The founding of the town of Ceske Budejovice at the confluence of the rivers Vltava and Malse by King Premysl Otakar II in 1265 was a step towards strengthening the royalty in South Bohemia. Like all medieval towns, Ceske Budejovice was built around a central square and enclosed in a ring of defensive walls to provide strong support against feudal clans who were expanding their territory further north. Outside the walls, the town's suburbs were taken over by large agricultural estates that provided work for most of the population which numbered about 4 thousand in the 14th-century.
The town grew rapidly both physically and economically. Wide streets and splendid burgher houses were constructed. Business was encouraged thanks to the town's favourable position along established commercial routes. At the same time, the Bohemian king granted numerous privileges to the town and its citizens ensuring more economic prosperity. Economic development wasn't even hindered in the course of the turbulent 15th-century when large stretches of Europe were taken over by the Hussite Movement, spearheaded by a clan of anti-Catholic warriors who attacked and captured numerous Catholic towns. The 16th-century brought again an unprecedented economic growth particularly through silver mining, beer brewing and salt production. Situated at the crossroads between the Czech Kingdom and the Danube Basin, Ceske Budejovice controlled the major trade route between Austria and the northern countries. The profits earned through such economic activity were invested by the population to construct new buildings and to renovate what already existed. A Town Hall was built, the surrounding defensive walls were strengthened, the 70 metres high Black Tower was constructed to guard over the city and a mint was established to process the silver of the nearby silver mines.
The 17th-century however saw a number of incidents which halted for a while the economic boom the town experienced during the 16th-century. The Thirty Years' War of 1618-1648 which devastated most of Central Europe brought a period of decline though no major damages to the town's buildings were caused. However what the war was unable to do was done suddenly by a massive fire which burnt out more than half the buildings in the city in July 1641. To make matters worse for the city and its inhabitants, an earthquake and a flood produced more damages to the remaining public buildings and private residences.
Although most of the city was destroyed, the inhabitants never looked back and soon started on a major reconstruction and renovation programme which extended over several decades. A new Baroque Town Hall which you can still admire was built in 1731; Samson's fountain which still occupies the central position on the main square was built in 1727 and many public buildings and private houses were reconstructed or given a Baroque facelift. In a matter of 30 years, Ceske Budejovice was once again undergoing a period of economic prosperity and cultural upheaval. This was pushed forward when Empress Maria Theresa of Austria made Ceske Budejovice the seat of a newly created region. A Latin grammar school and a town theatre were built during this period. When in 1785 Ceske Budejovice was given the status of a bishopric, a seminary and an institute of philosophy were established.
The greatest time of economic prosperity however arrived with the construction of the horse carriage railway in 1824. Designed by Gerstner (a street in Ceske Budejovice is named F.A. Gerstnera) and operating for the first time in 1832, this first large railway on the European continent linked Ceske Budejovice with Linz in Austria. Since transport between the two towns was made easier with the opening of the railway, industry started to be attracted towards Ceske Budejovice. Vojtech Lanna, a local businessman took the opportunity to open the first export oriented company followed in 1847 by the Viennese firm Hardtmuth which produced pencils and ceramics. In 1895, the Czech brewery of Budvar started producing beer of first-class quality and soon the fame of the town spread to many countries all over the world.
Today the outskirts of Ceske Budejovice are still a prime industrial area producing more than one brand name of beer, high quality Koh-i-Noor pencils, ceramics and textiles. The inner historical town is being reorganised to attract more tourists who are obviously a new source of income for the hard-striving population. Manufacturing industry on the one hand and tourism on the other will for the second time make Ceske Budejovice the rich town of South Bohemia.