Český Krumlov is a medieval town located in the Bohemia region of the Czech Republic. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site, so you KNOW it’s gonna be freaking gorgeous. The town is built around a windy river at the foot of a giant castle, like that animation at the beginning of every Disney Movie. The enormous Český Krumlov castle dates back to the 1200’s, although this crooked bend in the river has been populated for millennia – records show people living here as far back as the Stone Age.
As the town evolved through the centuries, it added modest town-upgrades like breweries and markets, all while experiencing peace and harmony. In fact, Český Krumlov is one of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe and never experienced a major fire, a battle, or any other town-destroying events. Most of what you’ll see in the town today is centuries old, and has been well preserved and restored, which makes for an absolutely incredible visit.
We decided to spend several days in Český Krumlov in December. Many travelers choose to visit Český Krumlov as a day trip from Prague, either on their own or with a tour like this one. But we always prefer smaller towns to big cities, so we chose to spend New Years Eve & New Years Day in Český Krumlov, where we figured it would be much quieter. Because we are old & lame & we don’t party on NYE anymore, sorry y’all. We were afraid that we’d get bored during our 3 days in Český Krumlov, but we didn’t at all! We had a fantastic time and highly recommend spending at least a night here, especially if you’re visiting Český Krumlov from Prague.
Table of Contents
- Reasons to visit Český Krumlov this winter
- 1. The best rooftop views in Bohemia
- 2. Valentine's Day colored streets
- 3. New Years Eve
- 4. Svornosti Square
- 5. The Český Krumlov Christmas Market
- 6. Delicious traditional Czech food
- 7. Fascinating history
- 8. Cozy cafes
- 9. The Český Krumlov Castle
- 10. Bohemian Culture & art
- 11. A 450-year old brewery
- 12. Ancient street art
- 13. Eerie myths & legends
- 14. Romance!
- How to Get to Český Krumlov from Prague
- Český Krumlov Accomodation
Psst: Planning a trip to the Czech Republic in the winter? Czech out this post 😉
Reasons to visit Český Krumlov this winter
We are SO glad we decided to escape Prague to Český Krumlov for New Years. We fell in love with the beautiful little town, which was a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of big-city Prague.
That said, there’s not like, a LOT to DO in the town. Actual activities in Český Krumlov, particularly during the winter, are somewhat limited – but we honestly prefer it that way. We like to spend a whole day on foot just exploring and wandering before committing to museums or brewery tours or castles – all of which we did in Český Krumlov. The town is just small enough that in 2-3 days, you’ll feel like you know your way around. You can ACTUALLY see every single street, alley, nook, and cranny of Český Krumlov on foot, which eases my FOMO anxiety so much.
Besides, even if Český Krumlov is small and quaint, its rich history makes up for its sleepiness and its beauty alone is enough to warrant a visit.
Look, I’m gonna be real with you: this entire post is just an excuse to share the massive quantity of absolutely stunning pictures we took while visiting Český Krumlov. The town is a freaking postcard, and it looks good from every angle. So I did my best to balance my photo-dumping with actual useful information about the town … but also, photos.
So, here are all of our reasons why you need to take a trip to Český Krumlov this winter, in both visual & written form!
1. The best rooftop views in Bohemia
Český Krumlov has some seriously drool-worthy views, and you don’t need a drone to capture them, either! There are several excellent vantage points to admire the rooftop views (and take the best Instagram photos of your life).
This particular is in Seminární zahrada, a gorgeous little park with stunning views located across the street from Hotel Ruze, one of the best hotels in Český Krumlov.
- Seminární zahrada | Location in Google Maps
2. Valentine’s Day colored streets
I don’t know why, but there is a LOT of pink in Český Krumlov. The whole town is set like a romantic Valentine’s Day dream, especially in the winter!
Stroll down the gorgeous pink-accented alleys of Český Krumlov hand in hand with your bae (or like, holding a trdelnik, whatever) and bask in the gorgeousness surrounding you.
You can find the exact spot in this photo on Google Maps, thanks to my husband Jeremy, who is a living GPS and managed to find it just based on this photo. Color me impressed.
3. New Years Eve
If I’m being honest, we’re not the type of people to Go Out on New Years Eve. We prefer to stay inside, fully pajama’d, stuffing our faces with chocolate and binge-watching something on Netflix. This is also what you’ll find us doing the other 364 nights of the year, for what it’s worth. But our trip to Cesky Krumlov this winter happened to fall on New Years, so we ventured out from our hostel and wandered through the cobblestone streets to the main square at 11pm, fully expecting to have a miserable time.
But y’all: New Years Eve in Český Krumlov is LIT. Like, literally lit AF. We spent the hour leading up to the fireworks cheerfully sipping Svarak (hot mulled wine) sold from the still-open Christmas Market stalls while an extremely good polka ska band covered 80’s hits, complete with accordion riffs and the sort of bending over backwards and sliding on your knees move that I think I saw Mick Jagger pull during a concert I went to with my dad in like, 2005. It was awesome.
And everyone was dancing. Like, everyone. These two handsome Czech boys were escorting grannies to the dance floor and twirling around confused-looking tourists until everyone was smiling and laughing: grannies, tourists, and us, all of dancing with abandon to the polka rendition of Abracadabra. The crowd in the square wasn’t so big that we were irritated, but it wasn’t small, either. It was the exact perfect New Years Eve crowd size.
Then, suddenly, everyone around us was counting down from 10 in Czech (we figured this out from context clues, because we are Expert Travelers). When the clock struck midnight, we made it halfway through a kiss when the entire town ERUPTED into fireworks. It turns out that every single person in Český Krumlov was packing heat in the form of personal fireworks. There were fireworks going off EVERYWHERE. I swear I saw a firework go into the window of a building and thought, “this is it, this is how Medieval towns burn down, we’re all f***ed.”
But Český Krumlov has NEVER had a fire and the only one nervous about the quantity of fireworks currently raining down on my head was me. When they built the square in the 1200’s, they were like, “let’s make everything out of fire-resistant stone so that we can go HAM on New Years Eve.”
Also, and this is very important: the song played to commemorate this magical moment, the very first song we heard in 2018, was Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On. It was such an odd choice for a New Years Eve midnight song that it was absolutely perfect.
We strolled back to our hostel hand in hand as fireworks continued to streak through the sky around us. They were lit on every street, from every nook & cranny; from the castle, from the bridge, from the square. Everywhere. The fireworks lasted until 3 in the morning. They were like a dull roar, lulling us off the sleep.
So, yes, Český Krumlov on New Years Eve is LIT. 100% would recommend. We spend NYE there again in a heartbeat!
4. Svornosti Square
The central square in Český Krumlov, Svornosti Square, is the heartbeat of the little town, dating back to its Medeival founding. The buildings surrounding the square are all beautiful and representative of different architectural styles through the ages, and feature interesting family crests (remember, the town was owned by like a zillion different rich families). By far the most interesting crest is the Schwarzenberg Coat of Arms, which features the severed head of a Turk getting its eyes plucked out by crows. The story behind this gruesome inclusion is that in the 1500’s, Adolf zu Schwarzenberg saw the severed head of a Turk getting its eyes plucked out by crows, and was like “LOL, that’s sooooo gross! I’m totally putting that on my crest.” History is lit.
The other extremely interesting feature in the square is the Plague Column. Built in the 1700’s to commemorate a particularly nasty bout of plague in the 1600’s, the towering column features Saints that are particularly equipped to protect the town from plague. Side note, how morbid is it that I immediately started Googling for all the details of this plague the minute I found out about it?! Is anyone else just weirdly fascinated with plague and plague-related things?!
- Svornosti Square | Google Maps
5. The Český Krumlov Christmas Market
Located in Svornosti Square, the Český Krumlov Christmas Market is small but bustling. There are plenty of stands selling Svarak, which is Czech mulled wine. There are a few selling food; our favorite by far was falling-off-the-bone ribs and cheesy pasta, which I couldn’t tell you the name of in Czech but tasted like absolute heaven. And of course, there are plenty of Trdelnik stands roasting up crispy fresh cinnamon goodness, too!
Like any good Christmas Market, we found a number of adorable trinkets and crafts that we couldn’t resist purchasing for people we owed Christmas Gifts to (full disclosure: we couldn’t bring ourselves to give everything away and ended up keeping like half of our souvenirs for ourselves. Sorry, everyone).
By the way: in an extremely informal comparison of a few really adorable magnets and Bohemian glass perfume bottles that we were eyeing, we can stay with confidence that the trinkets in Cesky Krumlov are cheaper than the trinkets at the Prague Christmas Markets. So really, your trip from Prague to Český Krumlov might just pay for itself.
6. Delicious traditional Czech food
I’m not ashamed to admit that we stuffed ourselves with Czech food during our entire trip to the Czech Republic, and it was delicious. We finally answered the question, “is there such a thing as too many dumplings?” with a resounding “NO.”
We returned to our favorite restaurant in Český Krumlov, Depo, several nights in a row. From pork belly with dumplings to brewery goulash to deep fried cheese to beef tartare to delicious beer, the food is traditional, stick-to-your-ribs Czech deliciousness. We highly recommend eating at Depo – or, if you want to really immerse yourself, you can even stay above the restaurant in one of the on-site apartments.
7. Fascinating history
We picked up on bits and pieces of the history of Český Krumlov during our stay as we wandered the cobblestone streets and rabidly devoured historical articles online.
The town and its majestic castle were sort of shuffled around for centuries, given as gifts or traded to pay off debts from rich family to rich family: the Eggenburgs, the Rosenburgs, the Schwarzenbergs, etc. It was like “Eyyyy Vlad, Merry Christmas, bro! Here, I got you this town.” Rich people, amirite? Each family came with its own incredibly complicated history and super dramatic series of ridiculous events, because rich people and nobility are FASCINATING.
Like, OK, let me give you some Czech history, because by now I’ve gone down so many research holes I just need to share with somebody. So, you know the Christmas carol “Good King Wenceslaus?” Well, that dude was the Duke of Bohemia, and his story is NUTS. His mom, Drahomira, was like, a pagan from a nearby tribe, and cartoonishly villainous. After his father died, she had his grandmother – her mother-in-law – murdered by her henchmen (SHE HAD HENCHMEN). Then, she took over the Bohemian throne, cackling to herself evilly. NGL, she was kinda a BAMF, in an evil way.
When Wenceslaus turned 18, he had his mother exiled. But that wasn’t the end of his problems. A few years later, his own brother, Boleslaus the Cruel (!!), invited him to dinner and legit jumped him with like 3 other dudes, stabbing him to death with the longest, sharpest, pointiest object he could find. Why is this not a dramatic TV series?! I would much rather watch this than Game of Thrones.
Anyway, learning about the history of Český Krumlov while exploring its ancient streets is an absolutely amazing immersive experience. To learn more, we highly recommend taking a guided tour like this one or this one, or picking up a self-guided Audio Tour from the Tourism Office.
8. Cozy cafes
Look, nothing is more European than cozy cafes and cobblestone streets. As an American, there is a special appeal to simply wandering through alleys on a chilly winter’s day and then ducking inside a cafe for a cappuccino and a Palačinky (Czech crepe) to warm up.
We spent a LOT of time exploring little streets and tiny cafes in Český Krumlov, and they were all wonderful and adorable.
9. The Český Krumlov Castle
The Český Krumlov castle is the 2nd largest in the Czech Republic, second only to the castle complex in Prague. The reason for this is that the castle was shuffled from rich family to rich family for centuries. Each time a new rich family inherited the castle and the town surrounding it, they felt the need to add MORE castle to the existing castle, complete with their own personal touches and whatever the new hotness in castle design was that year.
This all makes for an absolutely fascinating tour, if you’re interested in the goings-on of fabulously rich people from centuries ago (which I absolutely am). You can take a guided tour of the castle like this one during most of the year. Unfortunately, during the winter the interior of the Český Krumlov castle is closed, although you can still visit the Castle Museum which is open year round.
Even if you can’t go inside, walking the grounds of the Český Krumlov castle and taking in the stunning views of the town below (and pretending you’re a rich nobleperson looking down on all of your plebes/serfs, muahahah) is well worth a trip! We paired our winter castle visit with an Audio Tour which we picked up at the Tourism Office in the main square.
One more thing you should know about the Český Krumlov castle: there’s a bear pit. We didn’t see any bears in it during our visit, but apparently there is a family of bears living there, sort of like historical rich people moat-pets. We strongly opposite this kind of animal captivity, no matter how cool it sounds in theory, and we hope that the town decides to do away with this outdated practice soon!
10. Bohemian Culture & art
The word “Bohemian” may conjure up images of Ewan McGregor in Moulin Rouge, or have you humming the “La Vie Boheme” song from Rent (aka what Jeremy did for a week straight during our trip, which drove me mad) but Český Krumlov is quite literally Bohemian. Like, it is located IN Bohemia. And so, you’ll find plenty of wonderful Bohemian art & culture here, in Bohemia. But don’t confuse it with the other kind of Bohemian: the artistic movement from Paris did NOT originate here in Bohemia. Supposedly, some Paris hipsters in the 1800’s appropriated the term from a band of Gypsies they thought were from Bohemia, and just sort of adopted it as a name for themselves, probably much to the irritation of everyone living in actual Bohemia.
Still, you’ll find some Bohemian-ish art, if you’re willing to get a little fuzzy on the definition of what defines “Bohemian.” For example, one of the most famous Czech artists is Alphonse Mucha, one of the originators of Art Noveau. He was born next to Bohemia in the Czech region of Moravia, which makes him Moravian, not Bohemian. But his art is like, totally Bohemian, by the Paris hipster definition. Don’t quote me, though – I’m absolutely not an art historian, and this gets very confusing. During our visit, we stumbled upon an exhibit on his work (tucked away down a cobblestone street, of course). For more information about him and his beautiful work – which you’ll definitely recognize once you see it – check out this article on Messy Nessy Chic.
You’ll also discover modern day artists. One of the most famous is Egon Schiele, an early 1900’s Expressionist painter and colleague of Gustav Klimt. His mother was born in Český Krumlov, making him a true Bohemian both by heritage and by lifestyle.
In fact, his out-there Bohemian lifestyle was so risque that he was actually kicked out of Český Krumlov when he tried to move back with his mistress (one of Klimt’s former models). The locals were horrified by his lifestyle, and infuriated when he began creating nude paintings of local underage girls. Which like, yeah, I’m kinda with them on that one.
Other than creating lots of sexy sex paintings, he also caused quite the stir with his romantic decisions: he wanted both a wife AND a mistress. And when he told his mistress, she was not having any more of his BS. She promptly left him, which frankly she should have done when he started seducing underage girls. (This is my favorite self-portrait of his, because you can see F***BOI written all over it).
He died at age 28 of the Spanish Flu, having lived a short but fabulously Bohemian life. You can learn more about Egon Schiele at the museum dedicated to him in Český Krumlov.
11. A 450-year old brewery
Czech beer (pivo) is some of the best in the world, and people have been brewing and drinking beer in Bohemia for millennia. Literally. According to Wikipedia, the first Czech brewery was in a monastery that dates back to freakin’ 993, and local Slavs were brewing something closely resembling beer as early as 500. Today, the Czech Republic consumes more beer than anyone else in the world per capita. Read more about the history of Czech Beer here.
So, really, by drinking beer in the Czech Republic, you’re participating in a cultural & historical institution. You’re really having an ~authentic~ Czech experience. Here, have another beer. You’ve earned it.
Back in the day, you had to get special permission to brew beer. This irritated everyone, because why should Monks have all the fun? Peasants and nobles alike got huffy about it right up until the 1517 Treaty of St. Wenceslaus (yes, that one) which allowed nobles (and the towns they ruled, including Český Krumlov) the right to brew beer. The Eggenberg Brewery was founded shortly afterwards, in 1560 (here’s the history). Today, you can tour the brewery and taste its barley malt lagers.
By the way, here’s a fun tidbit about Czech Beer: on our train from Cesky Krumlov to Prague, we transferred at a town called České Budějovice, which brews a local beer called Budweiser. It has absolutely no relation to the American beer by the same name. When that question pops up at bar trivia, you’re welcome.
12. Ancient street art
Check out this photo. See the stones on the building on the left? They’re PAINTED ON. Like someone decided to cut corners on actual chiselling and instead paint designs on buildings.
You’ll find this Renaissance style ALL OVER Český Krumlov. It’s absolutely gorgeous and makes for colorful, unique buildings and architecture. Sometimes it’s just the designs and details of the buildings that have been painted on, but sometimes there are entire Renaissance paintings created directly on the building, like ancient street art. Here are some examples.
It makes the entire town of Český Krumlov feel like a giant museum. You never know when you’ll turn a corner and there will be mysteriously painted-on windows featuring people whose stories have long been forgotten…
13. Eerie myths & legends
No good medieval town is free from its ghosts, and Český Krumlov is no different. The tales & legends of Český Krumlov are enough to give you chills. Centuries of lore, myths, and mystical experiences hide tucked around corners and squeezed into cobblestones, waiting to be discovered.
One of my favorite Český Krumlov myths is the White Lady, who haunts the Český Krumlov castle. She was married off at a young age to a cruel man with a cruel family, who abused her for years. When he died, she was finally allowed to return to her parents home at the Český Krumlov castle. There, she spent several years being kind to people while also generally exuding misery, sadness, and a feeling of utter betrayal, until she died. Womp womp.
After her death, she continued to walk the halls in sorrow, taking care of children and angrily snapping at nannies who dared to feel alarmed that a ghost was taking care of their charges. Finally, irritated at fighting with nannies, she left a message for the last child in her family line and vanished into a wall.
When the child grew up and received her message, he destroyed the wall and found treasure. How nice of her to leave him treasure! But also, like, this lady got NO justice. Every dude in this tale wins and all she gets is to be betrayed by her family, abused by her husband, and shooed away by nannies. #JusticeforPerchta
You can discover the myths and legends of Český Krumlov on a FREE Ghost tour! Although we sadly didn’t get a chance to take this tour ourselves, it has fantastic reviews on TripAdvisor. Psst: even though the tour is free, make sure you bring cash to tip your guides! This is how they earn a living.
Český Krumlov is an incredibly romantic place to visit. From the winding streets to the stunning views, you can’t help but feel romance while exploring Český Krumlov.
To pump up the romance, stay somewhere fabulously romantic like Hotel Ruze, where you can relax in a Jacuzzi, swim in a pool, get a massage at the spa and then walk outside and be literally at the exact spot where we took the above picture!
How to Get to Český Krumlov from Prague
Now that we’ve convinced you to visit Český Krumlov, how will you get from Prague to Český Krumlov? Or maybe you’re coming from somewhere in Austria, like we were? Well, that’s what we’re here for. Let us break it down for you.
There is a direct train from Prague to Český Krumlov which takes just under 3 hours. The train from Prague to Český Krumlov only runs once a day, at 8 am, and then returns from Český Krumlov to Prague at 2 pm.
If you need more flexible time, there are other train, but they aren’t direct. Most trains between Prague and Cesky Krumlov connect at České Budějovice, so you’ll need to off-board and switch trains there
We had Eurail passes, so getting to and from Český Krumlov by train was incredibly easy. Our trip was from Hallstatt to Český Krumlov, and then on to Prague, and we reserved everything online using this tool on Eurail.
If you don’t have a Eurail pass, you can book your train ticket from Prague to Český Krumlov online here.
The bus from Prague to Český Krumlov is inexpensive and takes around 3 hours each way. From Prague to Cesky Krumlov, you can take the LEO Express, which runs two buses per day between Český Krumlov and the Florenc bus station in Prague. Or, you can take a Student Agency bus, which runs several times a day between Český Krumlov and the Na Knízecí bus station in Prague.
Several companies offer private one-way shuttle service to and from Český Krumlov. You’ll get picked up at your hotel like freaking royalty. This is by far the easiest and fastest way to get to Český Krumlov, although you’ll pay a bit more for the convenience.
There are also other destinations that you can access by private shuttle. I’ve listed several out below. Other than using a Eurail pass, this is the easiest way to travel between Český Krumlov and other destinations in the Czech Republic or Austria.
Getting to Český Krumlov
- Shuttle from Vienna to Český Krumlov
- Shuttle from Linz to Český Krumlov
- Shuttle from Hallstatt to Český Krumlov
Leaving Český Krumlov
- Shuttle from Český Krumov to Prague
- Shuttle from Český Krumlov to Salzburg
- Shuttle from Český Krumlov to Vienna
- Shuttle from Český Krumlov to Hallstatt
- Shuttle from Český Krumlov to Linz
Day Trip Tour
You can take a day tour to Český Krumlov from Salzburg, Vienna, or Prague. These typically include transit to & from Český Krumlov and guided tours, and they’re a great way to see Český Krumlov in a short amount of time!
Český Krumlov Accomodation
If we’ve convinced you to spend a day or so in Český Krumlov, you might be wondering where to stay! We’ve gotcha covered. Here are the best hotels in Český Krumlov on any budget.
- Luxury Hotel: Hotel Ruze is a stunning hotel with luxurious amenities in an EXCELLENT location. I’ve found rooms at Hotel Ruze as low as $109, too – luxury is affordable in Český Krumlov! Compare deals for Hotel Ruze on HotelsCombined.
- Mid-Range Hotel: Hotel Old Inn is a comfortable & affordable hotel situated in a prime location in the heart of Český Krumlov. The old-world furnishings are absolutely charming, but the amenities are anything but old-school! Compare deals for Hotel Old Inn on HotelsCombined.
- Budget Hostel: We chose to stay at Hostel 99 due to its convenient location within the walls of Old Town. The hostel wasn’t fancy, but it was comfortable and the location was great. There are a handful of affordable hostels in Český Krumlov! Take a look on Hostelworld.
Psst: Planning a trip to the Europe in the winter? Czech out these other posts 😉
- 12 Delightful Things to Do in Prague in December & January
- 12 Charming Things to Do in Copenhagen in Winter
- 10 Magical Things to do in Bremen, Germany in Winter
- 14 Adorably Romantic Things to do in Bruges, Belgium in Winter
Be sure to download our FREE printable packing list so you don’t forget anything, too!
Are you dying to pack your bags and head to Český Krumlov? Which one of these 14 reasons to visit Český Krumlov in the winter would be first on your to-do list? Drop us a comment below.
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Disclaimer: We received a complimentary Audio Tour and Český Krumlov Card, as well as complementary Eurail passes during our trip. All opinions, historical references, inaccurate art history facts, or jokes in poor taste are 100% our own and nobody else’s fault.
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