- Name: Český Krumlov, from now on
written as 'Cesky Krumlov', since some computers do not display special characters correctly.
The German name, which was in use for a long time, is Krumau (also
'Böhmisch Krumau' and 'Krummau'). Cesky means 'Bohemian'.
Location: Cesky Krumlov is around 145 km south of
→Prague and at the northern foot of
Šumava mountains (also known as the Bavarian Forest).
The Austrian border is only 25 km away. Almost the entire old city centre is surrounded by the
Vltava (Moldau) river, which flows north towards Prague.
Orientation: Cesky Krumlov has less then 15,000 inhabitants
and is not much bigger than centuries ago. Here, the small Vltava river winds through the
mountains. Most of the old centre stretches on a narrow meander spur.
In the north, the long castle and the monastery tower high above the river and city centre.
The small train station is quite out of the way. From there, one just has to go down a very long slope.
After 1.5 km, you will pass Budějovická brána (Budweis gate).
There, the historical core starts. If you keep on walking southwards, you will come across the
ČEDOK tourist information on the right side. On the left-hand side of the street,
there's a big monastery. Straight ahead there is a bridge leading to the old city centre on the peninsula with
the central nám Svornosti (unity square) and many narrow backstreets.
If you turn right at the monastery, you will pass the Červená
brána (red gate) and enter the huge Zamek (castle).
The colourfully ornamented Hrádek (castle tower) is Krumlov's landmark
and easy to be seen from everywhere.
The whole city is rather small and easy to navigate. Still, it takes many hours to see everything more
or less closely. By the way, the bus terminal is much closer to the centre - only 300 m.
|View from the new city northwards to the castle
|The Vltava river, castle tower and lower castle
History of the town began in the 13th century, when the south Bohemian noble House of
Vítek erected a castle. Protected by the castle, a lower city
started to develop. However, at the end of the 14th century there were less than 100 houses.
The Vítek's left the stage, to be followed by the Rožemberks. At that time,
the Rozemberks were the biggest landowners of Bohemia. In the 18th century, the
Schwarzenberg's took over. Eversince, the Sudeten-Germans outnumbered the
Czech population, which of course suddenly changed in 1945 (see also →Czech history).
The castle as well as the entire historic centre managed to survive all wars and turmoils without being
damaged at all. It seems like there's not a single new building in the centre. Additionally, the settings
of the town, featuring the meandering Vltava river, is marvellous. Not surprisingly, the entire historic centre
had been added to the world heritage list by the UNESCO in 1992.
There's not only mankind but also nature to impose destructive powers. The disastrous flooding in 2002
hit the lower parts of the city hard. Reconstruction of affected areas is highly supported and shows visible
progress, so by the time you read this, it might already have been completed. However, the small Vltava remains a
potential source of danger. Due to historical reasons, streets are very narrow and don't provide much
space to set up protective measures.
Without exception, the entire historic centre is worth a visit. It's not a bad idea to start a tour through
the city at the dominating Hrádek (lit. castle stables), better known as the castle tower.
Originally gothic, the tower had been redesigned as a renaissance building. The tower can be found next to the
main entrance of the castle and is covered by colourful paintings. To get there, you'll have to cross a small
square in front of the entrance (there you will find the tourist information) before passing a bridge.
Below the bridge, inside the moat, there's a bear pit with three or four bears enjoying the visitors. Thanks to the
bear odour, the entrance is easy to find.
|A view from the tower: Vltava and the city centre
|market square and St. Vítus church
As it is supposed to be, it's possible to climb the beautiful tower. Entrance fee is
30 Kč (students pay 20) and it's worth every Crown. From the top you can
get a first view over the whole centre and the river loop.
The zamek (castle) is definitely a highlight. Behind the tower, an area called
Dolní hrad (lower castle) starts. This part was built during the 13th century and
therefore it is the oldest structure in Krumlov. Inside the lower part, the visitor passes
several small courtyards, all of them rich in incredibly detailed wall paintings.
After passing the lower part, you will enter the monumental Horní hrad (upper castle).
This part consists of massive, dark buildings almost intimedating the visitor. In contradiction to the lower part, it's
possible to enter the buildings of the upper part. A guided tour in Czech, English or German
through the castle will set you back 130 Kč (students pay half-price). There is plenty to see - a gallery, the
castle theatre, renaissance halls and much more.
|Outer walls of the lower castle
|Part of the beautiful courtyards inside the castle
When you have passed both parts of the castle, you will find yourself on the top
of a very high gallery called Most na pláštl (castle bridge).
Under the bridge is a small path leading to a narrow bridge. Behind the bridge,
Vnitřní Mésto (inner city), which is almost entirely surrounded by the
river, starts. On the other side of the gallery, the castle theatre (this for a change is rococo) and the beautiful
Zámecká zahrada (castle garden) can be seen.
The inner city appears to be a tangle of narrow backstreets and countless souvenir shops.
Cesky Krumlov has completely dedicated itself to tourism, which doesn't come as a surprise. It doesn't matter
how you criss-cross the backstreets - somehow you will end up on the central
nám. Svornosti (unity square).
|Historical archway outside the inner city
|The nám. Svornosti (unity square) and the pest column
On unity square you will see the baroque pest column built in 1716, the gothic town hall and another
tourist information, together with a nice ensemble of renaissance burgher houses.
The Egon Schiele gallery facing the square is another treat for art buffs.
Only 100 m away from the central square, the Kostel sv. Víta (St. Vitus church)
can be seen - a large, gothic church built in the 15th century.
There's no need to worry about food - there are countless restaurants catering the hungry visitors in
Cesky Krumlov. The quality is mostly good, and there shouldn't be a communication problem, since
most staff speak German and English. German menus and ads can be seen everywhere, because
Austria is very close. Although a tourist place, prices are still reasonable.
You can get there by bus or by train. Be aware that buses are faster and, as already mentioned above,
the bus station is much closer to the city centre. Although close to the Austrian border,
there's no direct train to Linz or any other Austrian destination. In almost any case you will have to
go via →České Budějovice (Budweis).
From there, the local train needs almost one hour, the fare is 25 Kč (again, busses are faster).
There is only one direct train a day to and from →Prague.
There is definitely no lack of accommodation of all types - most of them pensions or hotels.
When you enter the old city centre from the train station, you will stumble across Hostel 99
next to Budějovická brána (Budweiser gate). A very international place and popular with
backpackers, a bed in the dormitory costs 250 Kč. As in any other Czech city, the best bet is to
go straight to the tourist information and ask for their competent help.