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Inside: All the best things to do in Český Krumlov including where to stay and which tasty treats to try!
If Rothenburg ob der Tauber is Germany’s fairy tale village, Český Krumlov is definitely the Czech Republic’s ode to storybook fairy tales.
Like Prague, Český Krumlov is situated on the Vltava River which curves its way romantically through town in a way almost reminiscent of streets of Venice.
What is Český Krumlov famous for?
Český Krumlov is best known for its historic old town – a charming jumble of 750 years of architectural design including Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance-inspired facades.
In fact, it’s so fabulous, it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1992. It also quickly became one of my favorite places to take friends and family when they visited us in Germany!
The town’s most spectacular feature is the fairy tale worthy castle that towers over it – Český Krumlov Castle. It’s the second largest castle in the Czech Republic, after Prague Castle.
Aside from that rather grand castle, there’s plenty to love about this pretty little Czech village.
Is Český Krumlov worth visiting?
Absolutely! In fact, when we first moved to Germany, our first big train trip was a 2-week adventure around the around the Czech Republic. And you know what?
Adorable Český Krumlov was the superstar of the itinerary (which is why we still keep bringing our visitors here years later!).
In the summer months, tourists easily outnumber the local population of just over 14,000. But regardless of the season, a visit to this gorgeous town is always worth powering through the tour groups occupying its narrow, cobbled lanes.
The city center is compact, easy to explore on foot, and – without a doubt – incredibly photogenic.
What’s the best time of year to visit?
The best time of year to visit Český Krumlov is truly a personal preference…because this little town is terrific any time of year!
In the warm summer months of June -August, expect plenty of tour bus crowds from Prague and peak hotel rates.
Personally, I prefer the spring and fall months. This is a lovely time to visit with fewer crowds, mild weather, and lower hotel rates (another perk!).
Český Krumlov’s Christmas Market
And, of course, if you want to see Český Krumlov in all its wintery glory, visit during the glorious holiday season. For my money, this charming town’s annual Christmas market is hands down one of Europe’s most beautiful.
This year’s dates are December 1, 2023 – January 1, 2024. For more information, check the Český Krumlov Advent Market’s official website.
How to Get from Prague to Český Krumlov
On our two week trip exploring the beauty of the Czech Republic, my husband and I spent a relaxing spa weekend in the hot springs heaven of Karlovy Vary and then a few nights in Prague before continuing on from Prague to Český Krumlov.
The journey from Prague to Český Krumlov takes about 3 hours via train or bus. Regardless of which you chose, most make a stop in České Budějovice. Since we had to stop anyway, we actually decided to spend a night in České Budějovice and I’m so glad we did, it was another great Czech find!
Once we arrived at the train station in Český Krumlov, it was a easy 20-minute walk downhill to the historic center.
Tip: It’s an easy walk if you’re traveling for the day and don’t have luggage, but with luggage, it’s worth getting a taxi ride into town or having your hotel pick you up. Cobblestones and rolling bags are a recipe for disaster, especially on the uphill walk back!
Parking in Český Krumlov
If you’re driving, there are plenty of parking spaces available just outside the historic center. Five self-service parking lots offer convenient parking for a small fee. The first 40-minutes are free. But trust me, you’ll want to stay longer!
For detailed parking info and lot locations, check the town’s main parking site.
Tip: On a later trip to Český Krumlov, we drove instead of taking the train. That time we parked in P3 and it was super convenient to the old town.
Once in the compact town center, all of the main sights are easily walkable.
Best Hotels in Český Krumlov
Hotel Zlaty Andel – This mid-priced, family-run hotel situated in Český Krumlov’s charming main square is where we chose to stay on our recent visit. The hotel offers both traditional rooms and a modern luxury apartment in an adjacent building (that one is great for a splurge!).
There is a full service restaurant on-site and they offer free pick-up and drop-off at the train station if you call them when you arrive.
At check-in, when I inquire about the best place to take photos of the town from above, the helpful front desk clerk recommends the street where he lives and gives me walking directions. It turns out to be a fabulous spot on a hill to get terrific shots of the town and castle from above.
Hotel Dvorak – Located along the river, right in the heart of town, this hotel boasts perhaps the best location in all of Český Krumlov. Rooms are generously-sized and many offer balconies with castle views. Spacious family rooms are also available.
The outdoor terrace is the perfect spot for people-watching and soaking up the castle and river views.
Mini Hotel Abraka – Located near the main square, this hotel is a great choice for families or those on a budget. Rooms are spacious, clean and comfortable and the service is excellent.
The host also provides free transportation to and from the train or bus station. Breakfast is not included in the daily rate but can be arranged on request.
Top 5 Things to Do in Český Krumlov
For a small town, there’s a lot to do in Český Krumlov!
Here are a few of my favorite things to see and do around town:
1. Český Krumlov Castle & Chateau
It dominates the town’s skyline and is typically the first stop on any walking tour of the city.
Český Krumlov Castle is one of Europe’s largest castle complexes and includes rambling rooms, great halls and noble bedrooms. The views over the town below are picture perfect from every window.
You can walk through the castle courtyards and enjoy the incredible views for free but tickets are required to climb the tower or enter the Baroque Theater. You can check the available tour options and admission fees for Cesky Krumlov Castle here.
As you approach the red iron gates toward the Little Castle, you’ll cross over the Bear Moat where, since 1707, the famous Krumlov bears have been kept. Don’t expect to spot them if you visit in the winter, but in the summer months, you’re likely to catch them lazing about doing all the things bears do (whatever that is exactly!).
Castle Garden – Sadly, this was closed during our first winter visit. But in the spring and summer months, it’s definitely worth a visit after exploring the castle.
A cascading fountain, maze of hedgerows, French flower beds, and a large duck pond make for a lovely picnic spot.
2. Baroque Theater
More inspiring on the inside than out, this 250-year-old theater is truly a remarkable structure. The original stage and technical equipment have been incredibly well-preserved allowing today’s visitors to have virtually the same experience as those who attended performances 250 years ago.
3. St. Vitus Church
The second most prominent feature of the Český Krumlov skyline (after the castle, of course!), this Gothic style church with its tall, slim tower was completed at the beginning of the 15th century.
The master stone cutters’ work is prominently displayed on the three-aisled dome.
4. Český Krumlov Flatboat Rides
Take to the river to cool off on a hot summer day with a rafting trip that won’t get you wet! Český Krumlov’s unique wooden flatboats offer the chance to get some of the best views in town with an experienced boatman as your guide.
Kayaks are another popular way to experience the river and are widely available for rental along the river banks.
5. Synagogue Český Krumlov
One of the few that withstood the war, this synagogue was once used for worship services by American soldiers. Today, the synagogue is home to a permanent exhibition presenting the history of Jewish culture.
Sweet Treats in Český Krumlov
When in the Czech Republic, it’s hard to resist the sugary draw of the local chimney cakes, known as “Trdelnik.”
Made from rolled dough wrapped around a stick, the pastry is then grilled over a spit and topped with sugar and walnut mix (and often a wide variety of other toppings like ice cream, chocolate, and fruit).
Of course, a quick google search reveals that the Trdelnik is more of a recent creation for tourists than an authentic Bohemian pastry. But there’s no arguing with the fact that they are simply delicious.
And it’s fun to watch them made. (Just don’t ask someone’s Czech grandmother to make you one!)
A fun alternative to the trdelnik – waffles! Also widely available in the Czech Republic (and most of Europe!), the waffles can be topped with pretty much anything you choose – chocolate, fruit, ice cream, whipped cream, you name it!
Our favorite spot for either a waffle, trdelnik, or crepe is Kafemlejnek, just across the bridge from the Hotel Dvorak.
Instagram-Worthy Photo Ops
No matter where I go, I can’t help but obsess about capturing the best images of the destination. If you’re like me, here are a few photo ops to look for to showcase the best of Český Krumlov:
Honorable Mention: The Krumlov bears…if you’re lucky enough to get a shot of them!
Day trip from Prague or overnight?
While Český Krumlov can be visited on a (very) long day trip from Prague, it’s absolutely worth an overnight stay or even a full weekend.
This UNESCO World Heritage town overflows with Czech charm and beauty and deserves a spot on any traveler’s European Bucket List.