What to Do in Český Krumlov (Czech Republic)
Český Krumlov, along with Prague, are the two most popular destinations for visitors to the Czech Republic. The town looks like something out of a fairytale with a huge castle overlooking a picturesque old town. The Vltava River winds its way around Český Krumlov and part of the Old Town is actually situated on an ox-bow bend in the river, making the river visible from almost every angle in town.
Tons of photos in this post plus highlights and tips of what to do in this beautiful town.
The highlight of any visit to Český Krumlov is the State Castle of Český Krumlov. Located right across the river from the Inner Town (the center of the Old Town located within the ox-bow of the river), it is the 2nd largest castle complex in the Czech Republic after Prague Castle. It is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Monument because of its long history (first construction began in the 13th century) and its mix of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque elements. You can take a tour of the castle (which we did) and the museum (which we also did) – but you can enjoy the castle without having to do this. Although an hour tour of the Renaissance rooms was okay and the museum so-so, they are both a little pricey; just the castle tour alone was 250 Kc per person, about $14 Canadian. And they don’t allow photos. Not great value in our opinion. Instead, you can just walk through the castle, from interior courtyard to courtyard, enjoying great views of the Old Town below. Continue through the castle and you’ll get to the castle gardens which are lovely. Along the way you’ll have more vantage points looking over the river and the town. One thing we definitely recommend though; go up the castle tower. That’s cost you 50 Kc, about $2.75 Canadian, and is well worth it both for the amazing views at the top and the climb through the ancient fortifications.
Related: Castles and Fortresses that you may have never heard of
One of our favorite things to do in town was to sit at one of the numerous restaurants on the river and watch all the crazy Czech canoeists. Laibon Restaurant was our favorite because of its incredible vegetarian food. If vegetarian is not your thing, there’s a typical Czech meat-and-dumplings place right next door with the same views – prices are surprisingly reasonable for the atmosphere and the great views over the river and the castle.
Walking around the winding streets of the Old Town is a pleasure and there are lots of interesting buildings. Highlights are the Town Square (pictured further above in this post) and Horni street which features the gothic Church of St. Vitus as well as a few viewpoints on the town (the photo at the top of this post was taken at a viewpoint along Horni).
Read here about the strange fascination Czechs have with boating.
Below: More photos from around town
Information given in the Czech Republic is all in Czech and any locals you meet along the way will probably not speak a 2nd language. You’ll be amazed how nothing is ever indicated for the tourist, even at a bus station where most of the people going through are foreigners. Even in Prague all the tourist signs are in Czech. It can be frustrating so I’ve tried to give some detailed information below.
Bus. Student Agency is the best way to get to Český Krumlov from Prague. Buses leave from the Na Knížecí bus depot at Andel metro station. If you’re coming from the Old Town, exit the station from the left hand side when getting out of the metro. You’ll walk right up to the platform of the bus depot (it’s not a ‘bus station’, it is quite literally just a bus depot). Look for the big yellow bus. Note that you don’t have to print out tickets (also only in Czech) – just keep note of your reserved seat numbers and your ticket number. It takes about 3 hours to get to Český Krumlov. When you get there; there are two stops. The first is next to the north gate of the Old Town. A good stop for those who have hotels located in this area (we wish we had known this beforehand – we did a lot of walking to get to our hotel). The 2nd stop is the bus terminal closer to the south side of the Old Town. When you get out of the bus you won’t know where to go because there is no signage at all. Look around, you’ll see the Castle tower in the distance. Walk in that direction, you’ll get to the end of the bus parking lot where you’ll follow a small path. From the path you’ll get the views over the town pictured above. You’ll get to a little street with some “Penzions’ – follow that downhill. You’ll end up on Horni which will lead you right to the Old Town Square.
Accommodation. We stayed at Penzion Onyx which was a beautiful and comfortable spot (ask for room number 7, you’ll have your own little house). We booked through booking.com (see the link above) after seeing that prices listed there were substantially cheaper than on the hotel’s site (we paid approx. $75/night, cheaper than options in Old Town). Downside to Penzion Onyx: a 15 minute walk to the Old Town. Positives: Beautiful grounds, lovely hotel, friendly hosts, and if you have a car you can park it on the Penzion’s grounds.
Organized Tours. A few tours that might interest you:
Car Rental. There’s lots to see in the area and having a car is a good thing. We use Rentalcars.com, they give you the best rates on car rentals.
Very important*: As we’ve learned, it is imperative that you carry official identification with you at all times in the Czech Republic. Coming back from Český Krumlov, about halfway to Prague, the bus stopped for police. Two policemen got on the bus and went through everyone’s IDs. We had only copies of our passports and the policemen talked among themselves a while before letting us go, telling us that official documents are required. I’ve since looked it up: police have the power and authority to ask tourists for official documents and can fine you up to 3000Kc (about $150) if you don’t have it. I honestly expected something like this in Cuba, not a country in the EU. We were lucky, others may not be. So carry your passports around with you. More.
Related: Travel Guide – The Best of the Czech Republic
Related: Great Day Trips from Brno: Mikulov and Lednice
Related: 12 Surprising Places to See (that you may never have heard of)
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Good tip about carrying your original travel documents (passport for us!). Our experience with the Czech Police was when we were pulled over due to making an illegal right turn out of a gas station. The police were exceptionally friendly, but one weird thing they focused on was the “Class C” designation on the US driver’s license. With a lot of pointing at our rental car we said OK to drive THAT and pantomime about Not OK to drive semi-trucks we all had a good laugh. And a ticket… but such is the joys and tribulations of renting cars. BTW: they didn’t ask for passports. Great photos of a delightful town!
You’re not the first to tell me that the Czech police gave you a ticket. I’m starting to get the idea that they target tourists who get lost or don’t know the rules.
Thanks for taking the time to comment Rebecca.
Hi Frank and Lisette, what a lovely post on Czesky Krumlov. I had visited this amazingly beautiful town about 15 years ago. Your stunning photos brought the city to life and I felt transported. I wish to return someday and spend more time like you did. I only went for a day trip from Prague which I later regretted. Your photos are truly amazing and I couldn’t stop scrolling up and down. Thanks for sharing.
What a nice comment – thank you very much Marisol! I hope you get there, it really is beautiful 🙂
I still regret not having enough time to visit Cesky Krumlov when we were in Europe last fall, and this post really makes me feel like I missed out! What a gorgeous place and the views from the tower are spectacular. Too bad they don’t allow photos inside the castle- that policy always irks me!
Agree with you! I don’t know what’s worse: when they charge you extra for a photo ‘permit’ or they don’t allow you at all. Either way stinks!
Stunning little town! Since I come from Poland, I have never really explored the Czech Republic. You never seem to be attracted by places that are just round the corner… I have been to Prague and Český Těšín but I’m sure the country has much more to offer!
I’ve heard so much about this place, it looks so pretty in your photos too. Beautifully captured!
Thanks Becky! You should also check out Kutna Hora if you ever get to the Czech Republic.
Such a beautiful town. I enjoyed your photos very much since I haven’t been there in many years. I stayed in a little hotel in the main square, I think in that green building in your 2nd photo. The town’s castle is quite an important place for people interested in central European history.
Thanks for the comment Jenna. Yes, it’s a great little town and I think anyone coming to the Czech Republic should try to make it here. Reminds me of many of the little German towns in Bavaria.
Beautiful photos. I love Prague but had never heard of Český Krumlov before reading your article. I definitely will make a point of visiting here on my next visit. The restaurants on the water side look very appealing for a relaxing afternoon.
Thanks Debra – definitely worth a visit, after Prague it’s the most popular ‘must-see’ destination in the Czech Republic.
Love your pictures of the curious side streets, but it’s the overhead photographs of the rooftops that are most pleasing. The colours are perfect!
Hey, thanks Dale!
Wow! Looks so beautiful, lovely photos. Will have to make sure I re-read over your tips again before I arrive there in a few weeks! I have now subscribed to your newsletter so looking forward to staying up to date with the rest of your adventures.
Hey Ruth. Thanks, I think you’ll love the town! You just reminded me of something – that newsletter button doesn’t work and I don’t have a newsletter at present. But you can go to the subscription box on the right sidebar and subscribe there. You’ll automatically get all new posts that way.
Thanks for leaving a comment.
Thanks for sharing! You have beautiful shots of the quaint buildings (love the colors too) and seemed to capture the town’s lovely atmosphere. Would love to make it there one day!
Thanks Sarah. You’d enjoy it. And you’re from Hawaii, so I’m sure you know how to canoe, right? 😉
I think we’d take a day trip for some kayaking, but we’ve heard this little town doesn’t have much else to do besides walk around.
Don’t be a party-pooper Jen! You can walk around, visit the castle, drink beer, kayak – still lots to see/do over 2 days, especially considering its a small town. Hey, and if museums your thing they have the painter who does young girls and a wax museum featuring Michael Jackson 😉 . It’s also a romantic kind of place with plenty of restaurants with lots of atmosphere.
WoW what a picturesque place, so beautiful and colorful. I love castles as well, who knows maybe one day …
I’m glad you enjoyed Cesky Krumlov 🙂 and your pictures are again stunning. I have been there many times and I never had so nice photos. Have you learnt there something about its most famous citizen? Egon Schiele…he’s my favourite painter 🙂 his mother was from Krumlov and he lived there for some time until people found out what he was painting:-D
Hi Anna – yes, I read that he liked to hire young girls to model for him (naked). They basically chased him out of town…
We passed by the museum but didn’t enter, we were quite busy during our 2 days there.
I’ll google for some images.
Hey, what are you doing looking at nude paintings of nude girls? 😉
What a great photo essay about Český Krumlov. I don’t know the place but you made me curious about it.
Thanks Laura. Very pretty place if you have a chance.
Valen-This Way Paradise
This looks like such an interesting place…cute and quaint….
I had a great time in Krumlov–much more interesting than other Czech towns.