Nestled close to the border of Austria in southern Czech Republic is the cute and picturesque town of Cesky Krumlov, the second most visited destination in the Czech Republic after Prague.
Known as the Jewel of Bohemia, Cesky Krumlov is a mini version of Prague, boasting an impressive town square, towering castle and a whole heap of Medieval and Renaissance styled architecture. You would be forgiven for thinking you were walking through the scenes of a fairytale novel.
Since it gained UNESCO recognition in the early 1990’s, Cesky Krumlov has grown in popularity and you’ll find swarms of tourists bunched together in the narrow streets and lining the bridges of the Vltava River. Visit off season in October-March and you’ll have a totally different experience. Its cosy restaurants and cafes will be far less crowded and if you visit in winter you may even be lucky enough to see the town covered in a rather magical blanket of snow!
When I visited in early November I was lucky enough to have 14 degree weather and pure sunshine! While there were tour groups, most disappeared in the late afternoon and you’ll find even in the summer that early mornings, late afternoons and evenings will be much more peaceful and far less busy as all the day trippers would have left. In fact it is most magical and atmospheric at night!
There is plenty to see and do in Cesky Krumlov, with highlights including its Renaissance Castle, its abundance of cafes and restaurants and the opportunity to hike, raft and horse ride in the summer months.
TOP SIGHTS IN CESKY KRUMLOV
1. Cesky Krumlov Town Square
Strolling through Cesky Krumlov’s streets is an attraction and a joy within itself. Its narrow lanes and colorful facades are picture worthy and its frescoes are famous with some date back centuries. Luckily the charm of the town has not been lost, with major high street chains and restaurants such as Starbucks and McDonalds being turned away in favor of quaint cafes and family run establishments.
2. Krumlov Castle
Dominating the centre of town, the impressive fortress castle can be seen from almost everywhere. The route to the castle follows an uphill cobbled street adorned with cafes, antique shops and gift shops. Once you reach the castle you can explore its courtyards and gardens in the winter and during the summer its interior and its famous revolving theatre can be visited.
TIP: For the best view of the town and its surrounding countryside, pay the 50 Kr (2 Euro) fee to climb the 162 steps of the tower or head to the stone bridge towards the left rear of the castle
3. The Minorite Monastery
The Minorite Monastery is one of Cesky Krumlov’s oldest surviving buildings. While you can explore its grounds, it is best visited during a concert or classical music recital. Other sites of interest are its numerous organs and its Baroque altar.
4. St Vitus Church
Built on the grounds of the previous 14th Century Virgin Mary Church, St Vitus is a gothic church located in the heart of Cesky Krumlov. While the interior if the church is far from impressive compared to other churches in the region, it is most known for its neo-gothic spire.
THINGS TO DO IN CESKY KRUMLOV
1.Take a tour around the castle
There are numerous tours around the castle’s interior however only a few are in English so it is worthwhile checking in advance. However the best tour in my opinion includes a visit to the Baroque revolving theatre. Český Krumlov’s Baroque theater is one of only two that survives in Europe. Others were burnt down over the centuries.
2. Hike to Krizovy Vrch or Hill of the Cross
For a distant view of the town and the Vltava as it hooks around the town, hike to Krizovy Vrch or the Hill of the Cross for a countryside stroll and fabulous views of not only Cesky Krumlov but its surrounding hills.
3. Hire a Canoe or Take a Rafting Trip
One of the best ways to explore Cesky Krumlov in the summer is via the Vltava River. Hire a canoe and paddle down scenic streams and waterways through the Bohemian countryside, stopping at numerous pubs and riverside cafes along the way. If you are more adventurous, a rafting trip with the family maybe just the ticket. Equipment can be hired from numerous travel agents in town, however this activity is only normally available in the summer months.
4. Horseback Ride
If you are an animal lover, learn to horse ride or improve your skills on a half day or full day trip into the Czech countryside on an adventurous or romantic horseback ride.
PLACES TO STAY IN CESKY KRUMLOV
Quite possibly the most homely of hostels I have ever stayed in, Krumlov House is an unbelievably cute, crooked home situated just 500 metres from the centre of Cesky Krumlov.
MIDDLE PRICED OPTION:
Hotel Leonardo boasts a central location just a stone’s throw away from the old town square. Its two 16th century town houses boast fourteen double rooms, five suites and one single room. All rooms feature antique styled furniture and a relaxing historical atmosphere.
Set in the Renaissance and Medieval style, Hotel Ruze is a themed 5 star hotel that features all the facilities of a modern hotel (including a spa, the only one in the town) while maintaining an atmosphere that transports you back to the 16th Century. Period style clothing can also be hired if you really want the full experience.
HOW TO GET TO CESKY KRUMLOV
Cesky Krumlov is located four hours south from Prague, and it can be easily reached by car, train or bus.
The easiest way to travel to Cesky Krumlov is by Student Agency Bus. They run numerous coach services throughout the day that operate direct to Cesky Krumlov from the bus station Na Knížecí in Andel Prague 5. Tickets can be purchased from as little as 6 Euro one way.
Alternatively the train runs from Prague’s central station via Český Budějovice (Budweis), the nearest large town to Cesky Krumlov.