UNESCO have regarded Cesky Krumlov as a very special town since 1992 when they granted it World Heritage status but it’s only over the last few years that the town has really taken off as a tourist destination.
I’d read a lot about the town, and seen lots of amazing photos, but it was when my husband saw Cesky Krumlov featured on a Getaway TV episode that we decided we had to join the tourist bandwagon and see what all the fuss was about.
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Cesky Krumlov, population approximately 14,000, is a well-preserved medieval town with over 300 protected buildings and is the jewel in the crown of the country. It is well worth including in your Czech Republic road trip itinerary.
The small, fairytale-like historical centre miraculously escaped the bombings of the Second World War and today remains as it has for centuries with cobblestone streets lining the perfectly preserved and restored facades of houses and shops.
Thanks to its compact size, the Old Town is perfect for a leisurely stroll. Souvenir and toy shops, cafes and galleries line the pretty streets. There are shops that appeal to everyone so even if you’re visiting Cesky Krumlov with a toddler or older children, they’ll find something to look at, too!
It was here in the Old Town that we found the Tourist Office, the starting point for the free one hour guided tours offered by the visitors centre, and whilst waiting for our tour to start, we wandered the square, admiring the architecture whilst we indulged in an ice cream.
The walking tour was a great way to get to know a little more about Cesky Krumlov and its history. Our guide, Lucy, was very informative and really brought the town to life for us, pointing out the most important buildings and explaining their place in the history of the town.
We also learnt that the town is home to many museums including a puppet museum and a torture museum to name a couple, as well as the Castle museum that we would visit later.
Surrounding the old town, which is built on a circular promontory, is the Vltava River, a popular spot for rafting in the warmer months, and the ideal location for a riverside meal or drink. Rafts and canoes can be hired from one of the many vendors alongside the river and are a great way to enjoy the river whilst getting a different view of the town.
Across the river and up a steep staircase is the town’s Castle (Horni hrad in Czech), the second largest in the country. The castle complex consists of numerous buildings but the most famous is the Baroque and Rococco-styled Tower, which has become the town’s landmark.
Dating from the 13th century, the Tower was decorated with murals and motifs in 1590 and a restoration of the paintings was undertaken from 1994 to 1996 after the town was granted UNESCO World Heritage status.
Thanks to this, visitors today can enjoy the beauty of the Tower just as it was back in the 16th Century. Its pretty pale pink and green colour scheme reminds me of a wedding cake.
After visiting the Castle Museum, home to numerous art works and furniture owned by the former residents, we climbed the 54 metre tower for the most amazing views over Cesky Krumlov. Despite my fear of heights, I was determined to see the views for myself, after all, it was the photos from this iconic tower that had attracted me to Cesky Krumlov in the first place.
I wasn’t disappointed – the red tiled rooftops clustered together, with their backdrop of green fields and a clear blue sky, were an incredible sight.
Being a Monday, the Castle itself was closed but we enjoyed wandering through the castle grounds and the Baroque and Rococco gardens.
Along the castle wall towards the garden is a viewing point which looks back over the town and the Tower – it’s one of the most popular spots in town to take a photo (especially for those who’d rather not climb the Tower, I’d imagine!) and the perfect place to capture this beautiful town in all its glory.
Must See and Do in Cesky Krumlov
A free one hour guided tour in English is offered by the Tourist Office each day.
Castle Tower and Museum
No visit to Cesky Krumlov would be complete without a visit to the Castle Tower and Museum. Entry is CZK130 per adult and both are open daily (except Mondays from 1 November to 31 March).
Castle and grounds
The castle is closed on Mondays but on other days of the week a tour of the interior is possible. A moat surrounds part of the castle and is home to three brown bears, a tradition that dates back to the 16th Century. The castle gardens are open daily (free admission) from 1 April to 31 October.
Lunch or coffee by the Vltava River
The best way to relax after wandering the cobbled streets and visiting the Castle complex is to take a seat at one of the many riverside cafes and restaurants lining the Vltava River and watch the rafters float by.
Need to Know about Cesky Krumlov
- Whilst the Czech currency is the Koruna (crown), most shops in the Old Town accept Euros. If visiting the Castle complex, only Czech crowns can be used.
- At the time of writing, one Czech Koruna bought about five Australian cents.
- The Cesky Krumlov Card – CZK200 per adult/Concession CZK100 – is good value and includes entry to Castle Musuem and Tower, Regional Museum, Photography Museum and Egon Schiele Art Centre.
- English is widely spoken by shopkeepers and restaurant staff in the Old Town, and at the Tourist Office.
Getting to Cesky Krumlov
- Cesky Krumlov is located close to the Austrian border. We drove from Niederranna on the Danube with the journey taking around 90 minutes. From Linz, the trip takes around one hour whilst it’s a three hour drive from Prague.
- Many river cruise companies offer an excursion to Cesky Krumlov from Passau, Germany. Read more about Passau here >>
- Public transport options include both train and bus. From Prague, the journey (via Ceske Budejovice) takes around 4 to 5 hours, and buses take anywhere from 3 to 5 hours for the same route.
- The nearest international airports are at Linz (70km), Prague (180km) and Munich (300km).
- You can also take a day trip from Prague to Cesky Krumlov – click here to check the different tours..
Where to Eat in Cesky Krumlov
Laibon Vegetarian Café
For great food and friendly service, try Laibon Vegetarian Café. Located on the river bank, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a meal and is excellent value. Our lunch of two main courses and two drinks cost just EUR16. (When heading from the Old Town to the Castle, turn right at the last street before the bridge. The Cafe’s entrance is about 50 metres along the street.
Update: I paid a second visit to Cesky Krumlov in July 2018 on my way from Prague to the Austrian Lakes. Again, we enjoyed a delicious lunch at Laibon Cafe and reminisced with the friendly owner about our previous visit.
Disclosure: The Cesky Krumlov Tourist office kindly supplied my husband and I with complimentary Cesky Krumlov cards for use during our visit.