The marshy site, ideal for the defence of a medieval fortress, was selected by King Přemysl Otakar II in 1265 as a royal town and a bulwark against powerful local families.
Its ancient predecessor, the village of Budivojovice, was at the present site of the church of St Procopius & John the Baptist (kostel sv Prokopa sv Jana Křtitele), north of the centre in the suburb of Pražské sídliště.
By the 14th century České Budějovice was the most powerful town in South Bohemia. Its many fine Renaissance buildings testify to its wealth from trade and silver mining. It remained staunchly royalist and Catholic during the Hussite Wars, though it was never attacked by Hussite armies. The royal mint was established here in the late 16th century.
Prosperity continued until the Thirty Years’ War, when a disastrous fire (in 1641) destroyed half the town. The silver also began to run out and the royal mint was closed.
České Budějovice only began to recover with the establishment of a major school in 1762 and a bishopric in 1785. Industry arrived when the first railway train on the continent travelled from here to Linz, Austria, in 1832.
After WWI the southern part of South Bohemia was given to Czechoslovakia, although more than half its population was German. Though Germans and Czechs had coexisted peacefully for centuries, after WWII all Germans were expelled from České Budějovice in 1945.