Wait, Český what? That’s exactly what I said to my friend when she told me we’d be going there during our two-week trip to parts of Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, and Belgium over the holidays last winter. I realize that while Český Krumlov is a gem, this UNESCO World Heritage Site isn’t such a secret anymore. Located in the South Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic, Český Krumlov is a cute little pit stop on the way from Salzburg in Austria, to Prague.
A few words to describe Český Krumlov? It’s straight out of a fairytale. The cobblestone streets and rooftops were dusted with snow when we arrived; it looked exactly like what a little European village should around Christmas.
The first thing on the agenda in the morning was to visit the castle, which is massive for a town of this small size. Český Krumlov’s castle is the second in size only to Prague’s castle in the Czech Republic. Built into the rock along the banks of the Vitava River, it has the best views of the village. The castle itself has a colorful exterior of paintings that make the façade look more intricate than it actually is.
One of the strangest things I found about Český Krumlov was the moat around the castle. There were two bears in there! Initially put there to protect the castle, bears have been kept in the moat for hundreds of years. Though I didn’t necessarily agree with keeping up with this tradition now, the bears appeared to have been properly cared for and it did make me feel like I’d stepped back a few hundred years into Český Krumlov’s medieval history.
The views from the castle are incredible, especially in winter with all the buildings and scenery covered in a blanket of snow. Český Krumlov is one of the smallest towns I’ve visited in Europe, and it definitely made me question why I haven’t tried to find other villages more off the beaten track to visit. Simply put: the town is gorgeous.
In such a small village, there isn’t much to do besides take in the scenery and meander along the bridges and cobblestone streets. You’ll certainly find cute shops, bars and restaurants that will capture your attention while strolling down the streets. There are a number of museums in town, including a torture museum and marionette museum, but I’d recommend walking around to explore and get a feel for the area. You never know what you’ll bump into. I found a delicious vegetarian restaurant, which was the best meal I had in town (and I’m not even a vegetarian) and a cool dive bar just by walking around aimlessly. Around Christmas you can also enjoy some mulled wine and tasty treats at the Christmas market in the center of town.
When in the Czech Republic, it’s mandatory to try out the beer. The Eggenberg Brewery is Český Krumlov’s local brewer and definitely worth visiting when in town. The brewery tour provides an inside look into the brewing process and will even score you a taste of two of the beers they produce. My favorite, as usual, was their darker lager.
Fun fact: Český Krumlov was a filming location of the D-list horror film Hostel. I know, that might not exactly make you jump at the chance to visit it, but it also was a filming location for The Illusionist! It just goes to show that Český Krumlov looks exactly like filmmakers want European villages to appear in movies.
Although it’s a small village, Český Krumlov’s medieval architecture and beauty make it a big destination in the Czech Republic and Eastern Europe. It may not be the Czech Republic’s best kept secret, but it is one of the most charming places I never expected to visit.