8 Enchanting Things to do in Cesky Krumlov
Wandering along the cobbled lanes of Cesky Krumlov feels a bit like stepping back in time. Narrow, winding streets are lined with painted facades featuring decorative flourishes and a faint aroma of dough and cinnamon often wafts through the air. The medieval town in southwestern Czech Republic has a well-preserved core with touches of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles, landing it on UNESCO’s World Heritage List and many travel bucket lists.
Most things to do in Cesky Krumlov revolve around the landmark castle, but the riverfront locale along the Vltava and the centuries of legacy contained here means everything from water sports to storied monasteries might land on your agenda.
While the compact size and proximity to Prague make Cesky Krumlov a popular day trip destination, staying for at least a night or two will give you a much better opportunity to soak up the winsome atmosphere outside the buzzing midday hours when the top attractions in the village overflow with selfie sticks.
Read on for ideas of what to do in Cesky Krumlov and scroll to the bottom for some useful tips for your visit.
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8 Enchanting things to do in Cesky Krumlov
Explore the Cesky Krumlov Castle
The centerpiece of Cesky Krumlov is its castle, rising hilltop from the banks of the Vltava River. Dating to the 13th century, the fortress displays internal and external details of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles. It’s free to traipse around the grounds and gardens of the huge complex, but exploring the interior spaces costs a small fee. Guided tours show off grand halls, portrait galleries and the Baroque Castle Theater, while a museum holds regal artifacts from the nobles who once resided here.
Stroll the Castle Gardens
With its centerpiece fountain and winding hedge paths, the Castle Gardens in Cesky Krumlov fill more than 25 acres on the slopes of the complex. Dating to the 17th century, the Baroque-styled space is perfect for an afternoon stroll along green lawns and colorful flora. You can wander the terraces for free during a visit to the castle grounds.
Climb the Castle Tower
The elaborate and colorful Castle Tower is visible from all over town, rising a couple hundred feet above the banks of the river. With roots to the 13th century and reconstructed murals and decor of Renaissance style, the structure is full of storied charm, from its perennial bells to the creaking wooden staircases inside. A viewing gallery 162 steps up offers panoramic vistas of the surrounding countryside and the orange rooftops of downtown Cesky Krumlov framed by the picture-perfect, u-shaped bend of the river.
Tour the Minorite Monastery
Established in the 1300s by the Rosenbergs, Klastery Cesky Krumlov offers everything from history tours to family-friendly craft workshops. In its heyday, the double monastery housed both monks and Poor Clares, the brothers and sisters of the St. Francis order. The buildings saw multiple rounds of reconstructions over the centuries, including Gothic and Baroque redesigns, but the most recent 21st-century revitalization transformed it into a cultural space full of medieval history and art. Among the local makers here, you’ll find a potter, tailor and blacksmith.
Raft the Vltava River
With so much waterfront surrounding the city of Cesky Krumlov, getting out on the river is a must on a warm day. Rafting is a popular way to enjoy the Vltava here, and you’ll often see folks floating near town under the shadow of the castle. Both hourly boat rentals and guided excursions and day trips to nearby villages are available through local companies.
Hang out in Town Square
Pastel facades line Svornosti Square in the middle of the old town, where stone streets and a centerpiece Baroque column help retain the old-timey feel. Most of the historic buildings here have been converted into hotels and restaurants, so the square stays lively even as the daytime tourists have filtered away and the evening candles begin flickering on the open-air dining tables. Winding alleys and streets sprawl out from here toward the river and hold gift shops, bakeries and cafes.
Visit St. Vitus Church
You can’t help but notice the steeple of St. Vitus Church poking up from the skyline as you gaze down at Cesky Krumlov from the castle grounds. Established in the 1300s, the church preserves pieces of the following centuries, from its architecture to its altar and art. The focal organs inside date to the 1700s while some frescoes have stuck around from the 1400s. Today, you might catch a classical concert inside, or you can pop in for a look around between regular services.
From marionettes to contemporary art, the museum scene in Cesky Krumlov is just as charming and quirky as the town. Head the the Regional Museum for local history in an old schoolhouse or the Museum of Torture for a fright in the cellars below town hall. Art lovers can check out the collection of photos and have their portrait taken at Museum Fotoatelier Seidel or admire the modern gallery housed in a 1500s brewery at Egon Schiele Art Centrum.
Tips for visiting Cesky Krumlov
1. Spend the night. During the day, Cesky Krumlov fills with tourists visiting on excursions from nearby cities like Prague. By mid-morning, the halls of the castle begin to swell with crowds and downtown streets buzz with shoppers. Come late afternoon, though, the day-trippers filter out and a quiet peace returns that lasts through the early hours of the day. Spending the night is the best way to experience the town without photo-bombing other tourists.
2. Arrive early to the castle. The day trippers typically begin arriving by 10 a.m. or so, and crowds peak come early afternoon, so opening is the best time to see the castle. Walk the grounds first thing in the morning and grab the earliest entry times (9 a.m.) for the tours or tower and then leave during the midday rush. If you return before sunset, you can catch the show from the hilltop once the mob has scattered. Since a ticket isn’t required for the exterior grounds, it’s easy to come and go as you please.
3. Wander away from the town square. Most of the activity in town takes place around the castle and the immediate vicinity of town square, but walk a couple of blocks away and you’ll find much quieter streets. Everything from trinket shops and gingerbread bakeries to a blacksmith and cobbler can be found along the winding lanes on both sides of the river.
4. The castle has the prime views. If you want that iconic shot you see on postcards of the Vltava River wrapping around downtown in a U shape, head up to the castle. Two of the best views of the city and river bend are from the Castle Tower (for a fee) and from a small cafe and viewpoint (free) near the Castle Theater just past the Cloak Bridge.
5. Buy the Cesky Krumlov card. With admission to five museums included, the Cesky Krumlov Card is a great bargain at less than $15 (300 CZK for adults, kids are discounted). It includes the Castle Museum and Castle Tower as well as the Regional Museum, Museum Fotoatelier, Egon Schiele Art Centrum and Cesky Krumlov Monasteries. Get all the details here.
Where to stay in Cesky Krumlov
There are tons of historic guest houses, hostels and hotels in Cesky Krumlov to choose from. Most are in walking distance to the top attractions and some even include views of the Cesky Krumlov Castle and perks like free breakfast.
How to get to Cesky Krumlov
There are tons of guided tours available to Cesky Krumlov, but you can also visit on your own using buses, trains or shuttles. We break down the pros and cons of different Prague to Cesky day trips and transit options.