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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrNestled in a bend of the river Vltava with a backdrop of mountains and forests, small but beautiful Český Krumlov has been described as the prettiest town in the Czech Republic. It is a charming and fascinating place to visit, and easy to explore in a single day.
HistoryHabitation in the area dates back to the Stone Age, the geography of the river bend making it a natural choice for a ford, and so for trade routes. Český Krumlov and its castle were founded in the late 13th century.
The name ‘Český’ simply means ‘Czech’, or ‘Bohemian’, to distinguish Český Krumlov from towns named Krumlov in other regions. ‘Krumlov’ is believed to derive from the German for ‘crooked meadow’, referring to the shape of the town.
The town was part of the Sudetenland region seized by the Nazis, but was returned to Czechoslovakia after the Second World War. The historic buildings were neglected under the Communist regime, but have been restored following the Velvet Revolution, and the old town is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
CastleThe most famous sight Český Krumlov has to offer is the State Castle, with its distinctive tower. Overlooking the town from a rocky promontory, the castle is visible from all over Český Krumlov. The complex of courts, buildings, and parkland covers a wide area, making this the second-largest castle in the Czech Republic. Tourists can take a guided tour or wander at will. There are cafés, restaurants, shops, and a museum within the grounds. The castle’s Baroque theater still has the machinery installed from the 18th-century.
St Vitus’s ChurchThe impressive Gothic architecture of the church, with its tall spire and high, pointed roof, is another Český Krumlov landmark. St Vitus’s is still in use for religious services and classical music concerts.
Šumava National ParkDrive a short distance from the town and you will find yourself in the UNESCO-protected Šumava National Park . The forest region connects with Germany’s Bavarian Forest to create a vast wooded area. Beautiful all year-round, the mountains, plateaus, and rivers are great for hiking, cycling, skiing, and kayaking. Nearby, Lipno Lake is a famous beauty spot, and also offers water sports and spa facilities.
MuseumsExplore the past and present of Český Krumlov in its many museums. The Marionette Museum has a large collection of puppets and puppet theaters from the 19th century to the present-day. The Museum Fotoateliér Seidel preserves cameras, darkroom equipment, and prints from the 19th century, when it was a cutting edge, photographic studio. Learn about moldavite, the local precious stone created by the impact of a meteorite 15 million years ago, at the Moldavite Museum, or, if you’re feeling brave, try the Museum of Torture in the castle dungeon.
AccommodationThere are plenty of places to stay both in the town itself and in the surrounding area. You can expect to pay higher prices for a hotel in the old town, many of which are historic buildings in their own right; for example the Old Inn, with its view of the main square. Out of town hotels tend to be larger, boasting facilities like swimming-pools, saunas or golfing.
For something a little cheaper and more intimate, look for the word 'Penzion', which means 'guesthouse'. These are plentiful, and the owners are usually more than willing to offer tips and advice.
If you're staying longer than a night or two, consider renting a self-catering apartment, which can be more economical and gives you the freedom to come and go as you please. Out in the countryside, you'll find campsites, caravan sites and cabins.
Food and DrinkTake a break from shopping to enjoy a coffee and one of the cakes the Czech Republic is most famous for, like medovnik or honey cake. Walk a short distance from the pedestrianized old town and you will find cheaper, quieter cafés.
With a wide choice of restaurants in pretty surroundings, choosing a place to eat can be almost as enjoyable as the meal. There are plenty of restaurants serving traditional Czech food, like the Jailhouse, based in the old prison, and the cheap and cheerful Gypsy Tavern.
These are the places to go for grilled meat, dumplings, and goulash, but Český Krumlov also has a surprising number of pizzerias, of which the most popular is Nonna Gina’s.
The local beer is Eggenberg, and you can’t drink it more locally than at the brewery itself.
ShoppingThe town’s Main Square and the streets surrounding it are lined with shops of all kinds, making this a great place to buy your souvenirs. Prices are geared towards tourists, and therefore, are on the high side, but as you stroll through the cobbled streets you can find unique, high quality gifts and enjoy the historic surroundings too.
Typical products of the region include wooden toys and puppets (look out for Talpa the Mole, a beloved Czech children’s character), glassware, and jewelry, often made using local amber, garnets, and moldavite. For an edible gift, choose gingerbread shapes.
Getting AroundČeský Krumlov is just over a hundred miles from Prague, making it suitable for a day trip or overnight stay, and less than twenty miles from České Budějovice . The German and Austrian borders are within easy reach.
The national route 39 passes through the town, while smaller roads wind through the countryside for a more scenic route. Be aware that parking in the town itself is limited and expensive, and take advantage of the large out-of-town car parks. There are trains and shuttle buses from Prague, Vienna, and Salzburg, and the nearest airport is Linz in Austria.
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Author: Huskyteer. Last updated: Dec 22, 2014