By Cindy Carlsson
What are the Gardens and Castle at Kroměříž?
The Gardens and Castle at Kroměříž UNESCO site includes three elements in two locations:
The “castle” (more accurately described as a palace and often called the Archbishop’s Chateau) was built in the early 16th century on the site of an earlier Gothic castle owned by the Bishop of Olomouc. It then served as the summer residence of Olomouc’s bishops and archbishops into the 20th century. The building itself has been restored several times and its rooms reflect a variety of pre-20th century architectural styles. It is fully furnished as it was when occupied, including valuable art, book, and music collections.
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The castle opens out to a vast garden. Originally a mixed kitchen and ornamental garden, then an early Baroque-style garden, it became an English landscape garden (complete with architectural follies) in the 19th century. At 64 hectares (almost 160 acres), the castle garden is a large, park-like area with a few buildings, sculptures, and ornamental plantings.
The Baroque Pleasure Garden (often called the Flower Garden) is located on the other side of the historic town center. It’s a beautifully preserved and rare example of a Baroque garden from the period when gardens first became public displays of wealth. As such, this gorgeous garden is the Kroměříž UNESCO site’s star attraction.
Why is Kroměříž a UNESCO World Heritage site?
The UNESCO designation states: “’The Gardens and Castle at Kroměříž’ constitute a remarkably well preserved and basically unchanged example of a Baroque aristocratic ensemble (in this case the seat of an influential ecclesiastic) of residence and pleasure garden, with a larger park that reflects the Romanticism of the 19th century.”
Although the Pleasure Garden is the primary reason for the World Heritage designation, it’s significant that all three pieces – both of the gardens and the castle – are all still relatively intact.
What can you expect on a visit to Kroměříž?
In many ways this castle isn’t much different from many other European palaces. After being restored numerous times over the centuries, the rooms are a mishmash of 17th-19th century styles. And you can only see them as part of a guided tour. Guides discuss each room and its furnishings in detail, proudly pointing out valuable artwork or the location of important meetings in the 1880s. The art collection is described as the second most important in Czechia. However, the old library, the exhibits in the music library, and a couple of rooms that display the trappings of Catholic power are more unusual than much of the art.
The Castle Garden includes landscaped grounds between the castle and the river. It is essentially a large park with a tree collection and a smattering of historic buildings, ponds, flower gardens, and decorative features. It’s nice enough, but the Lednice-Valtice UNESCO site a couple of hours away has a much better example of this type of garden landscape. Trolley tours let you see most of the garden’s highlights and learn a little as you go.
The real reason all of this became a UNESCO World Heritage site is the Baroque Pleasure Garden. This garden is an absolute gem. At its heart, an intricate pattern of shrubbery and flowers swirl around a Rococo rotunda. But it’s hard to appreciate what is going on while standing in the garden. Fortunately, the Bishop of Olomouc was up on all the latest trends in 17th century garden design. His massive loggia has a rooftop deck designed specifically for panoramic garden viewing. From there it’s easy to imagine the silk-clad elite of yore enjoying an afternoon socializing in the elegant garden below.
The Pleasure Garden was expanded in the 19th century. Fortunately, those additions are well-done and don’t detract from the Baroque beauty of the original garden.
Read more about the Baroque Pleasure Garden here.
Is Kroměříž worth visiting?
Anyone who loves formal gardens should add Kroměříž to their European garden tour itinerary. The Pleasure Garden is simply one of the finest examples of an early Baroque garden you’ll find anywhere.
If you aren’t a big garden fan, you can see the best of the Pleasure Garden in less than an hour. But with several other adjacent gardens and greenhouses, it’s a good spot to spend a relaxing morning or enjoy a long walk.
Overall, Kroměříž castle isn’t that different from any number of other castles, including many others right in Czechia. However, serious fans of palaces and castles should consider visiting Kroměříž on their Central European castle tour. The old library is stunning and the castle’s ecclesiastical furnishings (things like the archbishop’s elaborate throne) make it unusual.
Tours of the castle take 1-3 hours, depending on how much you want to see. (The library seems to be included only on the longest tour.) Both the tower and the art gallery can be visited on separate tickets that don’t include a tour. If you can climb the 206 steps to get to the top, the view from the tower is very worthwhile.
The Castle Garden is free, so if you are in Kroměříž it’s worth taking a stroll through it even if you don’t tour the castle.
Tips for visiting Kroměříž
Tickets for both the castle and the Pleasure Garden can be purchased on site, but it’s best to book in advance. Castle tours take a limited number of people.
The castle and Pleasure Garden are on opposite sides of the historic town center. It’s about a kilometer walk through town to get from one to the other.
The electric trolley isn’t always available to take visitors through the Castle Garden, but when it is, it lets you see the garden’s highlights in a relatively short amount of time. When you can hear it, the recorded narration does a reasonable job of explaining what you are seeing.
Kroměříž is an attractive town in and of itself. It is within a 2-hour drive of at least six other World Heritage sites, including the Holy Trinity Column in Olomouc, Tugendhat Villa in Brno, Lednice-Valtice Cultural Landscape, Jewish Quarter and St Procopius’ Basilica in Třebíč, Litomyšl Castle, and the Pilgrimage Church of St John of Nepomuk at Zelená Hora. You can even get to Vienna in just a bit more time. It’s a good base for exploring this whole region.
Use the map below to find your accommodation in Kroměříž:
Where is Kroměříž?
Kroměříž is located about 270 km (170 miles) southeast of Prague. It takes about 2½ hours to drive between the two on the (toll) expressway. Regular train service is available through Hulin. Travel time is under 4 hours. Bus service is also available, with a travel time of 4½ hours and a transfer in Brno.
Travel between Vienna and Kroměříž is slightly faster, as the distance is only 200 km (125 miles) and can be driven in just over 2 hours either via the toll route or a very slightly longer route that avoids the tolled segment. The quickest route by rail takes 3½ hours, with two transfers in Czechia. The bus takes four hours, with a transfer in Brno.
The palace and both gardens are located right in the historic center of Kroměříž. The palace is right off the city’s beautifully preserved central square. The Pleasure Garden is on the other side of the historic city core. Both are clearly visible on maps and in Google.
Parking is available at both locations.
For more information about Kroměříž Gardens and Castle, its opening hours, and admission fees, see its official website. Information specific to the Pleasure Garden is on its own website, with most information available in English.
Text and photos provided by Cindy Carlsson, the always-curious traveler and photographer behind the website ExplorationVacation. Cindy loves diving deep into the places she visits and sharing her discoveries to help you travel better. Visit the website, Facebook, or Instagram for more travel inspiration.
Have you been to Kroměříž Gardens and Castle? If so, do you have any additional information or advice about this UNESCO World Heritage site? Please add your comments below!