A day trip to Český Krumlov
Pronounced as “chess-key krumlof”, this small town located in Southern Bohemia has retained its medieval charm with a beautiful castle, cobbled streets winding their way through gothic, renaissance and baroque buildings belonging to noble families & small European-style restaurants lining the beautiful banks of a river. This historical centre is located on the banks of Vltava River (which also runs through Prague) and is well deserved UNESCO World Heritage Site.
How to get there
If you are in Prague, then Český Krumlov is just a day trip away. Since it is in South Bohemia, it is close to the Austrian border. Hence, you can even take a day trip from Vienna or Salzburg.
From Prague, a lot of tour operators arrange for day trips to Český Krumlov. If you want to explore the town on your own then you can opt for the buses that run continuously between Prague and Český Krumlov. Alternately, you can drive from Prague or Vienna.
We started early in the morning since it takes roughly around 3-4 hours from Prague. We hopped onto the bus wanting to soak ourselves into the Czech countryside. The bus trip was perfect with the beautiful Czech fields stretching out on both the sides and quaint towns scattered in between.
After the beautiful Czech scenery, we finally reached Český Krumlov and were eager to get down the bus and start exploring. After listening to a hurried set of instructions by our tour guide (which really no one was listening because we were all so eager to get going!!), we finally made our way inside this town.
The first thing that you will notice about Český Krumlov is the spectacular castle that sits on the top like a grand crown. Erected on a natural elevation of the Vltava River, this castle boasts of Renaissance and Baroque style interiors, Schwarzenberg Portrait Gallery displaying portraits of the members of the Schwarzenberg family, one of the oldest preserved Baroque theatre with a rotating auditorium, a six-storied tower and beautiful Castle garden. Because of such a huge array of historic architectural sights, it comes as no wonder that it is the second biggest castle in Czech Republic and the most visited attraction in Český Krumlov.
The Castle Museum is housed within the castle complex and takes the tourists back to the castle’s origin and its history till the present day. Another place worth visiting here is the Castle Tower, which literally towers above the entire town. After a 162-stair climb to the top, you can get a view of Český Krumlov complete with the famous orang-ish rooftops, the Vltava snaking its way across the town and the magnificent Church of St.Vitus.
After the castle, we moved out to the elegant town square which is really a miniature version of that in Prague. The day had started out as a bit cloudy and by the time we were done with our castle tour it had started drizzling. So we decided to have a quick lunch at one of the places in the town square and then spend the afternoon exploring the town. Thankfully, by the time we were done with our lunch, it had stopped raining and the sun was peeking out through the clouds casting a radiant glow on the surroundings making it seem all the more magical.
You can get a map of the town at the counter near the town square and decide where you want to go. From the town square, narrow walkways diverge in all the directions and using this as the reference point you can start exploring the place. All the alleys had beautiful cobblestone streets winding themselves around colorful Renaissance and baroque buildings, boutique shops, riverside cafés, hotels and monuments. As we moved through the different streets we saw museums, souvenir shops, authentic restaurants, and a bridge across the Vltava River, with street performers punctuating every corner. This town is quite a favorite for music festivals, balls and concerts of classical music throughout the year. We spent almost our entire time in this town, blissfully wandering around the narrow lanes and immersing ourselves in the history. It really felt like we had been transported to an era where fairy tales existed and we had an incredibly dreamy time here.
Surviving the damage from time and world wars, this place has retained its undeniable place in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Site with its amazing restoration of the castle and its various wings, historic monuments, various paintings as well as its cultural values. Hands down, this place is one of the most beautiful and amazingly well preserved places in Europe.
If you visit Český Krumlov on your own (without any arranged day tours), then you can opt for the free walking tours that are available daily (10.30AM & 2 PM). The guide will take you through all the “important & touristy” viewpoints in the town and will share the interesting tales & legends about this place.
Apart from that, you can also hire a canoe/inflatable rafts and simply go rafting into the Vltava. If you are staying in Český Krumlov for a day then this is perhaps one of the best ways to spend a lazy summer afternoon.
After spending a truly memorable day we returned to Prague in the evening with a happy smile on our lips and memories of this beautiful Bohemian slice. If you are travelling to Prague then we definitely recommend visiting Český Krumlov, just to experience this fairytale land as well as some of the Czech countryside.
• Český Krumlov is small town and thus can be completely explored on foot. So be sure to wear good walking shoes which are comfortable.
• You can see the popular attractions with the Český Krumlov Card (100 CZK per adult). It is valid for six months after first use.
• The best time to visit this place is summer; this town literally turns into a fair in summer. But if you visit in winter, this town with its snow blanketed castle will leave you stunned.
• Accomodation - Finding an accommodation in a small place as this is not difficult. Apartments, B&Bs, hotels & hostels alike are well maintained and incredibly comfortable.
• A traditional lunch/dinner in a local restaurant will cost you anywhere between 100-200 CZK. There are a lot of other eating options in and around the town.
• The walking tour is free, but if you like what you have seen then you are totally welcome to tip.
• If you are not keen on staying overnight then you can easily take a day trip and explore this entire place in 4-5 hours.