophisticated fortification system.
Gastrotips from a local