Why you should visit beautiful Český Krumlov
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.
Above: the Town Square (Svornosti Square) holds the 16th Century Town Hall as well as the Marian Plague Column – this monument was constructed in 1714 and is topped with the statue of the Virgin Mary. She’s surrounded by eight saints, the patron saints of the town and protectors against plague.
Above: typical store on the streets of the Old 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.
Below: Views from the Castle Tower
Below: More views as you make your way through the passageway of the castle to the castle gardens.
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).
Below: Walking though the Old Town you’ll come across many bridges with views over the river and canals.
Read here about the strange fascination Czechs have with boating.
Below: More views of the castle and castle grounds.
Below: Steps going up to the gothic Church of St. Vitus. Dogs are allowed almost everywhere in the Czech Republic (including on public transport). St. Vitus is one of the few places I’ve seen forbidding dogs. Look at that sad looking dog…
Below: More photos from around town
.Below: final views of Český Krumlov from the little path leading to the bus depot.
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.
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