Exploring Český Krumlov

Complete guide to visiting Český Krumlov

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 18.06.2005 17:44:00 (updated on 18.06.2005) Reading time: 8 minutes

Written by Eva Christiansen

For Expats.cz

Cesky Krumlov is a very popular destination for a weekend trip from Prague. It gets the name from the old German expression for “crooked meadow” because the Vltava snakes around in windy curves between rolling hills. The first recorded mention of this settlement was in 1253 and the entire city center was decreed a UNESCO protected site. It is a unique experience to wander through narrow cobblestone streets in a town that really embraces its medieval nature and the swarms of tourists it draws by really playing it up, and not allowing any modern development within the old area. This is a fantastic interactive map from the town´s website:



Getting there: It takes less than three hours by bus, and buses leave several times an hour from the Na Knizeci bus station in Prague 5. The ticket price in Summer of 2005 is just 150.- Buying a ticket in advance is a must, as these busses fill up fast and only ticket holders generally get on. There are two exits you can take from the Andel station – one towards Novy Smichov shopping center, and the other to the bus station – and that´s where tickets are sold in MHD info booth.. The train is more comfortable, and cheaper, but takes a lot longer – since there is no direct route and passengers must change at Ceske Budeovice. We took a train from Hlavni Nadrazi at 5:30 and didn´t arrive at our hotel until midnight. The station is about 1 kilometer from the main square (Namesti Svornosti), and 20 minutes of walking including some scary steps – so if you have bags, call Krumlov taxi at 380 712 712 and expect to pay 70.-.


Where to stay: There are several options for inexpensive hostels right  in the old town itself. One is Traveller´s (www.travellers.cz) which is fun, colorful and funky and features live music some nights as well as a beer garden in back. In a town as sleepy as Cesky Krumlov, sometimes this bar and restaurant is the only place with a crowd of young people from around the world gathering to party. Another hostel I liked was very small and in a good location right on the river called Merlin (www.hostelmerlin.cz) with doubles for 500.- and dorm room beds for just 250.- Apartments with private bath are 660.- Reservations are a must.


If you are looking for something mid-range but want a lot of character in a small, friendly hostel, shoot for one of the 5 rooms in Belarie (www.belarie.cz), all with Louis XIV. Double room: 2640.- Families will enjoy U Maleho Vitka, with its interesting woodsy interiors and play area with puppet theatre in the courtyard. Double rooms are 1400.- and 1600.-, and you can reserve on the website (www.vitekhotel.cz) where rooms are called things like“Deathhead” “Goat Agatha” and “Tit Ivanka.” Lastly I would recommend Kristinka and Na Ostrove for their excellent riverside locations and simple, but functional accommodation. Any Pension outside of the old town area will be a whole lot cheaper, and if you don´t have a reservation, your first stop can be the TouristInfoCenter on the square, where they can tell you who still has vacancies.


If you can afford it, the 5 star Hotel Ruze (www.hotelruze.cz) has double rooms at 4200.- and this former sixteenth-century Jesuit college is by far the nicest hotel. Monumentally placed on a cliff overlooking the river, it has tapestries throughout and staff dressed in period costumes. It´s sister hotel “The Old Inn” (www.hoteloldinn.cz) is right on the town square, which is great except when the partiers leaving the disco get out at 4 in the morning forgetting that all around the square are hotel rooms with open windows and sleeping people. Both places have cool looking restaurants and excellent service (the lady at the front desk let me take her phone charger to my room). Both hotels also have real double bed mattresses, not just two twins next to each other, as is unfortunately the case in too many Czech hotels.


What to do: The first choice is obvious as soon as you look around you: explore the massive castle complex on the hill. It´s the second largest after PragueCastle, and is divided into separate tours, making your money stretch longer and sparing your wallet as you opt for just the parts of the castle that interest you personally. For 35.- you can climb the tower that is painted with optical illusions and looks over the town. It makes up a part of the “Hradek” – the oldest part of the castle. Great views all around, and they did a great job on the preservation – I can´t believe this tower is still standing, and you find yourself hoping it will continue to do so at least until you get back down again.


The Castle Theatre is amazing, and is given as a one hour tour, independent of all other tours. This interactive map shows how it´s put together.  (www.ckrumlov.cz/uk/atlas/i_semadi.htm) The restoration attempts on the theatre have been so careful that each nail is removed, restored, and then re-used so there are no new parts. Plays are presented only once a year in this fantastic space, and you won´t get seats so just enjoy the tour.


Other castle highlights are the tour of the interior – showcasing collections of a string of Rozmberks, Habsburgs, Eggenbergs and finally Schwarzenbergs. The Renaissance room is ok, the Schwarzenberg Baroque Suite has more wow factor, and the Eggenberg´s golden chariot is super. If you´ve seen a few Czech castles there may not be many surprises in the interiors. Wenceslas´s Basement hosts a ceramic exhibit, and is impressive, as it is built straight into the bedrock. This is the place to escape the summer heat. One of the most amazing things about the castle is just looking at it, wondering how on earth they managed to build this monstrosity on such craggy outcroppings in the first place. There is a family of bears living in moats by the castle. Entrance to the castle gardens is free, and it´s a beautiful place to relax and spend a few hours.


Besides the castle there are the usual suspects of a wax museum and a torture museum. There is a motorcycle museum upstairs in the old mill, the town´s historical museum at Horní No. 152and two puppet museums – one called “Fairytale House” at Kajovska 29 and another in the former St. Jobst church, at Latran 6. Art lovers can explore the Egon Schiele art center for a 180.- ticket. If you call 420 380 711 199 you can arrange for a tour of the graphite mines, for 200.-. If you´re only in town a day or two, you might prefer to enjoy the easy pace and sip a beer in one of the many riverside cafes.


One thing that´s really worth doing is renting a boat and get on that windy river. Several places rent canoes, kayaks and rafts, and rates are by the half hour – so if you paddle fast, it´s a short trip but if you dawdle you can enjoy a blissful hour or two floating downstream, only to be driven back when you reach the pick-up point. A short trip would be from Cesky Krumlov to Zlata Koruna, at 15 kilometers that will cost 390.- per kayak, or 640.- for a canoe fro two. A raft costs 960.- but  can carry up to 6 folks. The longest trip is from Vyssi Brod to Cesky Krumlov, and it takes 6 to 8 hours, costing 650.- per kayak – which is a great price for a day on the river with all equipment included. A private instructor will cost extra. Contact either Malecek (www.malecek.cz) at 420 380 712 508 or Vltava Agency (www.ckvltava.cz) at 420 380 711 988. Vltava also rents bikes for 320.- a day.


Where to eat: If you are in the mood for a medieval themed meal of meats grilled on an open flame, just follow your nose – Cesky Krumlov is full of these lovely inns with dark wooden furniture, mugs of beer, and wait staff in varying degrees of costume. I emphatically recommend the spooky, gothic and gorgeous catacombs under the Old Inn hotel, and the scents wafting from Krcma v Satlavske at Horni ulice 157 seemed the best advertising. For Angus steaks, try Mastal at Namesti Svornosti 2.

If you want the best meal in Town, visit Papa´s (www.papas.cz). Operated by the Ambiente group, Papa´s serves chicken wings, ribs, baked potatoes, corn on the cob, steaks, pastas and pizzas. It´s right on the river, and the prices are quite reasonable.


Another interesting place is the old Krumlov mill house at Siroka 80, with its antique shops and whimsical junk décor. Pizzeria Uno  serves  great pizza, which is a pleasant surprise – because not even Prague has an Uno. Hacienda Mexicana serves Mexican food, Rybarská basta next to the Krumlov Mill serves fish. Basically all the restaurants in the old town section are a great bargain and compete to serve up the spicy meaty goods, so you can´t go wrong. But you won´t find Indian or Thai in the old section. There is a Chinese restaurant on the old square – but no one was in it, so I can´t comment.


Shopping: If you spend any time in Prague, there is nothing new here. It´s the same wood toys, amber, crystal and puppets. The Botanicus certainly looks like it´s an authentic medieval soap shop, but the same products are carried everywhere. A few antique stores carry things of note, but we overheard some disgruntled antique shoppers commenting that it was all crap.


The true treasure in Cesky Krumlov is outside, not inside. Wear your comfortable sandals. As you traipse the narrow lanes, try not to be distracted by fellow tourists, but instead tune out to people. Rent a guided spoken tour headset from the Tourist Info center, or wear a walkman with some timeless instrumental music. Notice the walls of the buildings, and how layers of plaster have flaked off in spots, revealing even older scraffitti. Notice the curved gables and the eaves running under the red tiled roofs. Notice little paintings and carvings, and how they blend in – nearly unnoticed by some pedestrians. Sit in the shady park across the river, and watch the Vltava slowly meander past you, it might carry you along to a time long ago. Pack a lunch and leave early in the morning and the experience can be yours for as little as 300.- on a day trip there and back.

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