I’ve written previously about the gorgeous squares you find in the smaller towns and cities in the Czech Republic. My favourite, as I’ve already declared, is the main square in the town of Telč.
But coming a close second is the long square in the middle of Litomyšl.
It’s another small town, with a population of about 10,000 people. And the square is not really a ‘square’, it’s more of a road.
It stretches along for almost 500 metres, lined on both sides with colourful buildings.
The facades are from different eras – look closely and you’ll see elements of Baroque, Classical and Empire styles. But each of them has been carefully maintained to create a cohesive fronting onto the street.
Stretching around most of the square (officially called Smetanovo Square) is the original design of the arcade, which means you can walk under cover for almost the whole way.
Luckily for me, there’s no sight of rain and I don’t need to use the arcade. Instead, I try to dodge the cars and walk out on the street so I can look carefully at the buildings on either side – some are still houses but most are restaurants, shops and hotels.
Once they were all the houses of rich burghers. In medieval times, Litomyšl was part of an important trading route and the caravans of goods would come right down this street.
Why is Litomyšl important?
Historically, Litomyšl was important because it was a significant settlement on a major medieval trading route, where merchants could stop and do business. Over the centuries it was owned by powerful families but lost much of its economic influence in the 19th century.
Litomyšl is now best known for its castle, Litomyšl Castle, which is a World Heritage Site.
What is there to do in Litomyšl?
The main things to see in Litomyšl is visit the World Heritage Site of Litomyšl Castle, the 16th-century fortification that is considered one of the best of its type in the world. But other things to do in Litomyšl include the charming town square, the art gallery, the regional museum, and the local churches.
Is it worth visiting Litomyšl Castle?
I think it’s worth visiting Litomyšl Castle simply because it is a World Heritage Site. It’s one of the best examples in Europe of a Renaissance arcade castle, with opulent interiors that you can see on a tour.
But, having said that, I think there are better castles to visit in the Czech Republic and this is not one of the country’s best World Heritage Sites.
Back in the late medieval years, when this was a busy trading route, one of the reasons the wealthy businessmen chose to settle here was because they had protection from the castle above them.
Back then, Litomyšl Castle was the most important place in town. Today, it still is. And it’s the main reason that I have come here.
History of Litomyšl Castle
Leaving the square/road and walking up the hill, it doesn’t take too long to find the castle.
From the outside, it almost looks like an enormous cube. Four flat walls on each side give little away about what’s inside.
The walls themselves are one of the most interesting elements of Litomyšl Castle. As you get close you realise that the tiles it’s made from, which look identical from a distance, each have their own design on them – animals, people, fruit, and other symbols.
I pass through the main external gates and come into a central courtyard. Sun shines down into it.
Looking up, I see arcades along three of the internal walls. The fourth one has a solid wall with murals painted on it.
The only way to see inside is with a guided tour and so I sign up for the next one and wait my turn. The tour is only given in Czech and so, as the guide leads us around, I have time to take lots of photos and explore each room while she talks to the others.
The castle is described as an ‘arcade castle’ in the Renaissance style. This type of castle was first developed in Italy and then became popular in Central Europe in the 16th century.
Litomyšl Castle was built from 1568 and is one of the best examples remaining.
Inside, though, the decorations are mainly from the 18th century when it was redesigned in the Baroque style by new owners.
I have to say, everything is extremely well laid out and the interior of the castle is beautiful. However, it does look like a lot of the other castles and palaces I have now seen in the Czech Republic.
A lot of credit needs to go to those in the Czech Republic who restore and maintain these buildings – it is very well done. But nothing on the inside here jumps out at me as more spectacular than any other I have seen.
I’ll share some of the photos from inside with you now, and you’ll maybe see what I mean.
Visiting Litomyšl Castle
For many travellers, Litomyšl may seem a little out of the way from anywhere else they were planning to stop. I’ve had some people suggest that it’s not worth visiting unless you are going to be nearby anyway. I tend to disagree.
I stay overnight in town and it has a wonderful atmosphere to it when the hordes of day-tripping tourists have left. It’s not a busy place at night but in the early evening the buildings glow and you almost have the square to yourself.
Visiting Litomyšl Castle itself is easy enough, although it’s a bit frustrating that there are no regular English tours, and you’ll probably have to take one in Czech. But you’ll still get to see the main rooms.
The tour times can change a bit, so I recommend heading to the castle straight away to find out when you can join one. And, if you need to wait, then go and explore the square or some of the other things to do in Litomyšl.
The main tour is called ‘The Castle during the rule of Valdstein’ and it takes you to the castle theatre and twelve of the most beautiful representative rooms on the first floor.
The long dining room where guests would sit for hours; the smaller private rooms where the residents would relax. A billiards table; a piano; a desk. They all give you an insight into life in this opulent home.
Even though I have mentioned that I didn’t find anything unique inside the castle, it is still an impressive display.
The only reason I am not raving about it is because it is no better than the other castles that are also Czech World Heritage Sites. But if this was the first or only one you saw, you would be suitably impressed, I’m sure!
And let’s not forget, the exterior IS special and it’s something you won’t see anywhere else.
Where is Litomyšl Castle?
Litomyšl is in the centre of the Czech Republic, about 130 kilometres directly east of Prague, and 80 kilometres north of Brno.
The official address of Litomyšl Castle is Jiráskova 93, 570 01, Litomyšl. Once you’re in the town, it’s very easy to find – just head up the hill at the northern end of the square. You can see it on a map here.
How do you get to Litomyšl Castle?
The best way to get there by public transport is to get the train to either Choceň or Česká Třebová and then get a connecting bus. The connections aren’t that regular so it’s worth checking the timetable here in advance.
When is Litomyšl Castle open?
Firstly, be warned that Litomyšl Castle is closed from November to March. And, in the other months, it’s also always closed on Mondays.
In April, it is open from 1000 – 1500 on Saturday and Sunday.
In May, it is open from 1000 – 1500 and June it is open from 1000 – 1600.
In July and August, it is open from 0900 – 1600.
In September, it is open from 1000 – 1600.
From October 1-25, it is open from 1000 – 1500 and is only open on weekends.
From October 26-29, it is open from 1000 – 1500 and is only open from Thursday to Sunday.
How much does it cost to visit Litomyšl Castle?
You can only visit Litomyšl Castle as part of a tour, which takes about an hour.
The basic tour in Czech costs 200 CZK (US$8) for adults (25-64 years), 160 CZK (US$6) for concessions, and 60 CZK (US$3.10) for children aged 6-17 years (under 6 is free).
Longer tours and English tours can be booked in advance for groups of more than 15 people.
You can find more information at the castle’s official website.
Other than the official guided tour in Czech that you get at the castle, there aren’t many services you can use for a guide in Litomyšl.
But, I thought I would mention this week-long tour of the World Heritage Sites in the Czech Republic! It includes Litomyšl Castle and is a really convenient way to see lots of cultural sights, without having to worry about all the logistics.
Things to do in Litomyšl
Beyond the castle, though, are there other things to do in Litomyšl?
Well, the short answer is that there’s not a lot. Personally, I wouldn’t say it’s worth coming here just to see anything else on offer. But if you’re coming for the castle, which is certainly worthwhile, you may as well take some time to discover some of the other things to do in Litomyšl.
- Smetanovo Square: One of the highlights of Litomyšl is the main square, also the main road, and you’ll be able to enjoy the colourful facades from the road, or visit some of the shops to see the interiors.
- Castle Brewery: On Castle Hill, there’s more to see than just Litomyšl Castle itself. Pop into the Castle Brewery where you may be able to grab a lager or even a glass of wine, which is now being aged here.
- Red Tower: Near the castle, you’ll also find Red Tower, one of the last bits of fortification from the 15th-century Upper Town. You can go up the tower to get a view across the area, and there’s a small museum to visit.
- Portmoneum: This quirky house has an exhibition on the ground floor about the three men connected with the residence, Josef Portman, Josef Váchal and Ladislav Horáček. The highlights are the murals painted in some of the rooms by Josef Váchal – vibrant and crazy depictions of his otherworldly view of life.
- Regional Museum: Litomyšl’s Regional Museum is surprisingly modern for a small town with such a focus on heritage. It tells the story of the town’s history with artefacts about the architecture, industry, art, and even recent times of the 20th century.
- Town Gallery: The Town Gallery is not large, but that doesn’t really matter. It’s partly about the art exhibitions, which are usually temporary shows. But also about the building itself – a residence from 1546 called the Knights House, which is richly decorated inside and out.
If you’re short on time for your visit to the Czech Republic, I would understand why this may not make your list. But don’t discount Litomyšl completely.
If you’re nearby or you have time, stop by for the day or overnight. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
THE BEST ACCOMMODATION IN LITOMYŠL
Most of the places to stay in Litomyšl are around the central square – but it doesn’t take long to walk from any part of town.
If you’re looking for a budget option, I would suggest Evropske Skolicí Centrum in a former brewery.
For something friendly and affordable, Penzion V Podzámčí is a great choice with a good breakfast.
For one of the best locations in the town, you can’t go past Hotel Zlata Hvezda.
And if you’re travelling in a group or as a family, you might like this apartment at Hajenka Kozlov.