Czech Republic

The Fairy Tale Town of Český Krumlov

Yes, I must admit, I do love to seek out picturesque villages when in Europe. And, here is another one to share. This one is in the deep south of the Czech Republic. The charming town of Český Krumlov which makes you feel you have stepped back in time. It is an UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its stunning castle above the meandering Vltava River and old cobbled town full of renaissance and baroque architecture. Sounds like a wonderful place to visit doesn’t it?

Most of the architecture of the old town dates back to the 14th through 17th centuries. The town’s first mention in documents dates to 1253, where Krumlov was called Chrumbonowe. It was established in 2 stages, the first part was built below the Krumlov castle, called Latrán and settled mostly by those who had some administrative connection to the castle. The second part of the town settled across the river and it wasn’t until 1555 where the 2 towns formed together to be called Krumlov. The legend is that in the 9th century the area was owned by noble Czech family of Slavníkovci, who were slaughtered by the rival family of Přemyslovci in 995. This area then became their property, and they passed on the rights to the town to their relatives to the Vítkovci family (or  the Witigonen in German). It was one of Vítkovci 4 sons, Rožmberk (or Rosenberg in German) and his generations to come that were responsible for building the growth and prosperity of this small town. In 1602, Emperor Rudolf II bought Krumlov and in 1622 gave Krumlov to the House of Eggenberg who ruled until 1719, when the House of Schwarzenberg took over and remained owners until 1945. By 1919, there were 7,300 Germans and 1,300 Czechs living in the town.

According to legend, the name Krumlov is derived from the German "Krumme Aue", which may be translated as "crooked meadow". The name comes from the natural topography of the town, specifically from the tightly crooked meander of the Vltava river. The word "Český" simply means Czech.

A likely starting point is to visit the immense castle, the second largest complex in the Czech Republic, beside the massive Prague Castle. Tours are offered for the inside of the castle, providing a glimpse into the life of the Rosenberg family from centuries ago; including St. George’s Chapel, a Baroque Theater, Eggengerg Hall with a golden carriage. 

Unfortunately, the day we visited, the castle was closed for inside tours, but were able to walk the grounds of the castle which we felt we had the place to ourselves.
As you enter the castle you can’t help but notice the castle moat which is protected by bears. This tradition dates to 1707 where there up to 4 bears kept here.
The main tower of the castle features a beautiful and colorful façade; featuring a 162-step climb to the top, was built to guard the medieval river crossing.
A 2,300-foot-long garden boasts a mix of French and English style. In 1745 a massive water structure was built with the gorgeous Neptune Fountain at its centre.

Across the river from the castle is the made-for-strolling Old Town where gothic buildings curve with the winding streets and at the heart its main square.

Jakub restaurant where we enjoyed a late lunch and Czech beer on the outdoor patio. Great place to people watch in the town square.
Many of the Gothic and Renaissance frescoes were whitewashed in Baroque times, when the colorful trimmings of earlier periods were way out of style. Today, these frescoes are being rediscovered and restored.
The old section of town, Lékárna, with a fine red Baroque facade on the lower corner of the square, is still a pharmacy, as it has been since 1620.
Trdelník is a kind of spit cake. It is made from rolled dough that is wrapped around a stick, then grilled over an open firepit and topped with sugar and walnut mix.

The Vltava River offers the ability to rent a canoe or kayak, a little too cold for us at that time of year, but maybe an option for you. Rafting companies even offer a 3-hour tour which includes one-way river paddle to a 13th-century abbey and from there provides you with a bicycle to pedal back along a bike path.

Another beautiful site is to visit the Cathedral of St. Vitus. The cathedral is responsible for the other famous tower in the city with a clock at the top. Both the exterior and interior of St. Vitus is beautiful.

About two hours south of Prague, you could easily make this a daytrip, although I highly recommend you spend at least one night as the evening was so wonderfully atmospheric. Once most of the tourist have left, it becomes quiet in the streets but lively in the restaurants, cafes and pubs. Many restaurants are dark, lit only by candles or lanterns, and are cozy and intimate with small cave-like rooms. 

Once you see Český Krumlov, it’s not hard to understand why this is the Czech Republic’s second-biggest tourist magnet. Despite the high number of tourists, it doesn’t take away from the magic of the place. Happy to share where we dined and stayed through the comments section.

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26 Comments

  • Bea

    Yay! I love this town. I have family who live there and we just explored properly last time we were there. I’d been there before and I never appreciate it for what it was until recently. I absolutely love your photos!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      How fortunate are you to have family there! What a great reason to return over and over again. Thank you for your kind words.

  • Katie D.

    Such a charming city! Being from the US, it’s always so wild to me when there are buildings that are so much older than my country lol. And absolutely I LOVE grilled dough – it’s an oddly specific food item to obsess over, but I just bought a grill pan for my apartment so I can make it lol

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thanks Katie for commenting. Completely agree, I think that is why I enjoy Europe so much, that there is so much history centuries old that has been protected and preserved.

  • Danik

    This town has always escaped me when I visit Czechia! I still havent been and I really want to go as I love the central-eastern european fairytale towns. Reading your post and looking at the photos has got me licking my lips. I may just do a road trip there this summer to check it out.

  • Jerry and Fiona

    Like a fairy tale, indeed. Kayaking or canoeing down the Vltava river (in season!) through the heart of the town would be THE perfect way to see the town, from a slightly different perspective.

    Shame about the castle being closed – next time, right? The bears make for an interesting security system, no doubt!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      I completely agree, seeing the village by the water definitely allows a different perspective. I actually didn’t feel right that the bear was confined to the area, and now, only for tourists’ enjoyment. But it is all part of the history. Thanks for reading it, and sharing your comments.

  • Lance

    Český Krumlov really does look like a fairytale village. It’s easy to see why it is listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. It would be fun to tour the castle and get a look at the bears guarding the castle and moat. The old town structures are quaint and I’m sure sitting at an outside bistro and watching the crowds would be fun. I might be up for a kayak trip along the river — in warm weather, of course.

  • Jane Frith

    I did not recognise it until I saw your pictures and read the description, but I actually visited Cresky Krumlov many years ago. I had to go back and check the name to be sure. We were visiting friends in Prague and they drove us out into the countryside. I recall wandering around the beautiful town, the churches, the castle and by the river, but I was not aware of the history. Fascinating. Thank you for reminding me.

  • Amber

    Oh wow! I’m not sure there’s any other reaction to such a beautiful town! I think I need to head to the Czech Republic and explore it further! The tower at the castle literally made me want to book a flight there!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      I am so pleased that you felt inspired to want to travel there in the future. I hope you do get there one day soon. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. Happy travels!

  • Lara Dunning

    A castle moat protected by bears! That is the stuff out of fairytales! As a lover of small towns, I’d love to visit this town and make it into an overnight trip instead of a day trip. After a day of exploring I’d be all about a Czech beer and Trdelník. 🙂

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Yes Lara, you are exactly right, being able to experience this town at night, is highly recommended. By making an overnight trip, you get to see the town at night, where the inside the restaurants come alive offering good food and experience that will live long in your memory. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  • Mei and Kerstin

    Český Krumlov definitely makes one feel like steppeing back in time! The tower of the castle looks so beautiful and you were very lucky with the weather too! We haven’t been to the Czech Republic yet, but we’d love to go there someday. Of course we’ll go to Prague first, but since Český Krumlov is only 2 hours south of Prague, we’ll try to go there too during a daytrip. Thank you for this inspiring post!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      I am so glad that this post may have inspired you to check it out. Thanks for reading it and commenting. Happy travels.

  • Maggie

    What a beautiful town!! It’s so picturesque. How interesting that they still have bears guarding the castle moat. ANd I would love to take a canoe trip down the river – sounds delightful!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Great, glad to know that this has inspired you to add it to your future travel list. Thank you for stopping by!

  • Kevin | Caffeinated Excursions

    This town really does look like a fairytale, especially the incredible spire on that castle! It is a shame you weren’t able to take the indoor tour of it, but the town looks like it offered so many other beautiful things to see regardless. It must’ve been so nice to walk along the river that runs right through it 🙂

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Yes, at first we were disappointed to not have been able to tour the inside, but the town really does offer a lot to see and do, that in the end we didn’t miss it. The river was so pretty, and many of the restaurants have back patios that overlook the river.

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