Czech Republic Part 1 – Český Krumlov: A Journey Back In Time

Some places are worth visiting for the natural wonders, some for the culture, others for the culinary delights.  Český Krumlov has a different type of appeal.  It is a town where you can step back in time almost 800 years and take a walk through history.  The streets are impeccably preserved to maintain the look and feel of its medieval roots.

The town is in the southern portion of the Czech Republic, and is home to just over fourteen thousand people.  It is located on the banks of the Vlatva river, an historically important trade route, which makes its way through Prague to the north.  Old town is situated between the snaking s-curves of the river with footbridges connecting the tear drops of land.  The north end is overlooked by a towering castle, first constructed in the 13th century.  Today, the cobblestone streets are lined with shops and restaurants, providing a picturesque setting of  life many centuries past.img_0175We spent four nights in Český Krumlov (pronounced “chess-key kroom-lav”) as part of a nine day trip through the Czech Republic.  This was our first stop in the country with the second half spent in Prague, which will be the subject of our next post.  During our total nine day trip, we averaged $120.87 in costs per day as a couple, which is up from our average cost of traveling in Hungary.  This increase was primarily due to higher food costs.  Our higher cost of entry by plane was balanced out with very low in country transit prices.  During our visit, the Czech koruna (CZK) was trading around 22 CZK per $1 USD.

We are currently on a trip around the world, with stops in over 20 countries.  We are recording our journey in this travel blog, along with all of our research and experiences leading up to and during the adventure.  If you know someone who would like to read about traveling in Iceland, Austria or Hungary, or is interested in extended travel, please share our website!  We would be very appreciative.img_0204We arrived in Prague via a one stop flight from Budapest through Munich.  The plane ticket ran around $130 per person with Air Berlin, and was the cheapest flight without additional stops.  Our flight provided great service and snacks although leg room was lacking.  We decided to bypass Prague at the beginning and have one full day of traveling to eliminate unnecessary travel days.

Upon arrival in Prague, we took an Uber to the main bus terminal and took a coach shuttle for another 3 hours to our final stop in Český Krumlov.  Our research found a popular bus company in the area, Student Agency / RegioJet, which has a regular route between the two cities leaving from the Na Knížecí bus station.  This is a popular company amongst locals and travelers which provided us a cheap, comfortable, and reliable trip.  The total cost per person for a round trip was only €7.90 (about $9), and could be booked ahead online with reserved seating.  The trip cost included seat back entertainment screens with headsets, hot drinks, wifi, a bathroom, air conditioning, newspapers and magazines, and modern comfortable seats.  We highly recommend this bus for the area, which can also be used in and between the neighboring countries.img_0237While in Český Krumlov, we did a wide variety of activities including day trips to neighboring towns.  We explored the old town on a Wiseman free walking tour, walked the Castle and gardens, visited the 500 year old Eggenberg brewery, and climbed the castle tower.  We also canoed down the Vlatva River, biked around neighboring Zlatá Koruna, and journeyed north to visit Čéské Budéjovice.img_0192A walk through the old town area is truly magical, making you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.  There are no modern buildings squeezed between original structures.  They are required to maintain their original appearances, so inside spaces tend to be cave like.  Many restaurants overlook the river or have garden patios, so there are ample opportunities to take in the surroundings.img_0143Český Krumlov is no different than many restored European towns as it has a large tourist draw.  We found that visiting outside of the 10:00 AM 4:00 PM timeframe helped get more out of the experience.  Tour buses cart people into town for the day making streets swell with tourists and restaurants operate at capacity.  The chance of getting stuck in a slow moving crowd of camera toting gawkers or having your picture ruined by a rogue selfie decreases significantly outside of these times.

One of our favorite viewpoints in town was from the Castle Tower.  It is accessed from the Castle courtyard, with an entry of 50 CZK ($2.25).  There is a 360 degree view of the town which is well worth the price.  Final entry is 5:30 PM with a 6:00 PM close time.img_0230img_0225The town is small and can be fully explored in a couple of days.  We added a fun day trip from town to explore Zlatá Koruna, a town and monastery around 12 miles down river.  We rented an inflatable canoe and bike from one of the many rental companies in the area.  We used Expedicion, which was the cheapest option available at 450 CZK per person for the full day.  The rental package included a canoe for the outbound trip and a bike for the return.  The bike rental was good for the entire day.  This is a small company so calling the owner to set up arrangements was key.  The company was at the edge of town but the owner picked us up and dropped us off at the boat yard to start our journey.  He met us at the end of the boat trip to switch us to our nicely equipped hybrid bikes.Cesky KrumlovWe had a lot of fun on the trip down, although the river is very flat and therefore slow, so we were forced to paddle continuously for the three hour trip to the monastery.  In hindsight, we would likely have chosen a shorter trip which would have been more relaxing.  There are food and beer stops scattered along the route for breaks.  The total day of activity took us around seven hours.

Another easy side trip is to Čéské Budéjovice, a town located around 30 minutes to the north.  There is a direct ride available hourly on the RegioJet for €2.5 round trip.   We only stayed for an afternoon, but got a chance to walk around town and climb the tower for a view of the city.img_0247While in town, we also visited the original Budweiser Budvar brewery.  While the company shares a name with the American Budweiser, they are two different companies who have been litigating the naming rights for over 100 years.  There is a very flashy bar/tasting room, and tours are offered daily at 2:00 PM.

We discovered a couple of really delicious restaurants during our stay in Český Krumlov.  Restaurace Jelenka was located next to our hotel and offered higher end food for cheap.  We also visited an amazing vegetarian restaurant, Laibon, in the heart of old town with a patio on the river.  It is owned by an amazingly engaging man who takes time to stop and talk with every table all while serving the food and taking payments.

Overall, a visit to Český Krumlov is very rewarding.  That said, be prepared for crowds, especially in summer.  We took a tour of the city and learned that old town area prices have driven out all residents, so everything remaining caters solely to tourists.

What we learned while traveling in Český Krumlov:

  • The whole old town area is a tourist district.  Prices and options to match.
  • We recommend 1-2 days to explore the town of Český Krumlov, but 3-5 days if you want to explore the quaint neighboring towns.
  • Tipping 10% is customary.  Credit card is mostly accepted.  Euro accepted widely.
  • Use Student Agency / RegioJet to get around Czech Republic – cheap, fun, comfortable, reliable.  Routes run hourly.
  • Try a free walking tour – we took Wiseman Free Walking Tour.   Great orientation to the city with lots of culture, history and jokes.
  • Visit the Castle, tower and gardens.
  • Day trip to Austria’s.  Linz (40 minutes) or Wachau wine valley (2 hours).
  • Highly recommend a canoe / raft trip.  Raft down, bike back is a great option for a workout!  Bring lunch and drinks for the trip.
  • Explore neighboring towns on bike:  Křemže, Zlatá Koruna, Holubov, or take the chair lift up to Kleť mountain from Krasetín.
  • Bike routes can be poorly marked and some are gravel roads or alone side traffic.  Be prepared with proper bike maps and don’t rely on signage.
  • Visit the Original Budweiser Budvar Brewery in Čéské Budéjovice or Eggenberg brewery in Český Krumlov.
  • Taste many other Czech beer (lager style), Moldova wines (south near Brno) or their sparkling wine Bohemia Sekt.
  • Grocery stores are typically closed on Sundays.

Make sure you also check out our other resources for world travel, including Compact Packing, Understanding Travel Insurance, Mobile Travel Technology, and our Inspiration!

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