Walking Tour around the Historic Part of Jindřichův Hradec
The walk starts at the tourist orientation map on Masarykovo Square. We walk from this map along Klášterská Street to the Franciscan Monastery with the Church of St. Catherine.
The Franciscan Monastery was founded by Jindřich IV in 1478; a chapel was added to the church during renovations after a fire in 1674.
Opposite the monastery there is the Little Monastery, which was founded in 1534 as a hospital with lymantriids. Later it was changed to a widow manor for ladies from the palace. Catherine de Montfort had a connecting sheltered hall built at the arcades between the Little Monastery and the church so she could walk to prayers. Under the little monastery there is a small metal gate, which leads us to a small park. We follow the paths on the left and we come out in Husova Street.
The Vítězslav Novák Grammar School is on the right. (Construction of the school’s new modern building, which has existed in Hradec since 1595, started in 1921. The school opened on 1 September 1923. The school’s director, Dr. Ferdinand Hoffmeister, is given credit for its construction).
Opposite the grammar school, we can see the former military quarters, which served the army until the 1980’s. The dilapidated buildings were repaired in the 1990’s and now they serve as the University of Economics’ cafeteria and halls of residence.
We will walk through the campus and continue straight on past the Elementary Artistic School to the orchard Husovy sady. In the orchard we turn right to the statue of John Huss from 1923, created by J. V. Dušek from Tábor. We walk down the steps around the statue to the terrace below the ramparts. A view of the palace complex opens up to us; a particularly interesting point is the Menhartka tower, originally a castle tower reconstructed during the era of Menhart of Hradec in the 15th century. On the ground floor there is the scullery, one of the largest late-Gothic sculleries preserved till this day. Gruel was given to the poor on Maundy Thursday here. The cylindrical defence tower dominates the view, and this is the ldest building of the castle, founded in the Romanesque style at the beginning of the 13th century. There used to be a dungeon on the tower’s ground floor. We continue down the steps between the ramparts and the Nežárka River, which is formed at the confluence of the rivers Žirovnice and Kamenice in the town of Jarošov.
The river was originally called Včelnice due to the number of hives on the banks of the river. The name Nežárka started to be used in the 15th century. According to folk tales this was because heat did not spread to the other side of the river when there was a fire.
After approximately 100 metres, steps leads up left to the ramparts. We climb up the steps and along a narrow straight road we approach the two-storey school cafeteria no. 31/I on Zakostelecké square. The building used to serve various, predominantly educational purposes.
We walk around its left side and continue along Liliová Street, past a high wall, to the provost Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, which dates from the second half of the 14th century. It has been reconstructed several times; the most important renovation was carried out after a fire in 1801. The last reconstruction dates back to 1873. Under the leadership of the choirmaster Ikavec, B. Smetana celebrated his first success here in the choir as a soprano. Opposite the end of a narrow street, there is a sign on the church’s wall drawing attention to the 15th line of longitude running through here, which is marked on the cobblestones. On the right, there is the former Jesuit College, founded by Adam II in 1595. The complex is significant from an artistic and historic point of view and, apart from the college in Český Krumlov; it is one of the oldest in Bohemia preserved till today. The outside walls are decorated with “envelope” sgraffiti. In 1773, the college was rebuilt as military quarters.
The building on the corner is the Church of St. Mary Magdalena, which is the oldest town church from the 13th century; in 1595 it was attached to the Jesuit College. After a fire in 1615, it was rebuilt in the Baroque style. Rich stucco decorations can be found inside. We turn right around the church to Balbínovo square. The Landfras Printing Workswill capture our attention here. In 1797 Josef Landfras purchased the old Hilgartner’s printing works established in 1738. He expanded the printing works and became famous similarly as V. M. Kramerius from Prague. The printing works were important for the entire nation during the national revival era. In 1825, Josef’s son Alois took over the printing works and he also organised cultural life in the town, and was the town’s sponsor and its mayor. Today’s appearance of the building is from 1827.
The Museum of Jindřichův Hradec is located opposite the printing works and is the former Jesuit grammar school founded in 1594. Bohuslav Balbín, patriotic priest and advocate of the Czech language, was a teacher at the school. The current appearance of the building is from 1648. After the abolishment of the Jesuit Order, the building was used as a school and later also as a grammar school. The Museum, which was founded in the town in 1884, has been located here since 1925. Among the exhibits, the world-famous mechanical nativity scene created by Tomáš Krýza can be viewed here.
The brewery building starts left of the Museum. In 1580, Adam II of Hradec built a brewery that was one of the largest in Bohemia. In 1831 – 1835, the brewery was rented by Bedřich Smetana’s father. A plaque can be found on the upper gate next to the Museum. A power station was built by Křížek from an old mill on the brewery’s premises and on 14 March 1887, electric lights were put into operation in Jindřichův Hradec, the second town to have electric lighting after Prague.
We continue around the Museum through Nežárecká Gate. The Gate, also called Linecká, is the only one preserved of the original three town gates, which were a part of the town fortifications from the 14th century. The Gate used to be lower; it was raised in 1685 and in 1802 a clock was added. We cross the bridge over Nežárka. After the bridge we take the first left. On the corner of the building in front of which we turn left there is a head – the house is called “U bradáče”. The heart of the house is from the beginning of the 16th century. The stucco head is said to mark the water level reached in a flood. Another explanation is that it is a sign for a barber’s shop. The street continues up the hill above the river.
There is a wide view of the palace complex from the next part of the trail. The marvellous building on the right side is the palace Rondelle, originally a castle tower rebuilt as a summerhouse at the end of the 16th century. Due to its exquisite stucco decorations, it is called the pearl of European Mannerism. Below the palace near the river we can see former tanner’s houses with shingled roofs; the last brick building serves as artistic workshops. The oldest manor house below the castle was purchased by Marie Teinitzerová in 1911, who established an Artistic Textile Workshop here. The tapestry from this workshop is known all over the world.
We walk to the first crossroads, where we keep left, then we walk go through all the other crossroads. We descend the hill and the path turns left around the wall of the Landfras garden, which belongs to building no. 151/IV, the Landfras villa.
This is the work of Josef Schaffer, who built a terrace garden according to Baroque rules with a pavilion, Gothic folly, hermitage, skittle alley and hothouses in 1826 – 1839. The garden was the centre of social life for one generation.
The path joins a small road, along which we cross the bridge over Nežárka and continue left along Mlýnská Street, which is marked with the yellow tourist sign. On the house on the right, there is a plaque of Dr. Procházka. Josef Procházka – Devítský, MD, was born in 1811 in mill no. 123/III, called Devítský; the mill was demolished in 1936. He studied medicine. He was known as a humanitarian doctor. In the mid 19th century, he organised Czech social life in Hradec. He started organising theatricals already in 1843. He invited J. K. Tyl to Jindřichův Hradec, who started his wandering as an itinerant actor around the Czech countryside here in 1851.
We continue up this street along a small stone wall, above which we can see the palace complex again. At the end of the wall we turn left, following the yellow sign, and cross the bridge over the water gates. There is a pleasant view of the town from the embankment of the Small Vajgar pond. We reach the entrance to the State Castle and Palace by walking along the pond and the canal to the brewery. The palace is one of the oldest aristocratic manors in South Bohemia. The original castle was founded at the beginning of the 13th century by the Vítkovec family. At the beginning of the 17th century, the palace was passed on from the first owners, lords of Hradec, to the Slavata family, and at the end of the 17th century to the Černín family. After 1945 the palace was nationalised. The extensive constructional complex is not only a valuable architectural monument, but also a treasure of cultural monuments. You can choose from three guided tours when visiting the palace.
We continue along the yellow trail. We will be intrigued by an originally Gothic cornerhouse with an oriel, which has architectural value especially due to the corner oriel from the beginning of the 16th century, and this is a monument of European importance. Continuing along the yellow trail, we walk to the Náměstí Míru square. The square is dominated by the sculpture Assumption of the Virgin Mary. This is the largest Baroque sculptural monument in the town. Its height of 20m makes it the second tallest after the sculpture in Olomouc. The work of Strahovský, a sculptor from Dačice, dating back to 1764 – 1766, it was created for and paid by the postmaster Bayer.
The town hall with the town’s emblem is one of the houses that will attract your attention. The building used to be narrower because there was a lane between houses no. 88 and 89 where bread used to be sold – due to this it is still called “Chlebnice” (chléb = bread). After 1607, the passage was arched over and the town hall enlarged. The municipal emblem, which the town obtained in 1483 from King Vladislav II, is secured to the town hall. The original emblem with a five-petal rose on blue background was improved at that time by two golden lions with the royal “W” and a crown. Another interesting house is Langer’s House decorated with sgraffiti. House no. 138 –139 /I is called Langer’s according to its last owner. No. 139 is the oldest house in the town, dating from the beginning of the 15th century, and it belonged to the authorities. Arcades from the 16th century can be found in the courtyard. The sgraffito facade decoration is from 1579. In 1586 both houses were joined by their owner, Čech of Kozmáčov.
We leave the yellow trail and continue around Langer’s House and the restaurant Zlatá husa (Golden Goose). K. H. Borovský, a Czech patriot, spent his last night here on his way to exile on 16 December 1851. We continue along Svatojánská Street to the Church of St. John the Baptist, which, apart from the palace, is the most valuable early-Gothic construction. It was founded in the 13th century by an order of German knights. After 1340 it was rebuilt as a Minorite Monastery and a school.
Tomáš of Štítný attended the school. In 1564, Jáchym of Hradec established the so-called hospital here. The institution was closed during World War II.
From the steps on the right side we can see the Vajgar pond, whose total area is 49 ha, and the deepest point measures 5 m. It is not a typical pond as does not have a man-made dam anywhere. It was first mentioned in 1399. In the 18th century, the German name – Weiher – started to be used and today’s name was derived from this. The wooden bridge, which is mentioned together with the pond, was not rebuilt as a stone bridge until 1760 and it divides the pond by an imaginary line into two – Small and Large Vajgar. The man-made island is from 1860.
We continue along Štítného Street into Panská Street, then right from Panská Street to Masarykovo square. At the end of Panská Street there is a restaurant called Střelnice (Firing Range). Originally, a castle moat used to be here, where sharp-shooters practised their skills.
They had a wooden shed here were they stored weapons and on special occasions they brewed beer here. After the fire in 1801, when the town gate was demolished, a two-storey building was constructed here, which became the centre of cultural and social life. In 1928 a cinema was added to the firing range.
The walk ends on Masarykovo square.