The Terezín Fortress was founded in 1780 by Emperor Joseph II to defend the borders of Bohemia against attacks from the north. It represents the pinnacle of European bastion fortress construction.
You can learn more about the history of the fortress in Retranchement 5, where there is a car park and an Information Centre, and from where you can also go on tours of the fortifications and underground passages. There are also several exhibitions about the origins and functioning of Terezín Fortress in this visitor centre. During an engaging tour you will learn a lot of interesting information and get to know Terezín in a different way. A tourist attraction is a tour of the underground passages with a lantern.
Retrenchment 5 is the last line of defence of Fortress Terezín, as it closes the throat of Bastion 5. If it happened that the enemy captured the bastion after many weeks of fierce fighting, only this retrenchment would stand in his way. From the rampart of its green roof, therefore, the defenders could fire, and the ground floor is equipped with artillery and infantry gun emplacements. Other casemates on the ground floor served as a safe shelter for the soldiers during the siege. In addition, a so-called fortress building yard operated here for centuries. Today we might say the technical services for the entire fortress. There was a forge, a stonemason's, carpenter's and joiner's workshop and, in the outer area of today's car park, lime pits and sheds for storing building materials. Maintenance and minor repairs of the fortifications were carried out here.
Today, the first ever Terezín Museum has been set up here, dealing with the history of the town and the fortress from its foundation to the First Republic. Here you will learn why and how the fortress was built and how it was built. How it was lived in and how it was demolished in the 20th century - actually, in the case of Terezín, it was not demolished. The seven halls will take you through the centuries and the individual themes. You will see a model of the conquest of the fortress and a huge model of Terezín itself. You will see military weapons and equipment from the times of Maria Theresa to T. G. Masaryk. You will learn how many taverns and brothels there were in the town and many other interesting facts. From here you will go on guided tours of the unique fortifications and underground passages. An essential part of Retranchement 5 is the Terezín Information Centre. It is open every day from 9 am to 5 pm.
One of the world's unique features of Terezín is its fortifications, which are one of the few that have survived to this day in an almost undamaged state. Moreover, in comparison to other fortresses, Terezín represents the absolute top and peak of bastion fortifications refined to perfection over the centuries.
The Terezín Fortress consists basically of three parts and three interconnected defence systems. Southwest of the Elbe bend, where it turns from south to west towards Litoměřice, lies the so-called Small Fortress or Fort behind the old Ohře riverbed. To the west of it, between the new and old Ohře riverbeds, are the Upper and Lower Retrenchments - essentially fortified meadows. Even further west, beyond the sluice bridge over the new Ohře River, is the Main Fortress - the most important part of the fortification.
The defence then consists of three systems. The first and most visible is a band of sometimes triple overlapping earthworks. These progress from the covered way, complete with lunettes, through a secondary ditch to the buttresses and ravelins with redoubts. Beyond these is the main moat, then a curtain wall covered with pincers and a wreath of eight bastions, most of which are additionally equipped with retrenchments and cavaliers. These represent the last line of defence.
The entire southern side of Terezín from Bastion 3 to the Small Fortress is covered by a flood basin, and the other covers the Main and Small Fortresses from the north almost to the Elbe. These could be flooded as needed, leaving the only access from the west and east against the Small Fortress. At the same time, the water manoeuvre made it possible to deliberately flood the moats with a destructive wave up to 3 metres high, which would have swept away any attacker. The final defensive system is the mine tunnels running in the individual elements, under the covered way and especially under the glacis of the fortress where the area could not be flooded.
In addition, a tangle of tens of kilometres of underground tunnels winds beneath the triple belt of defences. All this and much more can be seen during the tour. Like the defenders of centuries ago, you'll walk across the entire fortification and deep into the intricate underground passages, where you can explore their secrets by lantern light.
Open: Monday-Sunday 9.00-17.00
For more information, please contact the Information Centre.
The cavalry is part of the fort's inner defensive line. It is placed inside bastion 2 to increase the defensive capability of the southern side of Terezín. If the enemy had captured the bastion, this cavalier would have stood in his way. Its first floor would then be turned into an artillery fortress, raining fire and destruction on the attacker. It is therefore higher than the surrounding fortifications, and on its green roofs there are several positions for cannon, which had a wide view from here.
In addition, Cavalier 2 was one of the most important parts of the fortress. The ground floor, covered by a massive rampart of green roofs and surrounding fortifications, housed the fort's bakeries. Unfortunately, they have not survived to this day, but in the old days it was possible to bake up to almost 75 tons of bread a day.
Today you can experience a piece of the 18th century for yourself in a cavalier. In the "Barracks", an exhibition of soldiers' life in the 18th century, you can walk through their quarters from the almost palatial salon of the fort commander to the officers' apartments to the simple men's bedroom. You can peek into the guardroom, the headquarters and the kitchen. But it's not just a peek. You can sit on the bench in the guardroom or stretch out on the straw in the men's bedroom. If you visit the military yard, you can pet the sheep, goats and Princess Pig, among others. The La Grace Museum also offers a bit of exotic distance, where you get to step into the actual hold of an 18th-century sailing ship.