Český Krumlov, the small Czech town with the hard-to-pronounce name, is picturesque beyond imagination. The city is comfortably nestled in the loops of the winding Vlatava river. The highlight of Český Krumlov is definitely the impressive castle, which towers over the Old Town on a rocky outcrop.
In this blog article, you will find lots of practical tips for your trip to Český Krumlov. We will share with you the most beautiful sights and highlights, as well as our personal travel tips for an unforgettable trip!
1. Český Krumlov: The Gem of the Vltava River
Český Krumlov is small but enchantingly beautiful. The picturesque centre of Český Krumlov is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and almost entirely a pedestrian zone. Český Krumlov makes you feel like you’re on a film set: each little house fits perfectly into the historic setting. In the centre, there are several hundred houses up to 500 years old and yet so beautifully renovated. You will also be blown away by the spectacular castle.
It seems, however, that we are not the only ones who think Český Krumlov is worth a visit. Countless travel agencies from Asia think so too. This would explain the large number of coach groups from China, Japan and other Asian countries. To be honest, we were quite surprised at how popular Krumau was.
Regardless of the Tour Groups, this beautiful South Bohemian city is definitely worth a visit. Personally we didn’t find the tourist groups too overbearing, but just be aware that Český Krumlov is not exactly a secret these days.
The town of Český Krumlov can easily be explored in just one day. Nevertheless, we would still recommend you to stay one night because we found the city was even more beautiful once the day tourists had left.
2. Sights in Český Krumlov: Things to do and see
In Český Krumlov, you can easily reach all the attractions by foot and without the need for public transport. Most places of interest are quite close by to each other, so if you’re only looking to explore the highlights, then half a day is enough. Nevertheless, we can still recommend that you stay overnight in Český Krumlov (you will find out why that is and more information further down in this blog article).
Český Krumlov Castle
The first attraction you will probably spot and visit is Český Krumlov Castle. It towers over the Old Town on a rocky outcrop and is gigantic to behold. In fact, after the castle in Prague, this is the second largest castle complex in the Czech Republic.
The castle you see today was built in the 13th century, initially as a Gothic castle complex. Later in the Renaissance and Baroque periods, it was expanded. Therefore, you’ll find the castle complex consists of innumerable courtyards and buildings.
The area also includes other attractions (including the Cloak Bridge and the castle tower), which we will describe in more detail soon. The castle area itself is accessible for free. Only certain attractions (like the castle museum and the tower) require admission fees.
If you walk through the castle area, you will probably find yourself back to certain spots where you can enjoy a beautiful view of the Old Town. Probably the most popular viewing terrace is located at the western entrance (near the Castle Garden).
This multi-storey Cloak Bridge is quite the eye-catcher. It belongs to the castle area and spans the entire moat. You can either go under the bridge or walk over it (for free).
From the centre, there is a short climb (roughly 10mins or less), before you reach the Cloak Bridge. The fastest way up to the Cloak Bridge from the square in the Old Town (where our photo was taken), is the winding forest path, which starts at the back of the bridge. Enjoy a magnificent view over Český Krumlov from the Cloak Bridge.
The Castle Tower is not only beautiful to look at from below, but it’s also incredibly worthwhile tackling the ascent and seeing the perspective from above. There are fewer steps than imagined – 162 to be exact – so you can get to the viewing platform fairly quickly.
Depending on the amount of people at the top, you might find the observation deck a bit of a squeeze. But it’s honestly so worth the short effort, especially when you get an amazing perspective in all four directions.
Information about the Castle Tower
Admission: 150 CZK
Opening hours: November to March from 9am to 4pm (closed Mondays); April, May, September and October from 9am to 5pm (daily); June to August from 9am to 6pm (daily); closed on special days (ie. over Christmas, New Year)
The castle area also includes a very extensive Castle Garden, on the west side of the castle (near the Cloak Bridge). So, if you’re planning to visit the Castle, consider strolling around the beautiful garden as well.
This Baroque style garden is very intricately designed: In addition to an open-air theatre and a small artificially created lake, you will find plenty of elaborate flower species here. The fact that the Castle Garden area is so spacious, means that everyone can enjoy it without feeling overcrowded.
Information about visiting the Castle Garden
Opening hours: April and October from 8am to 5pm; May till September from 8 am to 7 pm, November to March – Closed.
Old Town with Market Square (Náměstí Svornosti)
The historic town of Český Krumlov is located within the Vltava River at the foot of the castle. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992. From today’s point of view, Český Krumlov was perhaps rather fortunate that in the years post-war, they lacked financial resources for renovations. Because now the town centre has several hundred century-old houses, some as old as 500 years – which have now been perfectly renovated.
The centre of Český Krumlov is mostly car-free (apart from a few special exceptions), and for good reason. Countless alleyways and crossroads intersect each other in close proximity. The most spacious area in the town centre is the main square, often called Market Square or Náměstí Svornosti (in Czech)
In the Old Town, you will also find the famous Egon Schiele Art Centrum, which is an exhibition that displays some of the works by Egon Schiele. He spent several years of his life in Český Krumlov, the hometown of his mother, and imprinted the old city houses several times in his artworks. We only looked around in the (highly recommended) museum shop, however, we have read that the exhibition actually showcases fewer original pieces by Schiele than you would expect.
Incidentally, most Street Art in the centre can be found on the back of the Egon Schiele Art Centre, in the alley called Hradební. Don’t expect anything miraculous, but it’s still worthwhile to walk by and see.
Our tip for Sunset in Český Krumlov
Unfortunately, the Castle Tower is open only until the early hour of 6pm, otherwise that would have been the perfect place for sunset. In the end, we spent a long time researching for a place where you can actually see the sun go down and with the city in the foreground. We ended up choosing a small observation deck near the bus station – you’ll find the exact location pinned on the map at the end of the blog article.
This is a great spot to see both the city and the sun (if you’re lucky with the weather). There are only a few benches up here and consequently, very few people too. Apart from a few bus tourists, who wanted to take a quick picture before their bus left, we were basically the only ones here.
Our tip: You can find some chilled Pilsner at the gas station next to the bus stop, and then enjoy a lovely sunset. Try get there much earlier before the actual sunset, because the sun disappears behind the hill of Krumau a little earlier than the forecasts predict.
The Seminární zahrada View Point
A very popular and really nice view point is located next to the Regional Museum. This beautifully designed observation platform is slightly elevated, so you have a fantastic panoramic view of the entire castle area including the Castle Tower.
Little Tip: It might also be worthwhile to come by again in the evening when the castle is beautifully lit in the dark. Although there’s a gate to the observatory platform, it was still open at 9 pm (during our visit).
3. Best Cafes & Restaurants in Český Krumlov
The owner of the hotel we were staying at (which we will tell you in the next section) was quick to shine light on the reality of the food situation here: since the restaurants in Český Krumlov are visited almost exclusively by tourists (and not locals), the quality is of variable standards. However, we have collated some great local tips for you:
Monastery Garden: Very pretty, French-style bistro that we discovered by chance. Unfortunately, they only serve breakfast and snacks such as: Eggs Florentine / Benedict, Pancakes and Granola. This also means they close rather early, around 2pm.
Nonna Gina: Solid Italian cuisine right in the centre (right next to the Monastery Garden Bistro) at fair prices. The interior spaces are very comfortable and there are also a few tables outside in the 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, located next to the Egon Schiele Art Centrum.
Must Try: Trdelník
At every corner in Český Krumlov, you will find street vendors selling Trdelník, which is a sweet pastry baked on a roll and then coated with various toppings.
Our personal favourite is the classic cinnamon and sugar coated Trdelník. But there are also some filled options that we have not (yet) tried out. A popular café that also offers takeaway Trdelník is the MLS Crêperie right in the centre of Krumlov.
4. Our Hotel Recommendation in Krumlov
Although most people visit Český Krumlov as a day trip, we can highly recommend that you spend a night there. First of all, it’s more comfortable and secondly, you can also explore the city in the evening, when the day tourists have left Český Krumlov.
We decided to stay at the Pension Kristian. Newly opened in 2019, this highly recommended hotel is situated in the middle of the historic Old Town. Pension Kristian is run by a young and super lovely couple. They were both very helpful and engaging hosts, who make you feel so welcomed.
There are only 8 rooms: four on the first floor and another four on the second floor. (Note: there are no lifts). We stayed in room No. 7, which was very comfortable and the sloping roof also added to the coziness. The bed is beautiful to sleep on and the interior decor was very nicely done.
You can view and book the hotel here: Pension Kristian
5. Extra Travel Tips for Český Krumlov
Getting to Český Krumlov
If you’re planning to go by car from Vienna, there are two different routes you can take: either via the motorway to Linz and then further to the north; or take the route over Krems and the Waldviertel. We opted for the second route without hesitation (via Krems and Waldviertel). The main reason being that we could take a break in Weitra without having to detour and eat delicious, freshly baked Mohnzelte (Poppy Seed Pastries) from the café on the main square.
From Weitra, the road then starts to become rather windy and twists through many villages. The border crossing was one of the most inconspicuous we have ever seen.
Parking in Český Krumlov
As beautiful as Krumau is, the parking situation does get a bit tedious. There is simply no space for cars in the Old Town and the town centre is mainly (with a few exceptions) car-free.
There are five major parking lots near the city centre (named P1 to P5). You can find a map to it here: Parking in Český Krumlov. We ourselves have parked our car in the parking lot P1, which is located directly at the back of the castle grounds. From this parking, you can get to the town centre in just 2 minutes by foot. (If you want to set your navigation or GPS directly towards the car park, 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 about 10 Euros), which you can get though your accommodation (best check in advance). Alternatively, you can also get the discounted day tickets from the tourist information.
So, if your hotel is in the Old Town, the best thing to do is to park your car in the car park closest to your hotel (which will most likely be P1). Then you’ll have to physically bring your luggage to the hotel (which gets a bit tedious with the cobbled streets, but luckily the route there is shorter than expected), get your day ticket from the hotel and take that back to the car park. By car, you’ll have to drive into the car park again, as you have to insert your day ticket when entering. If you stay longer than 24 hours, you can simply pay the extra amount at the machine upon exiting.
6. Map: Overview of All Sights and Tips
In order for you to get the bigger picture of where everything is, we have pinned all our tips in this interactive map below. It will really help you get a better orientation of the city. The red dots are places of interest or lookout points, and the green dots are our recommended locations for food and drinks. As you can see, the distances are really small.
Now the only thing we can do is wish you a wonderful time in Český Krumlov. Eat a trdelník for us and enjoy the flair of this beautiful little town. Have a great trip!
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Have you been to Český Krumlov before? If so, what were some of your favourite places? Perhaps you have some more tips you’d like to share in the comments below? We look forward to reading your experiences!