According to the Guiness Book of World Records, the former Czechoslovakia (now known as the Czech Republic) has more castles per square mile than any country of a comparable size--there are over 2,000 castles in this 30,000-square-mile nation. Every castle has a rich history and a detailed story, but finding the most exceptional sites in this castle-rich country takes a little research before you set out.
Karlstejn Castle was built between the years of 1348 and 1357 by Charles IV, who served as both the Czech king and as the Holy Roman Emperor. It was originally constructed as a safe repository for significant religious relics of the Holy Roman Empire, as well as the Czech coronation jewels. Visit the gorgeous chapel at the top of the great tower and don't miss the Ancestors' Hall, with its riveting portrait gallery of kings and other Czech leaders. Every side of the castle has stunning views of the forested Czech countryside. If you're not up to the hike to the castle entrance, you can catch a horse-drawn carriage to the top.
Arguably the most visually stunning castle in the entire Czech Republic is Hrad Hluboka (or just Hluboka) Castle. Originally begun in 1250 as an extension of the power of a series of Czech rulers, the castle has undergone several renovations in the centuries since. Today, it has a very English appearance, more like a classic fairy tale castle than many of the other keeps and manors that dot the countryside. Inside and out, Hluboka is one of the most opulent castles in Europe. View the exceptional carved wood and paneling, and tour the extensive collection of rare tapestries, arms and artifacts acquired throughout the years.
Both charming and impressive, Blatna Castle is striking for its water feature--a moat converted into a small lake. It was originally constructed in the 1250s and has survived numerous changes in power including, most recently, a partial dismantling by communist forces. Visitors can tour several decorated salons and enjoy the extensive park in the back.
Krumlov is the second-largest castle complex in the Czech Republic (after Prague Castle in the capital city). Construction began in 1230 and the structure has been remodeled extensively as it has changed hands. It now has a mostly Renaissance style, but Krumlov is one of the largest surviving castles from the medieval period that remains mostly intact. One of its main attractions is the Baroque theater, where all of the original features and fixtures are still in place.