I had read so much about Český Krumlov and not all of it was good. If I had based my decision on what I had read I probably wouldn’t have visited. I would have missed seeing a town as pretty as any in a fairy tale.
Most of the negativity had been directed at the fact that the town is a tourist trap. Many people are day trippers from Prague. I guess if you are on a tour, with a busload of people, being funnelled through a tiny town, then it can become a bit daunting and no doubt frustrating.
I, however, had a totally different perspective. I stopped en route to Prague for 2 nights. This made a huge difference to my experience. Yes, it did get busy after lunchtime, but it wasn’t jam packed by any means and I could escape to my hotel room. Maybe it had something to do with the time of the year, just before summer, I don’t know, but I enjoyed my visit immensely.
The town has an interesting history and was established in the 13th century. It was founded by 3 families who have left their mark on the town to this day. The last of the 3 families, the Schwarzenburgers, left the town during WWII. Over the years, this tiny town was forgotten. During WWII it was unscathed and the buildings remained mostly intact. In 1992 it became a UNESCO world heritage site and a great deal of money is still being spent in order to restore it to its former glory.
Český Krumlov: What To See
I spent the first day just wandering the streets exploring. This is my usual modus operandi and it gives me a feel for the town. I can also work out what I would like to see more of. I discovered a free walking tour, that starts in the main square, that I joined the next morning. It was an excellent choice and the guide was engaging and knowledgeable.
The Main Square
The meeting point is in the main square called Náměstí Svornosti, which means “Conquered Square”. The square is lined with pretty buildings, restaurants and a few shops. It is quite busy during the day, but towards sunset, when all the day trippers had left, the locals were enjoying the space. Children were playing, dogs were being walked, and friends were sitting on the benches chatting. I was lucky to see this side of the town as this is part of what day to day life is about here.
Church Of St Vitus
This church is the burial place of members of the most important families in Bohemia, including the Rosenbergs and the Schwarzenbergs. The church dates from the 13th century, but the spire was added much later.
The Former Jesuit Seminary Regional Museum
I only mention this as a landmark, because there is a little park next to it. The views of the river from here, towards the castle, are stunning.
The Old Monastery
This used to be a monastery and was famous for brewing beer. They discovered the secret of smoked beer called Nakouřený švihák or Eggenberg. Bamberg in Germany is the only other town in Europe that makes smoked beer. I, of course, naturally had to try a couple while I was in town so that I could tell you what it was like. It is made from a special malt and is full in flavour, with the smokiness adding some depth. I could not find it anywhere else on my travels, so if you like the idea you need to try it here!
The castle sits on the top of the hill, after all, where else would it be? You approach the castle via a bridge that crosses over a bear pit. Apparently, there have been bears kept here since 1707, but I didn’t see them. The castle is really big and there are a number of tours that you can do. You can also climb the castle tower for amazing views.
As you enter the courtyard pay special attention to the walls. They look like stone, but in fact, have been painted with a special effect. This was done when the plaster was wet and as a result, it has survived for centuries. Look at the windows as well as some of them are not real!
The Castle Gardens
The castle gardens are really beautiful and worth taking a stroll through if you have the time. There is also an open-air theatre with a revolving auditorium that is an ongoing bone of contention. UNESCO feels that it is too modern and should not be situated where it is. Next to the auditorium is a small café which is a perfect place to stop for a smoked beer!
What To Eat
Trdelník is eaten in a number of Eastern European countries. It is a rolled pastry and it was fascinating to watch it being made. It is dusted with cinnamon and nuts and is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. It is often filled with cream. I had quite a few of them on my travels, but the one I had at Creperie MLS was exceptional. It was turned into a cone and filled with the softest, richest ice cream imaginable. It is on the main road, heading towards the castle, so it is easy to find.
Walking through the town made me feel that I had to try something authentic for dinner. After scouring around I discovered Satlava. It looks quite unimposing from the outside. Inside, however, was a different story. Huge chunks of meat were being roasted on an open fire, so if you are a vegan I would advise you to steer clear. It is a little bit touristy, but the food was divine. If you are going to have a meal at Satlava you need to book ASAP as it is small and it does get full quickly.
Where to stay
There are numerous places to choose from to suit all budgets. A word of warning though, there is no traffic allowed into the old town. Dragging a suitcase along cobbled streets is no fun either! Some hotels do have a little golf cart that can move luggage for you.
I stayed at the Pension u Kaplicky which was delightful. The area was quiet and the rooms were lovely. The breakfast was beautifully prepared and brought to your room on a trolley. I was more than happy with the choice I had made. It was a 5 minute walk to the town and my taxi dropped me at the door.
I had a wonderful 2 days in Český Krumlov and the UNESCO World Heritage status is well deserved. Remember that it is the second most visited town in the Czech Republic. The best time to visit would be March, April & May or September & October when everything is still open, but there are fewer tourists around.
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