By Chris Meechan-Ring
If fairy tale villages and medieval castles appeal then Cesky Krumlov is the place for you!
It took me right back to the stories I had read as a child about bold knights and beautiful princesses. Arriving here was like walking straight into a fantasy as it’s a place where you can let your imagination run wild!
The town of Cesky Krumlov is located a 3-4 hours drive from Prague in the Southern Bohemian region of the Czech Republic. The drive down was pleasant as we passed lots of lovely countryside and rolling hills. We were fortunate enough to visit during Autumn and the colours of the leaves were just beautiful. On the way we also drove through the town of České Budějovice which is famous for its Budweiser beer.
Going Back in Time
Cesky Krumlov’s castle complex and the old town are both UNESCO World Heritage listed and it’s easy to see why as you wander the quaint cobblestone streets. Cars are not allowed in the Old Town which all adds to the magical atmosphere. Exploring the laneways is like going back in time, they are full of interesting little shops and are a great place to pick up trinkets and souvenirs. Leather goods and bohemian crystal are the specialties around here, but half the fun is in the browsing! Many of the buildings around here have stood for hundreds of years, and it’s quite awe-inspiring.
Like most towns in this part of the world, in Cesky Krumlov there is a grand square with a statue in the centre and a church on the edge. Buskers are often found playing folk music from the region, in addition to well-known compositions from the greats. From the main square you can explore in any direction and there is really no need for a map as the town itself is quite small. Even though it’s a bit of a tourist spot, the town never feels crowded and we had no problem finding a quiet restaurant for lunch. Here we sampled the local wine and famous ‘goulash’, a specialty of this part of the world. It’s a delicious, richly seasoned meat and vegetable stew. The bread dumplings are also a treat and worth trying!
Exploring the Castle
The highlight of any visit to Cesky Krumlov is definitely a tour of the castle, which was originally built around 1253. We got shown around inside the building by a local guide who specialises in the history of the castle. The building and interior is a unique blend of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles, as it has been built and re-modelled over many generations. The castle has a very authentic feeling as the rooms are filled with antiques and paintings belonging to the families that have lived there over the centuries. The murals in the 1400’s Baroque Theatre have to be seen to be believed! Outside the castle, in the empty moat, live two very large bears that you can see as you cross the bridge from the castle to the town – this was definitely an unexpected highlight for me!
Cesky Krumlov was a real highlight of my time in the Czech Republic. While it’s quite popular with tourists, it still has the feeling of being a bit of a secret and as such, it’s still a hidden a gem. Take some time to simply wander around and find a quiet spot, be it a side-street restaurant for lunch, ice cream down by the river or some reflecting time in one of the courtyards, I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed!
You can see the magic of Cesky Krumlov as part of our 23 day Moscow to Prague tour.