Český Krumlov, located in the south Bohemian region of the Czech Republic, is arguably one of the most picturesque towns in Europe. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Český Krumlov’s stunning thirteenth-century castle comprises of Gothic, Renaissance and baroque elements as well as an 11-hectare garden and an original seventeenth-century baroque theater and sits towering above the Vltava River, which bisects the charming old town.
Český Krumlov is incredibly popular during the summer months because it offers so many outdoor activities, and come winter, the magical presence of this place only gets better. The crowds have left, mulled wine and open fires are abundant, and the castle is blanketed in snow.
A three-hour drive from Prague, Český Krumlov is best explored as an overnight destination instead of a day trip. There’s just too much to see and do here. But if you’re still not convinced that this snow globe of a town belongs on your bucket list, then read on to discover the top five reasons to visit what’s known as the Jewel of Bohemia.
Go Whitewater Rafting through town Getting onto or into the Vltava River, which snakes its way through the mountains and then winds its way through Český Krumlov, is one of the best ways to spend a warm summer afternoon. Several companies rent canoes, kayaks and inflatable rafts and offer transport farther up the river to the nearby town of Vyšší Brod. Upstream you’ll find narrow, shallow rapids that are controlled by around five or six weirs of about one meter in height. The weirs have built-in ramps that were designed with canoeing and rafting in mind, but it’s important to note whether they’re on the left or right side before approaching. Further downstream the river becomes deeper, wider and slower, so lazy paddlers will have to start picking up the slack. A basic trip takes one to two hours to complete and costs around $15 per person, but half- and full-day trips are also available for those who want to explore a little more.
Watch Out for the Bear Moat The Rosenberg family, who built the castle back in the mid-13th century, had a long association with bears due to their ties to the Italian noble Orsini family, whose family name comes from the Italian word orsa, meaning “she-bear.” One of the most interesting features of the castle complex is the moat between the first and second courtyards. The first record of bears being kept in the moat dates to 1707, and successive owners of the castle attempted to keep the tradition alive with varying degrees of success until 1907. Since then, the moat has never been bear-free. Every year at Christmas and on the bears’ birthdays, the castle operators organize a bear festival. During these occasions. the moat is lavishly decorated and piled high with presents and food for the bears to enjoy.
Enjoy the Immense and Beautiful Hiking Trails that Surround the Town The beginnings of hiking in the Český Krumlov and Šumava region dates back to early expeditions in the 18th century when hikers would set off with a machete-wielding guide to Černé and Čertovo jezero (literally, Black Lake). In recent years, following the dissolution of the strict military guard in the border areas, hiking has proliferated. Several state institutions, regional offices, tourist information centers and nature protection agencies have heavily promoted this region as a world-class hiking destination. Here you’ll find deep and ancient forests, rugged cliffs, peat bogs, azure Šumava lakes and a plethora of archaeological sites, including early Celtic settlements, Gothic ruins, Renaissance castles and chateaus, Baroque monasteries, churches, and chapels.
Go Horseback Riding through Valleys and Fields with the Club of Slupenec Another fantastic way to experience Český Krumlov’s scenic surroundings is by horseback. Rent your trusty steed for around $20 per hour, and make your way through wildflower-filled valleys; rustic country lanes; and romantic, dark forests. This makes for a great afternoon out and manages to magnify the medieval feel of this historic area even more.
Strap on Your Helmet Mountain biking is the perfect activity for adrenaline junkie travelers out. The unspoiled nature surrounding Český Krumlov is ideal for biking. You can make a half- or even full-day trips following one of the many well-maintained biking routes throughout the area. A firm favorite among mountain bikers — and a trail that’s also suitable for inexperienced riders — is the 32-kilometer Superflow trail in Cerna Voda.
Now that you know some of the many reasons that Český Krumlov belongs on your bucket list, make sure to note it down in your BUCKiTDREAM dairy, and share your new dreams on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.