cesky krumlov town from castl view
Travel

The Fairytale Town of Český Krumlov

If the name and place Český Krumlov is entirely new to you, then I am excited beyond belief right now!

As a matter of fact, considering its majesty and historical value, Český Krumlov is a relatively small town.

In fact, it’s a tiny town.

body of water between houses
Photo by Polly via Unsplash

By the same token, for people that say you only need to spend a day there, I present to you my blog post all about Český Krumlov.

And after reading this, if you’re still at a loss as to what to do when you visit, well, then perhaps you need to visit somewhere else…

Where Is Český Krumlov?

Český Krumlov is a medieval town. It is located on the Vltava River in the Southern Bohemian region of the Czech Republic.

Records date the founding of Český Krumlov to the 13th century (a LONG time ago!).

It still remains in impeccable condition.

It’s quaint and picturesque Gothic and Renaissance architecture make for something of a magical day trip, weekend, long weekend, or longer if you can.

History

Equally important it is that Český Krumlov joined the UNESCO World Heritage Listing in 1992.

Český means Czech. Legend has it that Krumlov is derived from the German “Krumme Aue” meaning “crooked meadow”. This particularly refers to the tightly meandering river around the town.

According to Latin documents dating back to the 15th century, it was known as Crumlovia or Crumlovian.

aerial photography of a village during daytime
Český Krumlov by Vlad Kiselov via Unsplash

Settlements in the area go back as early as the Older Stone Age, 70,000 – 50,000 BC. Documents show settlement in the region at 1500 BC, in the Bronze Age.

The reign of the town in centuries gone by is worthy of any Game of Thrones episode.

In the 1300s when the Rosenbergs began their reign of Český Krumlov, the area became the economic and cultural center of Southern Bohemia.

Their family continued to lead the way for the next 300 years or so as well.

It was during their reign that the construction of the mighty Gothic Český Krumlov Castle began, with the lower castle extending to an upper castle.

The inner town began construction around this time, also.

A complete remodel of the Gothic-styled St Vitus’ Church was completed by the end of the 1400s.

The Rosenbergs reigned the town throughout the 1400 and 1500s, finally, the last remaining Rosenberg, Peter Vok sold the town of Český Krumlov to the Bohemian King and Emperor Rudolf II von Habsburg in 1601. This would be less than 20 years after inviting the Jesuits to construct their Jesuit College within the town.

In time, von Habsburg introduced Johann Ulrich von Eggenberg to rule the principality in the early 1600s.

In the 17th century, the townhouses of Český Krumlov were remodeled in a Baroque style thanks to the ruling Eggenbergs.

That is a lot of remodelling indeed!

The Medieval Castle by Infinite Ache is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

After the Eggenberg ruling ended, power was then turned over to the Schwarzenbergs from Germany. The remodeling of Český Krumlov in a Baroque style continued under their rule as did the castle’s renovations.

Into the late 1700s, Joseph Adam von Schwarzenberg had a Masquerade Hall decorated with the paintings of Joseph Lederer. The Castle Chapel was re-built and the Baroque Chapel Theatre was rebuilt into the theatre as it stands today.

The undervaluing of many of the towns highly sought after and most valuable buildings came as a result of industrialization and much political upheaval.

The Jesuit College became barracks in the 1770s. And what had once been the Minorite and Clare Convent was abolished. The Jodock’s House was transformed into tenement housing.

By the mid-1800s Český Krumlov had become something of a political center, and the economy and population of the area thrived.

Well-known Austrian expressionist artist, Egon Schiele took up residence in Český Krumlov between 1907 and 1917.

It’s all very fascinating, I hear you say. But let’s all take a moment to be grateful that absolutely no damage was incurred on Český Krumlov during WWII.

However, when the American Army liberated Český Krumlov and thwarted German occupants from living there any longer, the town stagnated culturally for some time.

By 1947, both the castle and chateau in Český Krumlov were granted ownership by the state.

Finally, in 1992, UNESCO declared Český Krumlov a World Cultural and Natural Heritage town and to this day, tourism has thrived as millions visit each year to explore this very unique and magical town.

Must-See Places in Český Krumlov

The U shaped meander of the river that almost makes the town an island and the topography of the castle slopes create a most impressive composition that literally puts Český Krumlov on the map.

I mean, it’s stunning!

Rožmberk Castle

The castle sits atop a rocky promontory that has been sculpted over the centuries by the river below.

To the north, the massive Blansko Forest lies, and the foothills of Šumava are to the south and west.

By all means, this fairytale castle is one of the largest in all of Europe.

It is decorated by a gorgeous castle park. The entire property is made up of forty buildings and palaces and five castle palaces.

pink and white tower at daytime
Photo by Lukáš Vaňátko via Unsplash

It’s worth mentioning that there are two different guided tours of the castle available.

The first focuses more on the renaissance and Baroque history of the castle interiors. Also included are viewings of the Masquerade Hall, the Castle Chapel of St. George, and Eggenberg Hall.

However, the second tour focuses more heavily on the Schwarzenbergs history in the Castle and concludes at the Cloak Bridge.

In fact, both operate at about one hour in length. So there’s still plenty of time left in your day outside of the castle.

Check out the Český Krumlov State Castle website for more information.

Baroque Theatre

The Baroque Castle Theatre lies behind the moat of the Castle in Český Krumlov.

Yes, there’s a moat. And there are bears. Google it. They make me sad, so I will mention it no more.

This is the most well-preserved Theatre of Baroque Style in all of Europe.

Still standing in its original building, with much of its interior features preserved since approximately the end of the 15th century, the props, costumes, and orchestra pit.

The theatre closed for 30 years from 1966 until 1997. At the completion of a massive restoration effort.

And now it’s open once again, to be enjoyed by the public.

Cloak Bridge

I love this bridge. And experiencing it (and walking under it) was a highlight of Český Krumlov for me.

It kind of reminds me of the Muppets in the opening of their show. Arches upon arches upon arches.

cloak bridge cesky krumlov
The technically impressive Cloak Bridge.
Photo by Jason M Ramos is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Five tiers make up the marvelous Cloak Bridge.

The top two levels are covered. There is a crosswalk built below on the third-highest level. These levels connect various parts of the castle grounds.

Accordingly, you get a postcard-worthy photo opp from the open thoroughfare of the third level. A must-visit part of your castle stop, for sure!

Minorite Monastery

The Minorite Monastery or Monastery of the Order of the Knights of the Cross with a Red Star had its founding back in 1350. Under the rule of Peter I of Rosenberg and his wife Katerina.

The Monastery originally housed the Minorites and Clare nuns.

In 1785, the Clare Nuns were evicted under the leadership of Emperor Joseph II.

The exquisite interior is in the Baroque style, synonymous with much of Český Krumlov’s majesty.

It also houses a collection of artworks depicting the history of the Monastery over the centuries.

Despite being one of the most historically significant buildings of Český Krumlov, the monastery has not celebrated as great maintenance as other high profile buildings in the town.

Lengthy conservation efforts are currently underway to restore it. Hopefully, in the future, we can enjoy the Monastery for a long time to come.

Church of St. Vitus

The Church of St. Vitus, like much of what stands historically proud in Český Krumlov, owes its beginnings to the dynasty of the Rosenbergs.

The church began as a small parish. Expansion on it began quickly, to meet the demands of the fast-growing local population.

church of st vitus cesky krumlov
Church of St. Vitus by ringt is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Featuring an exterior of Neo-Gothic architectural style, much of the inside follows suit. Undergoing much refurbishment over the years, including the striking tower spire that was originally in a Baroque style, onion-shaped spire. A pseudo-Gothic style spire replaced it in the late 1800s. One which we can still identify as it stands today.

The altar in the chapel holds the hearts of many of the Schwarzenberg family. As well as the elbow of St Jan of Nepomuk. All kept as relics of worship.

interior st vitus church cesky krumlov
Inside the Church of St. Vitus by Govisity / Tip na Trip is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The church holds musical performances every so often.

The Egon Schiele Art Centrum

Gustav Klimt protege and innovative Expressionist artist Egon Schiele was a resident of Český Krumlov for about 10 years. His mother was in fact born there.

Small-town talk forced Schiele to leave town. As word spread quickly of the type of company he kept in his studio. That of a young, female, naked variety,

I believe you can still visit his studio now, over 100 years after his residence! It is at Plešivec no. 343.

Regardless of whether you want to stalk his old hoe or not, some of his prolific paintings are located within the Egon Schiele Art Centrum.

The Egon Schiele Art Centrum opened in 1992. It began as a private venture by three people attempting to create an international art center within a picturesque European backdrop.

The Centrum features a permanent exhibition sharing information about the life and works of Egon, also a collection of his works.

It also caters to local artists by providing them studios to lease as resident artists on-site.

Street Art New, and Old

Frescoes

Walking the perfect cobblestone and car-free streets of Český Krumlov, you can’t help but notice the elaborate decoration of many a dwelling in paintings.

These colorful Gothic and Renaissance frescoes were the style of the time throughout the 1400s through until the Baroque period sometime in the 1600s.

cesky krumlov
Photo by Ana-Paula-Hirama is licensed under CC-BY-SA-2.0

When the frescoes are painted while the plaster is wet, the paint lasts far longer.

They really thought ahead in Český Krumlov!

During the Baroque era, the fashion was to whitewash the frescoes, which left them faded in appearance.

There has been a great deal of restoration in recent times. The frescoes are now restored to their original and vibrant appearances!

Look around for the Rosenberg coat of arms of the five-petalled rose in frescoes throughout the town as well as depictions of the Virgin Mary in fresco form too.

Street Art

A quaint, picturesque town like this is most likely the last destination you’d expect to find contemporary street art.

art in cesky krumlov
Art in Český Krumlov by 2 Jason M Ramos is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Well, surprise! Český Krumlov, aside from it’s centuries-old frescoes decorating the exterior facades of its buildings; contemporary and modern day art of a different nature also adorns house-fronts and blink and you’ll miss it windows.

art in cesky krumlov
Český Krumlov is definitely a walking town! Photo by Jason M Ramos is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Keep in mind it’s definitely worth exploration on foot (ha!) for some more unusual photo ops of some fresher and newer art forms around town.

Svornosti Square

Centrally located, Svornosti Square or Unity Square is a quadrangle that serves as a great meeting place in the center of the old town. The Square is one of the most beautiful squares in all of Europe.

Walled by housing that dates back to the Middle Ages, it also serves also the location of the Renaissance Town Hall, the Museum of Torture, ample restaurants, and cafes.

Plague Column

Also located in Svornosti Square is the landmark Plague Column and Fountain on the Square.

The Plague Column dates back to the early 1700s. It serves to commemorate those devastated by the Plague locally in the 1680s.

The Fountain on the Square surrounds the Plague Column. It showcases elaborate sculptures of patron saints and town protectors.

These saints symbolize protection and prevention of the plague that caused mass devastation of the time.

nighttime pague column cesky krumlov
Plague Column in the Svornosti Square at night by amanderson2 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

A picturesque meeting place in the square and a grim and timely reminder in 2020 indeed.

How to Get to Český Krumlov

Shuttle

CK Shuttle run transfers from all neighboring major cities, with discounts given if there are more than 4 people in your group.

Guided Tour from Prague including transfers

Do you like someone else to take care of everything on your travels?

Then look no further than a private guided tour of Český Krumlov from Prague. The trip lasts about 10 hours and keep in mind that almost half of this time will be traveling in your private vehicle.

We also found an 8 hour private guided tour from Prague if a 10 hour day seems all too much. Welcome Pickups is a great alternative to public transport. Check out their info on the Welcome Pickups website.

Bus

While this is probably your most budget-friendly option (if that’s a deciding factor for you) it’s certainly not your only one.

Although the journey by bus will take just under 3 hours to travel from Prague to Český Krumlov, that is about the same time as by car. Only far more cost effective.

Several different bus companies offer this route, so take a look at Busbud for your options and what works best with your schedule.

Train

Czech Railways will show you all the train schedules and routes to and from whichever city and country you may be travelling. If you’re traveling from Prague as I did, be sure to pay attention to the station changes.

I recall having to get off a train at one station and then change platforms and get on a new train before arriving in town.

It sounds pretty simple when you’re in your own, familiar town, but it did require some focus on my part at the time!

Also, Rome 2 Rio is a great resource to look at different modes of transport at one time. This will no doubt assist you with planning your itinerary with ease.

Rental Car

On the other hand, car rental is always an appealing option if you like a little more flexibility and independence and are happy to pay a little more.

Keep in mind that there is no vehicular access in the told town.

Check out car rental deals from Prague on Kayak.com

Taxi

You could always resort to a Green Taxi (one of the most reputable taxi companies in Prague) or an Uber if that’s more your style.

Certainly, the cost will probably end up being comparable to the cost of a private guided driver and tour. I know which option I’d take.

Things to Do in Český Krumlov

Okay, enough with the history lessons and serious stuff, already.

Now, let’s get to the fun stuff!

Private Night Tour of Český Krumlov

What better way to experience this atmospheric little town than a private nighttime tour?

castle at night
Český Krumlov Castle Tower by ftrc is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

To clarify, check out the Wiseman Free website for more information about their hour and a half long tours of Český Krumlov that utilize projections after-dark to give a unique insight into the town. And be sure to enquire about their ghost tour!

Wiseman Free also offer a free walking tour of the city. Take note, for the faint of heart, this one takes place in the daytime!

Climbing Mount Klet

Mount Klet is the highest mountain in the Blansko Ranges.

If you’re looking for a respite from the crowds of the Old Town or museum tours, then this might be the perfect change of pace.

With this in mind, it’s worth knowing that the climb to the top of Mt Klet is just under a 2 hr hike from Český Krumlov. Be sure to climb the lookout tower for the best panoramic views around!

Rafting on the Vltava River

Malacek Rafting will help you out if you’re looking for an experience on the river within the surroundings of Český Krumlov.

raft on the river vltava
Rafting on the Vltava by Ana Paula Hirama is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Of course, they offer canoe and rafting experiences and are definitely worth considering if you have the time and need for some first-hand adventure on your travels.

Český Krumlov Gardens

I’m not sure if it’s entirely due to my own love of gardening, but I always try to visit the local gardens wherever I travel. There’s always something calming a relaxing about walking through nature, and greenery in particular.

gardens in cesky krumlov
Český Krumlov Castle Gardens by Ana Paula Hirama is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The castle gardens sit behind the Castle, on the other side of the river from the town center. If you find yourself that way inclined, be sure to take in the recently refurbished and restored Gardens.

Revolving Auditorium

While you’re in the proximity of the gardens, be sure to experience the marvels of the Revolving Auditorium.

The open-air theatre and the revolving auditorium is world-renowned and a must-see for theatre and engineering fans alike.

revolving auditorium cesky krumlov
Revolving Auditorium photo by Donald Judge is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the theatre is currently closed, as of the time of publishing, but I felt compelled to mention it as it sounds amazing!

Fishing

Fishing is an immensely popular past-time throughout Bohemia.

Similarly, a great starting point is the comprehensive website of Go Fly Fish CZ which will introduce you to a cavalcade of courses, locations, equipment, lodgings, you name it.

Ballooning

In case you’re looking for a little more height in your visit, take a hot air balloon flight to get a bird’s eye view of this delightful town and experience it in a way no other mode of transport provides.

Active Czech has a few different options for tours and groups in a hot air balloon.

Golfing

If you’re one for a round of golf, then visiting the Český Krumlov Golf Club may be the perfect place to spend the day off from your tourist schedule.

There is also a spa, brewery, distillery, and wait for it, Chocolate Room (!) on site. And a hotel to make it a real stay.

Indeed, this club is definitely worth checking out for your next stay. It is so much more than just a golf club!

For more details on some great tours click this link.

Get Your Guide also offer a great array of various tours and trips to Cesky Krumlov also.

Museums in Český Krumlov

Regional Museum

For a far more comprehensive history lesson than this page allows (!) be sure to wander into the Regional Museum.

Marvel at artefacts dating back to the Bronze Age, and get a complete overview and understanding of what came before in the town.

Marionette Museum

Housed in the former location of St Jobst Church, the Marionette Museum is yet another exquisite and picturesque tourist stop for young and old alike.

hand carved marionette czech
The quirky style of the traditional Czech Marionette by Infinite Ache is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

It displays not only a complete Baroque theatre and functional machinery but a wide array of both historical and contemporary traditional Czech marionettes.

Museum Fotoatelier Siedel

Not only a photography museum, but the rooms of Josef and Frantisek Seidel are on display here. As the last occupants of the building the museum now encompasses, the inner-workings of their photographic studio, printers and technical equipment is part of the tour.
Also on display is a collection of period photos as well as personal diaries, notes and records of Siedel himself.

Wax Museum

Situated just off the old town square, the Wax Museum offers an unusual way to relive medieval times in Český Krumlov, through the wax figures on display here. And then there’s Mick Jagger!

wax figure cesky krumlov
One of the breathy wax figures in the Wax Museum by Jason M Ramos is licensed under CC BY 2.0

In fact, I always enjoy taking in something of this style on my travels. Sometimes it gives you a slightly different prespective with which to take in history.

Museum of Torture

In a similar fashion to the Wax Museum, the Museum of Torture also educates it’s patrons by way of wax figures.

In fact, it showcases around 100 displays criminal punishment and torture instruments utlised throughout the grisly history of Europe.

The Muesum is located in the Old Town Square.

Moldavite Museum

The discovery place of 99% of the world’s Moldavites is Southern Bohemia.

As a matter of fact, moldavites, ladies and gentlemen, landed via a meteor into Southern Bohemia approximately 15 million years ago. Moldavites are a type of tektite. And as pertains to the cultural diversity grouped within the very tiny Český Krumlov, there is a museum here, solely dedicated to it.

Český Krumlov Card

If in fact, you are a dedicated museum lover and plan on visiting quite a few of the many museums of Český Krumlov, it is definitely worthing considering investing in a Český Krumlov Museum Card.

The card gives you entry to 12 of the museums in the town. Those being:

  • Castle Museum and Castle Tower
  • Český Krumlov Regional Museum
  • Museum Fotoatelier Seidel
  • Egon Schiele Art Centrum
  • Monasteries Český Krumlov

The Český Krumlov Card is available at any of these attractions or at the Infocentrum in the town square. Another great incentive, if you’re in Prague for some time, and may be planning on returning, you have 12 months to use it.

Where to Stay

Old Town Hotels

Obviously, a day trip to town won’t cause you the concern of accommodations. But if you’re staying overnight, I suggest staying right in the heart of Old Town.

The Hotel Grand is right in the heart of the Town Square and the quintessential central location for your stay in Český Krumlov.

The Garni Hotel Castle Bridge is an appealing option. Situated just steps from the Cloak Bridge and Castle, this hotel is also a pet-friendly option!

Hotel Ruze is another appealing hotel option within the old town square. Set in a 16th-century building with an indoor pool and minutes from the Old Town Square and the Castle.

Old Town Airbnb

Airbnb also offers some very cool and interesting lofts, apartments and rooms within the Old Town that are very affordable places to rest while you’re in town.

Hotels outside of Old Town

In case you’d like to stay across the river, check out the Penzion Kapr for a little distance from the activity of the Old Town. It is located in a gorgeous spot on the river.

Yet still, very close to all the tourist spots, it’s housed within two historical buildings and features views across to the city and beautiful, rustic rooms.

The Pension U Zámku is another enticing option, located just across the river and yet still a short walk into the center of all the action. Constructed in 1572, it also recently underwent recently refurbishment.

Where to Eat in Český Krumlov?

Cesky Krumlov is certainly not short on the restaurant and cafe situation. During your stay be sure to check out Papa’s Living Restaurant. If it’s summertime, take advantage of the outdoor patio area on the river.

Do keep in mind that Papa’s is closed on Mondays. I recommend sampling their Italian fare.

brown wooden bench on snow covered ground
Photo by Anastasiia Mazurok via Unsplash

By all means, for a more traditional Czech eating experience, check out the Tavern Šatlava Český Krumlov. Go all out for the full medieval treatment, musical accompaniment to your meal, and pair it with a pint of local Budvar!

Provided that your castle tour happens to coincide with ‘beer o’clock’, take advantage of the cocktails and locally brewed Eggenberg beer at Cikanska Jizba, the Gypsy Bar. And stay for the live gypsy music too! This was favourite stop of mine!

Of course, other watering holes worth mentioning include the Gorila Bar, Zapa bar, Winehouse Bar and Betold, and the Depo Pub. Just wander the streets, and no doubt you’ll happen upon an atmospheric local spot of your choice too.

Noteworthy Tales and Things

The White Lady Myth

There’s nothing like a good, old fashioned myth or legend to get your imagination going when you’re visiting an ancient tourist destination.

The legend of the White Lady begins with (as many a thing in Český Krumlov) the Rosenberg family.

Namely, one young member of the family; Perchta von Rosenberg.

Well, young Perchta grew up calling the castle home and had a childhood only fit of one living in a castle such as that of Český Krumlov.

Perchta had many suitors as a highly desirable Rosenberg lady. Legend has it that she had even fallen in love with a young man whom she desperately wanted to marry.

But her father Ulrich II von Rosenberg had other ideas, and soon married her off as a dowry to the powerful and noble Jan von Lichtenstein.

Her newly married life was miserable.

Let’s not neglect that her husband was only very recently widowed himself.

Another suggestion is that Perchta’s father never paid the dowry for her hand in marriage.

She was forced to share her new family (Lichtenstein) castle with her husband’s mother-in-law and sister of his deceased previous wife.

They made her life hell and tortured her. These not so charming in-laws starved her and treated more like a rat of the castle, than it’s lady.

It took Lichtenstein’s death to only bring her relief from this life once again, as she returned to her family castle in Český Krumlov.

Legend has it that on his deathbed, Lichtenstein begged Perchta for forgiveness for her mistreatment but she refused.

As a result, he cursed her eternally.

She died only 3 years after her husband.

Subsequently, there have been many sightings of Perchta in a white dress throughout castles of Český Krumlov, Rožmberk, Jindřichův Hradec, Třeboň and Telč in Bohemia.

To be sure, if you happen to catch a look at her, take note of the color of her gloves….it may be of significance.

Surprisingly, I did not see her on my visit inside the Castle.

Have you?

Český Krumlov Christmas Market

European Christmas Markets have an atmosphere and magic like nothing else. And I can’t imagine a finer location to experience a local Christmas Market than in Svornosti Square, Český Krumlov.

The market usually opens in the last few days of November each year through until the first week of January.

With local performances, choirs and musicians performing Czech Carols, and a glass of mulled wine, what a magical and unique way to celebrate Christmas than in this little town.

International Music Festival

The Festival has been in operation for almost 20 years now.

Indeed it is vital to the heritage of the town.

The International Music Festival showcases all styles of world music, as well as celebrates music throughout history, between the 15th to 21st centuries.

To clarify, the festival runs over about 5 weeks throughout the European summer. Keep an eye and ear out for it in 2021.

Five Petalled Rose Celebrations

This is undoubtedly the ultimate Renaissance Fair!

And if that’s your thing, then look no further than the Five Petalled Rose Celebrations.

With the 34th annual celebration set to take place June 18 – 20, 2021, this gives you ample time to plan ahead for your visit.

In fact, the streets of Český fill with knights in jousting tournaments, arts and crafts fairs, costumed knights on horseback, medieval music, and many a re-enactment of the time of the Rozenbergs in town. And fireworks!

To emphasize, this is quite the spectacle!

Ultimately, there are more than a couple of things to do while you stay in Český Krumlov. I hope this satisfies your curiosity!

Have you been to Český Krumlov? I’d love to know how your visit was! What were your highlights? Please comment below!

References

UNESCO

World Monuments Fund

Český Krumlov

Featured Image by Bonnie Moreland is marked with CC0 1.0

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