A Mont-St-Michel-esque mirage floating above the plain along the Czech-Austrian border, the historic wine town of Mikulov is one of the wonders of Moravia and the Czech Republic. Join us as we discover and delve into gorgeous Mikulov.
Magnificent Mikulov is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the Czech Republic. Its splendid Castle makes an arresting sight as you approach from the Austrian border to the south, and its romantic, atmospheric cobbled streets and alleyways are just as enchanting.
We had planned to return to Mikulov the moment we set eyes on it, and felt the best way to experience it would be to spend a couple of nights there. We also thought it might make a good base for exploring the South Moravia wine region around the town, and the nearby Lednice-Valtice UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It turned out to be a wonderful place to stay, and we were so taken with Mikulov that we think it deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Český Krumlov or Telč. As well as the fine historic sites there are plenty of wine cellars and bars around the town where you can linger long over a glass of the new season’s wine as the sun sets.
Our Mikulov guide shows you all the sights and points you in the direction of several bars and wine cellars, as well as the best Mikulov restaurants. We’ll also suggest some Mikulov hotels and show you how to get to Mikulov, and show you several other places to visit in Moravia within striking distance of Mikulov.
- 1 Mikulov – An Introduction
- 2 Things to Do In Mikulov
- 2.1 Mikulov Castle
- 2.2 Mikulov Chateau Gardens
- 2.3 St Wenceslas Church
- 2.4 Mikulov Square
- 2.5 Dům U Rytířů Sgraffito House
- 2.6 Café Dolce Vita
- 2.7 Dietrichstein Tomb
- 2.8 Goat Castle
- 2.9 Mikulov Jewish Quarter
- 2.10 Mikulov Synagogue
- 2.11 Mikulov Jewish Cemetery
- 2.12 Holy Hill – Svaty Kopeček
- 2.13 Mikulov Wineries
- 2.14 Mikulov Wine Trail
- 2.15 Follow the Iron Curtain trail – By Bike Or On Foot
- 2.16 Hotels in Mikulov
- 2.17 Lednice-Valtice Landscape World Heritage Site
- 3 Getting to Mikulov
Mikulov – An Introduction
Mikulov is located immediately north of the border with Austria, and around 30 miles (50 km) south of Brno, the second city of the Czech Republic, in the province of Moravia
The town dates from the 12th century, and in 1249 Ottakar II of Bohemia gave the town and Castle to Rudolf I of Liechtenstein
Its German name is Nikolsburg, and for much of its history – from the late 13th century until 1945 – its population was mostly German-speaking
Mikulov remained under the control of the powerful Liechtenstein family until 1560, after which it became the property of the Dietrichstein family
Mikulov is the centre of the Mikulovska wine region, one of four regions in Moravia, and there are roughly 30 wine-producing villages in the Mikulov wine region
Mikulov was the largest Jewish centre in Moravia, offering a home to many expelled from Vienna in the 15th century, and the community survived until the Second World War
Things to Do In Mikulov
Sometimes referred to as Mikulov Chateau, the Castle dominates the town and surrounding area. Much of the Liechtenstein-built medieval hrad (military castle) was destroyed by fire in 1719, but some of its towers survived – these were incorporated into the chateau (zamek) that was then built by the Dietrichstein dynasty. This in turn suffered huge damage at the end of World War II, and what we now see is largely a post-war reconstruction.
Mikulov Castle is a hugely impressive sight, and it contributes enormously to the town’s picturesqueness. Even though much of it is essentially a large Baroque residence, it’s still a massive, sturdy building and would have looked a very imposing building to any would-be attackers.
The Castle is now home to the Mikulov Regional Museum, which hosts several exhibitions which you can visit on guided tours. These include one on the area’s history and a series of portraits of the Dietrichstein family through the generations. For us, the most intriguing parts of the visit were the Dietrichstein Library, one of the few areas of the Castle to survive the Second World War unscathed, and the Castle Wine Cellar.
The latter has an exhibition of centuries-old wine presses, but the main draw is the enormous wine barrel – reputedly the largest in the Czech Republic and the eighth largest in the world. Its volume was recently measured – it can hold up to 110,000 litres of wine, enough to keep the Dietrichsteins and the other 7,000 or so denizens of Mikulov happy for quite some time.
Mikulov Chateau Gardens
The imposing Castle is surrounded by some gorgeous gardens, which have much longer opening hours than the Castle itself. The main Garden below the east side of the Castle is breathtaking, with splendid flower beds at either end and the trickle of the fountain creating a sublime, peaceful atmosphere.
If you continue past the second flower bed, you’ll be rewarded with a view over the red rooftops of Mikulov and the nearby Austrian border post. You’ll also find a small herb garden, a maze and an exquisite garden, of which we had a wonderful view from our Mikulov accommodation just below the Castle walls.
St Wenceslas Church
The graceful tower of St Wenceslas Church – kostel Sv Vaclave – is one of the main features on the Mikulov skyline, occupying a prime spot above the Square and below the Castle. The present building replaced three earlier structures, one as old as the 13th century. The church is a mixture of Gothic and Baroque, and excavations have revealed an ossuary with the bones of up to 2,000 souls, beneath the church. Sadly it was closed when we visited, but we did notice some people enjoying the view from the tower gallery, so hopefully it will re-open in the near future.
The main square in Mikulov – known simply as Náměstí, or the Square – is one of the loveliest squares in the Czech Republic. It’s so picturesque, surrounded by gorgeous houses and several of the main Mikulov attractions. Conveniently, it’s also just a minute’s walk downhill from the Castle Gardens. The square is surprisingly low key, with a few cafes and a restaurant or two, but in the three days and nights we spent where it was always fairly quiet.
Dům U Rytířů Sgraffito House
One of the most striking Mikulov sights is the Renaissance-era house decorated with vivid sgraffito etchings of Biblical scenes and local nobility. This is one of the best examples in the Czech Republic, with other examples in Old Town Square Prague and Slavonice, another town further west along the Austrian border. Its name translates as Knights House, and the ground floor currently houses the Alfa Restaurant.
Café Dolce Vita
The first place on the Square that we headed for each day was Cafe Dolce Vita. It’s a wonderful bolthole at the top of the Square, its walls covered in ivy, and its outside tables a cool shady spot from which to survey the Square, sipping on a glass of wine on a warm summer evening. Or as we did, sitting in the vaulted interior enjoying a fine espresso lungo and a slice of excellent cake
(dort) from the extensive selection.
The 17th century Church of St Anne was originally modelled on the Holy House in Loreto, Italy, and then adapted to include a mausoleum for the ruling Dietrichstein family. Twin Baroque towers were added to the façade, and the church had to be restored after severe fire damage in 1784. The funeral chapel can now be visited as part of a guided tour – these run almost hourly during the season.
Goat Castle – Kozi Hradek – is a 15th century tower built to augment Mikulov’s defences and provide an elevated point from which artillery could be fired at any threats on the Vienna to Brno road below. It now provides one of the best vantage points over Mikulov, with a view over the Castle and St Wenceslas Church. The tower was closed during our visit, but I still walked up there to investigate. the view from the base of the tower is superlative, so head up there for a look, especially around sunset. Apparently, if the flag is flying from the tower, it’s open.
Mikulov Jewish Quarter
At one time almost half of Mikulov’s population of around 7,000 was Jewish, and many lived in the streets below the Castle to the south and west. The area includes some of the town’s most picturesque streets, especially Husova and Zamecka, which runs directly below the Castle walls, and many houses from the late medieval period and the ensuing centuries survive.
The Synagogue in Mikulov dates back to the 16th century, and it’s the sole surviving synagogue in Moravia to have been built in the Polish style. It is part of the Regional Museum Mikulov, and was remodelled in the 17th century – what we see today is a restoration of what it looked like during this period. When we visited it was hosting an exhibition on Rabbi Löw, creator of the famous Golem during his time in Prague, who also spent around twenty years of his life in Moravia.
Mikulov Jewish Cemetery
The Jewish Cemetery in Mikulov is located on the hill to the north of the town, a few minutes’ walk from the Goat Castle. Funeral services were held in the white cemetery building, before the body of the deceased was taken to the adjacent burial ground.
There is a small exhibition in the cemetery building – check the side room, from which another door leads to (for want of a better word!) the garage, which contains an extraordinary 19th century black horse-drawn hearse. The burial ground is a few metres up the hill, a serene resting place.
Holy Hill – Svaty Kopeček
A few hundred metres from the Castle, a path leads up a side street to the first flight of steps to the summit of Mikulov Holy Hill. A series of statues marking the 14 Stations of the Cross leads to the pilgrimage church of St Sebastian at the top. It’s a great workout and you’re rewarded with fine views of the town and Palava hills. That said, if you’re looking for the best views of Mikulov, the first Station of the Cross affords the best one, across the red rooftops to the majestic Mikulov Castle.
There are numerous wineries in Mikulov, dotted all over the town, and you’ll rarely have to walk far to find one. Possibly the largest Mikulov winery is Vinoteka Volařík, a minute’s walk north of the Square, and they have an extensive selection there. At the end of the scale, we found a tiny, intimate bar with three tables and two barrels of burčák, fresh off the press, on our last night in Mikulov, and I couldn’t resist a mug of white burčák to fortify me against the first chill of autumn.
Many places also double up as cafes, bistros and also offer apartment accommodation around the town.
Mikulov Wine Trail
One of the best ways of exploring the Mikulovska wine region is by bike, as most of the terrain is fairly flat, with relatively few hills to conquer. We took a bus from Mikulov to Lednice, following a circuitous route north through the landscape of the Palava as far as the Nove Mlyny reservoirs, and wine villages including Klentnice, Perna, Dolni Vestonice and Pavlov. Although this made a 15-minute journey an hour long, it was a most enjoyable diversion, passing through vineyards and pumpkin fields, with ruined Moravian castles on the distant hills.
We saw many cyclists enjoying these and some of the other back roads of the area, and cycling is also a great way to get around the Lednice-Valtice World Heritage Site.
Follow the Iron Curtain trail – By Bike Or On Foot
The Iron Curtain Trail is a long-distance cycle route following the former border between East and West, and the section along the Austrian-Czech border is fascinating. Mikulov is on the final – and eighth – section, between the Austrian spa town of Laa an der Thaya and nearby Valtice.
Over 50 people died between 1948 and 1989 trying to escape south across the border to Austria, and there is a memorial to them at the nearby Gate to Freedom on the cycle route. There is also a small Iron Curtain Museum in Valtice, which is open on weekends between March and October, and daily in July and August.
Hotels in Mikulov
There is a great choice of Mikulov hotels, both in and around the town, and there’s also the option of a staying in a Mikulov penzion, which we did.
Hotel Tanzberg Mikulov is one of the best hotels in Mikulov town, and is situated in the old Jewish quarter on Husova. The building is across the street from the Synagogue and was originally home to the local rabbi – one of these was, as mentioned, Rabbi Yehuda Low, and the Golem beer hall on the ground floor commemorates his time there. Prague Art Nouveau artist Alfons Mucha was a regular guest there in the early 20th century. This is probably the best luxury hotel in Mikulov, and you can also enjoy fine dining at Restaurant Marcel Ihnacak, and browse the vast wine cellar.
Hotel Galant Mikulov is another 4-star option in the centre of the town, a 2-minute walk from the main Square. The same company also runs a hotel in nearby Lednice.
We stayed in the delightful Pension Fajka, in a room at the top of a small house overlooking a peaceful pond and part of the Castle’s Rose Garden. This place is right in the shadow of the Castle walls, a wonderful spot to immerse yourself in Mikulov history.
Lednice-Valtice Landscape World Heritage Site
The Lednice-Valtice Cultural Landscape is one of 15 World Heritage Sites in the Czech Republic. The region was owned by the powerful Liechtenstein family, who over three centuries made alterations to their properties and the landscape to create a harmonious artistic whole. Both Lednice Castle and Valtice Castle are within easy reach from Mikulov, and both have several hotels and pensions where you can base yourself.
The Lednice-Valtice estate is distinctive for its avenues and vistas, leading to views of monuments from a Minaret and false ruined castle at Lednice to a triumphal arch and the famous Reistne Colonnade on a hill overlooking Valtice on one side and the Austrian border on the other. As the monuments are widely spread out, cycling is the ideal way to see most of the Lednice Valtice area.
Getting to Mikulov
Mikulov is located on the Austrian border, and can easily be reached by car, bus or train from anywhere in the region, including Vienna and the Slovak capital, Bratislava.
Prague is the starting point for many visiting the Czech Republic, and it’s at the opposite end of the country from Mikulov. the journey from Prague to Mikulov took us over four hours – this involved a RegioJet bus from Prague Florenc to Znojmo, then an onward train journey along the Austrian border to Mikulov na Moravě. The station is on the outskirts of the town, and several buses take you from there to the Old town. There are three likely stops you would use – Mikulov u parku, at the bottom of the hill, Mikulov poliklinika on Svobody and 22 dubna, on the west side below the Castle.
Another way of getting to Mikulov from Prague is to catch a train from Prague to Břeclav, then getting a train to Mikulov. Check the Czech Railways website for up-to-date times. I really wouldn’t recommend Mikulov as a day trip from Prague as there’s so much travel time and not enough time to see and experience Mikulov – I would look to stay in Mikulov for a night or two, and this would fit in well if you were heading for Vienna.
Mikulov is also one of many possible day trips from Brno, just a short drive to the north. There is no direct Brno Mikulov connection, so the best way to get there by public transport is to take the train to Břeclav and change there for Mikulov, a 10-minute ride away.
It’s also worth considering a day trip from Vienna to Mikulov, or a stopover if you’re driving north from Vienna to the Czech Republic. It’s a little over an hour’s drive from Mikulov to Vienna, otherwise its two hours away by train or bus, with a change in both cases.