The Czech Republic is chalk full of beautiful little towns and none are more picturesque than that of Cesky Krumlov. This little Medieval town at the southern border with Austria is probably one of the most beautiful villages in Europe. This UNESCO World Heritage site is fulfills everything that comes to mind for an idyllic European fairy tale village.
If you don’t believe me, take China’s word for it. They made a replica of the town in China. Yes, you heard me right. China actually reconstructed this village because of how beautiful someone very high up and powerful thought of it.
I spent a night here on a short weekend road trip through the Czech Republic. This is a list of all the must do things in Cesky Krumlov to help you plan out your trip!
Cesky Krumlov was once a German Town
At the beginning of the 20th century, the city consisted of around 9,000 residents – most of them German-speaking. After the proclamation of the Czechoslovak Republic in 1918, tensions arose between the German and the Czech population.
Krumau was occupied by the Czech Wehrmacht on November 28, 1918 and the German name of the city was changed to Český Krumlov, which was used earlier. The German population was granted minority rights, in 1945 after the end of the Second World War, due to the Beneš decrees, they were expelled to Austria and West Germany.
How Much Time do you need in Cesky Krumlov?
First thing’s first, Cesky Krumlov is beautiful. There is no question about this. If you’re looking to get your European fix with cobblestone streets, picturesque churches, beautiful stucco rooftops and medieval buildings, this is the place for you. However, it is still just a village and unless you are ultra keen on history, then staying here for too long will probably bore you.
I think one to two nights is plenty to see this town. Most people come here as a day trip from Prague so if you spend the night, you’re already seeing more than the average person. In the summer months, Cesky Krumlov can also be incredibly touristy and packed full of people. This will make it less charming and stressful to visit.
That’s why I recommend staying at least one night so you can wake up in the morning and walk around the city before the crowds come in. It is so much more beautiful and serene without the swarms of people just like Rothenberg Ob Der Tauber in Germany.
If you do decide to spend multiple nights here, it is also a great base to visit famous and equally as picturesque towns in Austria like Salzburg and Hallstatt which are only 2-3 hours away.
Sights and activities in Český Krumlov
In Český Krumlov you can easily reach all sights on foot and without public transport. The distances are very short. If you really only want to explore the highlights, half a day is enough. Nevertheless, we recommend that you stay the night in Český Krumlov (you can find information and tips on this further down in this blog article).
Český Krumlov Castle
The first sight that you will probably see and visit is the Český Krumlov Castle. It towers over the old town on a rocky promontory and is gigantic: Strictly speaking, the castle is the second largest castle complex in the Czech Republic after the Prague Castle .
The present castle was built in the 13th century when a Gothic castle was first built. It was expanded later in the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Accordingly, the palace complex consists of innumerable inner courtyards and buildings.
The area also includes other sights (including the coat bridge and the castle tower), which we will describe in more detail below. The castle area itself is accessible free of charge. Entrance is only due for certain sights (including the castle museum and the tower).
If you stroll through the castle area, you will always come across places from which you can enjoy a beautiful view of the old town . The most frequented viewing terrace is located at the western entrance (near the palace garden).
The multi-storey coat bridge is quite an eye-catcher. It belongs to the palace area and spans the moat. You can go under the bridge or walk over it (free of charge).
From the center you can reach the Mantelbrücke via a short ascent in a maximum of 10 minutes (rather shorter). The quickest way from the square in the old town where our photo was taken up to the Mantel Bridge is the serpentine forest path that starts at the back of the bridge. From the coat bridge you can enjoy a wonderful view over Český Krumlov.
The castle tower is not only beautiful to look at from below, but above all it is worthwhile to tackle the ascent. There are fewer steps than expected – 162 to be precise – so you can get to the viewing platform fairly quickly .
Depending on the rush, it can get pretty tight up on the viewing platform. Nevertheless, we are of the opinion that the short effort is definitely worth it. You look from above in all directions.
Information on climbing the tower
Admission: 150 CZK
Opening times: November to March from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (closed on Mondays); April, May, September and October from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (daily); June to August from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (daily); also closed on some days (over Christmas, New Years)
The palace area also includes a very extensive palace garden, which is located to the west of the palace (near the coat bridge). So if you’re already at the castle, you can stop by here as well.
The baroque palace garden is beautifully designed: In addition to an open-air theater and an artificially created small lake, you will of course find plenty of artistic flower beds here. Because the park is so spacious, the palace park feels anything but overcrowded.
Information on visiting the palace gardens
Opening times: April and October from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. May to September from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., closed from November to March
Old town with market square ( Náměstí Svornosti)
The historic old town of Český Krumlov is located within the Vltava loop at the foot of the castle. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992. From today’s perspective, the great fortune for Český Krumlov was that in the post-war years there was a lack of financial means for renovation work. Therefore, a few hundred houses in the center are up to 500 years old – and of course have now been perfectly renovated.
The center of Český Krumlov is largely car-free (apart from a few special regulations). You can’t get lost – on the contrary: you will see many alleys and crossings twice within a very short time. Probably the most spacious place in the center is the main square, often called the market square or Náměstí Svornosti in Czech.
The famous Egon Schiele Art Center is also located in the old town . There you will find an exhibition that also shows works by Egon Schiele. He spent a few years of his life in Český Krumlov – his mother’s hometown – and immortalized the town’s houses several times on canvas. We were only in the (highly recommended) museum shop ourselves , but have read that the exhibition shows fewer original Schiele works than one might expect.
You can find most of the street art in the center at the back of the Egon Schiele Art Centrum, in the alley called Hradební. Don’t expect huge works of art, but it’s definitely worth wandering through.
The Cloak Bridge
If you want the best panoramic aerial views of Cesky Krumlov, look no further than visiting the Cloak Bridge. There are numerous viewpoints for Cesky Krumlov and they are all beautiful because the village itself is just stunning. However, my favorite had to be at the Cloak Bridge.
Walk to the northern half of the inlet and you’ll see a multi level bridge with beautiful arches in front of you. You literally cannot miss it. Walk towards this bridge and you’ll see a pathway on your left that leads up to the viewpoint. Before you actually get to the bridge, there is a small door on your right that leads to a viewing platform as well as a small garden bar.
The views will blow you away that is for sure. However, keep in mind this place does get very packed especially during sunset times.
Seminární zahrada viewpoint
A very popular and really beautiful viewpoint is located next to the regional museum. This beautifully designed viewing platform is slightly elevated, so you have a really great panoramic view of the entire castle area including the castle tower.
Incidentally, it is also worthwhile to come by here in the evening, because the castle is very nicely lit in the dark . The viewing platform has a gate, but it was still open at 9 p.m. (when we visited).
Eating & drinking in Český Krumlov: tips for cafes & restaurants
The owner of our accommodation (more on this in a moment) brought us down to earth pretty quickly: Because the restaurants in Český Krumlov are almost exclusively visited by tourists (and not by locals), the quality is not the best and the prices are higher than normal. It’s no surprise because let’s be honest, few locals live here on a permanent basis. Nevertheless, we have collected some good local tips for you:
Monastery Garden: Very nice, French-influenced bistro that we discovered by chance. Unfortunately there is only breakfast and snacks (but until 2 p.m.), including eggs Florentine / Benedict, pancakes and granola.
Nonna Gina: Solid Italian cuisine right in the center (right next to the Monastery Garden Bistro) at fair prices. Inside you sit very authentically, there are also a few tables outside in the guest garden.
IDEAL Coffee: Very good coffee in a quiet location away from the tourist crowds.
Egon Schiele Café: Very cozy café with a living room atmosphere, which is located right next to the Egon Schiele Art Centrum.
Have a drink at the Apotheke Cocktail bar
If you fancy a nice cocktail, look no further than Apotheke Cafe and Bar. Located near to the entrance of the castle, this bar was originally a pharmacy that transformed into a cocktail bar. The inside furnishings has that rustic and traditional vibe where you can see the remnants of the former apothecary.
The drinks here are also fantastic. I had the Cocoa infused negroni which was one of the more delicious cocktails I’ve ever had. This place gets busy at night and is a perfect place to go on a weekend night.
Papa Living Restaurant
Located right on the river, this restaurant is definitely one of the hot spots in Cesky Krumlov. They have a wonderful interior and a large terrace overlooking the water.
If you’re looking for a cafe with a view, look no further than Bistro cafe. This bohemian cafe serves amazing coffee and brunch style food. They also have a little balcony with views of the river and the church. Great place for a morning coffee!
Don’t miss: Trdelník
At almost every corner in Český Krumlov you will find street stalls selling Trdelník. Trdelník is a sweet pastry that is baked on a roll and then refined with various ingredients.
Our favorite variant is the classic one with cinnamon and sugar. But there are also some filled variants that we have not (yet) dared to try. A popular café that also offers Trdelník to go is the MLS Crêperie in the center of Český Krumlov.
Prague to Český Krumlov
If you come by car from Vienna , there are two route options: Either via the autobahn to Linz and then to the north. Or via Krems and the Waldviertel. We decided (without hesitation) for option no. 2. The reason: We were able to take a break without detour in Weitra and eat a delicious, freshly baked poppy seed tent in the café on the main square.
From Weitra the road runs quite winding and through many villages. The border crossing is one of the most inconspicuous we have ever seen.
Parking in Český Krumlov
As beautiful as Krumlov is, the parking situation is a bit of a hassle. The reason is obvious: there is simply no space for cars in the old town and the center is (with a few exceptions) car-free.
There are a total of five larger parking spaces near the center (named P1 to P5). You can find a map here: Parking lots in Český Krumlov . We ourselves parked our car in parking lot P1 , which is located directly at the rear of the palace area. From this parking lot you can walk to the center in 2 minutes. (If you want to navigate to the parking lot directly with your GPS, here is the address: Chvalšinská 138.)
Normally, one hour would cost 50 CZK (just under 2 euros; the first 40 minutes are free). But there are special day tickets (24 hours for around 10 euros) that you can get from your accommodation (it is best to check again in advance). Alternatively, you can get these discounted day tickets at the tourist information.
So if your hotel is in the old town, you should proceed as follows: You park your car in the parking lot that is closest to your hotel (this will mostly be P1). Then you go to the hotel with your luggage (it’s a bit of a hassle due to the cobblestones, but the distances are really shorter than expected), pick up your day ticket and go back to the parking lot. With the car you then drive into the parking lot again, because you have to insert your day ticket when you drive in. If you stay longer than 24 hours, you can easily pay the additional amount at the machine at the end of your stay.
Visit the Hluboka Palace
If you have extra time and a car, then a visit to the Hluboka Palace is a must. If you like big castles, palaces, and estates, then this is the mother of all of them in the Czech Republic.
Located about 30 minutes from Cesky Krumlov, this palace is on the way back to Prague and well worth the visit. First built in the 13th century as a military fortification overlooking the Vltava River, it’s been transformed throughout the years as it changed hands, including a stint with the noble Schwarzenberg family whose diplomatic trips to Great Britain inspired the current design. The chateau saw Baroque and Romantic updates in the 18th and 19th centuries, and is now a National Monument open to the public.
I didn’t pre-book any tours but I know they have guided tours around the property. However, I simply just walked through their beautiful gardens and estate taking some wonderful pictures and views. There is also a little courtyard bar where you can grab a drink with views of the palace.
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