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Also known simply as “Budweis,” České Budějovice is the largest town in South Bohemia. Founded in 1265 by Czech King Premsyl Otakar II, the town sits at the scenic confluence of the Vltava and Malse Rivers.
Situated between the popular Czech tourist hot spots of Prague and Cesky Krumlov, České Budějovice makes the perfect stopover to escape the tourist crowds for a bit.
In fact, to get from Prague to Cesky Krumlov, you pretty much have to change buses or trains in České Budějovice so why not hop off that train or bus and explore this charming little bit of Bohemia?
That’s exactly how we found ourselves here on our recent week-long Czech Republic journey. After visiting the spa town of Karlovy Vary, we had an extra night to spend in either Prague or Cesky Krumlov. Ultimately, we chose neither!
Instead, we decided to spend the extra night in České Budějovice. And I’m so glad we did!
We visited on a Sunday, and like most towns in Germany or the Czech Republic, nearly everything was closed. But we still found this part of Bohemia a delightful place to explore.
In fact, because all of the shops and businesses were closed, we didn’t see a single tourist and were able to enjoy the day with other local families out for a meal or a stroll.
How to Get to České Budějovice
Both the train and the bus are great options from Prague. We chose the bus due to track closures on the train line that meant we would have to board a bus for part of the journey regardless.
This time we chose FlixBus and the ride took about 2.5 hours. We found the seats to be roomier on the FlixBus versus the RegioJet bus we’d taken earlier in the week from Karlovy Vary to Prague. However, the promised wifi did not work (the driver said it only works in Germany but that was not stated anywhere during the booking process) and they didn’t have the nifty airplane-like seatback monitors that RegioJet did.
The bus station in České Budějovice is on the top floor of a large shopping mall and directly across the street from the train station. Both are an easy walk from the main square where our hotel was located.
Best Hotels in České Budějovice
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to find a great hotel in České Budějovice. In fact, when we visited, we found half a dozen good options near the main square for well under 100€ a night. Here are the two that I would recommend:
Grandhotel Zvon – We chose to stay at the Grandhotel Zvon because I really wanted a great view of České Budějovice’s amazing main square. And boy did we get it! I made sure to book a room with a view for a few extra euros, for a total rate of 46€ a night during our off-season stay. Our room was enormous and had a postcard-worthy view of the square.
Hotel Budweis – Just a short stroll from the main square, this newly-renovated 4-star hotel is also in the historic heart of České Budějovice. Rooms are modern, comfortable and spacious. And unlike the Grandhotel Zvon, the Hotel Budweis has free parking and offers air conditioning in all rooms, which can be an important consideration in the summer months.
Top 5 Things to Do in České Budějovice
While České Budějovice isn’t a touristy town (three cheers for that!), there are quite a few interesting sights to see. Here are a few of my favorites:
1. Square of Premsyl Otakar II
The #1 sight in České Budějovice is definitely the expansive Square of Premsyl Otakar II. At 113m x 137m, it’s one of Bohemia’s largest. Highlights include Samson’s fountain (built in the years 1721-1726) in the center and the elegant baroque town hall. The square is surrounded by variety of colorful Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque burgher’s houses.
2. St. Nicholas Cathedral & Black Tower
In the northeast corner of the square, you’ll find the thirteenth century St. Nicholas Cathedral and adjacent Black Tower. Completed in 1577, there are 6 bells in the Black Tower and during the warmer months (April – October) you can climb to the top for amazing views over town.
3. Budweiser Brewery Tour
Home of the “Budweiser” Budvar brand beer sold in most of Europe (not the same as Budweiser in the US due to trademark disputes). Call several days in advance to schedule a tour as they often book up in the summer months. If you can’t get a reservation, a daily tour for visitors without reservations takes place every day at 2pm.
4. The Water Tower
Built in 1721-1724 on the right bank of the Vltava, the Water Tower provided water from the Vltava River to the landmark Samson Fountain until the early twentieth century. The original Baroque-style tower was modified in 1882 and remains one of the oldest water towers in the South Bohemian Region. Guided tours began in 2016 but take place only on summer weekends. Check the Water Tower website for available tour dates and times.
It you have extra time, there’s an UNESCO World Heritage site nearby that’s worth a visit. Just 16km west of České Budějovice, the Baroque town of Holašovice is such a well-preserved Central European village that it earned a spot on the World Heritage List. The rural village’s main square is lined with unique houses decorated in the ‘Folk Baroque’ style and it makes a great side trip from České Budějovice.
Instagram-Worthy Photo Ops
To capture the best images of České Budějovice, it’s all about the spectacular Square of Premsyl Otakar II! Day, night or especially at sunset there are so many beautiful angles to showcase. But it’s such an enormous square that the best photos are taken from a birdseye view – either from your hotel room overlooking the square (like I did!) or from the top of the Black Tower.
Just a stopover…or a home base?
With its convenient location between Prague and Cesky Krumlov, České Budějovice makes an ideal stopover between visits to the Czech Republic’s most popular tourist destinations.
In fact, a prudent traveler might even consider using this affordable, colorful town as home base for a multi-day trip to the Czech Republic. With easy connections and short travel times to both Prague and Cesky Krumlov, why not? Who knows, it may even turn out to be your favorite stop of the three!