On the Vltava River and 75 mi/120 km south of Prague lies Ceske Budejovice. This capital of south Bohemia is the home of the original Budweiser beer, not to be confused with the American version. (It is called Budvar in Czech, and most believe it tastes better than its U.S. counterpart.) The brewery has an interesting visitors center that shows the beer-making process and the history of the brewery through the world wars and 40 years of communism. It also documents the ongoing struggle to uphold its trading name from claims by the U.S. giant Anheuser-Busch.
Walk around the old town square, one of the largest in the Czech Republic, and then visit the South Bohemia Museum. Afterward, climb the Cerna Vez (Black Tower) for a sweeping view of the city. (The tower got its name after it was blackened by a fire in 1641.) Ceske Budejovice makes a good base for day trips to several of the picturesque towns scattered around the region.
Just north of town is the lavish Hluboka nad Vltavou Palace, a romantic, multiturreted castle that has been compared with (and accused of copying) Windsor Castle. We recommend taking side trips to nearby old towns—especially the sleepy town of Jindrichuv Hradec, which stands virtually frozen in another time, and Cervena Lhota, a pink chateau built around a 14th-century Gothic fortress. Cervena Lhota is located in the middle of nowhere, its reflection bouncing off a small, adjoining pond. It will appeal to lovers of quirky excess.
From Cesky Budejovice, castle lovers can follow the Vltava north to the Orlik and Zvikov castles or south to Rozmberk nad Vltavou. Pass through and admire the UNESCO-protected village of Holasovice, about 8 m/12 km west of Ceske Budejovice. Its 22 individual farmhouses with painted baroque gables are a perfect example of south Bohemian rural baroque architecture.
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