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České Budějovice town tour - Square of Přemysl Otakar II

České Budějovice - The Square of Přemysl Otakar II viewed from the Black Tower., photo by: Archiv Vydavatelství MCU s.r.o.The natural starting point of our sightseeing tour of České Budějovice is the Square of Přemysl Otakar II. It is said to have the shape of a perfect square, but it is not really true - one side is 132 metres and the other one approximately 137 metres. The square was marked out soon after the town was established and it served especially as a place for holding markets, various fairs and of course executions. We are reminded of the execution ground by the so-called erratic boulder situated near the centre of the square. It is all that‘s left of the original stone paving, cobbles. In 1939 the cobbles were replaced with ceramic paving that has covered the square to today.

Erratic boulder

There is a legend about the erratic boulder saying that a person who steps over the boulder after ten at night will never again be able to find their way home. You can find the erratic boulder easily. It is inserted in the pavement near Samson‘s Fountain, so you can try yourself whether or not the legend is true. But it‘s not so simple. The legend includes the crafty condition that you have to step over the boulder unconsciously.

Samson‘s Fountain

České Budějovice - Samson‘s Fountain, photo by: Archiv Vydavatelství MCU s.r.o.In the very centre of the square you can find another important symbol of České Budějovice - Samson‘s Fountain. This magnificent Baroque work was built in the period from 1721 to 1727. It is formed by a stone basin that is one of the largest fountains in the Czech Republic with a diameter of 17 metres. The fountain is decorated with four gargoyles and with four statues of atlantes holding a large stone shell. A pedestal rises out of the shell with a sculpture of Samson fighting a lion. During restoration works in 1999 the fountain was equipped with colour lighting and all the statues were replaced with copies. The originals are kept inside the town hall.

Samson‘s Fountain is connected to the art of sculptor Josef Dietrich (1677-1753) and to the stonemason master Zachariáš Horn. The man behind it must also be mentioned: Franz Baugut. He employed his urban designs regarding the position, dimensions and probably also the topic of the fountain. And it was Baugut who initiated construction of the town waterworks from which the fountain was fed. Today the social position of this well-educated man is surprising. Baugut was a Jesuit of Jindřichův Hradec.

Baroque town hall

České Budějovice - The Baroque town hall - a detail of the facade decoration, photo by: Archiv Vydavatelství MCU s.r.o.The square of Přemysl Otakar II is lined with 48 houses, all of which have an arbour. Let‘s take a closer look at some of them: The first building to draw our attention is the gorgeous Baroque town hall with its three spires situated in the south-west corner of the square. It was originally a Renaissance house built in the period from 1555 to 1558 and it was reconstructed in Baroque style from 1727 to 1730. The attic is decorated with sculptures of four virtues by sculptor Josef Dietrich from České Budějovice - Wisdom, Courage, Caution and Fairness. Chimes placed in the middle town hall spire have been contributing to the pleasant atmosphere of the town centre since 1995. The chimes consist of 16 bells weighing from 8 to 60 kg and controlled by a computer. They can play up to 80 musical motifs according to the time of day or the season. The chimes were created by the Perner company from Passau. This company has its roots in České Budějovice because it operated here as a bell-making company from 1772 to 1945.

In the town hall arcade you can see a strip of iron embedded in the wall. It is a standard of a historical unit of measurement - the so-called Vienna cubit (77.8 cm). You should not miss a memorial plaque in the facade of the town hall, commemorating President T. G. Masaryk‘s stop here during his return to the Czech lands by train in 1918.

We recommend that you also look at the interior of the town hall. What you will see is not only a fortuitous combination of the town hall‘s modern reconstruction with the original architecture, but also for instance the original statue of Samson from the fountain in the square, the original statues of virtues from the town hall attic, a large tapestry by painter Cyril Bouda, etc. A view of the town from the observation terrace, which is situated on the roof of the building, is also very nice.

Apart from the town hall all other houses in the square were in the past owned by wealthy burghers or even noblemen. Some noblemen needed grand housing, so they reconstructed (especially in the 16th century) the original Gothic houses that were built back when the town was founded. Therefore we can still find a Gothic core and the original layout in most of them.

Hotel Zvon

České Budějovice - The Zvon Hotel consisting of three buildings is a dominant feature of the square opposite the town hall, photo by: Archiv Vydavatelství MCU s.r.o.The Zvon Hotel consisting of three buildings is a dominant feature of the square opposite the town hall. The largest of these three buildings used to be an inn where Emperor Joseph II spent a night. However, the current appearance of the hotel dates to the very beginning of the 20th century, when the building was reconstructed after a great fire.

On the right, the three houses of the Zvon Hotel are followed by the tall Včela Palace, which encloses this side of the square. The palace is different from the other buildings in the square in terms of age, because it was built in 1896.

Of course, in the square we can find a number of houses that are very valuable in terms of architecture and history. However, this guide cannot include a description of all of them. Therefore let‘s take a look at the corner Prindl‘s House located at the mouth of Krajinská Street. It stands out thanks to its stone tracery dating to the 14th and 15th centuries. House No. 55/15 dating to 1493 with a separate chapel, which is situated on the north side of the square, is a jewel of the late Gothic style.

The modern architecture of pre-war Czechoslovakia is represented by the attractive functionalist building of Česká spořitelna dating to the 1930s in the very centre of the town. Experts consider it the best functionalist building in South Bohemia.