This charming South Bohemian town is located 180 km from Prague. It is one of a few that have still retained its own medieval nature. The town is called the pearl of Bohemia. Its historic centre was listed in the 1992 UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage List.
The town is dominated by two national cultural landmarks – the castle and the Gothic church of St.Vitus. The castle is part medieval fortress, part château, magnificently set on a clifftop overlooking the town. It is the second largest one in the Czech Lands (after the Prague Castle).
The mighty renaissance castle, once the seat of powerful Lords of the Rožmberks and the Schwarzenbergs houses a rich collection of period furniture, Flamish tapestries, and historical weapons and a picture gallery. You must see the interior of this splendid castle as well as the old town with its romantic lanes and reconstructed medieval houses. Castle was built around a 13th-century castle with Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque elements. Guided tours include a visit to the Hall of Masks, a ballroom painted in 1748 (figures of guests attending a masquerade).
The houses of the Latrán, the area around the castle, were originally occupied by servants and court scribes. Buildings here include a 14th-century Minorite Monastery and the Eggenberg Brewery, which still makes its deliveries by horse and cart. Below the castle steps is the medieval former hospice and Church of St Jošt, now converted into private apartments.
Prominent on the main square is the Town Hall, with attractive arcades and vaulting. Vilém of Rožmberk is buried in the Gothic Church of St Vitus, which dates from 1439. The Latin School, now a music school and the former Jesuit College, now the Hotel Růže, are also worth a look. It is an outstanding example of a small central European medieval town. Town architectural heritage has remained intact thanks to its peaceful evolution over more than five centuries. In 1993, the Egon Schiele International Cultural Centre was opened here.
Planning Your Time
ČeskýKrumlov can be explored as a day trip from Prague, but to truly enjoy what this town has to offer consider staying one or two nights.
The two main attractions in Český Krumlov are the castle and the theatre, but there are only a few English speaking tours a day (you have to be accompanied by a guide to gain entry). This means that you should reserve a place on these tours as soon as you arrive, and then work your day around the tours that you’ve booked. If you do happen to forget to book – or you simply don’t want to – there are many Czech tours running throughout the day, so you can always jump on one of these. English information sheets are provided.
Another real highlight to any trip to Český Krumlov should be a paddle down the river to the Zlatá Koruna Abbey, which will take about three hours in all. For those looking for spectacular viewpoints, walking up to the top of the Křížový Vrch (Hill of the Cross) allows you to stare down at this town and its riverside setting. There are other sites, but they are quite niche – such as puppetry, museum of torture and Egon Schiele art center.
You’ll also find that simply being in the town itself is a joy, with the evenings providing a great atmosphere for those who want to head out for a few drinks. Most sights in the town are open from 10am-5pm, although they are shut on Wednesdays.
Český Krumlov Castle
The old town, almost encircled by the Vltava River, is watched over by Český Krumlov Castle and its ornately decorated Round Tower (adult/concession 50/30 CZK). Three different guided tours are on offer: Tour I (adult/concession 240/140 CZK in English; one hour) takes in the opulent Renaissance rooms, including the chapel, baroque suite, picture gallery and masquerade hall, while Tour II (180/100 CZK; one hour) visits the Schwarzenberg portrait galleries and their apartments used in the 19th century; and the Theatre Tour (adult/ concession 380/220 CZK; 40 minutes, 10am to 4pm Tuesday to Sunday May to October) explores the chateau’s remarkable rococo theatre, complete with original stage machinery. Wandering through the courtyards and gardens is free.
Castle Opening hours: Tours of the castle are given from April through October, though you can stroll the castle grounds year round. Castle: Apr—May, Sep—Oct Tue—Sun 9-12, 1-4; Jul—Aug Tue—Sun 9-12, 1-5; Tower: Apr—Oct Tue—Sun 9-9. website
Baroque Theatre (Zámecké Divadlo)
Baroque theatres used to be found all over Europe, but the dangerous practice of using candles to light them and fireworks on a regular basis meant that nearly all of them have now burnt down. The only two remaining and open to tourists are Drottningholm Palace in Stockholm and this one, located in Krumlov Castle. The tour of this theatre lasts for 40 minutes and you’ll be able to sit in the theatre, before then being shown the different pieces of machinery under the stage that made the shows possible – fireworks were let off so that the audience could not see, therefore allowing quick scene changes.
There are only five English tours every day, and this is because the theatre needs to be protected from too many people trampling over its floors. These tours have a maximum of 20 people and need to be booked in advance, as they are very popular. If you don’t speak Czech, only go if you can get onto an English tour, as the Czech tour will be confusing to those not speaking the language.
A tour of the theatre costs 300 CZK plus a 10 CZK reservation fee for the English tour (250 CZK + 10 CZK for the Czech tour). The theatre is open for Tuesday to Sunday from May through to October and the English tours begin at 10am, 11am, 1pm, 2pm and 3pm. You should buy your ticket at the ticket office in the castle, or by calling the theatre directly.
Castle Gardens (Zámecká Zahrada). The garden at the castle dates back to the 17th century and is one of the defining features of the whole complex. It is 2,300 feet long and split into two distinct parts: the lower part is symmetrical and based on the French style, while the upper part is rougher and based on the English style.
The Art Centrum Of Egon Schiele – the respectable, quiet town of Český Krumlov in the early twentieth century was not prepared for any avant-garde art, particularly anything involving young, nude girls. But that is exactly what they got in the works of tormented Austrian artist Egon Schiele, whose often grotesque paintings produced here are, these days, believed to be a treasure of the town. The paintings displayed at the ‘Egon Schiele Art Centrum’ reveal details of his short Bohemian residence. He just managed one year of sinful living with Wally Neuzil (a previous Gustav Klimt model) before the locals forced him to leave the town in 1911. His style of boldness is carried on in the local art centre named after him though, by offering an extensive array of visiting exhibits to its’ halls, whether Czech text processing or Russian video art.
Jesuit College – constructed in 1588, situated on Horní street, with its’ picturesque painted and sgraffitoed eaves. Egon Schiele, the expressionist painter from Austria (1890 to 1918) arrived in Český Krumlov to live in 1911, where he stayed in a cold hovel, producing many stunning, enchanting works. During the nineteen nineties, what used to be a medieval.
The Church of St. Vitus – is located behind the square and is an early fifteenth century building with modern frescoes in the northern aisle, William of Rožmberk’s tomb and lofty vaults.
The Museum of Torture – a regrettable indictment of the town’s descent into consumerism. The authentic premises take visitors back to the cruel times of the Middle Ages when torture was in full bloom and the guilty as well as the innocent were tortured by the most cruel methods and specific sophisticated torture instruments and tools. Almost 100 torture instrument exhibits are displayed in the area of more than 400 m2. The exhibition features 10 wax figures and two unique audiovisual effects: witch burning and a decapitation.
Church of St. Vitus – This church dates all the way back to the 15th century and is one of the must-see sights within the city. It is actually built on the site of a different church, therefore its history dates back even further than this. The main attraction of this site is the fact that it is a prime example of net vaulting, but the stonemasonry – especially in the sanctuary by the north wall – is also amazing to see. Other areas of this marvelous church to certainly catch the eye are the altar from the 15th century and the wall paintings found in the Late Go porch. It used to house the Krumlov Madonna, but this is now kept in the Art History Museum in Vienna. A replica can be seen in the National Gallery in Prague.
Latrán – Linked to the Inner Town by a bridge over the Vltava, Latran was once the proud home of merchants and craftsmen, all of whom worked for the castle. The architecture found here is breathtaking in places, with a number of Gothic and Baroque buildings, such as the Minorite Monastery, the Convent of the Poor Clares and the fantastic church. It is also possible to see the only remaining town gate close by, named the Budejovice Gate.
Svornost Square – This square is home to a number of different sights, but the one that you will undoubtedly notice first is the Old Town Hall, which sits in the corner and was created in the 16th by joining two large houses. In 1716 the Marian Plague Column was erected in the center of the square, and this was created to give thanks for the fact that the Black Death did not reach the city. The statue included images of Madonna and also St. Roch, who was invoked for protection against the plague sweeping Europe at the time.
Seidel Museum –Visit this photography museum to learn more about local photographer, Josef Seidel. On display are moving retrospective images recording early 20th-century life in nearby villages. If the pictures do not tell you the full story you might be able to join an English-language tour. Address: Linecká 272; Admission 100 CZK. Open: from 9am to 4pm.
Regional Museum – This museum will tell you the story of regional folk art, history, furnishings, etc. There’s also an interesting, very old, full room-sized model of the town. Address: Horní 152; Admission: 50 CZK. Open: 9am-noon & 12.30-5pm Tue-Sun.
Marionette Museum – Situated in the former Church of St Jošt, this branch of the Prague National Marionette Theatre has a large display of puppets and marionettes from different centuries. Address: Latrán 6; Admission: 80 CZK. Open: 9am-6pm Apr- Aug, 10am-4pm Sep & Oct.
Where to eat
Český Krumlov is full of medieval inns known for their dark wooden furniture and selection of spit-fired meats. For fresh trout by the river and cups of cinnamon or almond mead (hot or cold) served in a rustic, intimate atmosphere try Krčma U Dvou Marií. Visit the 13th-century candlelit catacombs of the Old Inn Hotel for traditional Czech cuisine with a side of Gothic charm. At Cikánská Jizba (Gypsy Tavern) your meal will likely be accompanied by live folk music. Cafe Laibon is a vegetarian oasis in a sea of carnivorous competitors. Delicious soups, a staggering list of teas, and innovative entrees make it a winning choice for lunch.
Cikánská Jizba (Dlouhá 31; main dishes 100-240 CZK; Open3pm-midnight Mon-Sat) At ‘The Gypsy Room’ there’s live Roma music at the weekends to go with the menu of meaty Czech favourites.
Krčma v Šatlavské (Horní 157; main dishes 120-250 CZK) Nirvana for meat lovers, this medieval barbecue cellar serves sizzling platters in a dark labyrinth illuminated by candles and the flickering flames of open grills.
Hospoda Na Louži (Kájovská 66) Nothing’s changed in this wood-panelled beer parlour for almost a century. Locals and tourists pack Na Louži for huge meals and tasty dark beer from the local Eggenberg brewery.
Musical events hosted in Český Krumlov
During the summer months, the town gets even more packed than normal throughout numerous music festivals. There are many festivals of music right through the year: The 5-Petalled Rose Festival during June is a 2-day jamboree featuring fireworks, medieval parades and fairs on the street. Also hosted is a chamber music event in the early summer, an early July festival and a music event in August that is international (www.festivalkrumlov.cz). Connoisseurs of ballet and opera can go to performances in the Castle Gardens in the revolving, open air theatre.
Bikes can be rented at the train station and cost 150 CZK per day if you have a train ticket – if you don’t, the prices will be slightly higher. You can also rent them from Hostel 99 and Vltava Sport Service.
Riding Horses in Český Krumlov
One new popular sport is horse riding, and firms like Slupenec Horse Riding (www.jk-slupenec.cz), located a few minutes drive away from Český Krumlov, offer beginner riding lessons, as well as all day hacks for those with more experience.
Tourist Information Centre
The tourist information centre is located on the Main Square and you can pick up a free map here, as well as find out times for all of the transport links to and from the town. You’ll also be able to find out about any events happening in the area, or about different attractions the area has to offer. It’s open from 9:am until 7pm (8pm from July-August), although in the winter the hours might be reduced. To contact them, ring 380-704-622, or visit www.ckrumlov.info).
Distance: over 180km south of Prague. Buses are quicker and cheaper. Bus from Florenc (ČSAD buses) or Na Knížecí station (StudentAgency yellow buses); two hours 30 minutes. Bus tickets cost around 200 CZK. The train from Hlavní nádraží takes three to four hours and requires a change at České Budějovice (ticket costs around 260 CZK). There is also a regular train service between České Budějovice and Český Krumlov, and the journey takes 45 minutes. If you drive your own car, the journey can take less than three hours. Take the D1 motorway in the direction of Brno, and turn south on Highway E55.