Every time somebody tells me they are planning to go to Prague or puts up a status they are currently in Prague, I immediately shout out, "Oh please visit Cesky Krumlov, it is just couple of hours drive from Prague and it is the best European town to visit. So cute!" It is indeed petite and cute. Cesky Krumlov is a Unesco World Heritage Site. The town was spared during the world war that it is intact, throwing light into how a European town looked like in the medieval era. Cobbled streets, Vltava river flowing through, a town square and a castle with a huge garden. That is pretty much about the town. Oh, and it does have a little piece of my heart too ;)
The drive to Cesky Krumlov from Prague was filled with green farms, lavender farms, a distant farmhouse, and cows grazing by. It was like driving through the outskirts of a village. It was late morning by the time we reached the town, I was part of a group tour through Europe. Like any other place, picked up the town map and the receptionist was kind enough to jot down the things to do at Cesky Krumlov. But before I get into what are the places to see, let me give a brief intro to the town.
About Cesky Krumlov
Cesky Krumlov is situated in the South Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic. The main town revolves around the state castle. Situated on the banks of Vltava river (Moldau river), it is said that the town was formed around the 13th century. If you are interested in architecture and history then this is the town for you. There are architectural elements of all kinds, Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance. The castle itself is a good example to spot all these kinds.
The town has not really got adapted to urban infrastructure. In fact, the town is often addressed as "Historic center of Cesky Krumlov", in honour of the fact that culture and heritage of this place are preserved. It also has very less population, in fact, it is said that tourists outnumber the local people. Since the town is based around the castle, the town is pretty small. I walked around the town, sat in a cafe, walked around the town again, it is that simple to look around. Not on many lanes, four wheelers are allowed. So it is as good as strolling through the town. Let us walk through the places of Cesky Krumlov
How to Spend a Day at Cesky Krumlov
Cesky Krumlov Castle
Obviously, the most visited place and the must visit place is the Cesky Krumlov State Castle and Chateau. The castle is one of the largest castles in central Europe. It dates back to 1240 and up until 16th century, the castle went on from one hand to another and there were various additions to the castle. You can walk into the castle complex for free and check out the buildings and garden. But I would recommend you to take a guided tour. The complex today houses a small state castle, a larger castle, a chapel, a moat, a garden, a watchtower, courtyard, stable and a theatre that the royals spent their time at. I am big time into reading English Classic novels so when I was at this castle, it seemed like I was part of those English novels coming to life. Passing through the simple gates of the castle comes a courtyard and the tourist information center. You can collect tickets for the guided tour from here. The tour is for an hour and it happens periodically. There are different tours, one takes you to the castle, museum, moat, and watchtower. Another tour takes you to all those along with the chapel and baroque theatre. I opted for the first tour that cost me 300czk.
Passing through the stone bridge towards the castle the first thing to notice is the moat. The moat that runs around the castle is dry and they seemed to house two bored bears. Apparently, it is a tradition followed from the 16th century. The Rosenburg rulers had the bears as a symbol in their coats-of-arms. Coat of arms are symbols engraved into shields, cape, flags, etc. So the Rosenburg rulers apart from having roses and other things had two bears as shield bearers. From then on they started holding bears. Somewhere in the 19th century, they decided to conserve the bears and breed them. And now it seems there are four bears, I could see them be just bored. There is also a bear festival conducted annually for the children to come to have a look. I wonder what kind of mock they would do on that day to the bears.
Moving on to the second courtyard, it has the little castle with the watchtower. The little castle was originally built in the gothic architecture and was then later improvised to renaissance style. The Watchtower has been completely remodeled in renaissance style. The cylindrical tower towers above the castle walls and is visible from many corners of the town. You can walk up the watchtower to get a 360degree view of the town. The subsequent courtyard has bigger houses. There are five courtyards like this with bigger and bigger houses. The walls of this building give you the convex and concave illusion. It is almost like walking uphill as you move from one courtyard to another.
I don't remember which one of these houses had the museum. We get to walk through various rooms. Many of the artifacts are preserved, like the china they used, the gems they wore, the weapons used in war, coins, letters. And then you walk through rooms like the study, living, bedroom, kitchen. Photography is not allowed inside. Compared to Indian palaces these are a very low key affair. But nevertheless, it is a peek into their lifestyle and quite interesting. Here is a fun fact I saw. All the rooms in the castle have an oven. The guide said it is like a good sign or to bring prosperity or a must custom to have an oven built in every room. The logical reason though is it acts as a central heating system, the warm pipes run from one room to another. Also, the kitchen is far from other rooms and when the servants bring the food, they would use these ovens to reheat the cold food for the occupants. The queen's room was unusually pink in color :) and there were many other interesting features like this to see.
I did not visit the Baroque theatre as I did not have the ticket nor did I have the knowledge that it is an interesting theatre to visit. Walking past all the courtyards opens to the garden. The garden is a nice place to relax after the walk through the castle complex. It is called as the New Princely Garden and it forms the largest part of the castle. The main attraction is the cascading fountain in the garden. And then you can walk past the numerous trees and neatly carved out garden shrubs. I remember sitting on a bench amidst the calm green garden and writing away in my diary.
Visiting the Cesky Krumlov castle would easily take away about 3 hours of your time. So keep ample time and stroll around the castle.
Museums at Cesky Krumlov
There is a street in Cesky Krumlov that is filled with museums. Most of these museums close by 5 pm and on that day when I was visiting, I guess I sat in the garden for too long, all the museums were closed by the time I walked on that street. Most of them though are ways to kill time. There is a puppet museum, wax museum, trick eye museum, 3D museum, museum of torture instruments, marionette museums. The marionette museum houses the puppets and theatre backgrounds used during the staging of drama back in the era in the Baroque theatre that I had mentioned before. Pick one or two museums if you would like to spend time exploring them.
Hot Air Ballooning
Want to see this Bohemian town from above the sky? Then on a clear day, you can take a hot air balloon ride and watch the town. The good thing is the sun doesn't set so soon in this part of town. It sets only by 8 pm or so. So you have ample time to take the balloon ride.
Rafting and Canoeing down the Vltava River
Outside the town, the river is a bit harsher and it calms down as it flows through the old town. When you walk around the old town, you are actually walking along the Vltava river. There are many places where from the high land there is access to the river and people park their canoes there. And others take one and go around the town. On the outskirts of the town though you can see proper rafting boats taking people down the river. A good way to enjoy the evening.
Brewery Cesky Krumlov
How about visiting a brewery that I as old as the castle! The brewing mechanism I guess has now been updated as per latest technology. But still, some part of the old brewery is preserved. And you can take a guided tour through the brewery. You can take a tour through the brewery and get beer served to you or take a ticket just for entrance and some beer. Funny enough, I was not drinking alcohol when I visited Cesky Krumlov and hence I decided to skip this tour as it would not be of much use to me.
Walking around the Old Town
Now, this is something I would have done twice or thrice. One, am a fan of cobbled streets, and two, the streets are filled with quirky stuff. The old charm of the town is preserved with the tiny lanes and vehicles not plying through these lanes. But then quirky props along the lanes makes it interesting to take pictures and stop by. Here are some pictures. And do not get lost in these lanes.
Spending time at the Town Square
Like many European towns, this one too has a town square with houses on one side, town hall on the other side, tourist information center and lined with many other cafes. When I was traveling in Europe, I would always remember the way to my hotel from the town square, in that way every time I got lost, I would find my way to the town square and figure out my way from there. The main structure in the middle of the town square here is the plague column topped with a statue of Virgin Mary. Flocked with tourists taking a picture in the town square in front of the column.
To be honest, I saw this structure and was amused as it looked like smiling at me or rather a big smiley was drawn on this building. I later came to know that it is one of the nine gates into the city preserved from the olden times. Am sure you will stumble across this gate when you are walking around the town.
Hop Cafes along the river
There are many cafes lined around the river. Most of them facing the river that you can just sit, listen to the gurgling water, watch fellow tourists canoe down the river, and enjoy the European desserts and coffee.
Have a Trout
My receptionist recommended to have the river trout for lunch or dinner and I did it without fail. The fresh catch and grilled fish is yummy and a must have for all the seafood lovers.
That is pretty much about things you can do this in this pretty town.
Also Read. Complete travel guide to Plitvice National park - Click Here
How to reach Cesky Krumlov
From Prague, a long distance train leaves to Cesky Krumlov at 8 am in the morning. This train reaches the town by 11 am giving you ample time to look around and stay for the night. This train departs Cesky Krumlov at 2 pm and reaches Prague by 5 pm. I wouldn't suggest doing this in a day as these three hours time will not be enough to visit the palace. However, there are some tour operators from Prague who does it as a day trip to Cesky Krumlov which might work as you will get more breathing time. Best is to have your own vehicle. There are paid parking lots in the old town and you can put your car there and walk around. Honestly, I don't remember even my hotel stay had a car park. There are also buses that operate from Prague that takes you to Cesky Krumlov.
Where to stay at Cesky Krumlov
I stayed at this charming hotel called Hotel Bellevue Cesky Krumlov. It is walkable to most of the attractions around the town. Here is a link to book this hotel - Book here