When it comes to Czechia, people think of Prague. And that’s why Prague is crazy crowded any time of the year. So crowded that they actually make some narrow pedestrian streets one-way only in busier periods of the year – and rightly so, since you’d stand no chance going against the crowd, anyway. But Prague is not the only nice place worth visiting in Czechia.
We’d even go as far as to state that it’s not even the nicest. Of course, to each his own. But we were amazed by our first countryside road trip in Moravia, and even more so on our second road trip in South Bohemia this spring. Why? Let us show you.
Český Krumlov, one of the best preserved old towns in Europe
Old towns take you back centuries ago. They make you feel like being in a fairy tale – even though you’re aware that living in the Middle Ages was no fairy tale, there were not even proper toilets, and plague killed half of the population. By the way, each of these charming old towns have a plague memorial, usually in the middle of the main square. Český Krumlov is no exception, its plague column is on Náměstí Svornosti.
But Český Krumlov is an exception otherwise. It has an exceptionally well-preserved, intact historical center hugged around by the sharp curves of Vltava River. The cobbled streets, the medieval houses, the colorful coat-of-arms and 13th-century Český Krumlov Castle amazed us. And the views! Several viewing terraces and the castle itself offer great panorama above the red roofs and Vltava River.
Inside Český Krumlov Castle
This castle is one of the most significant ones in the Czech Republic, and we actually liked it even more than Prague Castle. Its lovely garden and courtyards are free to visit. Then you can purchase different tickets for the interior tours, the castle museum, the tower and the Baroque theater.
We chose an English tour of the Renaissance and Baroque interiors (called Route I), but you can check all the options and availability on the official website, and choose the ones you like. But pay attention to the details, because some tours are not available year-round, and opening hours also change with the season.
Our favorite viewpoints in Český Krumlov
The town is built on hills, the castle garden is also on the top of a hill. It means great (and free!) opportunities for pretty views. We liked the terrace at the Regional Museum (across the building of luxurious Hotel Ruze), and even more the several terraces between the castle garden and the castle entrance.
The historical town has neat little bridges that also offer nice views of the pastel-colored medieval houses, and St. Vitus Church and St. Jost Church towering above them. The most famous one is Lazebnický most (Lazebnický bridge), but we recommend walking over all three of them leading in and out of the historical center.
Walking on the banks of Vltava River is another opportunity to take in the views of this special place. Since the weather was calm enough, we could see nice reflections of the old houses in the river.
Our favorite streets in Český Krumlov
Despite of the chilly, windy, rainy weather we got for our South Bohemian road trip in May, we walked a lot in Český Krumlov. We like exploring places on foot, especially places with such pretty streets as Český Krumlov.
Our favorites were Široká, Na Ostrově and Latrán streets. But we also liked Linecká and Horská streets around Mestsky Park. And honestly, we could list any of the streets here. But now at least you have something to type into Google Maps to start your walk in the old town. Then just wander wherever you like. And don’t forget to stop for the best street food ever: trdelník – the famous Czech chimney cake. 🙂
How many days do you need for Český Krumlov?
Most probably one. As cute and beautiful and perfect as it is, it’s not that large. Even if you take some of the castle tours, there’s still enough time to walk around and explore every corner of the historical town. If you need to spend half of your day indoors because of the pouring rain (yeah, like us), then you might need two days. Otherwise, you can take a look at other amazing places, because South Bohemia has more.
Hluboká nad Vltavou, the most romantic castle in Czechia
Guys, we told you we found the most perfect fairy tale castle of Eastern Europe after we visited Lednice Castle in Moravia. Well, we have to correct ourselves now. Because this title goes to Hluboká nad Vltavou Castle. 😀
This Neo-Gothic jewel is often described as the most beautiful castle in Czechia, and we wholeheartedly agree. Even though the weather was far from romantic when we visited – grey skies, chilly wind and occasional showers -, and we felt sorry for those few roses that decided to bloom early, Hluboká Castle impressed.
With its 140 rooms and 11 towers, Hluboká offers several tours to visitors – you can check them on the official website. We did the representative rooms and the private apartments tours. The representative rooms especially amazed us with their lavish decoration, fine woodworks, elegant furnishings and chandeliers. They are truly from a fairy tale.
Jindřichův Hradec, a barely known gem
A Renaissance chateau mirrored in the Vajgar Pond – an iconic image of the small town of Jindřichův Hradec. About 1 hour drive from Český Krumlov, this barely known town also offers a lovely historical center, some cheerfully painted houses and a nice main square (with a plague column, of course). The small bridges and paths around Vajgar Pond will treat you with those photogenic mirrored views – unless it’s too windy.
Hiking in Šumava National Park
If you read this blog regularly, you know we hike wherever we go. 🙂 Even if we visit a region mainly for its cultural treasures, there should be a nice place for a hike nearby, and we want to find that. In South Bohemia it was Šumava National Park where we spent 2 days, hiking to all the alpine lakes we could find.
The deep, primaeval forests and clear alpine lakes of Šumava National Park are part of a harmonious, unspoilt landscape on the Czech-Bavarian border. Even driving through this park gave us a sense of tranquility and majesty.
Then we hiked to the Black and Devil’s Lakes, did the Prášilské Lake loop, and conquered Plechý Hill, the highest peak of the park (1378 meters) with another amazing lake on the way: Plešné Lake. We said goodbye to Šumava with a casual walk in the valley of River Vydra.
Although the weather didn’t get much better, and it rained a lot, we fell in love with the peace and beauty of this park. We are currently working on a detailed guide to all the hikes we liked (which is all the hikes we did 😀 ), so stay tuned, it’s coming soon.
Červená Lhota Castle – our Instagram dreams ruined
Our final stop on this road trip was another romantic castle: Červená Lhota that we know from countless Instagram shots. It’s a nice red castle in the middle of a small lake. Pretty girls usually pose in even prettier dresses with this castle in the background, while the castle and the bright blue sky is reflected in the lake. Pretty dresses were out of the question this time – just like bright blue skies. Still we decided to take a walk around the lake, and we planned it to be f*cking romantic. No matter the wind, the cold, the rain. We wanted to do this. Hah, life’s not like that. Life’s like this:
No lake, but a huge reconstruction site. I’m sure it looks super lovely when the lake exists though. Almost as lovely as on all those Instagram shots. And probably we should just keep browsing our Insta feed and daydreaming instead of letting reality ruin our perfect world. 😛
Useful information if you visit by car
We wouldn’t say you have to have a car to explore the area, since there are lots of tours, shuttle services and also good old public transport. But we drove there from Budapest with our own car, which was easier in some terms and more challenging in others. Mainly parking. 😛 Parking is always a challenge in European cities. And no, you don’t want to navigate the narrow streets of those charming old towns either – often, you are not even allowed to, like in Český Krumlov.
So we are sharing some useful tips to make your life easier if you visit by car:
- there are no toll roads in this part of Czechia, so most probably you don’t need to buy a vignette (if you drive further to Prague or Brno, that’s a different story – you can buy a vignette at most petrol stations before using the toll road)
- parking is free in Český Krumlov and Jindřichův Hradec in the weekends (not in the historical centers, but about 10-15 minutes walk from there)
- there are several dedicated paid parking lots around Český Krumlov’s historical center that you can use; they are marked as P1, P2, P3 and P4, and road signs will help you finding them
- for night parking, find a place to stay that offers free parking – we decided to stay in Penzion Kameňák in the nearby town of Kamenný Újezd; it’s about 15 minutes drive from Český Krumlov, and we found it a great base to explore the area by car, also a nice place to stay for several days as our apartment was comfy and well-equipped
- in the villages of Šumava National Park we could mostly find paid parking lots, and it was not allowed to park elsewhere; we usually opted for a bit more walking and parked at the free lot for the ski lift or somewhere outside of the village, since parking was as expensive as in the center of Český Krumlov
More places to visit in South Bohemia
If all the above still don’t seem to be enough, you can add two more lovely towns to your itinerary: České Budejovice and Písek. We planned to visit them at least briefly, but finally we decided to shorten our days because of the weather, so we didn’t have the time. If you do, tell us whether we made a mistake. But please consider that sometimes a hot shower seems to be the best thing in the world. 😛
Have you seen Czechia beyond Prague? Which places were your favorites?
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