If you ever dreamed of being a prince or princess with a castle, then you must visit Český Krumlov to live out this childhood fantasy. The town sits on a horseshoe bend of the Vlatva River with Český Krumlov Castle towering over the red rooftops and spires. Fall in love with architectural beauties, float downstream in a kayak and immerse yourself in the history of powerful noble families. The fairytale town is well worth a day trip from capital city Prague, however, if you wish to absorb all of its delights, book a weekend in Český Krumlov. Who knows who you might meet here? You might even find your happily ever after.
IS ČESKÝ KRUMLOV WORTH VISITING? IT CERTAINLY IS.
Start your weekend in Český Krumlov with breakfast at Kolektiv. With sleek, modern interiors, the decor will make you feel like you’re sitting in an airport lounge rather than a fairytale town. But don’t stress about catching a flight. Peruse the continental menu featuring croissants, beetroot or olive spread with bread and cheese or muesli with yoghurt and fresh fruit. For something a bit more heartier, go with the Kolektiv big breakfast with eggs, German sausages, crispy bacon and beans.
Make your way to the Town Square, Náměstí Svornosti. Wiseman Free Tour operates free walking tours through the Old Town twice a day from April to October, once a day from November to March and an additional night tour from June to October. The free tour goes for 1.5 – 2 hours where you will see Český Krumlov Castle and its five courtyards, the Renaissance Town Hall, the Gothic Church of St Vitus, the former Rosenbergs hospital, the Old Town Brewery and more. The tour is technically free but should you decide the guides did a good job, you can donate any amount you wish at the end of the tour. Look for tour guides in red t-shirts in front of the InfoCentrum office.
No doubt you’ll be feeling a bit peckish after your history lesson. There are plenty of restaurants that have prime position along the Vltava river. We can recommend dining at Laibon. Take a seat at one of the bench tables underneath shady umbrellas and choose a meal from the extensive vegetarian and vegan menu with Asian-inspired influences.
Now you’ve got plenty of energy to go exploring. Head towards Český Krumlov’s State Castle and Chateau. The impressive castle complex is one of the largest in Europe and said to have been founded in the middle of the 13th century by the powerful Bohemian noble family of Witigonen. Since its initial construction, the castle, palaces and courts have undergone extensive reconstructions and modifications through the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque periods as the estate owners of Krumlov Castle changed hands.
Today, visitors have the opportunity to admire the interiors of the castle through its Renaissance and Baroque periods. You can see the Baroque Castle Theatre, climb the Castle Tower for a 360° view of the town, wander through Eggengerg Hall and and admire the Schwarzenberg Portrait Gallery. The Baroque Castle Garden adjacent to the castle complex is free where you able to wander the grounds and admire the mosaic flower beds. What may surprise visitors is that the castle features a moat between the first and second courtyards. Nowadays, there is no water here. The moat is in fact home to a family of bears. The history of bear-keeping at Český Krumlov Castle goes back to the 16th century, during the last era of the Rosenbergs. The bear moat is accessible for visitors to see for free. Although we personally don’t support the bears being kept in captivity for the sake of tradition, they did appear to be in good health when we saw them.
You’ll definitely be feeling the tummy rumbling now. Head away from the riverbank and towards Krčma v Šatlavské ulici. The medieval tavern has an open fireplace upon which most of the meat for diners is cooked. Your vegetarian meal for lunch will be balanced out by the plethora of meat options here. Choose your meat and pair with Moravian old wines or Budvar beer. We selected a meat platter for two which was served with side salad, potatoes, bread and dips. Seating is available inside and outside – if possible, make a reservation if travelling in a large group. If you time your visit right, you may be treated to a performance by musketeers and swordfighters!
It’s time to do some exercise. If you visit between May – September, consider jumping into a canoe, raft or kayak and paddle down the Vltava river. Maleček Rafting & Canoe is located not too far from the town centre. The company can hook you up with your water transportation, life jackets, maps and dry bags and will send you off to drift on the current. Water rentals are available for 1 – 7 people. Don’t fret – there won’t be any white water rapids to deal with and there won’t be a great deal of hardcore paddling involved. You will likely be able to sit back and enjoy the sunshine while you float along. And when you finish up several kilometres downstream from your original starting point, Maleček will arrange to pick you up and bring you back into town. How nifty is that?
After your morning workout, it’s time for a spot of lunch. If you’re after something light, Omnes Cafe Arleta is a suitable choice for a toasted sandwich and coffee. Then you can be a little naughty and treat yourself to one of their impeccable-looking chocolates or cakes from the dessert menu if you’re looking to replace those calories you burnt on the Vltava.
To take a little memento away from this fairytale town, pop into Bon Bon Český Krumlov. This small chocolate factory uses minimal machinery to produce original, hand-made chocolates, pralines and nougat and marzipan specialties. Keep an eye out for the window display which changes with the seasons and traditional events.
The town of Český Krumlov is small but you can still get a great coffee fix at Ideal Coffee. Located on the quieter side of town on the other side of the Vltava river, there’s not a lot of room inside this tiny cafe. With only two tables and two stool seats inside, if you visit during peak hour, you can always grab a takeaway coffee and sit in the nearby Městský park.
You will have gathered by now that Český Krumlov is not a large town. Even if you’re terrible with directions, it would be difficult to get lost. If you have time, why not visit one of the museums. There are several in such a small area and quite unusual ones too. Among them, you’ll find the Marionette Museum, the Museum of Torture, the Museum of Motorcycles, the Moldavian Museum (featuring moldavite meteorites) and the Mirror Labyrinth (a unique mirror maze containing over 90 mirrors).
HOW TO GET THERE
For those travellers spending time in Prague, check out this 48 hour guide to the Bohemian capital plus our recommendations for specialty coffee. If your travels don’t allow for a weekend in Český Krumlov, a day trip from Prague is easy enough to organise. Český Krumlov is located approximately 171 kilometres south of Prague. Below we list a few options to help you travel from Prague to Český Krumlov.
WHERE TO STAY
The Czech town is a small place so you wouldn’t need more than a weekend in Český Krumlov. Nonetheless, many “pensions” have popped up over the years. To retain many of the architectural and unique structural characteristics of the old buildings, the pensions are generally basic bed & breakfasts or guesthouses. If travelling in a group, don’t be surprised if there are several beds in one room. Search for your accommodation in Český Krumlov with Booking.com.
The Travel Quandary recommends…
Krumlov House & Write Away Retreat
The owners of Krumlov House have cleverly optimised the use of space in the two connected houses. Offering cosy attic rooms, a women’s dorm and mixed dorm, you’ll be guaranteed a comfortable stay. An eco-conscious business, Krumlov House is also a non-smoking establishment. The hostel happily supports local business and will provide plenty of recommendations to make your stay a memorable one. You’re unlikely to get lost either, with an impressive wooden carving of a dragon on the front door.
Is Český Krumlov worth visiting in your opinion? Tell us about your experience!