This gorgeous South Bohemian city and UNESCO World Heritage site is one of those destinations you just can’t skip when visiting the Czech Republic. A giant castle built into a cliff with a river snaking its way around the town center filled with winding cobblestone streets and clusters of colorful buildings with charming orange roofs is enough to make you fall in love instantly.
Even though Cesky Krumlov is bursting at the seams with visitors, you really can’t blame the locals for having a love hate relationship with the hoards of tourists that want to come experience the beauty and all the things to do in Cesky Krumlov for themselves. The small city hosts an average of 1.5 to 2 million visitors per year. That’s pretty nuts if you consider that the entire city only has 13,000 inhabitants only which 500 actually live in the city center.
With the recent stories across the media about mass tourism ruining places for locals, it does leave us a bit conflicted about encouraging people to visit this small city that is already hosting loads of tourists. However, the few locals we have talked to about it have said they do not mind the tourism as it brings in a lot of business and the locals know to just avoid the city center during peak summer holiday season.
The current tourism situation is mostly due to those who are just passing through on day trips, comparable to those visiting cities that have a cruise port for a day in large crowds. Many bus routes will stop to break up the trip to or from Prague from any of the neighboring countries leaving Cesky Krumlov packed during the peak hours from around 11 am to around 4 pm. Before and after those hours you will find the streets mostly empty and more enjoyable.
That is why we recommend spending at least a night or two, if not longer, in Cesky Krumlov on your visit. Here is our guide of best things to do in Cesky Krumlov for those who make the trip to this beautiful bohemian city that is truly worth seeing for yourself.
Check out our video below to give you a better idea of what it feels like to go through the streets of Cesky Krumlov.
Best Things to do in Cesky Krumlov
Český Krumlov Castle
For how small the entire city of Cesky Krumlov is, the castle is quite enormous in comparison and something you just can’t miss while you’re visiting. Named the second largest castle in the Czech Republic some say that it is actually only 1 square meter smaller than Prague Castle.
Whether you just want to explore the exterior of the castle grounds or get tours taking you inside the beautifully decorated interior, or both you can’t go wrong.
Be sure to peek at the medieval bear near the entrance of the castle. During our visit, there was only one bear left. Her name is Maria Theresa, named after the beloved historical figure known for her charitable gestures. The other two in the larger bear habitat recently passed away of old age and two new bears will be arriving next spring.
After strolling past Maria the bear you will come to the main entrance where you can climb the gorgeously painted tower and get an incredible view of the city. Afterwards, you keep passing through the various courtyards ornately decorated with fresco paintings that give the inner castle walls a unique 3D effect.
Continue along to giant stone bridge lined with statues that sit high up above the city. Be sure to get a view of this from below as the impressive layers of archways are a magnificent sight. You will be next to the famous Baroque Theater, which we highly recommend getting a tour inside, and a little further along a great cafe that serves beer with another stunning view of the city below.
Last but not least, follow along out the castle gate to the castle’s beautifully manicured gardens. In the evenings you can check to see if there are live performances on their famous revolving theater.
Considered one of the greatest Baroque theaters in the world and also one of the best preserved of its kind. The Baroque Theater is something truly unique to experience for yourself in Cesky Krumlov and connected to the castle. The small theater can seat a small crowd with a beautiful balcony at the top overlooking the stage for the noblemen and noble women. Attendees included only people invited by the royal family and some of the performances lasted 4-6 hours.
What makes this theater especially unique would be the layers of moving painted backdrops on the stage giving the show a 3D effect. The performers would blend in with the scene. Various sets are stored in the back of the stage and the entire show was man powered by wooden wheels and ropes beneath.
To maintain preservation only small groups of under 20 are allowed in the theater about 5 to 6 times a day by tour only. The humidity and temperatures inside the theater must be controlled at all times. During the tour you will get to watch a video, get an explanation of the stage and the theater, and briefly visit below the stage to peek at the mechanisms used move the backdrops.
About 3-4 times a year there are live performances the public can buy tickets to in the Baroque Theater. Although, they are usually hard to come by and a bit pricey from what we were told by our guide. Below is a video of one of the performances where you can see a great example.
Tip: Try to get the 10 am tour as many of the tour buses do not arrive until 11 and at this time the tour is less crowded. You can buy your tickets at the castle box office. Closed on Mondays.
One of the best things to do in Cesky Krumlov, even if you’re short on time, is to get the view of the city from the castle tower. You can’t miss the tower when walking around the city. It’s the Gothic and Renaissance tower erected at the edge of the castle is actually a gallery itself decorated with elegant paintings from the bottom to the top. You can actually see people from the viewing deck when you’re below.
Tickets are inexpensive at 50 CZK per person to climb to the top. You can pay a little extra to combine the castle museum in with your ticket.
Explore the large and beautifully manicured castle gardens. The gardens are connected to the castle by an indoor bridge from the baroque theater. You will not be able to go to the gardens this way yourself but can use the outdoor path to lead your way up to the expansive property. You can also drive up and park on the other side of the castle if you’d like to visit this site on its own.
Explore the upper, lower, and different terraces of the garden by foot. There are also grand fountains around the gardens as well as a revolving theater. The open-air revolving auditorium is rather unique and worth checking out. There are evening performances you can experience for yourself. We were told by our local guide on a tour that this may not stay for long as UNESCO would like the gardens to remain as authentic as possible. There are no plans to remove the theater yet, but you may want to experience it while you can just in case it does disappear in the future.
Cathedral of St. Vitus
Another beautiful site and one of the most amazing things to do in Cesky Krumlov is visit the Cathedral of St. Vitus. The cathedral is responsible for the other famous tower in the city with a clock at the top. Both the exterior and interior of St. Vitus is beautiful. You can visit inside the cathedral for free as long as there is not a mass going on at the time. Men be sure to take off your cap when going inside.
A quick stop but another one of the best things to do in Cesky Krumlov is walk through the Minorite Monastery. We went through the museums here on our own and were a little underwhelmed, perhaps you need a guide to explain the history to make it a bit more interesting. However, the grounds outside are free to roam and there is a lovely garden that leads down to the Vltava River.
This monastery has an especially interesting background as both Catholic nuns and monks shared and lived the grounds together. Even though they had segregated sleeping arrangements, it is said that there were a few births within the monastery, whoops!
Connected to the monastery was also a brewery dating back to 1560. It was very common for beer to be made in monasteries in this region. While you can’t actually tour the brewery today, you can eat at the restaurant serving the local beer, Eggenberg. The restaurant has great prices, delicious food, and mouthwatering beer to try!
Float down the Vltava River
During the summer months, you will see tons of kayakers, canoes, and rafts floating through the Vltava river whether you’re in the heart of the town or the outskirts. The most exciting part of doing this would be going down the ramps next to the dams in the river.
There are many different options to choose from to enjoy this experience yourself. You can kayak anywhere from 2-7 hours depending on your schedule. A bus will take you to your drop off point and you’ll float and paddle your way to the city center. There are plenty of stop off points along the river for a refreshing beer or lunch break. Many of the rafts and canoes are also equipped with a box to keep your belongings dry and even store and snacks or drinks you want to bring for your journey. If you ask us, this is one of the greatest things to do in Cesky Krumlov! It’s not every day you get to raft through an old medieval city/ UNESCO World Heritage site!
You can find more booking information here.
Museum Fotoateliér Seidel
This one was especially interesting to us as we are into photography. This beautiful looking home was actually a photography studio of local photographer Josef Seidel. The home itself is unique and designed and decorated in Art Noveau style. Since the passing of one of his sons who lived a quiet life with his wife in the studio, it has been turned into a museum.
The beginning of the audio tour starts off a bit slow, but after the first two rooms the museum gets more and more interesting and the two most intriguing spots in the museum would be the glass wall portrait studio and the attic where all Siedel stored and filed his negatives.
Siedel was known for photographing South Bohemia from daily life, portraits, to landscapes. Many of his photographs were made into postcards and he was considered one of the most important photographers of his time.
Great View Spots in Cesky Krumlov
There are some amazing places to take photos here including just wandering around the city center. Here are a few of the best photo taking spots for an amazing panoramic view of the city of Cesky Krumlov.
Located between the Castle Theater and gardens is a small door along the brick wall that leads to a cafe with an incredible panoramic view of the city. The door is open early in the morning, although you won’t be able to get a coffee until 8 or 9 am and closes its gates promptly at 7:30 pm. You can also get a delicious draft beer here and enjoy the view in the afternoon after touring the castle. This ended up being one of our favorite things to do in Cesky Krumlov, drinking a delicious beer with an incredible view.
Across from Hotel Ruze is a beautiful viewing deck of the city and castle in Cesky Krumlov. You will be able to get magnificent photos from this location. After snapping a few pictures make your way to the courtyard of Hotel Ruze for a local craftsmen market selling anything from hand blown glass to fresh lavender sachets. If you feel like splurging you can also dine at Hotel Ruze from their terrace offering another amazing view.
Cesky Krumlov from a Hot Air Balloon
We actually didn’t know about this until Scott was out taking photos early in the morning and saw a hot air balloon floating right above the castle. There’s no better view in person than floating above the beautiful city from a balloon. It seems as though you can only do this early in the morning, so if you’re not a morning person you may be out of luck.
kaple Panny Marie Bolestné
Located on a hill overlooking the city this tiny religious structure has a great vantage point of the city. You can drive part way up or just walk the entire way. The walk is only about 25 minutes from the city center and is great exercise. You’ll see locals walking their dogs and enjoying the paths outside the city center to get their own exercise and fresh air. This is also a great place to get away from the crowds.
Where to Eat
Krcma v Satlavske Ulici
Hands down the best meal we had in Cesky Krumlov was here. If you’re a meat eater this is where you will want to go. We did the meat platter for 2 people and left stuffed to the gills. They cook up the different meats on the open fire grill inside the restaurant that feels like you’ve stepped back in time. There are 2 pieces of the 4 different types of meat, potatoes with the best sour cream we’ve ever tasted and chives, with horseradish, mustard, and coleslaw all on cutting boards. The place was packed, which is usually a good sign and we ended up striking up a conversation with some locals who recommended the dish we ordered another good sign. Be sure to check it out while you’re in Cesky Krumlov!
Remember the monastery mentioned earlier? This is the restaurant at the location of the original Eggenberg brewery. Today the brewery serves up different beer options, however, it would be a shame not to try the local beer, Eggenberg. The food we ate here was delicious and good portions sizes. Prices are actually pretty inexpensive and they do accept credit card. We highly recommend trying their goulash with dumplings!
Hospada Na Louzi Hotel
Another amazing restaurant that was recommended to us by a local. This family-run hotel and the restaurant serves up some delicious local dishes and offers great daily specials. We played roulette ordering the daily specials our first time dining here and were so impressed we returned again. The staff members do speak decent English so you can ask any questions you may have, however, we decided to just go for it. The best seating is outside on the street, but there is also plenty of indoor seating. Be prepared to pay with cash as they do not have a credit card reader.
Located near the castle entrance and across the street from another impressive building with fresco is Apotheka. The building used to be the apothecary in the past, but now serves up fancy cocktails and small bites with the apothecary theme. Our local guide said that whatever you drink here is medicine since it’s in the apothecary. We ended up trying their signature cocktails and enjoying the atmosphere. Sadly, no photos are allowed so you’ll just have to take our word for it. Also, this place is cash only and the drinks can add up, be prepared and make sure you don’t end up doing dishes in the kitchen to pay for your drinks, get cash ahead of time!
Where to Stay
$ Hostel Merlin
Hostel Merlin is perfect for budget travelers with a convenient location right on the Vltava River. You are only a 2-minute walk from the town square and 5-7 minute walk to the castle. The rooms are basic dorm style rooms with a communal kitchen. You really can’t beat the price and location of this budget-friendly hostel.
$$ Residence Muzeum Vltavínů
In the heart of Cesky Krumlov, you really can’t get a better location and deal than this 4-star hotel. The rooms and bathrooms are big, the rooms are clean and nicely decorated. The space is really nice considering Cesky Krumlov is a smaller city and therefore many of the accommodation options are small. Most rooms also include a small kitchenette.
$$$ Hotel Růže
Hotel Ruze is an amazing option for luxury travelers. This 5-star hotel offers incredible rooms with views, a spa, and an arts and crafts market in the courtyard. The best part about this hotel would be the location. The hotel is facing the castle and offers an amazing panoramic view. In front of Hotel Ruze is a great viewing deck that we mentioned earlier in the post.
Be sure to bring plenty of cash with you as many places in Cesky Krumlov do not take card. If you are running low on cash be sure to ask before ordering your food if they take cards. Do not exchange cash here, if you need to get more cash use an ATM.
If you’re like us and showed up in a car you will find you will not be able to park in the city center. Cesky Krumlov is small, so we actually like this rule. Be sure to get a hotel that has parking provided otherwise you’ll have a headache! Parking is available just about 10-minute walk from the city center, but you do have to pay.
Cesky Krumlov Card
We highly recommend getting the Cesky Krumlov Card, for 300 CZK this card gets you into 5 different museums including the Castle Museum and Castle Tower, Český Krumlov Regional Museum, Museum Fotoatelier Seidel, Egon Schiele Art Centrum, and the Monastery museums.
What’s great is that the card is valid for 12 months. So if you don’t end up using everything you have an opportunity to come back or pass it along to another traveler who just showed up!
Want to plan a perfect trip to the Czech Republic? Check out our suggested Czech Republic itinerary as well as our Czech Republic travel guide for useful tips and information you need to know before your visit.
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