Have you ever had one of those crazy fantasies where you are the king or queen of a medieval kingdom? That the land is at peace, your subjects adore you and there isn’t a brewing coup or an impending invasion? And more importantly: that the person with whom you are betrothed is actually your secret childhood love and not some stranger you had to strategically marry?
Pardon the flight of ideas – it’s easy to get lost in a web of absurd medieval fantasies when you’re looking down on the old town of Cesky Krumlov from the castle tower.
In fact, from the moment you step in to Cesky Krumlov’s streets, it’s easy to forget you’re in 2018.
The narrow, twisted streets with its cobble stones – each polished and naturally worn by the millions of footsteps it has weathered through the centuries – are lined with tall, imposing buildings. This design, made to conform to the whims and meanders of the Vltava river, adds to the town’s enigma. You cannot see far beyond, making each turn a surprise.
One turn you’ll be treated to a row of colorful Gothic houses. In another street, a flash of light will lead your eyes to a window display of Bohemian garnets and moldavites. One of the most impressive views, however, is when the narrow street of Radniční suddenly opens to the Lazebnický most, the bridge crossing Vltava on the way to the castle. Suddenly, you are treated to a view of the Vltava river, sparkling under the morning sun, the towering state castle preserved from the 14th century, and street musicians giving life to a place seemingly frozen in time.
Just walking around the old town can take up a whole day, and most day trippers from Prague leave the town regretting that they didn’t plan to stay at least a day more. While the town is indeed compact, Cesky Krumlov is not a place you can blitz through on your way through central Europe. Despite the popularity of day tours, Cesky Krumlov deserves at least two or three days – and the early start you get from staying in the town allows you to beat the day-tripping crowd to the town’s most popular sites.
Cesky Krumlov is also a great base and gateway to South Bohemia’s charming small villages and hiking spots. Exploring the region gives you a more intimate experience of central Europe – acquainting you with its well-preserved historical towns, the art, cuisine, and philosophies it has inspired, and the old castles and ruins that tell the story of Europe’s majestic past.
This comprehensive and easy-to-follow travel guide will help you create your own holiday in Cesky Krumlov. You can download a free PDF of the travel guide here (really handy for when you’re exploring the town) or pin and bookmark for later. Do share with anyone who’s planning a trip to the Czech Republic – they’ll love you for it!
Cesky Krumlov Travel Guide
- Tourist map of Cesky Krumlov
- What to see and do in Cesky Krumlov
- Day trips from Cesky Krumlov
- Plan your trip – getting there and around
- Where to stay
- Further Reading – understanding Cesky Krumlov
- Beyond Cesky Krumlov – where to go next
- Download the PDF travel guide
Cesky Krumlov’s old town is compact and walkable – you can visit the town’s best sights in a day or two. If the weather is nice, you can explore the surrounding Blansky forest.
Use this Google map to get around the old town. When going to the forest, though, it’s better to follow the marked trails.
1. Cesky Krumlov Old Town
There are several entrances into the old town.
If you’re coming from the train station, you’ll be entering via the northern side, passing through hotels and restaurants along Latran. If you drove to Cesky Krumlov and used the parking lot near the castle (along Chvalsinska), you’ll be coming in from the northwest and you’ll be treated right away to the impressive stone gate leading to the castle grounds. If you chose to stay in the pensions just outside the old town, you would be coming in from the southern entrance.
Wherever you’re coming from, the town’s twisted and narrow streets designed to follow the meanders of the Vltava river will entice and surprise you at every turn. You can’t see far ahead, as the tall imposing buildings rise up to the sky. This keeps the scenery fresh – one moment a row of architectural wonders, another a view of the river and the many lovers holding hands on its banks.
If you are keen on visiting the top museums in the old town, stop by the Information Center at the old town square to get your Cesky Krumlov card. This card covers entrance to 5 of the most popular museums in the town, 3 of which are covered in this walking tour.
2. Cesky Krumlov castle complex
One of the most amazing bird’s eye views of the town is right within the castle grounds.
The Krumlov castle was built in the 14th century, originally the dwelling place of the royal families of the Rosenbergs, then the Schwarzenbergs, before it became a property of the state. Since 1992, the castle complex has been designated a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage monument.
If you have the Cesky Krumlov card, you can visit the castle museum and go up the castle tower for an amazing view of the town.
Afterwards, walk further west towards the castle’s gardens and pond.
3. Minorite Monastery
From the castle grounds, retrace your way back to Latran to visit the monastery, first established in 1350 by the Rosenbergs. The monastery grounds are designed for reflection. Shaded benches and grassy lawns in a peaceful courtyard invite guests to take a moment and slow down.
The Cesky Krumlov Card will grant you access to two exhibits in the monastery, which allows you a glimpse of how the Minorite monks have been conducting their duties and their lives throughout the centuries. There is also an entire room dedicated to Saint Francis of Assisi, with panels of illustrations depicting his life and how he came to be a saint, as well as an audiovisual presentation. It’s all in Czech, though, so either come with someone who can translate everything for you, or just enjoy the illustrations and animations then read up on St. Francis afterwards.
4. Specialty shops along Latran
From the monastery, exit to Latran once more. If you’re looking for souvenirs, turn right on Latran and you’ll immediately see Cesky Pernik – you won’t miss its bright bohemian storefront. This is a perfect place to pick up traditional gingerbreads, mead, chocolates, and other regional specialties.
5. Egon Schiele Art Centrum
From Latran, go back through the old town square (or venture into the smaller side streets) and make your way to Egon Schiele Art Centrum – a tribute to Cesky Krumlov’s resident bad boy.
Born in Austria surrounded and influenced by the great Viennese minds of Freud, Mahler, and Klimt, Schiele spent a considerable amount of time in the widely conservative town of Cesky Krumlov (his mother’s birth town). While at the time, his erotic artworks earned the ire of the burghers and elitist artists, now he is celebrated by the town as an artist whose audacious style challenged all the norms of his time.
6. Sunset by the banks of Vltava
When in Czech, there’s no way beer couldn’t be involved. With Cesky Krumlov’s near proximity to Ceske Budejovice, the home of Budvar, a glass of the regional specialty is the best way to round up your trip.
Try to get a table in one of the riverside restaurants, like Papa’s Living Restaurant, to watch the sunset.
Cesky Krumlov lies in the Blansky natural reserve, with many hiking trails around the area. You can reach Klet’ and Divci kamen by hiking, but if you have a rental car, check out Holasovice and Hluboka castle as well.
The Klet’ mountain is the highest peak of the Blansky natural reserve. On a clear day, the observation tower at the top can give you amazing views of the surrounding countryside.
There’s also a restaurant beside the tower: have a bowl of goulash, česnečka (Czech garlic soup), and the region’s beer (the Czech Budweiser Budvar) before moving on to your next stop.
Ways to get to and from Klet’
- Hike: Follow the marked trails starting from just outside the castle grounds in the Cesky Krumlov Old Town
- Cable car: From Krasetin station near the village of Holoubov, ride a cable car to the top of the mountain. More information here.
- Foot bikes: From the top, you can ride back down to several nearby locations using a foot bike. More information here.
2. Divci kamen
These are the ruins of a Gothic castle built in the 1300s. The best way to reach it is by going to the Trisov village just 9 KM north-east of Cesky Krumlov. Read about the history of the castle here.
Holašovice is a small historic village which, despite its quaint and charming row of Baroque houses, has a bit of a dark history.
In the 16th century, Holašovice was nearly wiped out by the bubonic plague in the span of 5 years. Only two inhabitants survived and it took another 5 years for the population to rise to 17. In the following centuries until the 1900s, the village became home to a primarily German-speaking community – an enclave within a Czech language area.
At the end of World War 2, the German residents were driven away and the village became deserted during the Czech communist regime. It was only in 1990 when the village was once again restored and inhabited, with its “South Bohemian folk Baroque” style preserved. It is now designated a UNESCO World Heritage site for being an example of a traditional European folk village.
4. Hluboka castle
Hluboka castle has been called the “most beautiful Czech castle” and one of the most visited sites in the Czech Republic.
Several castles have been built, expanded, and rebuilt on the site – a Gothic castle in the 13th century, a Baroque castle in the 18th century, and then its current appearance during the 19th century, when the Schwarzenbergs ordered its reconstruction in the romantic style of England’s Windsor Castle.
You can stop by for an hour to walk around the castle gardens, admire the castle up close, and have refreshments at the nearby café.
Driving: Driving to Cesky Krumlov and around South Bohemia is a great holiday. You can get a rental car from Prague or Vienna – here’s a road trip itinerary that covers the Czech Republic and Austria’s most beautiful cities.
Public transportation: The closest major transportation hub is Ceske Budejovice, a stopping station of international express trains on the line Prague-Zurich and Prague-Vienna. From Ceske Budejovice, you can ride the train or bus to Cesky Krumlov. You can find more information about local transportation here.
Shuttle buses: This is especially a good option for travelers short on time. More information here.
Cesky Krumlov caters to all kinds of budgets. If you want to splurge on a romantic weekend, I’d suggest looking into hotels in the Cesky Krumlov Old Town. If you’re a backpacker, look into hostels near the bus and train stations. And if you’re driving, I’d suggest you look into accommodations just outside the old town where you can freely park your car while you explore the town.
Here is a list of my recommended accommodations. The town can get a little bit packed, especially during the peak months, so I recommend booking at least your first few nights’ stay in advance.
Best hotels in Cesky Krumlov Old Town
- Hotel Bellevue – This hotel is perfectly located near the castle and the chateau and houses the gourmet restaurant Le Jardin. If you’re planning something extra special, the hotel can also arrange your event for you. Otherwise, an ordinary romantic weekend getaway will be made much sweeter with sauna and massage facilities, amazing views of the Old Town, and romantic walks in the area. Rooms start at CZK 1,600.
- Other highly-rated hotels in Cesky Krumlov include: Hotel Ruze (rooms start at CZK 3,000), Hotel Arcadie (rooms start at CZK 2,600), and Hotel Mlyn (rooms start at CZK 1,300).
Best budget hostels and pensions in Cesky Krumlov
- If you’re a backpacker and plan to arrive to Cesky Krumlov via the train or bus and looking for a cheap and comfortable place, here are some hostels to check out: Hostel 99 (beds start at CZK 340), Hostel Havana (beds start at CZK 270), and Travel Hostel (beds start at CZK 250)
- If you’d like to combine your trip to Cesky Krumlov with a road trip and hikes in the surrounding forests (like we did!), you’d want to get a rental car and get an accommodation just outside the Old Town. Make sure they provide free parking and that it’s not too far from the historic center. We recommend Penzion Panorama (rooms start at CZK 1,100).
“This is a town that changes everybody’s plans. […] It basically ruins everybody’s itineraries, changes everybody’s plans and makes them switch directions pretty quickly. And that’s kind of the way the river runs. The river runs in on itself.”
Although not at the level that it changed Carolyn Zukowski’s life, Cesky Krumlov did have that effect on us. This is an interesting look into the life of a tourist-turned-local and her life along the Vltava’s riverbank.
A crash course on Cesky Krumlov’s history told through buildings and beer.
Cesky Krumlov is more than just a pretty postcard-perfect town. I got goosebumps walking through its streets, its polished cobblestone steps a testament to the number of shoes that have walked those streets since the 1200s. I think you can best appreciate its beauty by reading about its history and the structures that have stood the test of time.
If it’s your first time traveling to the Czech Republic, combine your trip to Cesky Krumlov with a trip to Prague. You’ll also find a more comprehensive guide to the country here.
If you want to bask in the chill vibes of the south, combine your South Bohemian trip with a South Moravian road trip. I suggest an entire week at least for both.
If you love road trips, here’s a great way to explore the Czech Republic. From Prague to Cesky Krumlov through the beautiful towns of South Bohemia and South Moravia, you’ll get to enjoy the Czech countryside and its beautiful fairytale towns in this driving itinerary.
If you’re craving for more beautiful and historic places, hop over to Austria and visit this gorgeous lakeside town.
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I hope this guide helps you plan your trip to Cesky Krumlov and encourage you to do more than a day trip. Again, you can download the free PDF here, pin and bookmark for later, or share with a friend. If you have any questions, you can ask me in the comments or contact me and I’ll see how I can help. Happy travels!
Post first published: January 14, 2017
Last updated: April 9, 2018 – added resources for trip-planning and information on day trips from Cesky Krumlov