The UNESCO World Heritage Lednice-Valtice Cultural Landscape in Czechia (the Czech Republic) preserves one of the largest artificial landscapes in Europe. (Think of it as a huge private park with castles.)
This was home to the House of Liechtenstein for 700 years. However, most of what we see today was created between the 17th and 19th centuries, as the family sculpted the physical world around them into an elegant landscape of palaces, gardens, tree-lined lanes, vineyards, and monuments.
Lednice-Valtice is a masterpiece of design and landscape architecture. It’s also the perfect place for a relaxing vacation.
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Welcome to the Lednice-Valtice Cultural Landscape
The Lednice-Valtice Cultural Landscape preserves two palaces and a variety of other structures set within a carefully landscaped network of gardens, lanes, and vineyards near the Czech border with Austria in South Moravia.
The entire site was created over many generations as the Liechtenstein family expanded their wealth and prestige. The area on the UNESCO World Heritage list includes the family’s two principal palaces and a variety of other structures and monuments. All of it set in over 100 acres of park-like landscape.
- Sights within the Lednice-Valtice Cultural Landscape
- Plan your trip to the Lednice-Valtice area
While most of the features that make up the Lednice-Valtice Cultural Landscape today date from the 17th and 19th centuries, the Liechtenstein family lived here for 700 years.
Originally from Lower Austria, in 1249 the Liechtensteins acquired estates in Lednice and nearby Mikulov. More than a century later, in 1394, they acquired Valtice (then known as Feldsberg and still part of Lower Austria) and its 12th century castle.
Over time, the Liechtensteins became the wealthiest family in Moravia. That wealth allowed them to rebuild their castles several times in response to damage from wars, changing tastes, and their increasing power and prestige. It also allowed them to transform the very landscape that surrounded them.
In Lednice-Valtice, most of the what we see today was created during the 17th through 19th centuries. This is when the Liechtensteins transformed their castles into grand palaces filled with the finest furnishings, linked them together via tree-lined avenues, and turned the surrounding area into an immense private park with gardens, groves, ponds, vineyards, and a wide variety of architectural follies.
While they lost the Mikulov estate way back in 1560, the Liechtensteins retained their properties in Lednice and Valtice until 1939 when the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia.
After the war the Czech government confiscated the Liechtenstein family’s holdings in the country. That included the property that is now the Lednice-Valtice World Heritage site.
Who are the Liechtensteins?
Are you wondering if these Liechtensteins are connected to the tiny country of the same name almost 500 miles to the southwest?
The answer is yes.
The Liechtensteins who transformed the landscape around Lednice and Valtice are the same family that now lives in and rules the small country that carries their name.
However, prior to World War II, the family was firmly embedded in Czech Moravia and Lower Austria. The tiny principality of Liechtenstein was mostly residue from their rise to power in the 17th century.
See, to hold real power in central Europe prior to the 19th century, you had own land directly subject to the emperor. But, like a modern pyramid scheme, many nobles (including the Liechtensteins) lived on land subject to other more powerful nobles and NOT under the direct control of the emperor. The Liechtensteins lived well this way, but they wanted more. They wanted real political power.
The family overcame this limit late in the 17th century. As a reward for their service to the Habsburgs, they were allowed to purchase two small holdings under the direct control of the emperor. These were combined into a single principality and named for the family. The purchase was made solely to give the Liechtensteins a seat at the political table. The land had relatively little value and the family had no intention of moving there. Indeed, nearly a century passed before they even bothered to see it.
However, when they needed a refuge during World War II, their tiny principality on the border of neutral Switzerland was a good option. The family – along with much of their most valuable art and furniture—relocated to Liechtenstein for the duration of the war. Then, at the war’s end, the Communist Czech government ceased the family’s holdings in Moravia and beyond. That left life in tiny Liechtenstein as the family’s best option.
But don’t feel too sorry for the Liechtensteins.
While the nation of Liechtenstein may lack the size and history of the family’s lost lands in the Czech Republic, the country has one of the highest standards of living in the world. And, as a constitutional monarchy where political power is shared by the prince and an elected parliament, the royal family still holds plenty of power and wealth.
The UNESCO World Heritage designation for the Lednice-Valtice Cultural Landscape covers over 100 square miles. It includes two small urban areas, two large palaces and an assortment of other buildings and monuments, gardens, lawns, ponds, forests, vineyards, and carriage lanes in the South Moravian region of the Czechia.
Although designed as a unified landscape with castles in Lednice and Valtice connected by a tree-line avenue, for the area can be divided into three parts:
The UNESCO World Heritage site covers includes many privately-owned structures within the designated boundaries. Some of these may be connected to the designation, others may not. Likewise, some are open to the public, but others are not. Historic sites within the protected area that are usually open to the public are marked in blue. Privately owned ones are marked in grey. (Click to open map)
While the UNESCO designation doesn’t include sites in the town of Breclav (Břeclav), the Liechtenstein House (actually a former Jewish school, not part of the Liechtenstein estate) is now home to a new exhibit on the Liechtenstein family, complete with a model of the Lednice-Valtice Cultural Landscape’s structures. I haven’t seen the exhibit, but it sounds like a good orientation to the area.
Lednice, Czechia, is a charming village that seems largely given over to tourists. That’s not surprising, since it is pretty and sits at the foot of a spectacular chateau. We simply passed by on our way to the chateau, but next time we’ll spend more time there.
Exploring Lednice Chateau
Although often referred to as Lednice castle, the unfortified Zámek Lednice of today is more properly called a chateau or palace.
What began as medieval fort when acquired by the Liechtensteins in 1249 was later transformed into a Renaissance villa in the 16th century. Late in the 17th century it was reborn as a Baroque summer palace, complete with extensive formal gardens and the large riding hall that remains today.
The current Neo-Gothic faux English castle didn’t come into being until the 19th century. It too was used as a summer palace. And this is where guests were entertained during warm weather when the family palace in Vienna was deemed “unsuitable.”
Peek inside the chateau
Lednice Chateau was lavishly decorated and furnished to impress the European aristocrats who regularly visited. Now, after serving as an agricultural museum for a number of years, the family’s private apartments have been fully restored to appear much as they did in the years before World War II when the family still lived here. (The Liechtensteins managed to remove most of the art and furnishings during the war years.) On the ground floor, elaborately decorated rooms used for entertaining also reflect this period.
An admission fee and guided tour is required to enter any room inside the chateau except the church.
One of the more unexpected things visitors discover in Lednice Chateau is artist Milan Knížák´s collection of historic marionettes. Puppetry, and particularly the use of marionettes (puppets moved from above by strings), has a long history in this part of Europe. Puppet shows offered entertainment, education, and a sense of cultural and national identity that was both very popular and important to Czech identity for centuries.
I wasn’t aware that this “museum” existed. Unfortunately, it can’t be visited except as part of a guided tour of the children’s rooms – rooms that otherwise don’t hold a lot of interest for me.
Seek tranquility in Lednice church
The first thing we encountered at the Chateau was the chapel of Saint Jacob the Elder – also called the church of Saint James the Elder. (But probably more properly the church of Saint Jacob the Greater. )
(I say that because it’s a parish church, not just the chateau chapel, and James is just an English translation of Jacob while “greater” originally meant either older or taller and in this, case is more commonly used than “elder.” At any rate, the building is dedicated to the apostle Jacob/James who was the son of Zebedee and brother of John the Evangelist. It’s the guy symbolized by a scallop shell.)
Like the rest of the chateau, this is the latest of several earlier buildings. It was completed in the 1850s with the rest of the chateau and served as both chateau chapel and the Catholic parish church.
The interior is surprisingly bright and sparse. There is little color or decoration aside from some carvings in the stone and the rich wood of the intricately carved pulpit and alter.
The only thing inside that seems to predate the church’s 19th century reconstruction is the organ (not visible in these pictures), which is said to be over 400 years old.
A tropical escape in the Lednice greenhouse
You won’t miss the greenhouse at Lednice as it dominates one side of the chateau. It also stands out because it looks a bit out of place. Constructed of cast-iron, steel and glass, it seems almost industrial alongside the fanciful Neo-Gothic faux castle and formal gardens.
I initially assumed the conservatory was a late addition to the palace. However, construction actually began in 1843, which seems to be just before construction of the palace itself.
The greenhouse, which can also be called a conservatory or palmery, was built to replace an old orangery. (Orangeries first became popular during the Renaissance. They typically only had windows on the south side and a glass lantern on the roof.) The Lednice greenhouse a rather unusual example of a 19th century conservatory, perhaps in part because it was among the first built using modern materials. Within a decade of its construction, conservatories of this type would become all the rage, but in 1843, this was cutting-edge construction. And it cost a fortune.
The Liechtensteins didn’t skip on acquiring plants to fill their 300-foot-long conservatory either. They hired experts to travel the length of South America gathering plants and seeds to ensure they would have flowers in bloom throughout the year.
Today the greenhouse is still filled with tropical plants, including trees that may now be 300-400 years old.
There’s a fee to enter the greenhouse, but isn’t a guided tour. That means you can enjoy the plants, but you’ll have to ask around if you want to know how it operated. From what little I was able to learn, it looks like a pretty ingenious set-up.
The Baroque riding hall
Fine horses and elaborate facilities for housing, training, and riding were a key component of royal residences during the Baroque era.
Not ones to miss out on another way to announce their wealth and prominence, the Liechtensteins built a very large new stable and riding hall in 1688. Only a few years later they brought in an Italian designer to update the building. A century after that, additional wings were added to create an enclosed equestrian area.
Today this complex is the oldest part of the chateau.
However, it is no longer used to raise and train horses. Instead, it serves as a museum and event center. When we visited, a few local artists were selling their work. That gave us a chance to get a look inside part of the complex. There is also a museum, which I didn’t visit. (This a very large building is operated separately from the rest of the chateau. It houses the riding museum, exhibit space, and a couple of tourist businesses.)
Lednice gardens and follies
In conjunction with Valtice chateau, Lednice boasts one of Europe’s largest royal parks.
Acres of “natural” Romantic English gardens, complete with a variety of ornamental buildings and follies, spread beyond the chateau’s formal 17th century Baroque garden. Some once-popular features, like the Chines Pavilion, are long gone. However, the landscape still includes most of the features and structures created by the Liechtensteins.
The gardens are perfect for long walks or biking. Boat and carriage tours of the area are also available. Carriage tours include major features at both Lednice and Valtice. Boat tours use docks at the Minaret and John’s Castle.
This list includes sites located around Lednice to the north of the three ponds separating the two chateaux. If tickets are required for any of these sites, they can be purchased through Lednice chateau.
A small, ornate Moorish-style building from the 1850s, the waterworks once fulfilled three functions: Irrigation for the park and gardens, water for steam baths, and electrical production. The building once served as a tourist information center while awaiting repairs, but its current status is not clear to me. It doesn’t appear to be open anymore.
Constructed early in the 18th century to look like an ancient Roman aqueduct, this was a purely ornamental garden folly. When functioning (it no longer works), water ran along the top of the aqueduct and fell into a pond below. It also includes a man-made “cave” that is not open to the public.
Built early in the 19th century (when exotic architecture was a popular addition to royal palaces and gardens), the Minaret was built as a platform for viewing the surrounding scenery. At nearly 200 feet high, the tower is said to provide sweeping views of the surrounding landscape.
All levels of this Moorish Revival building are open to the public: the open lower arcade, the richly decorated first floor, and three viewing areas in the tower itself.
Originally intended to be a much larger residence, John’s Castle (Janův Hrad) was constructed as a fake ruin at the very beginning of the 19th century. The scaled-down building we see today was fully habitable and carefully decorated to evoke an ancient castle. It was mostly used for hunting banquets.
John’s Castle can be visited for a fee on a guided tour.
Valtice is an old market town that continues to provide a variety of services to area residents. As such, it’s more functional and less picturesque than Lednice village. But it’s still quite small. And the area right outside the chateau – the heart of the old town – is very nice.
Although the Liechtensteins acquired their Lednice estate first, Valtice served as the family’s principal residence from 1394 until 1939.
The prime attraction in Valtice is the chateau.
Constructed in the 17th century to replace an earlier castle, Valtice castle (Zámek Valtice), is – like Lednice – more properly identified as a chateau or palace. Earlier castles on the site were fortified, but the Baroque palace that exists today was not. It was constructed only to serve as an elegant home for a very wealthy and powerful family.
The chateau’s construction occurred over a particularly long time. Work began in 1643 and wasn’t completed until nearly a century later. But the final result was the very large and very fine Baroque palace we see today.
As with Lednice, Valtice chateau includes accessory buildings, formal courtyards, and the vast landscaped grounds linking the palaces.
Inside the chateau
The interior, of which I saw very little, largely dates to the 1840s. Rococo Revival was popular then, which means interiors should be very ornate, but more delicate and feminine than Baroque decor. The main corridors and stairway we saw were fairly simple, but we didn’t see any of the restored formal rooms.
The interior of the Chateau Valtice can be viewed on a guided tour that takes visitors into more than 20 rooms. The tour does not include the Italian Baroque chapel, which can only be visited with an advance reservation. Not all of the chateau has been fully restored, but work continues and additional areas open as they are restored.
There is no charge to wander the grounds.
First floor exhibition space
Part of the first floor (one level above the entrance) is used for exhibitions.
When we visited there were two separate exhibits:
- A free exhibit on the “modern” technologies incorporated into the chateaus at Valtice and Lednice
- A stunning visiting exhibit of items from along the Silk Road
It appears there is always a free exhibit of some sort, so this is a good way to get a peek inside the chateau. (You won’t see any of the furnished rooms.) The current exhibit is on technical innovation at Lednice and Valtice. It was mildly interesting and worthwhile as a free exhibit.
The special exhibit we saw was called Treasures of Ancient Civilizations: Gold, silver and precious stones on the Silk Road. It was a gorgeous exhibition of precious objects from all along the Silk Road. I was so impressed I bought the (inexpensive) exhibit brochure – even though it is all in Czech.
Apparently, this was a visiting exhibit and Valtice’s only role was to provide space for it. No one seemed to know anything about the collection or where it came from. None of the exhibition material was in English. And now it has vanished completely from the chateau’s website.
The chateau website currently has a category for exhibitions, but there aren’t any listed. Still, based on the Silk Roads exhibit, it’s worth checking to see if there is a special exhibit on when you visit. You might get lucky and discover something amazing.
Late in the 18th century Mozart fanboy Prince Alois I von Liechtenstein constructed a theater at the palace.
In hopes of enticing Mozart to visit, the Valtice Baroque theater included a special box and raised seat designed just for Mozart. However, Mozart wasn’t a big fan of the Prince and he never visited Valtice. That left the state-of-the-art theater available for a wide variety of performances, and it was well used over many years.
The theater itself remained in good condition while under the care of the Liechtensteins. Unfortunately, it was damaged in WWII. And, to make matters worse, the Communist government waited many years to repair the building. In the process, they ended up destroying what remained.
However, thanks to a 2015 renovation, visitors today can attend performances in a modern replica of the original theater. The renovation restored the theater’s original look and layout, but with modern technology and replicas of the Baroque stage equipment and scenery.
The theater is open for guided tours, as well as a variety of performances. There is a fee to tour it.
Wine Salon of the Czech Republic
Winemaking has a long history in South Moravia. Wine has been made here at least since the 13th century when monasteries imported vines from France and Germany.
The oldest surviving documentation of the Liechtenstein vineyards is from 1414. However, the large number of vineyards recorded then seems to indicate the family’s vineyards were already well established. The family’s huge wine cellar was built just over a decade later in 1430.
Today that cellar is used to store a selection of Czechia’s best wines, host a wine exhibit, and hold tastings.
Over the years viticulture in the area has had ups and downs. War, disease, and then poor management under the Communist government all took a toll over time, but the industry has always recovered.
Today South Moravia is noted for the quality of its wines, particularly its white wines. (All of my favorite wines in Central Europe were whites from South Moravia.) However, very few Czech wines are exported, so you really need to visit Czechia to taste the best of them.
That’s where the Wine Salon at Valtice chateau is handy.
The Wine Salon of the Czech Republic honors the 100 best wines from across the country. These wines are selected in an annual competition and then made available for tasting (and purchase) in the wine cellar under Valtice chateau.
Since we visited Valtice late in the evening and early in the morning, we didn’t get to visit the wine cellar or taste wines there. (Don’t worry, we tasted – and purchased – wines at the shop in the castle gate, so we didn’t go without.) But this is the place to sample the very finest Czech wines.
Valtice gardens and follies
As if the theater, stables, riding hall, courtyards, and gardens right around the palace weren’t enough, Valtice chateau also includes extensive landscaped grounds with a variety of monuments. While not as grand as some of the lodges and monuments around Lednice, there are still options that sound interesting.
I saw the Colonnade from a distance, but didn’t visit it or any of the others. As with the grounds around Lednice, biking is the best way to tour them.
Noteworthy structures around the chateau include:
The Colonnade on Reisten
The Neo-Classical Colonnade Reistna on Homole Hill took almost a decade to complete early in the 19th century.
It is a family memorial and, apparently, the best spot to get view the surrounding area. (Not only is it on a hill, but the roof was designed as a viewing platform.) This was a popular spot with visitors up until the Communists took over. At that point it became a lookout for border guards along the Iron Curtain and visitors were forbidden.
Today the Colonnade is operated by Chateau Valtice Winery. Thus, even though it’s location on a hill means you can see it from quite a distance, it sounds like you should get a closer look to enjoy the view with a glass of wine.
Temple of Diana (Rendezvous)
Diana’s Temple, also known as Rendezvous, was constructed in 1812 as a gathering place for hunters. The Roman-style triumphal arch is quite large, with four floors. It once held a caretaker’s apartment and a large hall often used for breakfasting before the hunt.
Today the Temple of Diana is used for special events and concerts.
The interior can be viewed for a fee as part of a guided tour. (Tickets are available through the chateau ticket office.)
Chapel of Saint Hubert
The Chapel of Saint Hubert is an open neo-Gothic vault that protects a statue of the patron saint of hunting. It was constructed in 1855 and used to offer thanks at the end of a hunt.
The Three Graces
The Temple of the Three Graces is a covered colonnade. It forms a semicircle around statues of the goddesses Athena (wisdom and justice), Aphrodite (love and beauty), and Artemis (hunting). And no, those are not the three graces of mythology. But that’s what they came to be called at Valtice.
Apparently, the naked goddesses were originally located in the park at Lednice, but the noblemen found them too distracting, so they were relocated and given a “temple” to hide them a bit.
Church of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary
The 17th century Church of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary stands right outside the Valtice castle compound. It was constructed with the support of the Liechtensteins to replace a much earlier church.
But construction did not go smoothly. Inspired by a church in Rome, the new church was built in a style unfamiliar to those working on it. And at a time when wars made skilled labor impossible to find. All of which may explain why the first version collapsed while under construction. More wars and threats of war (the Swedes and then the Turks) further delayed its completion. All in all, it forty years passed between the time the cornerstone was laid and the church consecrated in 1671.
The interior largely dates to the 18th century.
One altar painting is said to be by Peter Paul Rubens. However, the large painting of the Assumption of the Virgin is a copy of Rubens’ original.
Bike or walk the Valtice Wine Education Trail
The Wine Education Trail in Valtice is a short (3 mile) segment with informational signs on the history of winemaking in the area. There are also opportunities to taste a variety of Moravian wines along the way. The trail is suitable for walking or biking and connects to the longer Moravian Wine Trail described below.
A couple of sites in the Lednice-Valtice World Heritage are either privately owned or operated separately from the two palaces.
Discover the long-lost past at Pohansko Manor
The Liechtensteins were far from the first people to engage in large building projects in this area. Indeed, they built Pohansko Manor right on the site of an extensive 9th century wooden fortress.
The area around Lednice and Valtice has been inhabited since prehistoric times. However, the most dramatic evidence of early habitation is found in the ruins of an early medieval Slavonic fortress. Excavations here revealed churches, cemeteries, the residence of a regional ruler, a fortress, and other buildings from both the 9th century and before.
But this is also the site of yet another hunting lodge constructed by the Liechtensteins in 1812. Pohansko features enormous arcades and reliefs with figures from Greek mythology.
Today Pohansko Manor is a museum with an archaeology exhibit on early settlement in the area. The exhibit explains the site’s history and displays some of the items excavated here.
Nearby, visitors can see a few reconstructed structures that hint at what the site would have looked like when occupied. There may also be opportunities to watch archaeologists at work excavating the site.
There is a fee to visit the museum.
I wasn’t aware of this museum until after our visit, but it looks like an interesting stop.
Dine at the Border Chateau
The Border or Frontier chateau is named for its location on what was once the border between Moravia and Lower Austria.
Constructed between 1816 and 1827 as a summer retreat for the Liechtenstein family, it is now a luxury hotel complex. But visitors are welcome too, as a cafe and ice cream shop would provide a good break for cyclists. There is also a fine dining restaurant on the property. I haven’t eaten at any of the restaurants here, so can’t vouch for the food. However, the setting looks spectacular.
Bike the Mikulov Wine Trail
While there is easy to walk wine educational trail in Valtice, the Mikulov Wine Trail offers a more thorough tour of the area. At around 50 miles in length, it loops through both Lednice and Valtice. And, as part of the Moravian Wine Trail described below, it links to many more trails.
This looks like the best way to tour the area even if you are only able to do light biking. I have to say, I was very jealous watching cyclists gliding through the parks and vineyards! It really does look like a pleasant way to tour the area.
See Lednice-Valtice in miniature
While technically not within the Lednice-Valtice UNESCO site, the Liechtenstein House in Breclav (Břeclav) looks like the best place to get an introduction to it.
The Liechtenstein House is a former Jewish primary school, not one of the Liechtenstein’s palaces, manor houses, or hunting lodges. But today the second floor hosts an exhibit on the Liechtenstein family, complete with miniatures of buildings in the Lednice-Valtice World Heritage site. I haven’t seen it, but it sounds like a good way to begin a tour of the area. I know it would have helped me make sense of what I was seeing and how the pieces fit together.
Specially designed barefoot walking paths are (apparently) a big thing in Austria and Germany.
One of these barefoot paths crosses the border from Austria through Valtice to the Colonnade. This seems to be more about experiencing the physical sensation of walking barefoot than seeing the local sights, but it does wander through Valtice.
While I like to go barefoot, this sounds a little odd. However, if you are looking for something new to try, this might be just the thing.
If you don’t tour either of the castles, you can see many of the area’s major sites in a full day. However, this is an area best explored at a slower pace over two or three days.
(Unsure of exactly what the area included, we allotted less than a day to it. That was not nearly enough time.)
If you want to spend even more time exploring the area, the nearby UNESCO Lower Morava Biosphere Reserve protects the limestone cliffs, steep slopes, and steppes of the Palava Hills. And, along with natural areas, visitors will find ruins, vineyards, and the historic town of Mikulov. This should be great places to hike and bike, but tourist information on the reserve itself is a little scarce.
Of course, that’s true of the whole area. There is plenty to see and do, but navigating can be a little challenging if you don’t read Czech or German. The best way to approach a visit to the Lednice-Valtice area is to allow plenty of time to explore. Go ahead and get a little lost. You’ll find rewards wherever you go in this part of Czechia.
When to visit
South Moravia seems to be mostly a warm weather destination. Activities generally focus on the castles and vineyards, most of which are fully open only from April through October. Music and theater performances occur throughout the tourist season.
Spring and summer
The tourist season in Lednice-Valtice begins in full on Easter weekend.
We visited in summer, when the vineyards were green and everything was open for the season. It’s a beautiful time of year. It’s also a popular time to visit. That’s particularly true of weekends, when Czech families often visit.
Summer also brings many opportunities to attend music and theater productions in a variety of the area’s historic venues.
September and October are filled with vineyard activities, wine tastings, and other viticulture events. This is a popular weekend excursion for Czechs looking to get out of the city and drink some good wine. The season also brings several festivals.
- Fall begins with a one-day Baroque festival.
- Fans of classical music will also want to consider a fall visit to attend the Lednice-Valtice Music Festival. The event features a wide variety of performances held in various historic venues in the region, including the Temple of Diana and the Valtice castle chapel and theater.
The area does not seem set up for much winter tourism. Even the two palaces are only open on weekends during February, March, November, and December.
Both palaces are closed in January.
While there are events held during the winter, they tend to be geared more toward local visitors.
How to get to the Lednice-Valtice Cultural Landscape
We enjoyed our drive through the lovely hills and villages of South Moravia, but there are also rail options. There is a train station in Valtice, with direct connections to Breclav (Břeclav) and Mikulov and connections to the rest of the Czech Republic (Czechia) from there.
Although located in Czechia, the Lednice-Valtice area is a great side trip from Vienna.
Minimum travel time to Breclav:
- From Prague: 2 ½ hours by car, 4 hours by train, or 5 hours by bus.
- From Brno: under an hour by car, 1 hour by train, or 1 ½ hours by bus
- From Vienna: about an hour by car or train.
Travel via public transit
If traveling by train, Breclav is the easiest destination. It has excellent rail connections to Prague, Brno, and Vienna. And, from there, it’s a short trip to Valtice by rail, bus, taxi, or bike.
- There is no regular rail service to Lednice. A weekend tourist train used to travel between Brno and Lednice using historic equipment. However, it appears this no longer runs, as there doesn’t seem to be any recent information on it.
There is regular bus service from Breclav to Valtice and Lednice. (Taxis are also an option from Breclav.) Of course, Breclav is also close enough to the area’s major sights to just begin and end your bike tour right there.
- Lednice and Valtice are served by bus lines 555 (between Lednice and Valtice), 570 (between Breclav, Lednice, and Mikulov), and 580 (between Mikulov and Valtice). There might be others, but these seem to be the key ones.
- Bus service between Lednice and Valtice is not particularly frequent, so check the schedule and plan accordingly to make the most of your time.
If you are planning to use transit, check the South Moravia Integrated Public Transport System (bus and train) website for schedule and route changes.
Travel via automobile
If traveling by automobile, you will find easy driving with decent roads, reasonably good signage, and (usually) ample parking relatively near the palaces. But keep in mind that you need to walk or bike to reach most other sights.
Getting around once you arrive
The best way to get around the UNESCO World Heritage site is by bicycle. Bike trails take visitors to all of the sites in the Lednice-Valtice cultural area. Trails also extend beyond the UNESOCO site into Austria and to other trails in South Moravia.
There are foot paths throughout the area, but given its size, it takes a lot of walking to see everything.
Drive your car
While having your own vehicle is great for getting here, it’s not ideal for touring beyond the two castles and surrounding towns. The parks were designed for touring by carriage and horseback, so none of the monuments beyond the two palaces are accessible by automobile. Plan to park your car and walk or bike around each site.
Take the bus
Bus service connects Lednice and Valtice with each other and the rest of the region. However, service between the two cities isn’t very frequent, making time management critical. See the section above for more details.
Bike the Moravian Wine Trails
A cycle tour seems like the ideal way to see this part of South Moravia. It’s what I’ll do next time.
Along with the trails right in Lednice and Valtice, the Moravian Wine Trail includes routes throughout South Moravia. That covers the a relatively large area roughly between Brno and the Austrian and Slovak borders. While the focus is on viticulture and winemaking, the trails also include a variety of other cultural, historic, and natural sights.
Much of South Moravia’s landscape consists of gently rolling hills, but there is some variety. Some trails are quite flat. A few offer fairly challenging terrain. All trails are said to have the “partially hardened and partly paved” surface we saw, making them suitable for road bikes. So, with nearly 750 miles of trail in the region, there is a something for cyclists of every interest and ability!
As with the trail in Valtice, several sections are designated Wine Education Trails. These short trails are suitable for walking or biking and feature informational signage in three languages (Czech, German, and English) and opportunities to stop to taste a few wines.
The Moravian Wine Trail website includes maps and detailed information on all the trails. For a more personal look at some of the trails, check the iExplore article on Biking the Moravian Wine Trails.
There are several places in the area that rent bikes. In addition, many hotels and guest houses will loan or rent bikes to overnight guests.
Tour by boat, carriage, or on horseback
Regularly scheduled small boat cruises run through the park at Lednice along two routes:
- Lednice castle to the Minaret
- The Minaret to John’s Castle
Tickets are available on-site.
Carriage rides through Lednice park and the Lednice-Valtice area are also available on a regular schedule.
- Tickets to tour Valtice park or the larger Lednice-Valtice area are available at Valtice chateau.
- Tickets to tour Lednice park are available by email or, apparently, at the castle.
Tips for touring the palaces
With the exception of the chapel at Lednice, the interiors of both palaces can only be seen as part of a guided tour. This is also true of many of the smaller lodges and follies – seeing the inside often requires a ticket and tour.
Valtice has a long list of regulations for visitors. I couldn’t find a similar list for Lednice, but I’d assume their policies are much the same. Here are a few highlights:
- Tours generally only occur if there are at least five visitors. Smaller groups have to wait until the next tour, which will be held even if there are still fewer than five visitors. (Reservations can be made in advance, but you are still subject to the requirement that there be at least five people for the tour to depart.)
- On the other hand, you must be present for your tour at the time stated on your ticket. If you miss it, your ticket becomes invalid and will be required to buy a new ticket if you still want to tour.
- You will not be allowed in any of the monuments in “heavily soiled, inadequate or otherwise unsuitable clothing or footwear.”
- Flash photography, tripods, and selfie sticks are not allowed inside buildings.
- Pets must be on a leash at all times outdoors and are not allowed inside any buildings.
Keep in mind that both chateaux are only open on weekends in winter and close completely in January. This is a warm season destination.
I believe there are cafes in the palace compounds at both Lednice and Valtice. But there are also a number of options right outside each of them.
We stayed right by Valtice chateau. This was a convenient and affordable base for exploring the area.
While I was perfectly satisfied staying in Valtice, I have to admit that I’d probably look for something in Lednice the next time. Lednice village is a little more charming then Valtice. Of course, it’s also a little more expensive.
If you are on a budget, check the options in Breclav.
Of course, if you want to stay in a particular area, be sure to switch whatever search engine you use to map view to see exactly where the hotel or Airbnb you are considering is located.
My lodging in Valtice
We made our booking at the last minute without really having any idea of where we wanted to be. Somehow, we lucked out and ended up at the Penzion Prinz near Valtice chateau. This is an older property, but with nicely maintained rooms that are comfortable and strive to be elegant. We had good windows, a desk and chairs, and lots of fake orchids. Secure parking was available in back (not that it seemed very necessary) and our room rate included a very nice breakfast.
It was also surprisingly affordable. And they offer a special package for seniors. I was very satisfied with it.
The only thing more convenient would have been a room IN the chateau. That’s usually possible (although not cheap), as Hotel Hubertus is located in a wing of the chateau. However, the hotel will be closed through 2020 for roof and façade reconstruction.
Stay in the guesthouse at Lednice Chateau
If you want to stay in a castle before the Hubertus reopens, you’ll have to venture over to Lednice. There, the Chateau Hotel Lednice houses guests on the castle grounds in the building same building where guests of the Liechtensteins stayed. It’s not actually in the chateau, but it’s close.
Luxury along the old border
If you are looking for a luxurious rural retreat, the Chateau de Frontiere (Hraniční Aámeček or the Border Chateau) is a luxury hotel located in another of the Liechtenstein’s chateaux. It is a full-service hotel with a heated pool, café, and fine-dining restaurant. Hotel rooms are located in a historic building behind the chateau itself.
Resources for planning your Lednice-Valtice trip
This is an area popular with Czechs and their neighbors, but it’s still relatively undiscovered by English-speaking tourists. Thus, there is a limited amount of detailed information available in English.
There isn’t a ton of good material on this area available in English.
Some of the better web-based resources I’ve found include:
- Attractively formatted information on the UNESCO area and major sites can be found on the European Visit World Heritage This is part of a large, well-developed website that groups UNESCO World Heritage sites into itineraries.
- Descriptions of self-guided tours of the area around Lednice-Valtice and beyond, virtual tours, website links, and more can be found on the UNESCO Czech Heritage (Czech UNESCO) Links on the site go to an (old?) Czech Tourism site with great Wikipedia links (noted below) that offer more detailed information.
- Unfortunately, there seem to be a multitude of Czech “tourism” sites, most of which are more inspirational than informative. I believe this is the current official site. It has overview info and links to sites with more information. However, there seems to be an “update” underway that renders the links much less useful than previously.
- For more historical information, use the “touristic objects around” tab on an old Czech Tourism site to pull up a map of attractions within the Lednice-Valtice area. Use the links on the map, to go to a specific attraction (for example, Saint Hubert’s Chapel) where you (usually) will find a link to “more information on Wikipedia.” That link takes you to a Wikipedia page (in this case on the chapel) that cannot be found in an English language search, but often has interesting information.
- The official UNESCO listing is located on the UNESCO World Heritage
- Currently, the official websites for the chateaux in Lednice and Valtice are easy to use and have good historical information along with up-to-date visitor information.
And, if you happen to read German, search in that language. I suspect there are many more resources available in German.
Printed brochures and maps
Tourist information centers in Lednice, Valtice, or Breclav can provide information, but a lot of the really detailed information in will be in Czech or German.
The best and most detailed maps of the region are the bike maps. Some are available in multiple languages, but take one even if it is only in Czech. Most maps I saw were so well-designed and graphic-heavy that they provide just about all the info you need even if you can’t read Czech.
Of the brochures I saw, these were the most useful English ones:
Kouszol Jihu Moravy
It is light on details, but high on inspiration with a paragraph (in Czech, German, and English) and lovely pictures on a range of tourist attractions in South Moravia. It’ll will give you an idea of what your options are, even if it doesn’t provide much detail.
There is also brochure on bicycle routes that goes with the main brochure. While it does describe a couple of routes, there are better sources of information for biking.
Pálava and Lednicko-Valtický Areál Tourist Map
The detailed map (with bike routes) only covers Lednice-Valtice and north (not the Austrian border. It’s a little hard to read, but seems to have all the basic information you need to get out and explore. The reverse side includes a lot of the more general information included in the large Kouszol Jihu Moravy brochure above.
Valtice and Cycling
This great little English language brochure presents a bike tour from Valtice, through Lednice, and ending at the Border Chateau.
The tour description explains the buildings and monuments along the way. It’s mostly focused on Valtice (as one would expect by the name), so there isn’t a lot of information on the monuments around Lednice. However, the map seems to show all the bicycle trails and there is a short description of each.
There is also bike rental information and graphics showing Czech biking rules.
Zámek Valtice/Valtice Castle
Make sure you get the current one since it includes detailed information on hours, as well as dates for concerts, exhibits, and other special events. There is also a detailed map of the chateau grounds inside. It has pretty much everything you need to know to visit the Valtice chateau.
Look for the English and Czech version, as there is likely also a German and Czech version.
I assume there is a similar brochure for Lednice, but I never saw it.
The Architectural Sights of LVA
As expected, this English language-only brochure provides information (with pictures) on most of the area’s buildings and monuments. It’s not a lot of information and it’s not translated particularly well, but well enough to get the basics.
Most printed guidebooks don’t have a lot on this part of Europe.
Lonely Planet’s Prague and the Czech Republic has a small section on Valtice-Lednice, as well as a slightly larger section on Mikulov. (You can buy it at Lonely Planet, Target, Barnes and Noble, or your favorite local bookstore.)
My favorite guidebook for inspiration, DK Eyewitness Travel, has a small section on South Moravia in their guide to the Czech and Slovak Republics. But, other than a restaurant suggestion or two, there isn’t any information I haven’t already provided or linked to here. (If you’re doing more traveling in Czechia or Slovakia, you can buy a copy at Barnes and Noble, AbeBooks, Target, or your favorite local bookstore.)
For an overview of all the Czech UNESCO World Heritage sites outside of Prague, head over to my friend’s website, Rachel’s Ruminations.