Things to do in Cesky Krumlov – one of the most enchanting towns in Europe

by Czech Republic

Český Krumlov is one of the most popular destinations for day trips from Prague, and with good reason. This is one of the most beautiful places in Europe, and probably second behind Prague among the best places to visit in Czech Republic.

There are far too many things to do in Cesky Krumlov to squeeze in a single day, and we’ve compiled a guide to the many Cesky Krumlov attractions for you to peruse. 

Cesky Krumlov Castle is the main draw, a magnificent complex of buildings high above the town and the river Vltava (the same river as in Prague). Virtually every house in Český  Krumlov old town is a work of art, with many dating from the Renaissance period.

It’s one of the prettiest places in Europe, but the sheer depth of detail makes Cesky Krumlov so much more than a chocolate box tourist destination. 

Many things to do in Český  Krumlov have opened in the last twenty years or so – there are far more Cesky Krumlov museums than when I first visited. It’s also much more touristed, but this has done little to diminish its charm. After spending several days there, we were all enchanted, and our six-year-old son was moved to say it’s the most beautiful place he had ever seen. 

In our town guide we’ll describe what to see in Cesky Krumlov, where to eat and suggest the best hotels in Cesky Krumlov. We’ll also tell you everything you need to know about getting to Cesky Krumlov, and point you in the direction of the best tours to Cesky Krumlov, including options from Prague. As we travelled as a family, we also suggest places to visit in Cesky Krumlov with kids

Image of Cesky Krumlov Castle and Town

THINGS TO DO IN CESKY KRUMLOV – HIGHLIGHTS

  1. Wander the atmospheric streets
  2. Foto Atelier Seidel – a unique photography and historical museum 
  3. Visit Cesky Krumlov Castle
  4. The Baroque Theatre in the Castle 
  5. The view of the town from the Cloak Bridge and nearby Café 
  6. Dinner or a beer at Hospoda Na Louzi, one of the most atmospheric restaurants in Cesky Krumlov 
  7. The Fairytale House Puppet Museum – our son’s favourite and a slightly ramshackle medieval garret full of wonders  

Where is Český Krumlov Czech Republic?  

Castle Cesky Krumlov Image of Cesky Krumov Castle and Tower at dusk

Cesky Krumlov is in the region of South Bohemia, just north of the border with Austria. It’s 172 km (107 miles) south of Prague, and 24 km (15 miles) south-west of the regional capital Ceské Budejovice. The Austrian city of Linz is 85 km (53 miles) to the south. 

How To Get From Prague To Cesky Krumlov 

Image of houses in Cesky Krumlov Old Town
Image of houses in Cesky Krumlov Old Town seen from the Castle
Image of the town of Cesky Krumlov from the Castle terrace
Cesky Krumlov from the Castle cafe terrace

At the time of writing, there is one direct Prague to Cesky Krumlov train a day. It departs Prague Hlavni Nadrazi at 0901, arriving at 1152. Several other trains from Prague to Cesky Krumlov run each day, with most of them involving one change at Ceské Budejovice. Cesky Krumlov station is a short taxi ride from the Old Town. 

If you’d prefer more direct options, the RegioJet bus from Prague to Cesky Krumlov is your best bet. Services tends to run hourly from Na Knižeci bus station in Smichov, across the street from the Staropramen brewery. The Cesky Krumlov bus station is also much closer to the Old Town (Stare Mesto) – barely a five-minute walk.  

If you decide to drive from Prague to Cesky Krumlov, be aware that you’ll have to park outside the town. Parking in Cesky Krumlov old town is well-nigh impossible – Should you be staying in Cesky Krumlov, the hotels have car parks which tend to be on the edge of the historic area, a short walk from your Cesky Krumlov accommodation.  

Is A Prague Day Trip To Cesky Krumlov Enough? 

Image of Cesky Krumlov Castle at night

In a word, no. It’s undoubtedly one of the best day trips from Prague, but a few measly hours there will only leave you wanting more. 

I should know. I once did a day trip to Cesky Krumlov from Prague – during my Inter Rail trip around Europe in 1991 – and have been yearning to go back ever since. It only took 29 years, but I made it in the end! 

It’s somewhere you can appreciate most when the crowds of day-trippers have left. You can savour the architecture of Cesky Krumlov old town, or walk up through the Castle and have the place to yourself. At night it’s like you’re walking around a film set, something I’ve only felt in places like Monsaraz, Portugal or Portmeirion, Wales. 

If you are planning to travel from Prague to Cesky Krumlov, do everything you can to stay overnight, even if it’s just for one night. Otherwise, it’s well worth considering a Cesky Krumlov tour from Prague, to get the very best of the time available. 

THINGS TO DO IN CESKY KRUMLOV

1. WANDER THE MAGICAL STREETS OF CESKY KRUMLOV

Image of houses in Cesky Krumlov Old Town seen from the Castle

Old Town Cesky Krumlov is breathtaking. It’s easily one of the best old towns in Europe, and we spent many an hour just wandering – as with much larger places like Venice, it’s the best way to discover the city. It’s so beautiful that we’ve also written a separate photo article on Cesky Krumlov old town to show you even more of it. 

Most of the Cesky Krumlov architecture you see dates from the late Middle Ages onwards. Some of the building exteriors are incredibly intricate, comparable with the amazing Renaissance burgher houses in Slavonice near the Austrian border. Be sure to seek out the row of houses on Široka just beyond the Egon Schiele art centre. If you opt to stay overnight, it may also be worth spending an hour or two on a Cesky Krumlov walking tour, which gives additional information and stories about some of the amazing buildings around the town. 

Image of medieval houses on Siroka Street Cesky Krumlov
Siroka, one of the most beautiful Cesky Krumlov streets

Also try to make time to stroll along the Cesky Krumlov river, the Vltava, admiring the picturesque valley with the houses opposite reflected in the water. You’re never far away from the soothing sound of water rushing down the town’s weirs, which you’ll encounter up close should you embark on a rafting Cesky Krumlov trip. 

Image of architectural detail from townhouse in Cesky Krumlov
Image of Namesti Svornosti square in Cesky Krumlov Czech Republic
Image of Cesky Krumlov Castle and the River Vltava below

There are also several superb viewpoints around the town.  One of our favourites is the small garden next door to the Regional Museum, which affords a superb view over the town and Castle. Also look out for the view of the famous Cesky Krumlov tower framed by the houses of Masna street, a minute or so away. 

2. VISIT CESKY KRUMLOV CASTLE

Image of Cesky Krumlov Castle at night
Image of the Cloak Bridge at Cesky Krumlov Castle
Things to do in Cesky Krumlov Image of Cesky Krumlov Castle Tower
Castle Cesky Krumlov Image of Cesky Krumov Castle and Tower at dusk

The State Castle and Chateau Český Krumlov is one of the most magnificent castles in Czech Republic. I was blown away by it when I first visited in the 1990s, and saw some of it on a guided tour. The Castle is awesome, one of the best you will ever see, but the visitor experience could be improved upon somewhat. 

The big plus point is that you can walk through the Castle and its several courtyards, all the way from the Tower end to the Cloak Bridge, Baroque theatre and beyond. It’s especially atmospheric at night, as you climb the cobbled, vaulted, lamp-lit tunnels. Small wonder so many people rate it one of the most beautiful castles in Europe. 

Anyone who has visited a few Czech castles will know the routine with guided tours. There isn’t a single Cesky Krumlov castle tour – there are two main itineraries, essentially the older and more recent parts of the Castle. Most guided tours are conducted in Czech, with notes supplied in several languages to help you follow it. No such notes were forthcoming at Cesky Krumlov, and the tour is a rigid, highly formal affair. They are also very strict about enforcing their no photography rule, which is disappointing and wholly unnecessary.

3. THE CASTLE BEAR PIT

Image of a bear in the pit outside Cesky Krumlov Castle
Vilem clambering around his enclosure at the entrance to Cesky Krumlov Castle

One of the most popular Cesky Krumlov things to do is to peer down into the bear pit to see the three residents ambling and occasionally clambering around their compound at the base of the Castle walls. One of them, Maria Theresa (named after the famous 18th century Habsburg ruler),  has been there since 1994, and the other two are juvenile recent additions. They are all kept on a special diet, partly to accommodate a pastry binge around Christmas! 

4. CESKY KRUMLOV CASTLE MUSEUM

The Castle Museum in Cesky Krumlov often gets bypassed by time-poor visitors on tours from Prague to Cesky Krumlov. It’s housed in the building below the ‘tower of all towers’ (so said Czech author Karel Čapek), and entry to the tower and viewing gallery is included in the Museum ticket. 

Faye and I found this far more enjoyable than the Cesky Krumlov Castle tour. You can see this at your own pace, and get to see some incredible artefacts, mostly gathered from the last two centuries or so.  There is also a great little café at the entrance / exit. 

5. GRAB YOURSELF A CUPPA AND ADMIRE THE VIEW FROM THE CLOAK BRIDGE AND CAFE

Image of the Cloak Bridge at Cesky Krumlov Castle
The Cloak Bridge of Cesky Krumlov Castle at dusk

Two of the best views of Český Krumlov are from the outer parts of the Castle complex. The magnificent high Cloak Bridge connects the main part of the Castle with the hillside a few metres away. The Bridge is one of the finest things to see in Cesky Krumlov, offering stupendous views over the town. It dates from the 18th century and is lined with fine Baroque statues, and is supported by four layers of arches. 

Image of the town of Cesky Krumlov from the Castle terrace
Cesky Krumlov from the Castle cafe terrace

A cafe is located around 50 metres further along the road to the Castle Gardens.  A doorway in the wall leads to a terrace with outstanding views of the sweep of the Castle and the town below. The café serves coffee, beer, snacks and sandwiches. Don’t miss this place if you’re visiting Cesky Krumlov, even if you’re there two or three hours. Just bear in mind that the door to the terrace is locked at 7 pm daily, so you don’t get the opportunity to photograph the town and Castle from there at twilight.   

6. CESKY KRUMLOV GARDENS

Image of Cesky Krumlov Castle Gardens
The splendid Baroque Castle Gardens at Cesky Krumlov

The Castle Gardens in Cesky Krumlov are located up the hill from and out of sight of the Castle.  They were also laid out in the Baroque period – in this case in the 17th century.  Some are set out with hedges around flower gardens, and there are also reconstructed parterres lower down the garden. The centrepiece is the fountain with its ornate series of statues. The adjacent section of the Gardens has, of all things, a revolving auditorium, but rumour has it that it may not be there much longer if UNESCO’s wishes prevail. 

7. BAROQUE THEATRE CESKY KRUMLOV

The Cesky Krumlov Baroque Theatre is part of the Castle complex, and was originally built in the late 17th century for the entertainment of Johann Christian I von Eggenberg. It was transformed into a state-of-the-art theatre by ±Josef Adam von Schwarzenberg in 1765-66, with an ornate auditorium and perfectly preserved stage set, complete with all mechanisms for changing scenes. The Theatre is not included on the Castle tours – you’ll need to book a separate tour of the Theatre. These run every day the Castle is open between 1000 and 1500. 

8. Rafting in Cesky Krumlov 

Image of rafting at Cesky Krumlov
Rafting on the Vltava river is a great way to see Cesky Krumlov

One way of experiencing Cesky Krumlov is taking a raft or kayak trip along river Vltava. The town is tucked into a textbook-perfect meander of the river, which appears from some vantage points to be calm and placid. It isn’t. The sound of water is ubiquitous if you’re anywhere near the river or above it in the Castle.  

There are several weirs along the river, with side channels down which you can canoe or raft. The whole journey through Cesky Krumlov takes less than an hour, and if I wasn’t such a landlubber I’d do it myself. A great – and different – way to experience one of the best places to visit in the Czech Republic. 

9. AMESTI SVORNOSTI

Image of Namesti Svornosti square in Cesky Krumlov Czech Republic
Houses and hotels on Namesti Svornosti, the main square in Cesky Krumlov

The main square, Namesti Svornosti, should be on any Cesky Krumlov what to do list. It’s a sublime ensemble of buildings from the Renaissance and Baroque periods, and some of these have been turned into some of the best Cesky Krumlov hotels. These include the 4-star Zlaty Andel and Old Inn. It’s also a great spot to eat on one of the restaurant terraces, or just linger over a beer or coffee.  

In the depths of the Cesky Krumlov winter it’s also home to the small but beautiful Cesky Krumlov Christmas Market – along with those in Prague and Brno it’s one of the bets Czech Christmas Markets. 

10. FOTO ATELIER SEIDEL

Image of the portraiture studio in Footo Atelier Seidel Cesky Krumlov
Image of books in the Foto Atelier Seidel Cesky Krumlov
Image of a camera in the Cesky Krumlov photo museum
Image of old books in the fotoatelier seidel Cesky Krumlov

We have to say that the Foto Atelier Seidel is outstanding, even among the many Czech Republic attractions that we have visited. There’s an element of ‘great if you’re interested in…’ about most of the Cesky Krumlov museums. The Foto Atelier Seidel is the house and workshop of local photographer Josef Seidel, who worked in the town in the early 20th century. 

The house is a wonderful time capsule, and essential if you’re passionate about photography or history. The portraiture studio is beautiful, and the production room where his pictures of Cesky Krumlov were turned into photographs is an amazing journey a century back in time. The most fascinating part for a photography aficionado is seeing all the equipment and technology – especially old 10 x 8 cameras and boxes of glass plates – reminders of a bygone era. It’s also a wonderful angle on the history of one of the most beautiful towns in Europe.   

11. Egon Schiele Art Centrum 

Image of art installation by Tets Ohnari in Egon Schiele Art Centrum Cesky Krumlov
Tets Ohnari’s installation is a wonderfully fresh take on Cesky Krumlov

The Viennese painter Egon Schiele lived in Cesky Krumlov (then also known as Krummau an der Moldau or Böhmisch Krummau) for a short time, ‘living in sin’ with his younger girlfriend.  He chose to go there as the town was the birthplace of his mother. He was heavily influenced by mentor Gustav Klimt, but went on to create some groundbreaking work, now retrospectively described as early Expressionist. 

Some of the Egon Schiele Art Centre exhibition spaces are phenomenal, in the town’s former brewery, much of which dates from the 16th century. Ironically, the small collection of Schiele portraits is housed in the least inspiring setting in the complex. When we visited, a superb installation by Japanese artist Tets Ohnari was housed in the large downstairs room, depicting the passage of time in Cesky Krumlov – which our young fellow immediately picked up on.  

Schiele only lived a brief life, succumbing to the Spanish flu in 1918 at the age of 28.  He had a very distinctive style, many of his portraits (including those of himself) giving off a dark, taut, almost tortured energy, especially visible in some of the distortions he includes. I was more drawn to his paintings of Cesky Krumlov, his angular depictions of the Old Town inspiring by comparison. 

12. Regional Museum Cesky Krumlov 

Image of the Regional MUseum in Cesky Krumlov
Cesky Krumlov Regional Museum

Cesky Krumlov Regional Museum is where you go to learn all about the town – and surrounding area’s – history. The permanent exhibition delves all the way back to prehistoric times to the end of the 19th century. There is also a great ceramic model of the whole town – not to be touched, of course! I’m curious to see if they put on an exhibition covering Cesky Krumlov during the Communist era from 1948 to 1989, a time which brought enormous changes to trhe town. 

13. Fairytale House 

Image of the Fairytale House in Cesky Krumlov
Our own family production at the Fairytale House

The Fairytale Museum Puppet Museum in Cesky Krumlov came as a real surprise. The ground floor is a puppet shop, and my expectations weren’t especially high as we ascended the winding stairs. Then we turned into the play room, a 15th century room with a frescoed wall and stone vaults, to experiment with our own puppet theatre production. This included a wooden dragon and a motley cast of characters in period garb. Our little fellow was immediately transfixed. 

An hour or so later we emerged to explore the rest of the Museum. We spent the best part of another hour in the vast attic, a world of wonder full of mini-sets. I brought the little chap back for a second visit a couple of days later, and the kind gentleman at the counter, Jan, was most impressed that Sam had picked up a large stick from the riverbank which he was now using as a staff. He disappeared into the room next to the play room, eventually bringing Sam a fossil he had found in one of the boxes there. We were really touched by this. It’s easily one of the best things to do Cesky Krumlov has for kids. 

14. Cesky Krumlov Wax Museum 

Image of waxwork of Vaclav Havel at the Wax Museum Cesky Krumlov
Vaclav Havel, the first post-Communist President of Czechoslovakia

Likewise, you can’t possibly have a splendid medieval castle on the hill without a waxworks museum down the hill to keep the visitors there a little longer. The Wax Museum in Cesky Krumlov is housed in a gorgeous red ±Renaissance-era building, one of the most beautiful in the town. I’ve never been one for waxworks collections, but when Our Little Man spied a figure of Harry Potter in the window, in we went. 

The first part of the collection is the best, the figures in atmospheric medieval settings including a tavern with fairly convincing sound effects. The collection includes various famous Czechs (Dvorak, Smetana, Kafka et al) and world figures from the late 20th and early 21st centuries. For a moment I mistook Mikhail Gorbachev’s likeness for the dictator du jour, Alexander Lukashenko.It turns out that many of the figures can also be seen at the Wax Museum in Karlštejn. 

15. Cesky Krumlov Museum of Commerce and Merchandise 

Or as I had scrawled in my notebook, ‘Shop Museum’.  I had my tourist trap radar at the ready before we went into this small museum, but the whole thing is quite brilliantly done. It sets out to show shops and goods from the late 19th and early 20th century, with several shop scenes recreated with models, goods for sale and shop fittings of the era including some splendid old cash registers. The shop at the entrance sells a great selection of replica metal plates from the period. Apparently it has been put together with help from the Museum of Commerce in Bratislava. Entry is free, and it’s well worth half an hour or so of your tuime. 

16. Cesky Krumlov Beer 

Image of Cesky Krumlov beer in a glass
Cesky Krumlov beer, which I heartily recommend

Czech beer is among the best in the world, and Cesky Krumlov is a mere 20 miles (32 km) down the road from the Budvar brewery in Ceske Budejovice. You’ll find several varieties of Budvar around the town, but the most prevalent beer I came across was the local Cesky Krumlov brew, a highly recommended svetlé lager. I tried it at several different places, just to make sure it is that good. The Eggenberg Brewery can also be found in the town, a short walk down the hill from the Castle. 

17. Hospoda Na Louzi 

Image of Hospoda Na Louzi hotel Cesky Krumlov
The superb exterior of Hospoda Na Louzi

This pub just down the hill from the main square is a strong contender for our best restaurant in Cesky Krumlov award. The menu is broadly similar to those of other establishments around the town, but the food – we ordered roast duck with red cabbage and baked trout – was the best we had in the town. Several people just dropped by for a beer or two – the dining room and bar is wonderfully atmospheric, the walls covered with vintage beer signs from all over Bohemia, Moravia and beyond. 

18. Mirror Maze 

Image of the cesky Krumlov Mirror Maze
Which one are we, Mama?

If you’re wondering what to do in Cesky Krumlov with kids beside the bear pit, the Mirror Maze on Široka is another fun diversion. There are two mirror mazes – one on the ground floor, the other upstairs – and you’re supplied with plastic gloves so that you can touch the glass without picking up any infection – and a third room with a range of distortion mirrors with all kinds of bizarre effects. It was the first time I had ever visited one, and at first it’s very disconcerting, but in a very fun way. You can visit this on the same ticket as the ±Wax Museum and Torture Museum. 

19. Cesky Krumlov Torture Museum 

A picturesque medieval town isn’t quite a complete picturesque medieval town without a torture museum to make the customers briefly ponder regurgitating their lunch. They are all fairly similar (step forward San Gimignano, Rüdesheim and Rothenburg) and if you’ve seen one, you won’t gain much from reading the same nausea-inducing gory details in the others. The Cesky Krumlov museum collection in the town hall (radnice) building is fairly small, and if you’re on a day trip to Cesky Krumlov, there are several better ways to spend your time. 

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