The fore-runner of the present castle was probably a small fort, built to protect the ford across the Vltava where a toll was collected from boats. Orlík (derived from "orlí" meaning eagle's) was a typical castle, situated high on a headland, like an eagle's nest.
At first it was probably a royal castle. After the death of King Přemysl Otakar II it was held by various vassals who enjoyed royal favour. In 1407 Petr Zmrzlík of Svojšín gained it and had it completely reconstructed. His family supported the Calixtines and Orlík was an ideal place for meetings of the Hussite leaders from Tábor and Prague. When the castle was burned out in 1508 the Zmrzlíks moved to Lnáře, leaving Orlík to its fate. Kryštof of Švamberk, owner of neighbouring Zvíkov estate, added Orlík to his domains and began to rebuild it. A new wing was added which closed the square courtyard and the defence system was strengthened. Throughout the whole 16th century the Švamberks remodelled the castle. A new bailey, also fortified, formed the first defence zone of the object.
After the Battle of the White Mountain, the Lutheran Švamberks had their property confiscated and in 1623 the Orlík estate was sold to Jan Oldřich of Eggenberg. After that family died out, the Schwarzenbergs inherited it and made it the administrative centre of the Orlík and Zvíkov estates. In the 1st half of the 18th century they commissioned the builder, Martinelli, to make the necessary repairs on parts of the object which threatened to collapse.
A new phase in Orlík's history began in 1802 when the Schwarzenberg family divided into two branches, and the founder of the younger branch, Karel Filip, chose Orlík as his seat. This diplomat and soldier, who later defeated Napoleon in the battle at Leipzig, added a third storey to Orlík after a fre in 1802 and a new staircase. A theatre was built in front of the mansion gateway and a park laid out.
During re-Gothicisation in 1849 to 1860, designed by Professor Griiber, the facade with three round towers was given a uniform appearance, the Knights' Hall got an oriel and the side facing the Vltava was renovated. The family tomb was built in the park. Orlík was restored to Karel Schwarzenberg in the restitution process but is still open to the public. The sight-seeing tour is devoted mainly to the founder of that branch of the family, Karel Filip Schwarzenberg and its famous history. It takes visitors through the Empire halls, the Knights' Hall with oriel, Teskov hall with richly carved ceiling and the Gun Corridor with a remarkable collection of firearms. From most of the rooms the surface of the dam is to be seen which changed the view of the castle in 1960.
The legend about the founding of Orlík is very romantic. It tells of a robber whose little son was seized by an eagle and carried to a high cliff. After a dangerous climb the robber freed his son, alive and well, and decided henceforth to change his way of life. He built a fortress on the cliff where the eagle nested, and named it Orlík in memory of that event.
You can visit Orlik on the following tours: