Dramatically poised at a loopy bend of the free flowing Vltava River, lies the picturesque Czech town of Cesky Krumlov. With the green rolling hills of Southern Bohemia as the backdrop, Cesky Krumlov looms in the foreground like an absurdly pretty fairy tale town. The medieval castle built by the mighty Rosenbergs in the fourteenth century dominates the scene, particularly the embellished bell tower, painted in multiple hues. The cobbled streets, Baroque Theatre, pretty Gothic houses and riverside restaurants add to the appeal of the town.
I visited the town back in 2007 when the town was already part of Euro backpacking folklore thanks to it laid-back charm and friendly locals. Fast forward to 2020, I’m pleased to say that the town still has managed to preserve most of that fairytale charm minus the crowds because of Covid. It is a town that definitely warrants an overnight stay, best enjoyed when the hordes of day trippers disappear. I’ve compiled a list of the key sights and attractions to visit plus my favourite places to eat and drink in Cesky Krumlov – hope you find it useful for planning your trip there.
Best things to do in Český Krumlov
1. Český Krumlov State Castle and Chateau
Looming large on a rocky outcrop lying on the fringes of the river Vltava lies the star attraction of the town of Český Krumlov, its UNESCO World Heritage listed State Castle and Chateau. The first thing that strikes you when you land in the city is how huge the Castle is, especially in proportion to the city. Encompassing an area of 7 hectares, second only in size to Prague Castle, the castle covers a vast complex of forty structures and palatial buildings, dotted around 5 courtyards and a castle park. Wherever you walk in the city, the 13th century tower, the proud symbol of the town’s rich history, casts its watchful gaze on you.
Gradually developed from the 14th till 19th century, the Castle is a time capsule of the different architectural styles in vogue, ranging from the glorious Baroque apartment to its renaissance rooms. One of the key highlights of visiting the Castle the Baroque Chateau Theatre, which is one of two well-preserved theatres in Europe, the other being the theatre in Drottningholm Palace, which we had the good fortune of visiting late last year. Just as with Drottningholm, the theatre has managed to preserve the original frescos, costumes (all 600 of them), props, special effects machines and set pieces, which can be arranged to create 13 different scenes. Built in 1680 as a private cinema (and refurbished in 1765), it was in this gorgeous room that the castle’s last private owner, Adolph Schwarzenburg, received the Czechoslovakian president, Edvard Benes, to give financial aid for the defence of the country against Nazi Germany.
The Castle Tower is probably the most famous symbol of Český Krumlov. Built at a height of 86 m above the Vltava River, you have 162 steps to climb to the top of the Renaissance style Tower, which was designed by designed by Italian architect Baldassaro Maggi of Arogno (about 1550–1619) .
You will find four bells hung in the tower – here’s an astonishing fact… the heaviest bell has an estimated weight of 1,800 kg! and dates from 1406.
If you are on a tight budget, note that the castle’s gardens and courtyards are free to visit.
Tours of castle and theatre are possibly only via a guided tour – recommend you book this in advance. Guided tour of castle costs 160Kč, while a guided tour of the theatre is 180Kč. The Tower you can visit by yourself and costs 35Kč. The ticket office is located in the 2nd courtyard.
Also worth noting, that you can enter for free to the Castle Museum and Tower with the Český Krumlov card. It costs 400 CZK and you get free entry to most of the main attractions in the city: – Castle Museum and Castle Tower, Český Krumlov Regional Museum, Museum Fotoatelier Seidel, Egon Schiele Art Centrum and the Monasteries Český Krumlov.
2. Wooden Raft River Cruise
Rafting or canoeing down the Vltava River in Český Krumlov is a fantastic way to spend a warm summer day. There are several companies in Český Krumlov that will rent you a kayak, canoe or raft. Prices depend on how far upriver you want to start your trip.
While most people opt for private canoes which look like great fun, I would definitely recommend the option of going on a private guided tour on the bigger wooden rafts. Given my fear of water and not being able to swim, this was for me the better option.
The history of wooden rafting in Český Krumlov and Vltava River goes far back as the first third of the 12th century during the reign of Roman emperor Charles IV but it is around the 16th century when there was a growing requirement for transporting timber, trading with salt and other articles that wooden rafting became a popular means of transport along the river. It is only after the emergence of the railways in the 2nd half of the 19th century, that saw a decline in rafting.
The history of rafting was one of many stories and anecdotes revealed by our knowledgeable and entertaining guide, Michal Pavlík. You definitely get an interesting perspective of the city from the wooden raft as it gently meanders down the river. From the Jewish synagogue to the Church of St. Víta past the Egon Schiele Art Centrum and also the Český Krumlov Historic Brewery, Michal provides us with a lot of interesting nuggets of history about the city. The 50 minute tour also involves a drink – a stopover at a pub along the river, where after ringing a bell, we were brought two frothy, ice cold beers. It tasted like heaven. Somehow beer tastes even better when on water.
Book your tour in advance via GetYourGuide -tickets cost €17.67 per person.
The Monastery Complex of Cesky Krumlov is located in the heart of the city’s historic center – in itself a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Compound actually consists of three monasteries. The first two were built by widowed Katherine of Rosenberg in 1350. A third monastery was added at the end of the fourteenth century. The beautiful monastery is a mixture of several architectural styles. Gothic foundations and beams merge effortlessly with Baroque reconstruction that had been undertaken in the 17th to 18th century. The monastery was home to two female orders – St Clare and that of the beguine nuns and a male order – the order of Minors for men. After being abandoned and falling into a severe state of disrepair, the monastery was recently renovated and re established as a space for learning about the past of the monastery – the culture, art and history of Cesky Krumlov and the experience of living in a monastery in olden times. Various expositions shed light on the daily life of nuns and monks.
One of the fun and educational aspects of the monastery is the vast range of craft shops on the premises, from blacksmith to pottery making to book binding. Visitors can take part in workshops for free. If you and the kids want to learn to make any of the products in the workshops to take back home with you (I learnt how to make the official monastery coin at the resident blacksmith), purchase the monastery tokens which can be bought at the visitor centre (1 Monastery Token – 10 CZK).
The entrance fee for the monastery and all the expositions is 250 CZK and 450 CZK for families.
Entrance is free with the Český Krumlov card.
4. The historic Český Krumlov brewery tour
As the home of the first Pilsner, the original Budweiser plus also the first in the world for per – capita beer consumption, every town more or less has some proud history of brewing to boast about and Ceský Krumlov is no exception. Granted a charter to brew beer in 1560, the Eggenberg family started brewing beer in the town between years of 1625 and 1630. After passing hands through multiple ruling dynasties and even the local mafia, the historic brewery has in the last years undergone a renaissance with much needed renovation of the former premises. There are plans to build a beer hotel and even have their own beer spa. To find out more about the chequered history of the brewery and even taste some of the light, dark beer, I really recommend trying the Brewery Tour. Led by the enthusiastic Lukas and his partner, you will learn the secrets of the beer production that dates back to the early years of the town. You can also have some generous tasting of the different Ceský Krumlov beers.
Note: Take a look behind the scenes of the Historic Brewery of Český Krumlov. You will learn the secrets of the beer production that dates back to the early years of the town. You can also taste the Krumlov beer.
Tours run for 1 to 4 persons cost 900 CZK for the tour and include beer tasting (3x 0,1 l beer). If you are visiting in a group of 5-20 persons, with beer tasting (3x 0,1 l beer) the tour costs 200 CZK / person (from 18 years old).
Worth noting that children up to 12 years get free entry as long as they are accompanied by an adult. Tours in Czech, German, English, Hungarian, Russian or Chinese can be organized upon individual demand.
Reservation for a tour should be made at least 2 days (48 hours) in advance.
There is a pivnice on the premises in what was the ice store of old, where today you can enjoy Czech food (open 11:00 – 22:00) and of course the Ceský Krumlov beer
5. Museum Fotoatelier Seidel
Telling travel stories through photography has been a big part of my life so for me visiting this museum was most definitely the highlight of the trip. The atelier is a bit of a time capsule of life along the Czech-Austrian-German border around the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, a nostalgic love letter to a different, more innocent era of travel when people would send postcards as souvenirs.
Josep Seidel’s love affair with the city started in 1888 when he came to Český Krumlov and worked as a shop head of the photographic firm of Gottfried Zimmer. The business at the time had three key areas of focus – postcards, portraiture and amateur photography. You get an excellent insight into the life and history of the business with a short 5 minute film at the start of the tour. Later, you get a chance to walk through the home of Josef which used to be a studio and has now been converted into the museum. The house with the photo studio itself is an architectural gem. The reception, business room, the bedroom and the small living room overlooking the beautiful garden, laboratory and daylight copying room, hand printer for printing on the back of the photographs – lot of wonderful, beautiful preserved original details, really bring the place to life. Our guide, Klara provided us with a fascinating insight into life in a small Bohemian town, photography as a business and how life changed for Josef’s children with first the occupation by Nazi Germany and then life under communism.
The museum ends with a fun photoshoot in Josef’s studio. So much fun!
I loved this place. Now, thanks to iPhone, everyone claims to be a photographer. However, the joy of taking a photo and then developing in a darkroom is something else – somehow in the modern world, we’ve forgotten the joy of taking photographs. It has become less of an art form. The Seidel museum reminded me of the joy of real photography and its ability to change perceptions for generations to come.
Address: Linecká 272, Plešivec, 381 01 Český Krumlov, Czechia
Tickets for adults costs 120 CZK. For a child (6-15 years) tickets cost 50 CZK.
Family ticket (2 adults and 1-4 children) costs 240 CZK.
Entrance is free with the Český Krumlov card.
Guided tours are offered in Czech, German and English. They last 50 minutes.
During the summer months of July and August, some guided tours are complemented by demonstrations of how photographs are taken in the darkroom. More information can be found at www.seidel.cz.
6. Egon Schiele Art Centrum
The Egon Schiele Art Centrum (ESAC) was privately developed by several individuals in 1992. The fall of the Iron Curtain along with the historic appeal of Cesky Krumlov as the birthplace of this centre of arts, resulted in the realisation of this dream. The people behind the ESAC were Serge Sabarsky, Gerwald Sonnberger and Hana Jirmusova.
A brewery from the Renaissance period was partly restored to give rise to the Centre.
Undoubtedly, the centrepiece of the Centre is dedicated to the life and works of Egon Schiele. There is a permanent exhibition in his name along with a bunch of changing exhibitions. Studios can be leased by artists here. In addition there is a tempting museum shop and cafe.
Cost: 200 CZK for adults, Kids 6-15 years pay 50 CZK. Entrance is free with the Český Krumlov card.
Where to eat and drink in Český Krumlov
7. Depo Pub
With a focus on Czech and especially South Bohemian cuisine situated in the picturesque surroundings of a renovated château park along the banks of Polečnice river, Depo Pub is definitely one of the more authentic local offerings in town. I really enjoyed the food here, starting with the South Bohemian Potato soup (60 CZK) and then the goulash of beef neck with horseradish, chili pepper, onion and bread dumplings (135 CZK) – both dishes were outstanding. Completed by nice service and an excellent range of local beers on draft including the excellent local Český Krumlov beer, this is definitely a place I look forward to returning when I’m back in Český Krumlov.
Věžní 99, Latrán, 381 01 Český Krumlov.
8. Restaurant 99
Adjacent to one of the better hostels in town, this restaurant serves a mix of international fare, ranging from filling salads and burritos and burgers. We tried their beef burger with topping of cheddar cheese, bacon. Burgers were huge, pretty decent and accompanying fries were fab (price for burgers start around 229 CZK). They serve a range of excellent beers on tap here including Budvar from nearby České Budějovice.
9. My Saigon
If you’re looking for something a bit different from your usual Czech fare, definitely worth popping in here. They serve a decent Pho here (139 CZK) and also Pad Thai. Good price vs quality ratio. Nice service too.
Panská 17, 381 01 Český Krumlov.
10. Masna 130 Espresso Bar
Probably the best coffee in Český Krumlov plus I loved their minimalistic very relaxed interiors. Lovely staff. Nice range of cakes, quiches and superb sandwiches – very filling. Had two of them to take away for our return train journey to Prague and they were fantastic (95 CZK).
Address: Masná 130, Vnitřní Město, 381 01 Český Krumlov.
11. Apotheka Café Bar
After a long day of walking the cobbled streets of town, if you need a prescription for a strong tonic to pick you up, you definitely should consider popping in to this former pharmacy turned craft cocktail bar. This is the kind of cocktail bar where you go for one and easily end up spending the night drinking everything off the menu. It is a lovely place with a long handmade wooden bar propping up the regulars and snazzily dressed enthusiatic bartenders concocting some very delicious drinks. There’s also a small terrace outside if the weather is nice. Cocktails start at around the 150 CZK mark.
Address: Latran 46, Český Krumlov; +420 728 336 064
Where to stay in Český Krumlov
If you love hotels with a sense of time and place, tons of character, then you will love the Hotel Oldinn. The hotel has been through several reincarnations, from once brewing beer to producing gingerbread to even once functioning as a district court, this place has lots of stories to tell . ( You can read more about the history on the hotel website ) Facing the historic Svornosti Square in clear view of the statue of the Holy Virgin with her eight saints, patrons , protectors of the town, the location of this hotel is perfect. The rooms, recently refurbished are spacious with nice sized queen bed, lots of storage space and ensuite bathrooms have a nice powered shower, complimentary toiletries. Bag a room facing the square-I spent a lot of time people watching from our room. The buffet breakfast, served in the adjoining cafe is fabulous with lots of hot and cold food options included, fresh fruit, cereals and fruit juices. There’s even a few cool options for those who love asian food like noodles and fried rice which was fab. Staff are friendly and very helpful here. The other added bonus is that you can use the spa and swimming pool facilities for free at the sister hotel, Hotel Ruze, up the road- just have to make the booking in advance via the reception staff.
Room rates vary according to season, ranging from €65 to €80 via Booking.com
Our trip to Český Krumlov was possible thanks to a kind invitation from Czech Tourism’s Germany office. However, all the views represented here are entirely my own. Huge thank you to Marketa and Barbora from Czech Tourism and also South Bohemia Tourism for making this trip possible. Thanks to Czech Railways for taking care of our travel arrangements. Also thanks to the Hotel Oldinn team for being such amazing hosts.