České Budějovice (German: Budweis or Böhmisch Budweis; sometimes referred to as Budweis in English) is a statutory city in the Czech Republic. It is the largest city in the South Bohemian Region as well as its political and commercial capital, the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of České Budějovice, the University of South Bohemia, and the Academy of Sciences. It is located in the center of a valley of the Vltava River, at the confluence with the Malše. České Budějovice, which is located in the historical province of Bohemia, is not to be confused with Moravské Budějovice in Moravia.
The city was founded by Hirzo, a knight of King Ottokar II of Bohemia and was granted its municipal charter in 1265. The royal city was created as a platform of the king’s power in South Bohemia and to counterbalance the powerful noble House of Rosenberg, which finally became extinct in 1611.
In 1341 King John of Bohemia accorded permission to Jewish families to reside within the Budweis walls and a first synagogue was erected in 1380, however several pogroms occurred in the late 15th and early 16th century. Since the Hussite Wars, the city was traditionally a bulwark of the Catholic Church during the long-lasting religious conflicts in the Kingdom of Bohemia. A part of the Habsburg Monarchy from 1526, Budweis remained a loyal supporter of Emperor Ferdinand II in the Thirty Years’ War. In 1762 the Piarists established a gymnasium here and Emperor Joseph II founded the Budweis diocese in 1785. In 1847 the production of Koh-i-Noor Hardtmuth pencils was relocated from Vienna to Budweis.
Budějovice has long been well known for the beer brewed there since the 13th century. For a time the town was the imperial brewery for the Holy Roman Emperor, and Budweiser Bier (i.e. beer from Budweis) became, along with Pilsner from Plzeň, one of the best-known lagers. Brewing remains a major industry.
The largest brewery, founded in 1895, is “Pivovar Budějovický Budvar” (Budweiser Budvar Brewery) which has legal rights to market its beer under the “Budweiser” brand name in much of Europe. The same product is also sold elsewhere under the names “Budvar” and “Czechvar” due to legal disagreements with Anheuser-Busch over the Budweiser brand. The American lager was originally brewed as an imitation of the famous Bohemian original, but over time has developed its own identity and attained remarkable commercial success. Anheuser-Busch has made offers to buy out the Czech brewing company in order to secure global rights to the name “Budweiser”, but the Czech government has refused all such offers, regarding the Czech Budweiser name as a matter of national pride.