From the ashes, it was reborn. More uniform than before, more beautiful than ever. It would stand the test of time and be a wonder of the region.
Such is the story of Telč and how being burnt to the ground was the best thing that ever happened to it.
The town of Telč in the Czech Republic was nothing special until the sixteenth century when the houses, all made of wood, burnt down in a great fire in 1530. The castle, then a simple L-shaped structure, was also damaged.
What’s important to know about this timing was that just 17 years later, a man called Zacharias of Hradec took over as the ruler of Telč at the age of 23, when his father died suddenly.
He saw a lot of potential in the town but also saw an opportunity because of the relatively blank canvas all the fire damage had left him.
He reconstructed the castle in a grand Renaissance style that he deemed good enough for him to move into. The houses along the square were also given beautiful and consistent facades, with arcades and gables, all also in the Renaissance style.
Zacharias helped Telč prosper and the standard of living improved. He created lakes for fishing, new areas for farming, updated the hospital and chose experts to administer all the town’s affairs.
Where is Telč in the Czech Republic?
Telč is in the south of the Czech Republic, in the Vysočina Region that falls about halfway between the country’s eastern and western borders. It’s about 120 kilometres southeast of Prague and about 85 kilometres due west of Brno.
Why is Telč important?
The Historic Centre of Telč is so important that it was named as a World Heritage Site in 1992. What makes Telč so significant is the architecture of the town, which was all rebuilt in the 16th century after a major fire. The facades of Renaissance and Baroque styles are each unique, yet create a consistent colourful tableau.
Is Telč worth visiting?
It’s not one of the best known destinations in the Czech Republic, but I think Telč is worth visiting. It’s not just the beautiful architecture that you come for, because there are actually quite a few things to see in Telč. It’s also a fascinating look at the rich heritage in the regional parts of the country.
By the time Zacharias died in 1589, the community was comfortable enough economically that they were able to focus on maintaining and improving the architectural and artistic legacy that he had left for them… and that we can still appreciate today.
What you’ll find when you visit Telč is a collection of beautiful buildings that were able to be constructed because of the vision of one man in the 16th century, but have been carefully protected for hundreds of years since then.
If you are interested in visiting Telč with a guided tour, there is this great day trip from Prague that takes you to three World Heritage Sites in the region!
Why is Telč a World Heritage Site?
From the town’s main bus station, it’s just a short walk into the centre of town, so I wander along, looking around me. From what I can see, Telč looks like any other small town in the Czech Republic and I don’t see why it’s been recommended to me.
It’s not for another ten minutes, when I pass along a narrow street and suddenly emerge in the town square that it all becomes clear.
It’s here that I can see all of the buildings along the edge of the square, presented suddenly in technicolour and panorama. Each a different hue but with the continuous line of similar design.
I think about the grand vision that Zacharias of Hradec must have had when he commissioned this. It’s one of the main reasons that Telč was made a World Heritage Site – not just because of its ‘beauty’ but also because of its ‘harmony’.
Except Telč today does not look like it did back then. The fundamental plan of the town has kept the layout and idea of consistency, but the specific aesthetics have changed. Most of the facades were updated to a Baroque appearance in later years.
But, again, this is an important reason for the World Heritage Listing. Although the styles have changed over the years, the whole historic centre (particularly the square) is considered to be ‘intact’ because it has seen no major changes in structure or modern development.
The other main reason for Telč’s inclusion on the World Heritage List isn’t quite as obvious at first. It’s actually to do with its location in the middle of what was once virgin forest.
The idea of putting planned settlements in locations like this was a trend in the Middle Ages, designed for political control and economic expansion. Telč is the best example of this strategy that still exists in Central Europe.
Things to see in Telč
At the other end of the square from where I enter is the main castle, known as Telč Chateau. Other than the main square, this is the highlight of the things to see in Telč.
Although it’s had many changes in ownership over the years, Telč Chateau itself has actually changed very little. Most of the main rooms are still largely as they were in the 16th century when Zacharias brought in Italian artists to pass on their knowledge of the Italian Renaissance scene.
There are four main tours you can choose from to visit Telč Chateau.
- The tour of the Renaissance Halls takes you through the main rooms that were reconstructed by Zacharias of Hradec between 1553-1558.
- The tour of the suite of the last owners shows you the rooms that were used here until 1945.
- The tour of the castle cellars and underground takes you into the basement of the building
- The tour of the castle courtyard and garden isn’t with a guide and lets you explore the outside areas by yourself
If you haven’t booked in advance, I would recommend heading to the castle when you first arrive in Telč to see what’s available that day.
NOTE: Unfortunately Telč Chateau is under reconstruction and you can’t visit it on the tours at the moment (updated October 2022).
From the castle, I pass through the gate at its rear and find myself on the edge of a river with parkland on the other side.
I suggest crossing over the bridge and going for a stroll along the bank. The park is quite pretty but the views back towards the collection of buildings are the highlight.
Within the Historic Centre of Telč, there are a few other landmarks that are worth looking out for:
- The fountain and the plague column
- The town hall
- The Church of the Holy Spirit
- The St James parish church
- The Jesuit College
Telč is a very small town – especially the area that you’ll be interested in from a tourist perspective. My main tip for the best thing to do in Telč is just to wander and explore.
I arrive in Telč on the bus, which drops me at the train station. Even though it is possible to catch the train here, I find the express buses are the best way to get to smaller towns like this.
For the bus, the best option is to book in advance through Student Agency (this site will be your best friend if you’re doing lots of travel in the Czech Republic!) There is a route between Brno and České Budějovice that stops at Telč (and connects to Prague at České Budějovice).
The other option is to get the train but it will probably involve at least two changes. You can see the timetable here (another site worth bookmarking if you’re travelling a lot in the Czech Republic).
It doesn’t take long to explore Telč and I can understand why some people might come for just the day.
However, I stay the night and I’m glad I do. There’s something special about the square when it gets quiet in the evening and the colours as the sun sets are glorious.
If you have time, I would recommend staying overnight – or at least trying to visit early in the morning or in the late afternoon when any tourists have gone.
If you are interested in visiting Telč with a guided tour, you might like to consider this great day trip from Prague. It will actually take you to three World Heritage Sites, including Třebíč and the Pilgrimage Church of Saint John of Nepomuk that takes you to three World Heritage Sites in the region!
There’s some great accommodation in the historic buildings, which I’ve outlined in the information section below. Have a look and maybe you’ll find something you like the look of – something that will make a night in Telč worth your time.
THE BEST ACCOMMODATION IN TELC
There are a few really good accommodation options right on the historic square and it would be worth trying to stay in one of them.
A cute little bed and breakfast with friendly owners and a good price is Kotrba Privat.
For a rustic option with a lovely garden at the back is Penzion Telč No. 20.
If you are looking for a bit more space, Penzion Slunečný Dům has rooms that feel like apartments.
And for stunning modern apartments in a historic building, check out Apartmany Chornitzeruv dum.