Czech castles may be closed but you can visit them via these Hollywood blockbusters

From period horror films to modern action films, the country's historical landmarks have stood for locations across time and place.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 18.02.2021 14:51 (updated on 19.02.2021)

The Czech Republic’s castles and chateaux have been the backdrop for many international films and TV series. They have stood in for all eras of history, and places both real and imagined.

The country's Gothic-style castles have been a magnet for horror films, but fantasy, romance, action, and drama productions have also been shot in Czech castles to stunning effect.

Our list includes English-language productions shot at some of the most significant Czech castles and chateaux. These films were primarily made for release in theaters, but a few TV productions have been mentioned when relevant.

We leave out Prague Castle, as it features in too many films to list coherently. The large complex of churches, former palaces, and administrative buildings also isn’t same as the other more compact castles on the list. We also don’t include Czech fairytale films, as those are not in English, and the location list would be very long.

Pernštejn

Photo via Czech Tourism / Ladislav Renner
Photo via Czech Tourism / Ladislav Renner

One of the most-used locations is Hrad Pernštejn, built between the 13th and 16th centuries on a rock about 40 kilometers northwest of Brno. The name most likely comes from the German word for bear rock (Bärenstein). The large castle, with towers and ramparts, has kept much of its Gothic look both inside and outside.

The castle’s overall creepy look drew international filmmakers even before the Velvet Revolution. Its interiors as well as the nearby village of Nedvědice were home to the vampire in Werner Herzog’s 1979 horror film Nosferatu the Vampyre.

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While it was a largely a West German production, American distributor 20th Century Fox insisted that an English-language version be made as well as a German-language one, using the same cast and locations. Klaus Kinski stars as the vampire, with Bruno Ganz and Isabelle Adjani falling under his spell. The film is a remake of a 1922 version that was mainly shot in Slovakia.

The 1997 horror fairytale Snow White: A Tale of Terror used several Czech castles, including Pernštejn, Kost, Dobřichovice, and the ruins of Valdek. The film – starring Sigourney Weaver, Sam Neill, and Monica Keena – premiered on Showtime. It goes back to the fairytale’s source material to portray a much darker version than usual.

The castle hosted horror again for the 2004 film Van Helsing, one of the biggest productions ever made in the Czech Republic. This time it stood in for Castle Frankenstein, though heavily disguised by CGI. Hugh Jackman and Kate Beckinsale starred in the film. It received harsh reviews but eventually took in over $300 million at the box office.

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It was used for a more modern setting in the 2008 action film Wanted, starring James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman, and Angelina Jolie. The film actually mostly takes place in Chicago, but a scene where two characters confront each other were combines interior details of Pernštejn and another castle, Krivoklát, into one space.

Pernštejn has made many other appearances in TV series or miniseries such as Joan of Arc (1999), Borgia (2011), The Scarlet Pimpernel (1999), and The Letter for the King (2020).

Kroměříž Castle

The Flower Garden in Kroměříž is caught in an ownership dispute. (Photo: Wikimedia commons / Jitka Erbenová )
The Flower Garden in Kroměříž. (Photo: Wikimedia commons / Jitka Erbenová )

Also known as the Archbishop’s Palace, the Kroměříž Castle complex was renovated into the Baroque style starting in 1664. The large garden, which is now a short distance from the palace, was added at this time. The building was used as a residence for bishops starting in 1497, and for the archbishop of Olomouc from 1777. The palace and the garden are on UNESCO World Heritage list, and are currently operated by the National Heritage Institute.

The library has over 40,000 volumes and the art collection includes Titian’s painting The Punishment of Marsyas, which is the most valuable painting in the country.

The castle was used in two films about composers. In Miloš Forman’s 1984 masterpiece Amadeus, about Mozart and his rivalry with Salieri, its interiors stood in for Vienna's Hofburg Imperial Palace. It also was used in the 1994 film Immortal Beloved, which examined Beethoven and his mysterious love interest. In TV, it has made appearances in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles in 1992 and more recently Whiskey Cavalier in 2018.

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Merhautova, Brno - Černá Pole

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Kozí, Praha 1 - Staré Město

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Kost

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14th-century Kost Castle was featured in The Brothers Grimm, Snow White: A Tale of Terror and more. (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)

Another popular filming location is Kost, located in Český Ráj. The 14th century castle features a large defensive tower. While the name means “bone” in Czech, it most likely comes from one of its owners, Count Beneš, who called himself Benesius de Costa when he signed documents.

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It passed through the ownership of many different noble families until 1948. It was returned to private hands after the Velvet Revolution and is currently owned by a branch of the Kinský family.

Kost features in director Terry Gilliam’s 2005 film The Brothers Grimm as the general’s castle where the brothers — played by Matt Damon and Heath Ledger — are taken after they are arrested.

In the 2007 thriller Hannibal Rising, it stands in for the Lithuanian family home of Hannibal Lecter’s parents. After the communists take over, the castle in the 1950s becomes an orphanage, where the young Hannibal also lives since his parents died during the war. The prequel to Silence of the Lambs and Red Dragon received mostly negative reviews.

The prologue to the 2009 action film G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra uses Kost as a castle in France in 1664 to set up some historical foreshadowing. The bulk of the film takes place in modern times.

The castle also pops up in Snow White: A Tale of Terror, as well as the series The Scarlet Pimpernel and Knightfall (2017). Scenes for Emperor, a still unreleased film about Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, were shot there in 2014. The film stars Adrien Brody in the title role and has the late Rutger Hauer in one his last appearances.

Hluboká nad Vltavou

Hluboká / via NPÚ - chateau
Hluboká / via NPÚ

One of the country’s prettiest castles, Hluboká got its current highly romanticized look in the 19th century when its owner Johann Adolf II von Schwarzenberg decided to make it look more like Britain's Windsor Castle. Its roots go back to the second half of the 13th century.

The efforts at Anglicizing the building did not go unnoticed. It appears as a British castle in the 2004 action comedy Shanghai Knights, with actors Owen Wilson and Jackie Chan arriving in a horse-drawn carriage in period uniforms.

Horror fans will recognize it from 2016 horror film Underworld: Blood Wars, where the exterior stands in for base of the Eastern Coven of the vampire clan. The interiors were created on sets. Kate Beckinsale returned as Selene for the fifth film in the series about rival vampires and werewolves.

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Apartment for rent, 2+kk - 1 bedroom, 50m<sup>2</sup>

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Apartment for rent, 1+1 - Studio, 38m<sup>2</sup>

Apartment for rent, 1+1 - Studio, 38m2

Merhautova, Brno - Černá Pole

Apartment for rent, 2+kk - 1 bedroom, 61m<sup>2</sup>

Apartment for rent, 2+kk - 1 bedroom, 61m2

Kozí, Praha 1 - Staré Město

Apartment for rent, 3+kk - 2 bedrooms, 83m<sup>2</sup>

Apartment for rent, 3+kk - 2 bedrooms, 83m2

Kozí, Praha 1 - Staré Město

Křivoklát

Křivoklát Castle can be seen in the Netflix series
Křivoklát Castle can be seen in the Netflix series "A Letter for the King" (Photo: iStock/)

The former royal castle of Křivoklát is one of the oldest, going back to the 12th century, though it was extensively rebuilt after a fire in 1826. The castle for a time served as a prison, with alchemist Edward Kelley as one of its inmates. He tried to escape by jumping from the tower and broke his leg, which had to be amputated.

While Kost served as the exterior of the general’s castle in The Brothers Grimm, interiors of vaulted rooms in Křivoklát were where the interrogation of the title characters took place.

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The castle’s chapel, with a 15th century Gothic altar commissioned by King Vladislav Jagellonský, in the film served as the wedding venue for a queen played by Monica Bellucci.

As previously mentioned, the castle was edited together with Pernštejn in Wanted. Series or miniseries shot there include Joan of Arc, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and The Letter for the King (2020). Filming for the unreleased Emperor also took place in Křivoklát.

Lednice and Valtice

Lednice chateau / via zamek-lednice.cz
Lednice chateau / via zamek-lednice.cz

The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Lednice and Valtice has two chateaux plus several gardens and pavilions. The complex was transformed starting in the 17th century in classical and neo-Gothic styles, following the current trends from Britain. The Liechtenstein family first acquired Lednice in the 13th century and Valtice shortly afterward. It is currently owned by the state.

Various locations in the complex appear in the 2001 costume drama Affair of the Necklace, starring Hilary Swank, Jonathan Pryce, and Christopher Walken. The plot is based on a true story from the late 18th century that in part led to the French Revolution.

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The Lednice Chateau is the ambassador’s residence in the 2006 remake of The Omen, starring Julia Stiles, Liev Schreiber, and Mia Farrow. The horror film revolves around the birth of demonic child.

Český Krumlov

Český Krumlov town square and castle are predominant players in
Český Krumlov town square and castle are predominant players in "The Illusionist" and "Oliver Twist."

The town of Český Krumlov, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, has a the tower of the chateau as its dominant feature. The virtually unspoiled town, filled with Baroque buildings on stone-paved streets is a natural magnet for filmmakers. The chateau is first mentioned in the 13th century, and was long in the hands of the noble Rožmberk family, a major power force in South Bohemia. Now it is state-owned and since the Velvet Revolution has been extensively restored.

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Apartment for rent, 2+kk - 1 bedroom, 50m<sup>2</sup>

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Apartment for rent, 1+1 - Studio, 38m<sup>2</sup>

Apartment for rent, 1+1 - Studio, 38m2

Merhautova, Brno - Černá Pole

Apartment for rent, 2+kk - 1 bedroom, 61m<sup>2</sup>

Apartment for rent, 2+kk - 1 bedroom, 61m2

Kozí, Praha 1 - Staré Město

Apartment for rent, 3+kk - 2 bedrooms, 83m<sup>2</sup>

Apartment for rent, 3+kk - 2 bedrooms, 83m2

Kozí, Praha 1 - Staré Město

In the 2006 drama The Illusionist, flashbacks to title character’s youth take place in the town, and a the chateau stands in for the home of Duchess Sophie von Teschen, played as a child by Eleanor Tomlinson and as an adult by Jessica Biel.

Part of the chateau grounds such as the multilevel Cloak Bridge (Plášťový most) can be seen in the 2005 modern horror films Hostel, where the town is supposed to be a town in Slovakia. Scenes for the 2007 sequel Hostel Part II were also shot there.

Other films to make use of the town include The Adventures of Pinocchio (1996), Oliver Twist (2005), Interlude in Prague (2017), and Emperor (2021?), as well as the TV series The Scarlet Pimpernel (1998).

Vranov nad Dyjí

Photo courtesy of Czech Tourism
Vranov nad Dyjí can be seen in xXx. (Photo courtesy of Czech Tourism).

The famous chronicler Cosmas of Prague mentions a border castle on as cliff above the Dyje river at Vranov as early as 1100 AD to guard Moravia from Austria. It saw action in the Hussite Wars, and changed hands constantly over the centuries. In the late 1600s, when the then-owners had Austrian architect Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach extensively remodel the structure, adding an oval tower with a grand hall and other Baroque features.

In the 2002 action thriller xXx, the castle is the headquarters of Anarchy 99, a shadowy group the secret agent Xander Cage, played by Vin Diesel, is battling in an effort to prevent the world from being destroyed with some sort of biological weapon. Gaining entry to the castle’s secret lab is major theme in the plot, though the actual building is seen only briefly and with a mountain range superimposed behind it. Asia Argento co-starred as the love interest.

The film had mixed reviews but was a commercial success, spawning two sequels, though neither was shot in the Czech Republc.

Honorable mentions:

  • Boskovice: The Prince and Me (2004)
  • Bouzov Castle: The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (1993), The Letter for the King (2020)
  • Budyně nad Ohří: The Letter for the King (2020)
  • Dobříš: The Affair of the Necklace (2001), The Prince and Me 2 (2005), Illusionist (2006)
  • Frýdlant: Carnival Row (2019)
  • Kačina: The Affair of the Necklace, The Brothers Grimm, Underworld Blood Wars (2016)
  • Konopiště: Illusionist (2006)
  • Ledeč nad Sázavou: The Brothers Grimm
  • Libochovice: Prince and Me, Interlude in Prague
  • Lipnice: A Knight’s Tale (2001)
  • Loket: Joan of Arc (1999)
  • Milotice: Immortal Beloved (1994)
  • Švihov: Knightfall (2017)
  • Rabi: Dungeons and Dragons (2000)
  • Točník: Joan of Arc, Bathory (2008)
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