3 Days and 26 Enchanting Things to Do in Cesky Krumlov, the South Bohemia Fairytale City
If you’ve ever wondered if fairytale destinations really do exist in the world, we can tell you without a doubt that yes, they absolutely do! Romantic Baroque and Renaissance architecture and pastoral countryside reminiscent of knights in shining armor exists in charming Cesky Krumlov — or Krumlovsko — in the South Bohemia Region of the Czech Republic. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992, this oh-so-photogenic small town has a rare Baroque theater, an enchanting castle, narrow cobbled streets and a meandering river to follow. In fact, there are so many dreamy things to do in Cesky Krumlov, though part of you will just want to wander aimlessly taking in all the beautiful views and imagining what life must have been like back then. It’s the romantic in you, we get it. Because it’s honestly one of the most charming places we’ve ever been!
But all of this beauty comes at a price — the same paid by other stunning and unique (and over-touristed) destinations around the world - Venice, Machu Picchu, and Bali among others come to mind. Cesky Krumlov is becoming that popular though not quite yet. It’s especially favored among tourists taking day trips from Prague and cruise ship passengers on Danube River cruise excursions from Austria over two hours away. But there are some places you just have to see once in your lifetime and Cesky Krumlov is definitely that kind of place.
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3 Days in Cesky Krumlov
Despite the mention of heavy crowds and hordes of selfie-taking tourists, there is good news for slow travelers. There are 2 simple ways to enjoy Cesky Krumlov and actually experience the fairytale without the crowds:
Avoid the Cesky Krumlov day trip from Prague or anywhere else - don’t do it. You’ll miss so much of the charm. Instead, plan on spending 3 days here.
Plan your visit in the shoulder season to avoid the crowds. Late March into May are less crowded in the spring and September through November are good fall periods to come.
You may be thinking... 3 days in Cesky Krumlov? But Rick Steves said we could walk from one end of town to the other in 20 minutes. He was right, you can. But if you love enchanting small medieval towns, there are just too many shiny objects here worth lingering over. So yes, we absolutely recommend 3 days.
If you’ve followed along with us before, you know we love slow travel, and spending more time in a place to have a more enriching and memorable travel experience. But sometimes it just makes more sense to stay put for a while to let the tourists come and go around you. Prague is that kind of place. So is Cesky Krumlov. Don’t let its small-town size fool you into thinking a day trip is a good idea. The Czech Republic has become a popular destination in recent years, and it just makes sense to spend more time here if you can. You will thank us later for this, we promise!
So, now that you know when to visit Cesky Krumlov and how long to stay, where do you begin exploring?
Buy a Cesky Krumlov Card
When you arrive in town, stop by the Cesky Krumlov tourism office and pick up a local map along with the Cesky Krumlov Card for around $13 USD (rates for kids and families). This discount card offers 50% off the total price of admissions to 4 of Cesky Krumlov’s most popular attractions, is valid for up to 12 months from its first use and is transferable if you don’t use it all.
Things to Do in Cesky Krumlov
Whether you mind the crowds or not, there are plenty of Cesky Krumlov attractions to keep you busy - but not exhausted - for days, with the luxury of flexibility in case something unexpected or more appealing comes along. Spending a few days in town allows you to balance the quieter places with these popular must-see spots.
1. Visit the Cesky Krumlov Castle Tower and Castle Museum (CK card)
The Castle Museum is located in the Little Castle or Hrádek, the oldest part of the castle complex. The castle chambers, normally featured in a one hour castle tour, are presented in an elegant combination with museum exhibits. The exhibition is topped off with a climb up the 162 steps to the top of the Castle Tower where you can enjoy not only a breathtaking view of the Old Town, but also a look into the castle moat below where bears have been kept since the 16th century when they were added to the ruling Rožmberk family’s coat-of-arms.
2. Latrán District
Most of the old town is contained within a u-shaped bend of the Vltava River, with the old Latrán neighborhood and the castle on the other. Latrán is the name of the main street and refers to the district that contained houses that were originally occupied by people who worked in the castle. These houses eventually became the shops, bars, and restaurants that we see today. Throughout these narrow cobbled streets you can take your time and still enjoy the architecture from several periods that make up Latrán.
3. Tour the Český Krumlov Monasteries (CK card)
The exhibition “Life and Arts in the Minorite Monastery” introduces the history of the Minorite Order and development of the Monastery complex. St. Wolfgang chapel and the Chapel of St. Mary of Einsiedeln with its unique copy of the Black Madonna of Einsiedeln are worth a visit. A replica of the Madonna of Krumlov is a highlight. The exhibition “Life and Arts in the Poor Clare Monastery” is based in the former cells of the Poor Clare nuns and presents medieval monastery life of the Poor Clares in historical context. Restoration of this complex began in 2014 and is a testament to the beautiful architecture of the period. Inside the multi-level monastery are artifacts, frescoes, and educational exhibits. This museum is very well done. Your ticket to enter also gets you into the Corpus Christi Church. You can also just relax for a bit and walk the peaceful grounds and garden or have something light at the cafe with outside seating.
4. Take The Wiseman Free Walking Tour
Here’s a fun one and it’s free. You make a donation depending on how much you liked the tour and your guide. The tour takes you to the major highlights in the city as well as through narrow streets to places not usually listed in tour guides. You’ll hear not only about the history of the city but also some mysterious tales about past characters. We love these old tales and folklore stories and this tour has it all. The tour schedule changes with the time of year. Take the night tour for some fun and spooky ghost stories.
5. Float the Vltava River
Looking for some outdoor fun in Cesky Krumlov? Rafting and paddling the Vltava River is some serious water fun. Canoes and inner tubes can be rented to paddle or drift downstream for one hour or even three depending on how much time you have. Along the way there are shops, bars, and restaurants where you can take a break. The vendor will meet you downstream and either drive you back or provide a bicycle for you to pedal back to town. This is particular inviting on a sunny day when the scenery of the area can be enjoyed. If paddling isn’t your thing, there are also tour boats that will guide you along the river to see the sights.
6. Museum Fotoateliér Seidel / Seidel Photographic Studio Museum (CK card)
If you’re into photography or enjoy the evolution of technology, put a visit to this museum on your list. Built in 1905 on the site of the original building this museum with all of its rooms is very well done and maintained. The building itself has been beautifully and meticulously restored and preserved. In the rooms there is the original 19th century period furniture and fixtures, original camera and studio equipment some of which is still functional, and yes, lots of historical photographs that give you a look into life here over 100 years ago. A tour with a guide is given at the beginning of every hour.
7. The Puppet Museum
Located in the old Church of St. Jobst, this collection of Czech puppets includes a small puppet theater and two floors of antique and modern puppets of all sizes and demeanor. For a small entry fee you can visit and see the incredible artistry with which they’re created. There’s even a room and stage where children and big kids can play with the puppets. If you can find room in your suitcase, they are also for sale, along bottles of wine at reasonable prices. It’s a nice change from the town’s traditional museums and a really fun place for kids of all ages.
8. The Moldavite Museum
Geology geeks will love this small modern museum near the center of town with interesting interactive exhibits that showcase precious natural glass. Moldavites were formed when a meteorite crashed into what is present day Germany 15 million years ago. The impact sent splashes of molten liquid into this area in South Bohemia which then formed moldavite. We didn’t know what it was at first but the short video explained the phenomenon before we got started in the museum (and it’s offered in English!). There’s a fun interactive station where you can smash meteors into the earth, and a shop to purchase a small moldavite souvenir as your lasting memory of Cesky Krumlov.
9. Stroll Mestsky Park with St. Martin’s Chapel
Just steps from the center of Old Town lies this tranquil public park, formerly a cemetery near St. Martin’s Chapel that was moved in 1892. This 6 acre park is near the center of Cesky Krumlov and St. Vitus Church near a bend in the Vltava River. It’s a relaxing and interesting stroll past park benches, 65 varieties of trees and flowers, and a wooden music pavilion built sometime before WWI. But the focal point in the park is undoubtedly St. Martin’s Chapel. The original wooden structure was replaced in 1717 with a stone building and remodeled in 1737.
10. The Regional Museum - (CK card)
Located in the newly-reconstructed Baroque building of the former Jesuit High School, there is so much to see here that it could take an entire day to view it all, and a visit here is less crowded than at the castle. If you want to delve deep into the local history, this is the place with tons of artifacts and archaeological finds from prehistoric time up to the 19th century, a gallery of fine arts, and a 5000 book library. The social and cultural history of the area is very well presented with interesting costume exhibits. along with the troubled period under communist rule. We found the original interior of a Baroque Jesuit Pharmacy and the displays on 700 years of the history of Cesky Krumlov well worth the visit.
11. Muzeum Obchodu (Museum of Commerce and Merchandise)
We almost passed this museum without going in but when we peeked inside we knew we had to. This small advertising museum is free to get in and includes a small shop as well. The displays are of original old equipment and technology from the 19th and 20th centuries - old placards, advertising, cash registers, beer taps, coffee roasters and lots more. It takes less than 20 minutes to see everything on display, but it’s interesting if you like nostalgic advertising. Chat with the gentleman behind the counter. He’s a wealth of knowledge and loves sharing it.
12. Egon Schiele Art Centrum (CK card)
This art museum and former town brewery housed in a complex of Renaissance buildings features a permanent exhibition about the life and work of Austrian artist Egon Schiele (1890-1918) whose mother was born in Krumlovsko. On display are his drawings, graphics, personal letters, and dozens of photographs. Additionally, a large exhibit hall features rotating displays of both 20th century and contemporary artists. This is an interesting place that includes studios and apartments for contemporary artists. If you need a little something to eat the museum has a cafe that serves Czech specialties and a souvenir shop as well.
13. St. Vitus Church
Not quite as high as the castle, this Roman Catholic church stands prominently above the town, especially at night. It’s the riverfront centerpiece with impressive Neo-Gothic architecture that’s been here since 1439. The church is long and narrow (44 meters x 20 meters x 20 meters) giving the impression of a long hall. With its Baroque interior, soaring arches, and beautiful stained glass windows, this church might be smaller than many in Europe but it is truly unique.
When to Visit Cesky Krumlov
We were here in late September and we had sunny days and cool nights. A light jacket or fleece vest was all that was needed to stay comfortable. Probably the best time to visit Cesky Krumlov is from September through November, although it’s beginning to cool, and March into May. During these Fall and Spring seasons the crowds are manageable and generally there are few surprises with the weather. High season is June through August when the town is most crowded, and it can get pretty warm in the late summer months so pack accordingly. What about Winter? Some of the smaller hotels and shops will close for the season, but this is when the Christmas markets are in full swing — a great reason to visit even when it’s cold.
Come for the St. Wenceslaus Celebrations and International Folklore Festival
St. Wenceslaus is the patron saint of Bohemia (and also of beer brewers and winemakers!), and this traditional autumn festival honoring him has been celebrated since the beginning of the 14th century. Held on the last weekend in September and lasting three days, it’s the perfect time to visit, especially if you’re looking to try tons of local food all in one place! It’s an absolute feast with vendors preparing all sorts of traditional foods with plenty of local beers and wines. Restaurants have special St. Wenceslaus menus, and museums and galleries are open for nightly tours. It’s so much fun!
Good Restaurants in Cesky Krumlov
Whether you like food at a walk-up on the street or a fancy restaurant with all the trimmings, finding where to eat is never a problem. There’s no shortage of cafes, bars, coffee shops, and good restaurants in Cesky Krumlov. There’s pizza and Italian cuisine if you like, but for us it’s all about authentic local foods. Here are places we visited to try traditional Czech food.
Mastal Restaurant (Restaurace Maštal)
This is no place for vegetarians or vegans, and just might be the most popular place in town for meat lovers. This rustic and charming restaurant is located on the main town square down a few flights of stairs. It’s a warm place with low arched ceilings and felt as though we were eating in a medieval pub. The house specialties are black Angus steaks and the traditional huge pork knuckle, washed down with a great selection of wines and local beer. It’s a small place and they don’t accept walk-ins, so reservations are a must.
Hospada Na Louzi
Located in the historic town center on the first floor of a hotel of the same name dating to 1459. It’s a small pub with inside/outside seating and walls decorated with their antique collection of metal ad boards of all sizes advertising mostly beers. We had a delicious lunch here. The menu is classical Czech dishes and local specialties such as roast pork, goulash, beef in cream sauce, and roast duck. Local beer, Czech wines and spirits are all on the menu. The location is great for a cold one and people watching.
Hotel Grand Restaurant
If you can’t get a reservation for Mastal, the Hotel Grand is right next door before you start down the stairs to Mastal. This modern restaurant has outside seating, and offers both Czech and European cuisines. The menu has Czech specialties with meat and fish, but also a nice selection of vegetarian dishes. There’s a full service bar with local beer and a selection of Czech and international wines. But like most restaurants on the town square it gets very busy especially when the weather is mild, so a reservation is a good idea.
Late on a Sunday evening we were having trouble deciding where to eat when we stumbled across this lovely restaurant. The menu posted outside was all local Czech cuisine and it was cold out, so we thought we’d give it a try. Maybe it was the large blown-glass demijohn bottles filled with pear brandy that were hanging in the vestibule that sealed the deal. It was a good find, cozy and comfortable, and my trout was excellent. But for us the winner here was their apple strudel. No matter what you order, be sure to leave room for dessert and a pear brandy to wash it down.
Papa’s Living Restaurant
Located close to the Lazebnický bridge on the castle side of the river, this restaurant is easy to find and serves steaks, fish, pork, and Italian pasta dishes. Even better if you’re craving pizza (who doesn’t once in a while?) We liked the atmosphere here, very comfortable with its painted arched ceiling. And they have one of the better wine lists in town along with a full service bar. If you’re craving a pizza or pasta fix amidst all the pork knuckle and dumplings, we recommend Papa’s.
The menu at Restaurant Bohemia is broad with typical and heavy Czech cuisine - fish, steaks, and pork, a real stick-to-your-ribs kinda place. Our choices were just that, filling and delicious. We started with potato and mushroom soup then shared pork and dumplings with sauerkraut, and a slice of smoked ham folded into a perfectly crisped potato pancake smothered in gravy. It may have been on the pricier side of the places we tried, but everything we had was excellent.
U’dwau Maryi (Two Marys)
This hole-in-the-wall joint is delightfully authentic with great food and a prime riverfront location. The Bohemian-style food is straight out of the middle ages, served in a building that’s been here for 500 years! A narrow hallway leads to the open air dining room with communal seating at long tables. Highly recommended for your first medieval meal is the Old Bohemian Feast made up of smaller portions of their main dishes. The cabbage soup is also excellent. You’d better be hungry! The menu has lots of meat reminiscent of the middle ages, like rabbit and pheasant, but there’s also a good selection of vegetarian dishes including an Old Bohemian Vegetarian Feast. A fun place with diner-style service and excellent food.
It’s not a restaurant, but rather one of the most popular and most Instagrammable foods in the in the Czech Republic! We couldn’t talk about food in Cesky Krumlov without mentioning Trdelnik, the sweet pastry that’s made by winding a length of it around a wooden or metal spit, then cooked over an open flame as the spit turns. The hollow round dough shell is typically sprinkled with sugar along with either walnuts, chocolate or cinnamon. We ate ours with just sugar and cinnamon but they’re most popular filled with fruits or ice cream, cone-style. Eat ‘em when they’re still warm for a fun and a sticky treat. They’re made at walk-ups all over town, so you’ll have no trouble finding one to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Hotels in Cesky Krumlov
There are lots of great choices for where to stay in Cesky Krumlov, from quaint and intimate boutique B&Bs and luxury hotels to comfortable hostels for budget travelers. Here are our favorites!
Pension u Kaplicky
By far our first choice for one of the most quaint places to stay in Cesky Krumlov, this unique and fully-restored bed and breakfast has just two wonderfully appointed rooms with private baths, plus a spacious family suite on the top floor. The hearty breakfast, served in your room by the owner, is as creative as it is satisfying - topped off with fresh juice and a full pot of pressed coffee. The bed was super comfy, and the room also has a cafe table and chairs, small microwave and fridge. Perhaps the best thing about staying here is the great location. It sits right at Mestsky Park, and is an easy 5 minute walk into town. With only three rooms in this lovely B&B, book well in advance and be prepared to pay in cash (ATMs are close by). Check rates and availability.
Next door to the castle, this award-winning hotel has both luxury and location. The Bellevue has single rooms and luxury suites with full concierge service, a great restaurant, excellent wine cellar, and spa services as well - all you’d expect in a luxury hotel. We travel fairly modestly but them to be a good value for what they offer. If you like something a bit more spacious than a bed and breakfast, this is a great choice. Check more details like rates and availability.
If you’re looking for perfect views of Cesky Krumlov Castle and the Vltava river, this luxury hotel is the place to be. There’s an indoor swimming pool, whirlpool, sauna, gym, and wooden soaking tubs to enjoy an aromatic lavender bath. We only toured the hotel but were impressed at the design with rich woodwork and the intimate restaurant with a lobby bar. On warmer days, having dinner on the outside terrace overlooking the river and the town is a nice option. Check availability and more details.
Svachovka Hotel in Cesky Krumlov is the only rural retreat just minutes outside Cesky Krumlov with its very own 18-hole golf course, brewery, distillery, beer spa, chocolate candy factory, and restaurant. The hotel is comprised of three different types of accommodations, and they’re all excellent. The main hotel where we stayed is the original farmhouse of the property built over 100 years ago, and has VIP suites and rooms overlooking the pond. The Depandance Tee House has modern ‘golf style’ rooms and one fully-equipped apartment with private kitchen and living room. Lastly, the Depandance Distillery has new nicely appointed rooms on the top floor. If you aren’t renting a car, they’ll provide inexpensive shuttle transportation for you. Check more details and availability.
The Best Views of Cesky Krumlov
No doubt the most recognizable symbol of Cesky Krumlov is the magnificent castle tower. Along with the beautiful decorative painting are four huge bells hung in the tower and other small bells, known as the clock bells that have been in the upper part of the tower for 400 years. If you climb the 162 steps to the top the reward is a spectacular view of the town. This a site where you’ll have to deal with crowds and if you’re a bit claustrophobic it may not be for you. The tower closes at 4:00pm in Winter, 5:00pm in Spring and Fall, and 6:00pm in the Summer.
A small garden terrace that overlooks the town and river. It’s best feature is the direct view of the castle perched above the town and the overlap of the castle and church towers, a beautiful view and easy to get to. It wasn’t crowded here, and we found it the best place to use a tripod.
The Cloak Bridge
Looking for a great view looking down on the town? Make your way up the hill to the covered stone bridge with its arches and statues that leads to the castle. The best times are early morning before the day tours arrive or late in the day. Our favorite was at sunset and after when the lights of the town made it look magical.
Cesky Krumlov at Night
THIS is why you should spend a few days in Cesky Krumlov, and not just a few hours!
How to Get to Cesky Krumlov
Getting to Cesky Krumlov is pretty straight forward depending on where you’re coming from. The road system is excellent and transportation is affordable and reliable.
From Prague to Cesky Krumlov: By far the most popular method is by RegioJet Bus, a comfortable 3 hour trip each way. Train service is also a good option, and you can buy your ticket on the same day - no need for a reservation. Trains always take a bit longer than the bus, like the Cesky Krumlov to Prague train which takes around 3 hours and 25 minutes.
From Vienna to Cesky Krumlov: Connections from Vienna to Cesky Krumlov aren’t the best. The train takes about 5 hours and 30 minutes and the bus takes over 8 hours. The train is more expensive than the bus and can be double the cost depending on the time of day. Many folks we spoke with had used a private shuttle company (CK Shuttle and Bean Shuttle) to come from Vienna.
České Budějovice to Cesky Krumlov: The RegioJet Bus easily runs between the two towns and only takes 25 minutes. This is a popular excursion if you’re making your way from Cesky Krumlov to Prague and want a short detour through České Budějovice (the original home of Budweiser beer). We recommend you book bus tickets in advance.
From Linz to Cesky Krumlov: From Linz, Austria you can take either the bus or train. The bus takes only 1 hour and 30 minutes. We don’t recommend the train, unless of course you really like trains, as the train takes 3 hours and 45 minutes. The most popular method is by private transport (we used Sebastian Tours & Transport). We turned in our rental car at the Linz Airport on a Sunday morning. Sebastian Tours picked us up in front of the car rental agency. It cost more than the bus but was very easy and comfortable. Our driver was friendly, courteous, and gave us some good tips for maximizing our time in Cesky Krumlov. Best of all, he dropped us right at our hotel. Private shuttle will run you around 25-30€ per person (around $28-30 USD).
Train and bus service from major cities is reliable and usually convenient. If you have other plans like stopping along the way to see different parts of the country and it’s in your budget, we recommend renting a car as driving in the South Bohemian region is safe and easy, although parking a car in Cesky Krumlov can be a challenge.
Don’t you just want to pack your bags and go? Cesky Krumlov needs to be seen to be believed. In fact, all of the Czech Republic is a leading tourist destination these days, and of course the capital city of Prague is on so many Bucket Lists — all with good reason. But in our opinion, Cesky Krumlov has all the fairytale charm of it’s bigger sibling and far less of the crowds. For this reason alone, Cesky Krumlov and South Bohemia should be at the top of that list!
Thank you to South Bohemia and Czech Tourism for their consideration during our stay. As always, all opinions are ours based on our first hand experience during our stay. For a good overview of the beautiful region, visit their websites.