Lednice-Valtice: The Unknown Royal Heirloom

Before this surprisingly interesting daytrip to Lednice-Valtice, I had previously visited Czechia a couple of times. Similarly to most other non-familiar travelers, my first trips were in Brno and Prague, respectively.

Maybe because of its central and strategic location in the very heart of Europe, which made it the center of many kingdoms, empires and states, or just because of its contemporary popularity with artists, exchange students and international tourists, Czechia was a place I always considered important for one reason or another. From my past trips I had established the idea that the country had a rich and often turbulent history; this left it with some of the most photogenic and culturally rich urban landscapes in Europe. Additionally, for a country of its size, Czechia possesses a surprisingly high number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This is another good indication of its cultural and historical richness and importance.

Spring has finally arrived in landlocked Central Europe – Field in Valtice

After an excruciatingly long and harsh Slovak winter that lasted forever, the first days of spring were the perfect excuse for a daytrip in the surrounding area. Many ideas fell on the table, however the relatively unknown option of the Lednice-Valtice Cultural Landscape won me over.

History

As mentioned above, Czechia had traditionally been a place of interest for many European powers and dynasties. One of them was the House of Liechtenstein (yes, the ones running the homonymous country), who initially bought a local château in 1249. The castle became the center of their expansion in the wider area of South Moravia. Consequently they purchased big pieces of land in the wider Lednice-Valtice area, in order to built infrastructure for their guests, hunting competitions and other events only a royal family would care about. The Liechtenstein family had a strong presence in the area for almost 700 years, until their territories were annexed by Nazi Germany as part of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia in 1939. They were forced to move their assets to Vaduz, the legislative and commercial center of the contemporary Principality of Liechtenstein.

Facade of Château Lednice, one of Europe’s best examples of English Neo-Gothic architecture

Upon the return of democracy and the establishment of the Czech Republic, the Liechtensteins made attempts to renew the agreement of ownership of Lednice-Valtice. However, the government rejected their claims and the area belongs to the state until today, with no plans of re-establishing a connection with its old owners.

Transport

My trip started from Bratislava. There are hourly trains from the central raiway station (Slovak: hlavná stanica) to the city of Břeclav in south-eastern Czechia. This first leg of the trips takes about 1 hour. There are connecting trains and buses to Lednice throughout the year, whereas Valtice is only connected by train in the summer months and by bus for the rest of the year. The bus platforms are adjacent to the train station making them quite hard to miss. The second leg of the trip lasts about 20-25 minutes.

One-way train tickets are available online for 5.20€ each, whereas the bus ride costs a few extra cents on top. However, please note that the bus ticket is only purchasable at the train station in Břeclav, so make sure to withdraw korunas from the local ATM beforehand.

Visiting the area from Vienna and Brno is equally easy, Brno being the closest urban hub.

Things to do

Hiking / Biking

Lednice-Valtice is very popular with hikers, bikers and other people interested in the great outdoors. There are marked paths connecting the two towns, which go through the lush forest of the area. In case you decide to walk come prepared; the walk can be as long as 3.5 hours for the unfit, so bring water and fruit to keep you going. Some parts of the hike are not clearly marked, so if unsure follow the locals or simply ask around.

The Minaret and the Rendez-Vous, two of the area’s most interesting landmarks

Throughout the relatively easy hike you will have the chance to see some of the architectural wonders of the area. Some examples include the Rendez-Vous, a French-inspired arch that served as a guesthouse for the prince’s hunting companions and the Greco-Roman inspired Apollo. You will be surprised by how well these landmarks fit to the surrounding landscape, magically bridging mankind and nature.

If you want to rent a bike there are bike shops available in both towns, with plenty of model and gear options for you to choose from. As the paths are mostly covered in dirt, a mountain bike is definitely a better choice.

Wine Tasting

 

Facade of Château Valtice, home to the National Czech Wine Salon

Valtice happens to be the seat of the national wine center, thus offering a selection of all wines available in Czechia. Wine-tasting is available in two different formats: a 15-20 minute tasting of up to 16 wines costing 100CZK (about 4€) or a full tasting of any of their wines for 399CZK (or 15€). For more information and opening hours, check here.

Photography

The complex offers some beautiful views that are ideal for photography strolls. The gardens of the Lednice castle are absolutely gorgeous and feature the exotic Minaret at the very end. For those of you who love great views, the minaret’s 59m tall top balcony is visitable for just 40CZK (or 1.5€).

Other Activities

Right behind Château Lednice  you can visit the Liechtensteins’ Greenhouse. It is a beautiful glass building full of exotic plants, ponds with Koi fish and fountains. The entrance fee is 60CZK (~2.5€).

Boat cruises are available within the Lednice Château gardens, taking you all the way to the Minaret. Learn more about the schedules and prices here. Keep in mind that the garden grounds are walkable; however, the boat ride will relax your tired feet and allow for some nice photo moments.

Many tours are available in the area, depending on one’s interests. Tours are offered in Czech, English and German with some of them requiring reservation in advance. For a full list of tours available click here.

Food & Drink

After a long hike everyone deserves a cold pint of Czech beer and a hearty meal! There are plenty of restaurants throughout Lednice-Valtice for all budgets and tastes. We personally chose restaurant U Tlustých right by the Lednice castle. Their burgers were big and filling and their roasted duck was simply delicious! Other traditional options include meat in sauce served with knedlíky (steamed dumplings) and cabbage soup with sausage.

Czech beer is known to be very tasty and quite cheap. Personally I prefer dark Czech beer but that might just be me. Regardless, everytime I order a meaty dish in this part of the world I’d much rather order a pint of draught Kofola. A popular student drink, Kofola looks like Coke but has a delicious herbal aftertaste and a foamy top reminiscent of beer.

Most of the staff members in local restaurants speak some English and possibly German. Tipping in the Czech Republic is not obligatory, however between 5-10% is appreciated as a sign of good and fast service.

Accommodation

If you fell in love with the area or simply missed the train do not despair; there are plenty of accommodation options in Lednice-Valtice. From luxurious spa hotels to tiny B&Bs, there are multiple options for all budgets and moods. As most visitors come for a daytrip, it would be logical to assume that local accommodation rarely hits full capacity.

For camping lovers there is a camping site which also accepts caravans very close to the Apollo site, with a beautiful view of the reservoir.

Other Information

Last visited: April 2017

Local name: Lednicko–valtický areál

Currency: Czech Koruna (1€ = 27CZK, 1$ = 25CZK as of April 2017)

Calling Code: +420

Timezone: CET (+1)

Emergency Numbers: 158 – Police, 150 – Fire and Rescue Service, 155 – Medical Emergency

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