Hradec Králové visits this East Bohemian town

Ryan Scott

Written by Ryan Scott Published on 14.08.2009 16:58:26 (updated on 14.08.2009) Reading time: 7 minutes

This quiet town is about 120 kilometers east of Prague. While on the surface it appears quite sleepy, it holds some rare opportunities for you culture vultures and Czechophiles.

Getting There:
Connections to Hradec Králové are quite frequent. There are three train routes, two via Pardubice, and buses leaving from Černý most at irregular intervals through the day. Check Jízdní řády for times.

First Impressions
I was in Hradec Králové for the first time about five years ago. The city had the charm of a European city with wide streets, surrounding an older historical square but without the crush of tourists. This did not mean there was no atmosphere and I was lucky enough to meet some expats studying at the University of Hradec Králové and the Charles University Medical campus.

The city has changed since then. The modernist train station still stands but the square in front is new. There is a display board that shows which stands buses depart from and when, which is handy information.

Getting to the Center
You can walk to the center and in doing so take in Hradec Králové’s mix of modern, communist and more recent architecture. Maps are available at the main station for 79 CZK. You can plan your route from there. Incidentally, the map also contains a detailed map of the historical center and a regional map, if you plan any journeys out of the city.

Or you can take one of the city’s trolley buses. You can take number 2 in the direction of Nový Hradec, numbers 3 or 6 in the direction of Slezské Př, number 5 in the direction of Slatina, numbers 11 and 17 (both circular routes) and 12 in the direction of Vertex, or number 16 in the direction of Roudnička, and get off at either Adalbertinum, Muzeum or Magistát Města, depending on the route. Timetables are available here.

Tickets are available from the Pont shop in the main train station. A single journey is 14 CZK. The ticket has to be stamped in an old fashioned mechanical punch. They are usually red and near the front of the bus. You slot the ticket in and pull the black part toward you. Tickets are also available at newsstands.

Cultured Out
Now you are on your way. If you take a number 3, 12 or 16 you can get off at Muzeum and check out the Museum of East Bohemia. The building contains a permanent exhibition with minerals as well as history of the area. Until January 31, 2010 there is also an exhibition of Czech Art Nouveau with fine examples of ceramics, jewelry and furniture. The displays were perfect in that they gave you a taste without overwhelming you. What’s more, the building itself is worth visiting. It is a great example of modernism with imposing semi-nude statues flanking the stairs, a fountain and tastefully decorated interior with ornate plaster, stain glass and mosaics by Czech artist Jan Preisler. The interior is so well preserved you feel that you are heading back to the beginning of the century to a time of class and elegance.

From the museum it’s just a matter of going up Palackého across Čs. Armady and up V Kopečku which you can follow to the Great Square (Velké náměstí). On the square you will see the Gothic Cathedral of the Holy Spirit. Its interior includes what is considered one of the most distinctive pewter baptisteries, though some of the interior is so-called pseudo-Gothic as it was repaired after the Hussite War.

If you’re looking for a view or place to try out your camera’s panoramic capabilities you can also climb to the top of the renaissance White Tower. Actually, I shouldn’t be so dismissive. The views are pretty impressive as you can see from these photos.

But more than this, if you are on the square, you have to visit the Gallery of Modern Art. You are not going to find lesser pieces by Picasso or Cezanne but gems by many Czech painters and sculptors of the 20th century. There are works by Emil Filla and former resident Josef Čapek and my favorite, a macabre scene of wizards and the devil by Czech painter, poet and mystic Josef Váchal.

The gallery is also hosting a temporary exhibition of the fantastic slightly alien images of major Czech painter Jan Zrzavý (ends 30th August) and the abstract stone work of Jiří Kačer (ends 27th September). Check the gallery´s website for upcoming events. The building is also worth visiting for itself because, like the Museum of Eastern Bohemia, it is a great example of modern architecture. The large ornate wooden revolving door is especially impressive.

Lunch Break
The square and nearby streets will provide you with more than enough places to grab a snack or have a meal. There is the upmarket U Radnice with garden seating or the more utilitarian Sport Cafe which seemed pretty busy when I went past. It could be the fairly low prices. If you’re in the mood for something different there is Mexita, which also does vegetarian meals, or the trendy looking Cartellone. All have outside seating with a view to the square.

However, I opted for the medieval themed restaurant U Rytíře. The fairly wide range of food and cold Pilsner made up for the fact it was not totally authentic. (I don’t think medieval women wore Crocs.) From the meals, which included pasta, fish, game or 200g, 300g or 400g steaks on the grill, I went with the pork knuckle and toast with cranberries, pears and grilled cheese for a starter. The cranberries were a little too sweet to make this work, but the knuckle was as fine as it gets. The meat was tender and smoky and there was a lot of it. Even with the crackling cut away there was too much for one.

Legging It
After such a meal, I needed a walk. Being on the Elbe, Hradec Králové has plenty of places to stroll. You can head away from the church down the square to Žižka’s Park. From there you can head to Šimek’s Park. From here you can head to the Elbe and turn left toward the city baths. Or you can go left toward Jírasek’s Park. The park is at the confluence of the Elbe and Orlice Rivers. It’s also a good place to chill out, especially after a big meal. Nor does anyone seem to mind if you start exercising; if the locals I saw practicing martial arts were anything to go by.

Other Attractions:

Giant Aquarium
One for the kids. There is an underwater tunnel to see tropical aquatic life. For the sporty, there is also a court, sauna and fitness center.
Opening hours: daily except Mon (during school holidays every day) 9am-6pm.
Address: Baarova 10
Tel: + 420 495 534 555

Elbe Steamers
Take a steamer along the Elbe River. The one-hour cruise allows you to have a unique view of Hradec Králové.
Opening hours: May-Oct, Mon-Fri: 3pm-8pm; Sat-Sun: 10am-8pm, other times by prior arrangement.
Address: Docks’ at Semtana’s embankment
Tel: +420 777 009 143

Observatory and Planetarium
If the cosmos is your thing, then you might want to check this out. They also offer activities for kids.
Opening hours: Wed and Fri: 7pm and 8:30pm, Sat: 2pm, 3pm, 7pm and 8:30pm
Address: Zámeček 456
Tel: +420 495 264 087

Botanical Garden and Medical Plants
Whatever you wanted to know about the medicinal uses of plants should be answered here.
Opening hours: The greenhouse is open all year by prior arrangement. Outdoor is Apr-Oct: 8am-4pm.
Address: Heyrovského 1203, the grounds of the Faculty of Pharmaceutics
Tel: +420 495 067 443

City Spa – Aquacenter
Cool off at this 1930s public bath. There is a 50m pool and a wave machine.
Opening hours: Mon-Fri: 10am-9pm, Sat-Sun: 10am-8pm
Address: Eliscino nábřeží
Tel: + 420 495 404 444

Places to Visit Nearby:

If you’re planning a longer stay in Hradec Králové, you might want to visit some of the historical or natural places of interest nearby.

For hikers and nature lovers there is a network of marked hiking paths starting just outside the outskirts of the city.

For the history inclined, you can take a trip to Chlum to visit a monument to the Battle of Hradec Králové between Prussia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1866. Prussia’s victory is seen as a decisive step toward German unification five years later.

A little south is Pardubice, Hradec Králové’s rival. It might be worth the trip to find out what all the fuss is about.

Places to Stay:

Penzion u České Koruny: This recently renovated pension is in the center of the city. It boasts a restaurant, cafe and pub.

Hotel Boromeum: Located in the center, this hotel offers five types of apartments, either 1 or 2 room.

Hotel Adalbertinum: This is a luxury hotel not far from the town square. The hotel offers a range of rooms with one, two to three beds.

Hotel Eliška: A luxury family hotel on the square. Rooms have views of the square or park. Their restaurant serves brunch on Sundays.

Queens Castle Hostel: Also centrally located but for those on a more restricted budget. They do offer free linen, 24 hour access and flexible check out.

For more information, check the city website:

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