Which Czech town would you recommend if someone wanted to tour a brewery? Plzeň, probably. Looking to do a spa visit? Head to Karlovy Vary. A nice chateau? Maybe Konopiště. Some place to take lovely walks? Český Ráj would work. Or head to the South Bohemian town of Třeboň and get all of that and more.
Telč is probably a more “famous” South Bohemian Czech town, but I greatly prefer Třeboň. I find it is less touristy, tour buses don´t seem to pull up hourly and the square and surroundings are much more charming. The city center (Masarykovo náměstí) is a mix of Baroque and Renaissance, surrounded by a variety of parks. One end is dominated by the chateau, which sits in front of Zámecký Park, a lovely landscaped ramble. Across Sokolská Street is Komanského Park, which if you arrive from the bus station, you can head through on your way to the center. Outside of these two parks, the city gets a bit more “regular” looking, but cheaper pensions and great pubs are available. One of my favorite activities is the walk around the “world.” This part of the country is flat and scattered with fish ponds interconnected with small streams and canals. Rybník Svět hugs the southwestern edge of Třeboň and the 12 kilometer path around it is a beautiful afternoon walk. You can start either from Lázeňský Park, or from near Světská hráz street. Be sure to take the slight detour from the path to walk around the Swarzenberg family vaults, on the southeast side of the pond. Designed in an English Gothic style, it blends beautifully into its surroundings.
The walk around Svět is an easy introduction to the myriad of walking paths in the region. You don´t have to leave the city, and it´s a varied walk, ranging from flat pastures to woody forests. North of the city is the much larger Rožmberk pond, and if you take the blue tourist path out of town can head up this way. Forests and smaller fish ponds carry you along. There´s a 22 kilometer educational path in this direction as well with signposts talking about the area´s flora and fauna. Cyclists can ride the 39 kilometer Okolo Třeboň (around Třeboň) or hit any of the trails. Part of the Prague-Vienna Greenways trail flows through the region; here it´s called the Rožmberk Loop and you can take it south to Nové Hrady or northeast towards Jindřichův Hradec. The whole region is a natural protected area and a UNESO designated biosphere reservation.
Fishing (Třeboň may be the originator of your Christmas carp), forestry and other agricultural pursuits make up a large part of the economic activity of the area. You can use the fishponds to your recreational advantage. Chlum, east of Třeboň, has excellent fishponds. This is a huge bird watching area and the ponds are interconnected with narrow dikes. Peat bogs are another natural attraction. Almost 20 kilometers south of Třeboň, near Nové Hrady is a designated walking path through bogs, blueberry patches, pines trees and lots of butterflies. The path (called Červené blato) starts near Jiříkovo Údolí.
What about my other promises for things to do in Třeboň? Regent is the local beer here, and Třeboň has been brewing it since the 14th century. A brewery tour (http://www.pivovar-regent.cz/) needs to be pre-arranged, phone 384 721 319 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For those just looking to taste, the brewery´s terrace is open in the summer so sit and order a couple of their traditional light or dark lagers, or their special yeast beer. It´s still produced using the brewery´s traditional methods and only natural ingredients.
Relaxation and wellness stays can be booked at one of Třeboň´s two bath houses - Lázné Aurora (http://www.aurora.cz/) or Bertiny lázné (http://www.berta.cz/.) Bertiny is located a couple blocks from the city center, and is in a stunningly restored building, with a lovely walking park right outside its front door. Aurora is much larger and on the outskirts of the city; you´ll walk past it if you wander around Rybník Svět.
In town, there´s lots of stuff to admire. The chateau (Tel: 384 721 193, e-mail: email@example.com) is a lovely Renaissance construction, built circa late 1400´s. Enter from the north, through the Budějovická gate. The marble coat of arms above the gate belongs to the Rožmberks. Inside, two exhibitions on important Bohemian families, the Rožmberks and the Swarzenbergs can be visited. The chateau garden, originally built in the 17th century, was completely destroyed twice during the Thirty Year´s War and was eventually re-designed as an English flower park in 1804. A pond, flower beds, lots of trees and benches make this a favorite for locals and me alike. The main square is a mix of Renaissance and Baroque, built and added on to over the years. The Town Hall has notable frescoes of the Rožmberk, Swarzenberg and Třeboň coats-of-arms. What is now the Zlatá hvězda Hotel was the original town hall and the city´s first brewery was on its ground floor. On the east side of the square you´ll find the Hradecká gate, the core of which originated between the years 1525 and 1527, when it became part of the city´s fortifications. A Renaissance stone fountain and a Baroque Marian statue decorate the center of the square.
The city´s second square, Žižkovo náměstí is just south of Masarykovo náměstí along P. Voka Street. The brewery is located here, as well as Svinenská gate on the south side. Leaving the square and heading down Krčínova Street will bring you to the chateau. For those who truly feel a connection with the city and its citizens, pay a visit to the “Man and the Landscape.” This permanent exhibition (Tel: 384 724 912, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org) in the chateau will put you up close with the area´s history, technological workings of the fishponds and famous fisherman.
If you are coming by train, be sure to get off at the Třeboň lázné station versus the main Třeboň one. It´s a closer walk into the center, straight down Dukelská Street. The bus station is not city center, a roughly 15 minute walk along Jiráskova. Turn left when you see the chateau. The journey from Prague will require a change at some point, perhaps Veselí nad Lužnici or České Budéjovice. Buses often leave from Roztyly, trains, usually from the main station. Either one, or a combination, will take a good three hours. Check schedules online here. If driving, Třeboň is 150 kilometers south of Prague.
An overnight visit is recommended in Třeboň, not only based on the public transport available but also because there´s enough variety to keep you amused for at least a couple of days. People are quite laidback and friendly. Here´s a selection of hotels; the tourist information office (Masarykovo náměstí 103/I, http://www.itrebon.cz/) will have more:
Flash on the Square: Zlatá Hvězda (Tel: 384 757 300, http://www.zhvezda.cz/): This four-star hotel right on the main square offers style and service from 1710 CZK a double room, low season.
Mid-range: Pension Modrá Růže (Tel: 384 722 167, http://www.modra-ruze.cz/): On one of the cute winding streets just behind Masarykovo náměstí, discover cheaper accommodation with lots of amenities. Prices from 640 CZK for a double room, low season.
Budget: Turistická ubytovna TJ Jiskra Třeboň(Tel: 384 722 592, email@example.com): Beds can be had from 210 CZK in the low season. This is located a bit out of the city center, but everything´s fairly close so you most likely won´t notice the extra walking.
Truly get in touch with the Třeboň basin area by camping. AutoKemp Třeboň (http://www.autocamp-trebon.cz/) and Camping Sever (http://www.campsever.cz/) offer sites and amenities, near water features and close to the city.