When we decided to move to Oslo one thing was certain: we needed to up our sightseeing game. With our time in Prague cut short, there were so many places in the Czech Republic—not to mention the rest of Central and Eastern Europe—that we hadn’t been to. Under the circumstances, some of those places were going to have to wait until after the move (and perhaps even our eventual return to the U.S.). But there was one place we couldn’t leave Prague without visiting.
That place? Český Krumlov.
Located about three hours by car south of Prague, the first thing I noticed about Český Krumlov is how not Czech it looks. It is just so colorful, especially that tower. Indeed, this Renaissance (and Gothic and Baroque) town looks quite Italian. Which will make sense if you do a walking tour and hear all about how much time the ruling families spent there and the architects they brought back to build Krumlov Castle.
For people doing a whirlwind tour of Europe, Český Krumlov can be visited as a (very long) day trip from Prague or Vienna. But once you factor in almost eight hours of driving, I don’t think you can get much more than a very general sense of the town in that time, so I think that one night (so you can get an early start) is really the minimum you should plan on. We went for two nights and still didn’t see everything, although I think it is a good amount of time, especially if you don’t have kids in tow.
So what should you do if you go? Here are my top two:
- Baroque Theater: This theater within the Castle is probably the least visited part (due to strict caps on the number of tour tickets sold each day) but definitely the best in my opinion. Not only is it beautiful, it is truly a one-of-a-kind experience because it is one of only two baroque theaters in all of Europe (the other is in Sweden) that has survived until today—which isn’t surprising given how much they loved to shoot off fireworks during performances. This tour also provides you with a good amount of history about Krumlov and the families behind the castle. In fact, almost everything we heard on the Route I tour was a repeat of what we’d heard on the Baroque Theater tour.
No pictures allowed in the Baroque Theater, but here’s L running towards it.
- Minorite Monastery: The monastery itself is nothing special, although the grounds are exceptionally peaceful. The real draw of the monastery for me was the Church of Corpus Christi. With its pale blue exterior and statuettes, I felt compelled to go into this church from the first time we stumbled into the monastery’s courtyard. Entrance requires that you buy a ticket to the small museum focusing on daily life for the monks and nuns who lived there. Although a two-pager describing the history of the monastery is available in English, the (often rather wordy) descriptions in the museum are entirely in Czech and thus the visit is quite quick (although you might want to linger in the fresco-covered chapel along the route) but at the end of the route on the first floor is the entrance to the church. There’s no photography allowed so I don’t have any pictures but it struck me as the perfect balance between blank space and rich decor.
Beyond that, most of your visit will likely be spent wandering around the town. There’s a lot of history here and more to see than I thought, so I definitely recommend a walking tour so that you can be sure you didn’t skip over any major sections of the town like we almost did. The tours leave from Svornosti Square and if the times don’t work for you, you can do like we did and rent an audioguide. The audioguide isn’t perfect (sometimes it doesn’t give enough information, sometimes it gives too much) but I suspect it’s the same script that the live tour guides use, so there might not be any difference.
There is also plenty more to see within the castle complex. First, as you approach the castle, is the bear moat. The bears weren’t out when we were there and apparently they rarely are, but maybe you’ll get lucky. Then, when you get inside there are a couple more tours to choose from. We only went on Route I, which covers the Renaissance and Baroque periods. (Route II covers life in the Nineteenth Century, including aristocratic residences from that time.) While I would definitely choose the Baroque Theater tour over Route I, Route I does include some worthwhile sights, most notably a gorgeous chapel and Hall of Mirrors. (The latter of which is apparently available to rent out. Destination wedding, anyone?) Finally, behind the theater is the castle garden—a great place to let little travelers run around after sitting through a tour or two!
As for food, we had an excellent fish dinner at Jakub Restaurant on the first night. For something quick and inexpensive, there are several MLS locations where you can get crepes, pizza, and/or kebabs depending on the location. (Oh, and trdlníck, of course.) We went to Bistro Latrán 47, which boasts a large kids corner.
Have you been anywhere that felt like it was in a completely different country?