Knowledge, escape, romance, experience. There are many ingredients people mention when they explain why they love to travel. When a special occasion brought my husband and me to Europe, we were looking for all of this, along with celebration. That mix was the recipe for the secret sauce that created a memorable vacation.
Traveling from Vienna to Prague, we found the perfect postcard destination in romantic Cesky Krumlov.
Rose gardens and a fairytale castle are just the beginning of what most would agree is one of the most beautiful and historic towns in all of Europe.
This medieval charmer certainly ticked all the boxes for our 40th wedding anniversary celebration of baby boomer bliss.
Located in the South Bohemian region of the Czech Republic, almost equidistant between Vienna and Prague, this dreamy destination has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992. It’s easy to see why it’s the second most visited spot in the country and a favorite in Central Europe.
The main event, the 13th century Krumlov Castle, is surrounded by twisting alleys and cobbled streets. A river runs through the center of the Old Town and offers a refreshing breeze as you cross the ancient bridges connecting one side to the other.
Find a good travel planner
For such a special once-in-a-lifetime trip, we decided to work with a boutique agency that specializes in Central and Eastern Europe. If problems occurred, we wanted to make sure there was an extensive network of on-the-ground associates to get in touch with. When we arrived and received a local phone with preprogrammed numbers, Neil and I knew we were in good hands.
One of the best tips we received from our travel planner, was to arrive mid-day and spend the night at the perfectly located Hotel Ruze. The hotel is just a short walk from the center of town and across the street from an overlook providing the best spot for Instagram-worthy photos of the town. Additionally, the rear of the property overlooks the river and has a lovely deck/patio for an evening drink or brunch.
This plan had the benefit of avoiding the streets crowded with tourists early in the day. The magic of romantic Cesky Krumlov comes alive during the golden hour and is enhanced by a blanket of stars into the night. I imagine fans of cooler temperatures would love a winter visit when nearby skiing is available and a layer of snow adds to the picturesque enchantment.
Cesky Krumlov is made for walking
Upon arriving, it’s best to take a walking tour. Cars are limited, streets are narrow, and pedestrians make up most of the traffic. It’s possible to stroll the compact Old Town area in a day, but visitors do themselves a disservice if they stay longer. Here are some of the top not-to-miss sites.
St. Vitus Church
From the Hotel Ruze, start at St. Vitus Church and work your way down the streets. Built in 1400, this building is the second oldest structure in town. From there, tour the city center, bustling with tourists, shops and restaurants.
All roads lead to the romantic Cesky Krumlov Castle. This iconic landmark consists of over 40 buildings and is situated on the Vltava River where it overlooks the town. One of the most recognized castles in central Europe, its construction dates back to the 13th century and it is remarkably well-preserved. The original Gothic structure was built by the powerful Witigonens. The family crest of a five-petaled rose can seen on structures throughout the town.
Before its ownership was transferred to the government, the royal Rosenberg branch inherited the castle next and later the Schwarzenberg family. From admiring the architectural details to walking the meticulous grounds with five courtyards, it’s easy to spend a day here. Open year-round, you can take a guided tour of the grounds and visit the Castle Museum, Castle Tower (great views and the tallest landmark) and the Lapidarium.
From April to October, the Chateau Garden welcomes visitors. A short walk up the hill at the rear of the castle is rewarded with a sweeping view of the town on your way up along the Cloak Bridge. After strolling the gardens with fantastic blooms, pause at the café at the top for a drink or snack, where you’ll see the remarkable outdoor theatre with a revolving stage. With Ceske Budejovice so close by, this is an excellent opportunity to relax with the regional specialty beer, Budvar, the original Budweiser.
Wandering around town, take in the remarkable centuries-old Renaissance and Baroque architecture. Stop at the Seidl Fotoatelier Museum on Linecka Street. It highlights the work of Josef Seidl, the famous photographer who chronicled life in this region during the late-19th and early-20th centuries. The unique exhibit not only features historical images but also antique equipment from Seidl’s studio, all authentically placed as if the artist has just taken a break from work and will return at any minute.
The resident Bohemian, Egon Schiele
Along one of the charming side streets, don’t miss the Egon Schiele Art Centrum, a wonderfully renovated gallery, shop and café that pays homage to the Viennese artist who was a bit too bohemian for South Bohemia. Although Schiele only spent a short period of time in Cesky Krumlov (his mother’s hometown), the young Klimt-inspired artist was shunned for his erotic nudes and edgy lifestyle. The Centrum, an old brewery, has been repurposed into a beautiful display space with rotating contemporary exhibits as well as permanent ones that tell about the life and work of Egon Schiele.
Prague is certainly the destination that comes to mind when thinking of the Czech Republic, but as we discovered, there are so many more stories just waiting to be discovered throughout the country.
Few towns have managed to preserve their medieval character and fairy tale flavor more than the romantic Cesky Krumlov.
We came looking for a spot for celebration, romance and escape. While we found the secret sauce, we discovered it covering a locale full of rich history where at different moments, time seems to stand still.
What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?
- History and theatre buffs will appreciate visiting the rococo-style theatre in the Krumlov Castle, one of the few remaining ones in the world. A world-renowned International Music Festival is held there every summer.
- The town has excellent restaurants, Moravian wine and, of course, Czech beer. Back decks overlooking the Vltava River are primo seats. During peak seasons, reservations are a must.
- Gingerbread is a famous, certified regional specialty and the perfect artisan gift to bring home.
- Because the streets are paved with cobblestones, sturdy walking shoes with support are a must.
- The town is built on a hill, and although made for walking, it could be a challenge to anyone who struggles with cardiovascular issues.
- Visiting outside of summer in the shoulder seasons will help avoid some of the crowds.
IF YOU GO
Photo credits: All photos by Alison Abbott (except for lede photo)
The author’s visit was hosted by JayWay Travel but as always, all opinions, reviews and experiences are her own.
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