The medieval town of Český Krumlov was one of the first places in the Czech Republic listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The mesmerizing architecture of the castle complex and the medieval town is a mix of Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles.
Český Krumlov is in a valley surrounded by the Vltava River with the Blansko Forest to the north and Šumava National Park to the south. The area is popular with sports enthusiasts for camping, river rafting, hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing.
“The neglectful times of Communism saw the town grey and dilapidated – even then its beauty could be perceived under the rough surface. Since the early 1990s, Český Krumlov has been reborn and transformed into a place of charming beauty and near perfection.”
Český Krumlov is about a 30 minute drive from České Budějovice and yesterday I went for a visit. The local population is under 20,000 and it’s a wonderful town to explore by foot.
Other than just being in this picturesque and magical place, the main attraction is the castle complex and its palaces, gardens, and views. Of the more than 400 well-preserved historical buildings in the Český Krumlov complex, St. Vitus Church is especially spectacular.
I climbed the 180 foot castle tower for sweeping panoramic views of the town and the Vltava River below. The tower has a gallery of wall murals dating back to the late 16th century and four bells built from the early 1400s to the mid-1700s.
Český Krumlov is more touristy and pricey than České Budějovice. The locals have the tourists well covered for food, shopping, and entertainment – from organic to designer and gourmet.
The Czech Republic is known for its beautiful, rich amber and garnet gemstones. I met a friendly Czech jewelry merchant who spoke good English and bought a few small gifts at one of his shops. They specialize in original designs of amber jewelry. Amber is popular in the area and a favorite of mine. It’s considered the stone of calm and deliberate actions.
Founded in 1253 by the Lords of Krumlov, the gothic city’s history is colorful. The city changed coats of arms many times over the centuries.
In the 1680s, ruled by Johann Christian I. von Eggenberg, farming, construction, and the arts flourished. Český Krumlov began to rise from the stagnation caused by the Thirty Years’ War.
In 1989, the non-violent Czech Velvet Revolution brought renewal to the city. Today it’s a cultural center with a dozen museums and galleries. Its theaters include the historic Castle Baroque Theater dating back to the 1400s and the popular and modern open-air Revolving Theater built in the 20th Century.
Ceský Krumlov hosts hundreds of cultural events each year, including art shows, theater performances, concerts, and film festivals. For three days in mid-June, The Five-Petalled Rose Celebrations transform Český Krumlov back into a Renaissance town. The celebrations continue day and night with visitors attending dances, daredevil performances, fencing duels, jousts, arts and crafts fairs, and more! The celebrations “culminate with the highlight of the festival – a spectacular procession in historical costumes featuring knights on horseback and many notables linked with the history of the town”.
It takes several visits to experience the extraordinary beauty and history of Český Krumlov. I plan to go back for a performance in the outdoor Revolving Theater. Verdi’s Rigoletto begins July 26 and lasts for one week. The romantic opera has been performed at the theater every year since it opened. Another popular summer attraction, the annual International Music Festival, began July 19th and lasts through August 17.
If I can find the trails, I’ll go hiking in the beautiful areas near Frymburk and Lipno nad Vitavou – a short distance from Český Krumlov. Lipno Lake is the largest lake in the Czech Republic and known as “the Czech Sea”.