26 May 2018. It has taken me over one year and a half of living in Brno to visit Lednice and Valtice. I’m a bit ashamed to make this confession, since the Lednice-Valtice pair appears to be one of the most iconic highlights in the whole of South Moravia.
I kept postponing the trip for ages, privileging other, equally appealing destinations like Pálava, Podyjí National Park, and Babí Lom (to name a few). However, I eventually ‘gave in’, and checked Lednice and Valtice off my (long) list of day trip destinations in the Brno area and region.
‘But wait, what exactly are Lednice and Valtice??’, you might ask. Good point. Let me give you some basic info, to begin with.
History and technical information
Lednice and Valtice are two small villages in the South Moravian region, south of Brno and fairly close to Mikulov and the Pálava reserve, as well as the border with Austria.
In both villages the main attraction is the castle. In fact, technically speaking, Lednice and Valtice form one natural-cultural complex as a whole, which covers an overall area of 283 square km. The complex was declared a Unesco site in 1996, and understandably so, unique as it is in its overall composition. It includes Lednice Castle (Zámek Lednice), Valtice Castle (Zámek Valtice), and the landscape area that surrounds them. The site as a whole is known as ‘Lednice-Valtice Cultural Landscape’ (‘Lednicko-valtický areál’ in Czech).
The two castles, which are very different from one another, once belonged to the Dukes of Liechtenstein, who acquired them between the 13th and the 14th century, and owned them till the end of World War II.
Lednice Castle was initially built as a Renaissance villa, but after multiple renovations it was redesigned in Neo-Gothic style around 1850. The Lednice site includes the castle, the greenhouse, the Venetian garden, and a large park with two ponds and a path that runs all around the larger lake and past the minaret and the Roman aqueduct.
Built in Baroque style in the 17th and 18th century, Valtice Castle is comparatively smaller than its Lednice counterpart. The castle is located in the heart of Valtice and, apart from the actual castle, the complex includes a number of monuments incorporated into the surrounding landscape. Also, when you’re done with the castle, you might also want to take a look at the village itself, which is very pretty.
You can visit the interiors of both castles, but only as part of a guided tour. In Lednice you can also visit the greenhouse aside from the castle (it has an entrance of its own).
You can choose to visit only one of the two sites (Lednice or Valtice), or you can see both of them during the same trip. If you’re interested in the guided tour of both castles, you may want to check the opening hours and tour timetable in advance.
However, if you’re planning on going to both Lednice and Valtice on the same day, be aware that, unless you go from one village to the other either by car or by bus, you will hardly make it: you simply won’t have enough time to visit both of them.
If, on the contrary, you’re not too keen on visiting the interiors, you can definitely see both sites in one go, and also cover the distance between the two (between 8 and 10 km, depending on the route) on foot.
That is also what we did, so that is what my post is focused on: an overview of Lednice, the walking route from Lednice to Valtice, and an overview of Valtice.
Part I: An Overview of Lednice
From Brno we took the train to Břeclav, a town on the very border with Austria. From Břeclav bus station, which is right next to the railway station building, we hopped on bus 570, and around 30 minutes later it was already time to get off.
The bus drops you off in Lednice náměstí (Lednice square, also the name of the stop). It is conveniently located right by the Tourist Information Office. The Tourist Office is more than worth a few minutes of your time, even more so because you can pick up a map of the Lednice site from the desk (super handy!).
From the square, head toward Zámecký Hotel, and turn right. Everything around you will say: Welcome to Lednice Castle. Unless you’re hungry and/or thirsty and/or tired, walk past the café and restaurant and turn right again. The creamy-coloured castle building hardly goes unnoticed.
It’s so spotless and neatly designed that it looks like it was borrowed from a digital setting. Take your time to admire its beautifully sculpted decoration and, if you’re there on a sunny day, wear sunglasses, or the brightness of the exteriors will make it impossible for you to keep your eyes open!
True, you will save time if you skip the visit around the interiors. However, it takes a while even to just walk around the building and visit the gardens. They are huge. On all four sides the castle is surrounded by broad patches of green, artfully trimmed bushes and hedges, and flowerbeds arranged in colourful patterns. As for the oblong-shaped building that stands out right beside the castle, that is the greenhouse.
If you turn left after the greenhouse, you will access the area behind the castle, i.e. the park (which, no, does not coincide with the gardens).
You will see two ponds: a smaller one, where the only highlight is the ‘Chinese Pavilion’ (a small, pointed gazebo which looks rather unimpressive), and a larger one. Pick the footpath that runs all along the larger pond. We walked the path counterclockwise and, a few kilometres on, the outline of the minaret emerged above the trees.
Also known as Turkish Tower, the minaret is one of the most peculiar elements of the whole site. Probably it’s also the last thing you’d expect to find in the Lednice landscape. And yet, it makes perfect sense as it is.
The minaret was built at the end of the 18th century as a lookout tower for the whole area. Its 60-metre high structure (which you can also climb to the top) barely goes unnoticed, mostly thanks to its richly decorated exteriors and strategic location overlooking the pond.
The walls on the ground floor are covered with inscriptions in Arabic. They have been identified as quotations from the Quran. Despite that, the structure does not have a religious connotation, nor was it ever conceived as such. It is more the expression of the Romantic interest in anything exotic. In fact, that is where the Liechtensteins had their exotic collections displayed.
Last but not least, the minaret is perfectly aligned with the castle. If you stand at the back of the castle and look ahead, you will see the minaret in the distance, right in front of you. Similarly, if you stand by the pond with the minaret behind you, you will see the outline of the castle at the opposite end of the pond.
On the way back to the castle from the minaret you will come across the Roman Aqueduct, as well as a couple of bridges offering superb views of the park.
Part II: The red tourist route to Valtice
If you coordinate your Lednice visit with the local bus timetable, you can go from Lednice to Valtice by bus 555. The journey takes about 30 minutes, so it’s extremely time-saving, and it gives you plenty of time to make the most of both sites.
The bus stop is, again, Lednice náměstí. However, bear in mind that the bus doesn’t run that often, so if you get to the bus stop and find out the bus has just left, you might have to wait up to an hour and a half for the next one.
That’s also what happened to us when we checked the bus timetable on our way out of the castle premises, so we quickly resolved we’d walk to Valtice, as we had initially planned.
The two villages are connected by an 8-km tree-lined avenue (predictably called Valtická, ‘Road to Valtice’), which runs straight from Lednice to Valtice. Tempting as it might look, you don’t want to stick to it the whole way: there is no pavement or pedestrian/bike lane on the side, and it is potentially dangerous (as well as somewhat annoying) to have cars zooming past all the time.
In order to do it right, you want to take the red walking route through the countryside. It’s a bit longer than if you went down the main road (between 8.5 km and 9.7 km), but it’s worth the extra effort and it’s as scenic as it can get.
The route starts right next to the train station called ‘Lednice rybníky’ (literally ‘Lednice ponds’). As you leave the castle premises, keep Zámecký Hotel on your right, and take 21.dubna Street. Turn right into Mikulovská (the large road that cuts off in front of you), and then left into Valtická. Keep going for about 500 metres, and turn left into Nádražní Street (literally ‘Station Street’). Roughly 250 metres on, on your right you will see the small station building and the railway tracks. Cross the tracks, and keep an eye out for the route signs, because they are just there. The road will be replaced by an earthy path lined up by leafy trees and seemingly borderless trees. You’re right on track.
You will soon reach a lake, called Mlýnský rybník. The view is positively amazing there. That’s also where the trail forks: you have the lake in front of you, so you have to go right or left. You will see two ‘Valtice Zámek’ signs pointing toward opposite directions, and reading respectively ‘8.4 km’ and ‘9.7 km’.
We picked the trail to the left. It’s quite a long walk, but a great one. The landscape changes quite often: woods, pine forest and green fields. The trail is marked by a number of monuments and points of interest along the way:
– The New Yard (Nový dvůr), a large complex used for beef raising and sheep breeding
– The statues of the Three Graces (Tři Grácie) and the semicircular temple by the same name
– St. Hubert Chapel (Kaple svatého Huberta), a temple-like structure in Gothic style dedicated to the patron saint of hunters
– The Neoclassical Temple of Diana, known as Rendezvous.
When, after you’ve left the woods, you come across a ‘Valtice’ sign in yellow paint on a wooden board, you really are almost there! You will soon find yourself on P. Bezruče Street, which leads to Valtice main square (náměstí Svobody) and, right behind it, Valtice Castle. At long last!
Part III: An Overview of Valtice
Valtice Castle sits in a beautiful spot at the top of a scenic staircase. The site consists of a four-wing complex, with the castle building in the middle, the park and gardens at the back of the castle, and the wine cellars. These, dating back to 1430, are among the oldest in the Czech Republic.
As I’ve understood, based on materials and reviews I’ve read, the Valtice interiors are a little less impressive and sumptuous than the exteriors. That said, there are many tour types you can choose from (and book in advance, if you wish). I was not able to clarify whether you can also visit the castle on your own. I’d say it’s not an option, but I’ll be glad to receive further and more accurate information on that, so feel free to drop me a line!
As for the connection between Valtice and wine, it is a very strong one. Valtice itself is renowned for its vineyards, and it is part of the region of Mikulov, one of the most celebrated in South Moravia when it comes to wine production. No wonder both Valtice and its castle are often home to wine-tasting events. In fact, the National Wine Centre is headquartered in the castle, where also the Wine Salon of the Czech Republic and the yearly Valtice Wine Market exhibition take place.
Once you’re done with the castle, I would recommend taking a good look at Valtice main square, where the village’s main points of interest are gathered: the Plague Column, the Town Hall, the Parish Church, plus neatly-mowed green areas, a fountain, and a few bars, restaurants and pensions.
The easiest way to go back to Brno is to take the train from Valtice to Břeclav, and change there for the train to Brno.
To reach the station, go back onto P. Bezruče Street: the station is beyond the bar/restaurant called Hostinec U Dolečků, on the left-hand side of the road.
Valtice train station is one of the smallest I’ve ever seen. It has one track, and the only trains that stop there are regional trains (marked ‘Os’) going to either Břeclav or Znojmo. Even from the platform the view is beautiful, the silence almost reassuring.
Again, connections through Valtice are not that frequent (especially toward the evening), so make sure you check them in advance to avoid being stuck in Valtice. And if you do, well, at least the view is nice, and there are plenty of accommodation options in the vicinity of the station!
The Lednice-Valtice Route. How to get there from Brno: A quick recap
From Brno to Lednice:
1. From Brno train station (hlavní nádraží) take a direct train to Břeclav. Get out of the station, and turn right to enter Břeclav bus station.
2. Take bus 570 to Lednice, and get off at the stop called Lednice náměstí, Lednice Square.
From Lednice to Valtice
Take bus 555 from Lednice náměstí, and get off at the stop called Autobusová stanice. That’s Valtice bus station, which is located behind the main square.
Needless to say, you can also take bus 555 in Valtice, and reach Lednice from there.
From Valtice to Brno
Take a regional train from Valtice to Břeclav, and change in Břeclav for the train to Brno. You can buy one ticket for the whole journey (both trains).
For further information on trains and local/regional buses in the South Moravian region check out these websites:
Czech Railways (České dráhy) official website: https://www.idsjmk.cz/EN/default.aspx (EN version)
South Moravian Integrated Public Transport (IDSJMK) official website: https://www.idsjmk.cz/EN/default.aspx (EN version)