Big on Charm…and Tourists
A little town BIG on charm, many people make a visit to Český Krumlov a day trip from Prague or just an overnight stop. Sure you can see the famous castle and maybe a couple of other sites in a day but to really enjoy Český Krumlov the uncrowded mornings and evenings are perfect.
- The Wiseman Free Walking Tour
- The Castle Tour with the grand finale – the Castle Masquerade Hall (Ballroom)
- The Fascinating Baroque Theater tour
- Views from the Castle Tower
- The Castle Museum
Wiseman Free Walking Tour
The 2 hour Wiseman Free walking tour (you know it’s for tips, right?) is fun and informative and a great way to get to know your way around little Český Krumlov.
The tour starts in front of the Tourist Information in the Main Square and ends at the Castle – I highly recommend getting the morning tour, then you’ll be perfectly positioned at the end to get a ticket for the afternoon Castle tour.
On the tour you’ll get the inside scoop on some marvelous buildings like the historic house at Kájovská No. 54, with it’s beautiful Renaissance wall paintings. Known as Ronner’s House and also as the Jakub Krčín house, a famous architect and engineer who was supposedly one of its owners, the building is now a hotel with the Jakub Restaurant in the spaces below.
There’s some interesting and fanciful tales about the paintings on the house, but one fascinating fact is that these marvelous paintings were completely covered up and only re-discovered and restored in 1952!
After exploring the Church and other buildings in the center of Český Krumlov, our walking tour took us up Latrán street to the castle, with a stop at this historic 16th century house with an evocative decoration of a knight along with coats of arms.
The walking tour takes you all over the pretty town, the highlights for me were the marvelous buildings and the Castle itself.
The castle complex is HUGE! It’s the second largest in the Czech Republic, the complex in Prague is largest.
After the walking tour, head to the ticket office to get a ticket for an English language Castle tour – the tour sizes are limited and English may sell out.
With your tour time secure, you may have time for a walk in the Castle Gardens, where you’ll also find clean restrooms for a small fee. If you have time to venture about half way into the huge park, check out the open air revolving theater, mentioned by the guide on the walking tour.
When it was built in 1958, the theater held 60 people and was turned by hand until 2 years later when it was enlarged and electric motors installed. It now seats 640 people and weighs 650 tons! It must be fantastic to see a performance here!
The Castle Tour
There are a couple of castle tours, when we were there only tour Route #1 was offered in English.
Photos aren’t allowed inside on the Castle or the Baroque Theater tours, but the views FROM the castle are simply non-stop!
I was enchanted the by the way the Vlatava River practically enclosed the tiny town!
OK, back to the tour…
Tour #1 of the Castle ends with the fantastic ballroom – the Masquerade Hall. This ballroom is far different from any you have ever seen and is a terrific end to the impressive rooms you see on the tour. The walls are painted with the theme of aristocrats enjoying themselves in the middle of a masquerade festival, where well known Italian and French Carnival figures (“Commedia del Arte”) mingle with people in Spanish, Turkish, or other national folk costumes. The paintings cover all the walls and the tour takes you in a slow circuit around as the guide describes the key figures. What fun they must have had in THIS ballroom!
Pushy Tour Groups!
Be Forewarned – Tour groups love Český Krumlov. I’ve never run into more obnoxiously pushy people in groups than here. The lovely town is long on view spots and photo ops, but heaven help you if you are standing in one of the spots that one or more of these people want to be in – RIGHT NOW! We were physically pushed out of the way twice in 2 different locations. The first time we were in a tiny opening in the castle walkway when a group of four people rushed up, cameras held high in outstretched arms, and shoved us out of the way. The second time was in THE photo op spot where a woman with a selfie stick moved in on us murmuring something I took for “excuse me” as she persistently pressed against us to move us out of her way.
Both times we were so stunned and amazed by this behavior that we moved. If it happened again I was going to whip out my cell phone to take a picture of them!
The Tower, Museum, and Baroque Theater
The next full day we got out early to go up the tower and enjoyed the scene peacefully by ourselves for awhile. If you don’t have much time in Český Krumlov and you love views more than tours, then a climb up the tower is for you!
After the tower we had plenty of time for the interesting museum before our tour time for the Baroque Theater. If you’re hesitant about a “theater tour” – don’t be! This is the most completely preserved baroque theatre in the world, and one of the oldest castle theatres preserved in Central Europe. A wonderful opportunity to see it in all it’s restored glory – but NO photos are allowed.
Great Eats: A typical Czech dish is called Svíčková, or svíčková na smetaně (beef sirloin in cream sauce), simply delicious! We had it at Papa’s Living Restaurant, outside by the river watching the paddlers zip by. Perfect end to our last night in Český Krumlov.
Tip: Papa’s Living Restaurant doesn’t have this dish on their menu all the time, we asked at the Castle View Apartments where we could get it and, lucky us, Friday was the night.
3 Nights in Český Krumlov
Were 3 nights in Český Krumlov too much? No, definitely not – 3 nights gave us 2 full days to explore a lot of the tiny town, plus being able to see it at night was perfect – the hordes of daytrippers were gone, the tiny town was peaceful, and you could go up to the castle for those story book views.
Castle View Apartments – Attic View Apartment #1
3 nights in the charming Attic View Apartment #1, breakfast included. I loved the day and night view of the Castle through the dormer window of this delightful studio apartment. The Castle View Apartments are popular, you’ll want to reserve well in advance – but it’s worth it to be steps away from the Town Square, and have a view of the castle.
Arriving in Český Krumlov
After a long sightseeing drive from Krems in Austria, we checked in and parked the car where it would stay put for the next 3 nights.
Our first night started with dinner at Mastal Resaurant off of the main square – down a cobbled sloping entry to a low-ceiling atmospheric cellar for a traditional meal, with the cozy rustic decor it was a great start to our stay in this little medieval town.
Toll Roads: Many parts of the Czech Republic require a toll sticker (vignette) on your vehicle to travel certain highways. In this part of the Czech Republic the highways don’t have tolls and a toll sticker wasn’t required. Check with the official site SFDI – Statni Fond Dopravni Infrastruktury for the latest info on tolls.
Tip: Český Krumlov’s historic center is pedestrian only, but to check in and drop off luggage you can drive there and park briefly. Drive over the bridge directly to the Main Square – set your GPS to navigate to the Tourist Information office in the square.
Tip: If you’re staying at one of the Castle View Apartments, print the picture of their map found on their website. The tiny pedestrian streets are confusing to the GPS and may take you in frustrating circles (it did us!) Follow the map, it’s a one-way road into town over the bridge, and a one-way road out over another bridge to their parking lot.
Leaving Český Krumlov
We’d picked up our expensive little Skoda Fabia rental car in Vienna and were returning it in Salzburg at the airport at noon, about 2.5 hours drive from Český Krumlov.
Uh oh, POLICE!
Good thing we left with plenty of time to spare, we didn’t realize it but we turned the wrong way out of a gas station in Studanky not far from the Austrian border. A couple of Czech police officers were taking a break at the cafe inside the station, saw this, hopped in their car and pursued us blue lights flashing.
Despite us having no Czech language skills and they had almost no English language skills, they were very friendly and pleasant and we shook hands all around after somehow negotiating paying the 2,000CZK ticket for 1,000CZK. We didn’t have ANY Czech Korunas but (luckily!) were able to get 1,000CZK for €40 at a nearby store to pay the fine.
It was the cheapest ticket we’ve ever gotten and a reminder to be vigilant looking for traffic and “No Entry” signs. Was that cash pocketed or was it legit? Yep, it was legit – we got the official receipt for our 1,000CZK.
Have you been to Český Krumlov? Did you find it storybook charming…or too touristy?