A month ago we went on a one-day trip to Český Krumlov. A small town with cobbled streets, art galleries and innovative museums is a perfect one-day getaway from Prague. Not to mention the largest Renaissance castle in the Czech Republic rising above this picturesque medieval city surrounded by the river Vltava.
I was in Český Krumlov for the first time 8 or 9 years ago during my Czech studies. I fell in love with this beautiful town, but nobody wanted to take me there again. “It's too far from Prague”, was their excuse.
Český Krumlov is located in the South Bohemian Region close to the border with Austria. However, it's less than a 3-hour ride away from Prague by bus. I would recommend you to take Leo Express bus and you'll be there in just a bit more than 2 hours. The bus ticket is also very cheap, about 11€ both ways.
Český Krumlov is a small town (about 13 000 inhabitants) but has a rich history connected with important noble families (Vitkovci, Rosenberg, Eggenberg, Schwarzenberg). The town's historical center and Český Krumlov Castle were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992.
What to see in Krumlov
1) Český Krumlov Castle
On the north-west side of the city proudly stands Český Krumlov Castle, the most visited cultural sight in Southern Bohemia and the second largest castle complex in the Czech Republic.
The complex was built in the 13th century by members of the noble family Vitkovci. During centuries, the castle belonged to various noblemen, Rosenberg, Eggenberg and Schwarzenberg family, to fall into state ownership in recent years.
The entrance to the castle interior is from the first courtyard, where the oldest part of the complex, called Hrádek, stands. Hrádek is an old palace with a tower dating back to the 13th century. You'll be amazed by its beautiful facade decorated with Renaissance sgrafitti and paintings from the 16th century.
As you pass through the courtyards of the castle, in each one of them, you'll find more and more detailed and beautiful Renaissance facades and balconies. As you reach the final fifth courtyard, you'll be rewarded with a magical view of the city which extends from the Baroque Cloak Bridge.
The three-story Cloak Bridge connects the Castle Theater, one of the world's best-preserved Baroque theaters, with the Upper Castle and the castle park. It's decorated with Baroque statues of important Czech and international saints.
You can walk through the castle courtyards for free. If you're interested in the castle's interior, there are two guided tours that might interest you. The first one (12€) shows you the Renaissance and Baroque interior of the castle, while the second one (about 9€) concentrates on the Schwarzenberg family and the more remote history of the castle.
You can choose to visit only the Castle Museum and the Castle Tower for 6€. From the tower, you'll have a magnificent view of the whole city of Český Krumlov surrounded by the river Vltava.
When you're crossing the bridge from the first courtyard to the second, you'll encounter one castle's curiosity. Bear Moat is a home for several bears, who started living in the moat in the early 18th century as Rosenberg family's pets.
2) St. Vitus Church
While Český Krumlov Castle dominates the northern part of the city, the southern part is dominated by the St. Vitus Church placed on a smaller hill. Both architectural objects form the world-known panorama of Český Krumlov. The first one symbolizes the secular power (noble families who owned the castle), while the second one represents the religious power of Christianity, which was active here from medieval times.
St. Vitus Church was built in the early 15th century in the Late-Gothic style on a place where a smaller parish church once stood. The church built in a form of three parallel arcades connected with a long presbyterium is best known for its beautiful Baroque tower.
In its interior, you can find tombs of Krumlov rulers, the Mausoleum of Rosenberg family, who ordered the construction of the smaller church. Until the end of the 18th century, the church was filled with small altars financed by various town's craftsmen: millers, blacksmiths, cooks, bakers, and, of course, the beer makers.
The entrance to the church is completely free.
3) Český Krumlov Monasteries
Below the Krumlov Castle in the eastern part of Latrán neighborhood lies a complex of monasteries belonging to Minorites and Poor Clares. The complex was built in the 14th century by the Rosenberg family. The family wanted to show that Český Krumlov is equal to Prague in the richness of its religious life, so they established an unusual double monastery.
Monasteries were built in the Late-Gothic style and completed in the 17th and 18th centuries during their Baroque reconstruction. You can walk through green monastery gardens or take a look at the monastery interior, where various exhibitions take place. One exhibition shows you the life and arts in the Minorite Monastery and the Poor Clare Monastery. The entrance fee is 6€.
You can also see a permanent exhibition of human skills and crafts for 6€. Here you'll explore the old Alchemist laboratory, you'll learn about the medieval daily life, herbs storage, healing habits. You can also participate in various workshops, for example, bookbinding and stencil decoration workshop. An educative and fun way to learn more about medieval life in the monastery.
You can also buy a combined ticket for 10€ that includes both exhibitions.
4) Picturesque Old Town
Two parts form the center of Český Krumlov – a southern part surrounded by the river Vltava with the St. Vitus Church and the northern Latrán neighborhood, where the city castle and monasteries stand.
The southern part is a net of picturesque narrow streets with the main Svornosti Square in the middle. Stroll the cobbled streets filled with art galleries, souvenir and antique shops, charming cafés and restaurants. During the winter period, enjoy a glass of hot wine or sweet mead from the stand in the middle of Svornosti Square while observing colorful burgher houses around you.
Take a look at the white facade of the old Town City Hall, made by joining various Gothic houses into one structure in the 16th century. The Marian Plague Column and a fountain from the 18th century, a work of a Czech sculptor Matouš Václav Jäckel, proudly stand in the middle of the square.
Walk along the river promenade while enjoying the view of the magnificent Český Krumlov Castle. Stop on the Lazebnický Bridge that connects the southern part of the city with Latrán neighborhood. Take a photo on Vltava river with the uphill castle behind your back and listen to the street musician playing on an old music box.
The town of Český Krumlov has a lot of green areas, as well. When you're descending from the bus station to the city center following Kaplická Street (with a nice panoramic view of the city), on your left side, you'll see a narrow sideways alley.
The alley will take you to the town's hidden gem where a small canal called Mouse Hole (Myší díra) connects with the river Vltava. Breath in the nature around you and raise your head to see an old bridge.
You can either continue your walk passing under the bridge to get to Parkán Street full with well-preserved facade frescoes or you can climb up the bridge and follow Horní Street towards the Svornosti Square. It's up to you. Take some time wandering through the beautiful streets of Český Krumlov to find many more surprises and hidden corners on your way.
5) Modern Museums
The most important Krumlov's museum is the Egon Schiele Art Centrum. Austrian expressionist painter Egon Schiele lived and worked in Český Krumlov for a short period around 1910. After the fall of Communism in the Czech Republic, three local art-lovers decided to open an Art Centrum in Schiele's honor.
The Egon Schiele Art Centrum offers expositions of the world's modern 20th-century artists, as well as several ateliers for today's painters and writers coming from Eastern and Western Europe. The admission price for expositions is 8€. After your visit, you can buy a small souvenir from the museum's souvenir shop or relax with a cup of coffee in the museum's coffee shop.
While we were exploring the city center, we found some interesting small museums, as well. At the corner of Radniční and Dlouhá Street, there is a small Museum of Commerce (Muzeum obchodu). It's full of old commercial posters, retro products, old cash registers, … You can also see how the coffee and beer production looked back at the end of the 19th century and in the early 20th century, as well as an example of an old shop.
You will be greeted by an old-fashion local in a tuxedo, who'll gladly give you the background about the museum and explain about different souvenirs which he sells in a large souvenir shop (magnets of old commercials, bags, badges, etc.). The entrance to this museum is completely free.
Another interesting museum is just a few steps away, the 3D Museum in Masná Street. The museum contains paintings of everyday objects and phenomenons made with a 3D effect. You can take a selfie while running from shark's jaws, sitting in a sea shell, blowing fire, and in many other interesting scenarios.
The 3D Museum in Český Krumlov is the first of its kind in the Czech Republic. The entrance fee is 4€.
A few houses from the Museum of Commerce in Radniční Street, you can find another attraction, the Puppet Museum – Fairytale house. The Czech Republic has a long tradition of puppetry. In the 18th and at the beginning of the 19th century, Chech puppet theater plays became a popular form of fun.
Some of the well-known puppets were “born” then, such as Matěj Kopecký's puppet Kašpar. Later on, the Chech puppetry was enriched by two new characters, Spejbl and Hurvínek, who are a symbol of Czech culture even today.
In the Puppet Museum, you can contemplate around 400 puppets from Czech and universal fairy tales, such as beetles, water spirits, dragons, Spejbl, Hurvínek, Rusalka, as well as the works of more contemporary puppeteers. The entrance fee is 3.50€.
The South Bohemian region is known for the findings of a green or blue-greenish valuable rock called moldavite (vltavín in Czech). It was formed by a meteorite impact about 15 million years ago and you can find it in some parts of Germany, Austria, and South Bohemia.
Moldavite is used mostly for making jewellery and it's very valuable. You can learn more about the story of moldavite and its characteristics in the Moldavite Museum in Český Krumlov (Panská 19). The admission for this interactive exhibition is 6€ and the museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Where to eat
1) Penzion Restaurant Kristinka (Dlouhá 94)
It's a nice homey decorated restaurant, where we eventually chose to eat. On their menu, you can find typical Czech dishes such as garlic soup, svíčková (beef and dumplings in a creamy sauce), various meat dishes, trout, etc. The price of a meal is around 8€.
During the summer, they have a large terrace on the riverbank and during the winter, this is a perfect place to warm up next to a fireplace.
2) U dwau Maryí (Parkán 104)
We saw this restaurant on our way to the city center and it seemed like an interesting place. The restaurant offers different dishes made mostly from basic ingredients (millet, eggs, honey, milk, black bread, cabbage, mushrooms,...) that were used in the medieval period.
If you're a vegetarian, you'll have plenty of options to chose from on their menu. Meals are very cheap, around 6€. They also have a nice riverbank terrace during hot summer days.
3) Cikánská jizba (Dlouhá 31)
It's an interesting restaurant, whose name means “Gypsy room”. They offer a variety of Gypsy food such as halušky pasta with meat, sauerkraut and blue cheese, … The prices are decent, they go up to 8-10€ per meal. During the weekends, you can enjoy dinner while listening to live Gypsy music played on the accordion.