This small town in the northernmost part of the Czech Republic may be far off the tourist trail but there are at least two very good reasons for a stopover: The wonderful baroque-era Basilica of Saints Lawrence and Zdislava and the nearby medieval Lemberk Castle. You can easily visit the town by daytrip from the bigger northern Bohemian cities of Česká Lípa or Liberec. Another possibility would be to combine a visit to Jablonné with a hiking trip to the Bohemian Switzerland Area.
What to see and do in Jablonné v Podještědi
Basilica of Saints Lawrence and Zdislava
This baroque gem arguably constitutes the main reason to visit Jablonné. The 34m high dome of the church is visible for miles over the plains when you approach the city from the north but the building just gets more impressive the closer you get. Originally founded in the 13th century, the structure repeatedly got sacked and destroyed during various wars before being rebuilt in its current shape in the early 18th century under the leadership of Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt (mostly famous for several contemporaneous church buildings in Vienna).
While the magnificent view of the striped red-and-white façade over the small plaza in front of the church seems to already justify a trip to Jablonné, it still pays to enter the church to marvel at the intricate altarpiece, pulpit and stuccoed domed ceiling. The crypt holds the remains of Saint Zdislava, a 13th century noblewoman revered for curing people from Leprosy and various other unpleasant diseases. She also paid for the original church building which might have something to do with her subsequent status as a saint – just a guess.
Other sights in central Jablonné
A walk through the small alleyways surrounding the church is also quite rewarding and apart from the baroque statues of other saints in front of the plaza, you can check out the intricate plague column on the main square west of the basilica. These monuments erected in commemoration of the end of the last plague pandemic in the second half of the 17th century are a quite common sight around Catholic parts of Central Europe. Directly to the south there’s a viewpoint (vyhlídková věž) atop a tower, although I haven’t ever been here when it was open. Maybe, you’re luckier than I. The small Chapel of St. Wolfgang along the main road east of the basilica is also worth a visit.
This castle in the eastern suburb of Lvová can be visited during an informative guided tour. It originally dates to the 13th century (when Saint Zdislava, who is buried in the Basilica, lived here) but has been extensively rebuilt in the 16th and 17th centuries. Inside you’ll have a chance to check out various stately rooms, mostly dating to the baroque era. One of the most famous elements (and certainly the most interesting in my opinion) is the coffered ceiling depicting 77 scenes from Aesop’s Fables, something I wouldn’t necessary have expected in a rural castle in Northern Bohemia. Another reason to drop by is the possibility to climb up to the tower and enjoy the fantastic view of the surrounding scenery, especially to the Zittau Mountains on the German border to the north.
To get to the castle, you can either take the train from Jablonné to Lvová or simply walk there from the southeastern edge of central Jablonné. The pleasant walk through the forest takes only about 20 minutes and leads past Zdislava’s Spring which people visit from afar to bring home some of the water which ostensibly contains healing properties.
Sloni kameny (Elephant’s Rocks)
This unusual, isolated sandstone-formation was formed during the tertiary era and through years of constant erosion gained its current shape. Rather looking like a huge cloud turned to stone than the eponymous Elephant (maybe I’m lacking the necessary fantasy), they constitute an interesting destination for a hike plus climbing to the top affords nice views of the Lusatian Mountains to the South. To get here without your own transport, you could take the train to Rynoltice (about 5 mins. / 25CZK) and walk the rest of the way (about 30 mins.). If you decide to do that, first walk east from Rynoltice to nearby Jítrava and at the eastern end of that village turn north, cross the big highway and continue north for about 5 minutes until you reach the stones.
How to get to Jablonné v Podještědi
The city can be reached by frequent train connection from nearby Liberec (about 35 mins. / 60CZK) in the east and Česká Lípa (about 35 mins. / 55CZK) in the west. If you’re traveling from cities to the south (e.g. Prague), you’ll have to connect in Děčín. The entire trip from Prague Main Station via Děčín would take about 3 hours and 15 mins. (about 280 CZK). You can search for connections on the website of the Czech National Train Network.
How to get around in Jablonné v Podještědi
If you’re without your own transport, the easiest way to get around town is by actually walking. It’s not too spread out and especially the path along the river east to Lemberk Castle is quite pleasant. Otherwise you can also take the train from the centre of town to Lvová, where the castle is located, which only takes a couple of minutes and costs about 15CZK. Again, check the website of the Czech National Train Network for connections.
Where to stay in Jablonné v Podještědi
As this is a small town that doesn’t see loads of tourists, options are somewhat limited and most people opt to visit Jablonné as a daytrip from Liberec, Česká Lípa or Děčín. That said, if you prefer to stay in town, there are a few possibilities, like Penzion a Restaurace Lemberk, which is located close to Lemberk Castle or Penzion U Salvátora (Tel. +420 487 754 333) in the town centre close to the Basilica.
Where to eat in Jablonné v Podještědi
Around the market square, there are a few traditional restaurants serving the typically hearty Bohemian fare and famous Czech lager beer. We found U Českého Iva on the western side of the square to be quite good but there are other options in the surrounding streets.
Where to go next
Bohemian Switzerland National Park