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The medieval town of Český Krumlov in the Czech Republic is like something straight out of a fairytale. A castle clings to the cliffside, cobblestone streets wind past the colourful facades of shops and restaurants where flowers drip out of window sills, and a brilliant blue river meanders through the centre. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cesky Krumlov is like a mini Prague; the same old world charm and beautifully-preserved sites, yet so compact you can walk through the entire old town in less than 20 minutes.
This photogenic spot in the South Bohemian region is rightfully one of the country’s most visited places, welcoming about two million visitors a year despite having less than 15-thousand residents. It’s also one of the most popular day trips from Prague, as the capital is only a couple hours away. To beat the crowds, try to arrive before 9 a.m. before the tour buses pull in, or time your visit for shoulder season.
Sure, you’ll want to take a peek at the main sites like the castle and the gorgeous interior of the Church of St. Vitus, but if you’re looking for a more off-the-beaten path experience there are plenty of unique things to do in this charming town. From soaking in beer baths to checking out a bear pit, here are some quirky ideas for what to do in Cesky Krumlov.
Explore the Ceský Krumlov castle
The crown jewel of Cesky Krumlov is its colourful hilltop castle, which features a round tower complete with a 162-step climb up, Renaissance frescoes and impressive viewpoints overlooking the old town.
The complex is built precipitously on a rock promontory, and is one of the largest castle areas in central Europe thanks to its 40 buildings and palaces, gardens, five castle courts and park. Despite its size, it’s easy enough to explore the highlights of the Cesky Krumlov castle on your own, or you can opt for a guided tour to head inside and see what life was like for the nobles who once lived here.
See the bears at the Cesky Krumlov castle
Yes, you read that right–there are real, live bears living outside the Český Krumlov castle gates. The castle itself dates back to 1240, and it’s believed that the (somewhat) cuddly creatures were first brought there in the early 1700s.
There are a few bears living there today, in a comfortable, reconstructed moat with trees and toys. There are plenty of viewing areas for visitors to see them in action, and even a festival every Christmas Eve where children bring food to lay under the trees as a gift to the bears, who are eventually let out of their enclosure to enjoy their Christmas dinner.
Soak in a beer bath
Even if you fancy yourself as more of a wine lover, you won’t want to miss one of the most unique things to do in Cesky Krumlov, which is to bathe in beer. Beer baths are a centuries-old tradition in the Czech Republic, where you soak for half an hour in a piping-hot wooden tub filled with a combination of brewer’s yeast, hops and water. You then relax for about 20 minutes on a heated lounger or straw bed to give the nourishing ingredients time to absorb into the skin, which is said to treat conditions like psoriasis, acne and cellulite, as well as increase circulation.
READ MORE: Soaking in suds: What it’s like to bathe in a Czech beer spa
To experience what a beer spa is all about, head to the Svachovka resort which is a 10 minute drive from Cesky Krumlov’s old town. The on-site Glokner brewery makes the beer which is poured inside the baths, and there’s even a personal keg beside each tub so you can sip while you soak!
Czech-out the Svachovka Distillery
While you’re over at Svachovka resort, be sure to drop into their on-site distillery which has a rather lofty goal in mind: producing rare whiskey, in the traditional Scottish way using a two-wheel burning system. Unique to the Czech Republic which is better known for beer and fruit spirits, Svachovka imported whiskey barrels from Jack Daniels in Tennessee, and mimicked Scotland’s climate in their barrel room and cellars. The cellar is connected to an 18th century well which results in natural moisture, to assist with maturing the whiskey.
Tours are available, as well as tastings of their fruit spirits and liqueurs including one made of buckthorn which has medicinal properties, and a popular Czech drink called tuzemák which is like rum without the sugar cane.
If you’re craving a sweet treat afterward, head over to Svachovka’s chocolaterie which pumps out about two-thousand chocolates per day using just two machines. Their creative concoctions use ingredients like tea, Italian pistachios and gin from their distillery.
Raft down the Vltava River
See Český Krumlov from a different perspective and have a bit of fun, by booking a rafting trip down the Vltava River. The 270 mile-long waterway is the longest in the Czech Republic, and a portion of it winds through town.
Join a guided tour where you float one direction and take a shuttle or bike ride back, and enjoy a day of fun on the water as you float past medieval villages, a 13th century abbey and lush Bohemian forests. Click to book
Tours to Ceský Krumlov
The Cesky Krumlov old town is compact and well-marked, so self-guided tours are easy enough to do. If you’re visiting as a day trip from Prague, it takes about two hours to drive there or you can book an organized transfer. The bus from Prague to Cesky Krumlov takes about 2 ½ hours and is the cheapest option, while it’s about three hours to take the direct train.
Book a Cesky Krumlov day trip:
Where to stay in Ceský Krumlov
- Boutique Hotel Villa Beatika: This romantic, boutique property is one of the top-rated hotels in Cesky Krumlov, thanks to its beautifully-styled rooms and location near the old town. Guests can enjoy the sun terrace, as well as free breakfast and parking. Click to book
- Hotel Dvorak: With a prized location right in the town centre, Hotel Dvorak has lovely views of the river and medieval buildings. The staff are welcoming and helpful, and while the rooms are rather dated they’re quite large. Click to book
- Hotel Bellevue: The decor in Hotel Bellevue is fabulous, featuring original wood beams, luxe linens and colourful, spacious suites. The property is in the centre of town, and there’s also a spa with a wood sauna and massages. Click to book
Globe Guide explored Český Krumlov as a guest of CzechTourism. As always, hosts have no editorial influence on articles.
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