Hradec Kralove
The Salon of the Republic

Situated roughly 100 kilometers east of Prague on a fertile plain 235 meters above sea level, Hradec Kralove is located at the confluence of the Labe (Elbe) and Orlice rivers. Dubbed the "Salon of the Republic" at the beginning of this century, today it is known for a mix of architectural styles representing its many historic periods.

A stronghold was founded in the 9th century which eventually became not only the administrative center of Northeastern Bohemia, but the seat of the Duke himself. In the 10th century, the settlement, named Hradec, belonged to the Slavnik family. They were eventually wiped out by the Premysl family and in 1225, Hradec Kralove was first mentioned in the scroll of King Premysl Otakar I, making it a free royal town. The town grew rapidly, new trades flourished and its growth in both population and importance soon made Hradec the wealthiest and largest town after Prague. Since then, the town has gone through many changes: a dowry gift to Czech Queens, an important center of the Hussite movement, a 19th century fortress, and the site of the decisive battle in the Austrian-Prussian war of 1886. It is a town that has survived numerous fires, wars, demolitions and upheavals but has managed, through care and a true love of its surroundings, to continue on in the same architectural and social spirit it initially began with.

Hradec Kralove has a remarkable tradition of architecture that still inspires visitors today. One of the county´s greatest interwar urban plans was initiated here by Jan Kotera and Josef Gocár, leaders of the Czech modern movement, who divided the New Town into four sectors, separated by quiet areas, with connections to the Old Town restricted to a single road. A quick tour of the city reveals several architectural gems that showcase the various styles that can be seen in this beautiful city.

The Cathedral of the Holy Spirit
This is undoubtedly one of the most important monuments in Hradec Kralove. The beginnings of its construction can be traced back to as early as 1307, with its peak of fame occurring in 1378 during the stay of queen Eliska Pomoranska. After the fire of 1407, major reconstruction had to be done and a new gallery was built during the reign of Jiri of Podebrady in 1463. This gothic block structure is 56 meters long and 25 meters wide and the central buttressing of its arches features the oldest image of the city's shield - a golden initial G with a blue background.

The White Tower
Deriving its name from the white sandstone blocks used for its construction, the White Tower is one of Hradec Králové's best known buildings, primarily because it boasts ownership of Bohemia's second largest bell, dedicated to St Augustine in 1705 and measuring 169 centimeters in height, 206 in length and weighing close to 10 tons. Construction of the 72 meter tower began in 1574 and ended in 1589 with the building of roof timbers and a copper top complete with a golden star.

Bishop's Residence (Great Square, #35)
Built during 1709-16 with funds supplied by bishops Tobias Jan Becker and Jan Adam Vratislav of Mitrovice, this building is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful Baroque structures in Hradec. A private chapel of St Charles Bartolomeus, whose stone portal was made by Giovanni Santini, can be found inside the building. The front was expanded in 1777 and the roof was adjusted in 1897. The interior was restored in 1904-5, with the county gallery located here since 1963. In 1990, the house was returned to its rightful owners in order to serve its original purpose. After a costly restoration, the palace was festively consecrated in 1994.

The Church of Our Lady
This structure was erected by the Jesuits during the years 1654-6 and later became a military church in 1773, after the excommunication of their order. The four niches in the northern front are filled with the statues of St Ignatus, St Francis Xavier, St Alois and St Stanislav. The side of the cathedral consists of three chapels whose original decorations were destroyed by fire and the pillage of Prussian soldiers in 1762. Only the chapel of St Ignatus with its wooden altar and painting of St Ignatus of Loyola was spared.

Brewery (#54-7)
This complex of buildings which date back to 1844 can be found on the southwestern corner of the old town. Three stone tablets were built into the wall of the brewery basement, with the chalice carved into the central one being removed in 1620. Jesus on the cross, the Virgin Mary, St John and St Magdalene adorn the right one while Jesus in Getsemant garden is carved into the left one. The sign under the tablet reads "The blood of Jesus Christ our Lord cleans us of every sin" (John I, 1:7). On a happier note, a statue of Gambrin with a mug of beer in his hand decorates another niche.

City Hall
Officially mentioned for the first time in 1418, City Hall was expanded and remodeled in the Renaissance style in the 16th century. A reconstruction into Baroque was ordered in 1742 and the Baroque towers were added in 1787. Significant changes were made during the middle of the last century when another floor was added to the building and its façade was remodeled into a late classicist style. Four stone tablets from the old town gate are located in the inner yard.

So what is there to do after spending the entire day admiring Hradec Kralove's breath-taking architecture? Thankfully, the town leaves very little to be desired in respects to food, fun and culture.

When it comes to food, coffee or a laid back drink or two, Kavarna U knihomola cannot be beat. Situated conveniently in the Great Square, this hip café bar is a popular destination for locals and visitors alike. Three floors are there for your pleasure, each one of them as intimate as the others. The atmosphere is friendly, the service impeccable and the prices more than reasonable. It is little wonder that the Kavarna is packed day and night, so you may want to arrive early and reserve yourself a table. On the other hand, if you're looking to do some serious drinking and don't want to bother with food, time or any other silly distractions, head on over to Old England, the town's biggest and best nonstop. There to serve the night owls and pool junkies, Old England is a typical Herna bar with two floors of suds. It can get rowdy in there, but there's no need to fear. The people here are almost disarmingly friendly.

If you're the cultured sort who prefers a wonderful night at the theatre or an inspiring evening at the symphony, you're in luck. The well-known Klicpera Theatre routinely offers up works ranging from Shakespeare to Moliere, while Theatre Drak is highly respected as one of the finest children's theatres in the country. The Town Philharmonic Orchestra was recognized as the Czech Republic's finest last year and there is also the remarkable boys choir Boni Pueri which has been delighting audiences for many years now.

All in all, Hradec Kralove is a town that has everything anyone can ask for without the bustle that a larger city comes with. Its population of roughly 110 000 inhabitants is small by Prague's standards but more than enough to avoid any feelings of being in a 'small town'. Enthusiasts of architecture will find plenty to occupy themselves with and those who simply need a break from the big city could do a lot worse. Hradec Kralove may traditionally be known as the second most important city in Bohemia, but it's certainly not second best. Come and see for yourself.



U Svateho Lukase Uzka 208
+420 495 518 616

Penzion U Jana
Velke namesti 137
+420 495 514 604

Hotel U kralovny
Elisky Male namesti 117
+420 495 518 873


Kavarna U knihomola
Velke namesti 26
+420 495 516 089
Mon - Thur 07:00 - 23:00,
Fri 07:00 - 02:00,
Sat 10:00 - 02:00,
Sun 12:00 - 23:00

Old England
V kopecku 80
+420 551 28 01


Klicperovo divadlo
Dlouha 99
+420 495 514 590-1

Divadlo Drak
Hradebni 632
+420 495 512 510


Gocarova 1225
Tel. +420 495 534 485
Sep - May: Mon - Fri 08:00 - 18:00
Jun - Aug: Mon - Fri 08:00 - 18:00
Sat 09:00 - 15:00


DEPARTURE: almost every hour daily from Hlavni Nadrazi
PRICE: 80 - 90 crowns one way
DURATION: nearly two hours
STATION: Hradec Kralove