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.
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.
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.
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.