Generally you arrive someplace, gawp a bit of bit an excessive amount of, after which admit it’s well worth the hype. For me, that place was Český Krumlov, a real-life fairytale city – full with a fort, in fact – in Czechia’s (Czech Republic) South Bohemia area. However maybe I’m not the primary individual to let you know how magical this river-hugging chateau-crowned spot is? Definitely, many individuals had showered me with tales of their love-at-first-sight assembly with this mediaeval marvel. Although if something, that had really put me off visiting.
That’s to not say the Czech Republic hasn’t lengthy held a particular place in my coronary heart. Prague was the primary metropolis break I took my mum on as a finally-earning-money grownup. Karlovy Fluctuate was the town the place I had my first thermal spa getaway. Kutna Hora is the place I learnt that church buildings could be coated with bones. And final 12 months, in Brno, I found simply how fantastic Czechia’s wines might be.
However I’d at all times purposefully bypassed South Bohemia. I didn’t imagine Český Krumlov might really be price that a lot hype whereas not being completely overrun with fellow vacationers. Nevertheless, with the nation celebrating its Thirtieth birthday this 12 months – and certainly, it being the 15-year anniversary of my very own first journey to the nation – I discovered myself again, this time passing by South Bohemia whereas overlanding from Italy to the Baltic States.
So I made a decision to remain some time and switch my journey into an extended weekend in South Bohemia, and wow, am I glad I did! This area, wealthy in ponds, lakes, castles, and cute cities, left me in awe; my solely remorse was not staying longer.
My journey in South Bohemia didn’t begin in Český Krumlov however moderately within the regional capital metropolis of České Budějovice – a really intentional alternative. Beneficial to me by a buddy from Prague as a extra lived-in instance of Bohemian life (plus far more reasonably priced lodging), I made this underrated metropolis my base for the 4 days I spent hopping between the opposite cute cities and fabled castles of South Bohemia. With a well-connected bus and prepare station, all over the place that I needed to go to might be reached in lower than an hour.
However that’s to not say České Budějovice doesn’t deserve its personal in-depth go to. Simply this month, it was introduced that the town can be one of many European Capitals of Tradition for 2028.
Courting again to its authentic founding in 1265 by the then Bohemian king, Ottokar II, the mediaeval metropolis is wealthy in South Bohemian tradition. Presiding over the regional museum, an unlimited and photogenic city sq., and a diversified historical past of manufacturing from porcelain to pencils, the laid-back location is additional enhanced by the assembly of two rivers: the Vltava and Malše. It’s additionally only a brief drive or bus journey from the mighty Hluboká Fort.
Nevertheless, the town has one other aspect past the Baroque-style structure and mirror-like lakes. Referred to as Budweis in German (the town was a part of the Austro-Hungarian empire previous to WWI), České Budějovice has been house to the equally named Budweiser Budvar beer brewery since 1895. One in every of many well-known brewers on this planet – and one among many within the Czech Republic – you possibly can take a tour and, extra importantly, a tasting within the brewery itself.
Prime three issues to do in České Budějovice, South Bohemia
Discover the Outdated City’s highlights
České Budějovice is well explored on foot, and lots of the most important points of interest could be discovered main away from the intensive Přemysla Otakara II Sq.. See the 18th-century Samson Fountain within the center, peek contained in the Baroque city corridor, and climb the Sixteenth-century Black Tower for views throughout the town.
Go to the Museum of South Bohemia
Maybe a very powerful museum within the area, this grand constructing homes an enchanting assortment of provincial artefacts and interactive shows. With the knowledge in English, you possibly can simply begin to perceive the area’s historical past and see some well-preserved examples of conventional life alongside extra generic pure historical past collections.
Get pleasure from beers within the Budweiser Brewery
Guide a tour and tasting of one of many world’s most well-known breweries, situated only a brief stroll from the town centre.
State Chateau of Hluboká
Earlier than this journey to South Bohemia, I hadn’t even heard of the State Chateau of Hluboká, one among Europe’s most spectacular Romantic castles and an easy half-day journey from České Budějovice.
Constructed as a royal seat within the Thirteenth century, the constructing modified look many instances. Falling into personal arms within the late 18th century, the chateau has had two main redesigns since, firstly within the Baroque model after which later in its present Romantic reconstruction.
Fortunately, the state recovered possession of Hluboká Chateau after the tip of WWII, and its beautiful gardens, spectacular and lavish halls, and panoramic towers are actually open to the general public once more. A lot of the castles and palaces in South Bohemia and the Czech Republic have very strict no pictures guidelines within the inside rooms, therefore why you’ll primarily solely see pictures of the grand exteriors on-line. Nevertheless, you possibly can often take pictures from the towers and areas outdoors of the inside rooms and halls.
Choosing one of many 4 tour choices – this additionally appears very commonplace within the Czech Republic, the place you have to guide (generally prematurely) timeslot-defined guided excursions to the a part of the constructing which pursuits you most – I used to be swept away for an hour of historical past. With teardrop chandeliers, portraits of royalty, and ornately embellished wood-panelled rooms aplenty, the inside is magnificent as you’d count on.
Having added the tower to my ticket possibility, I might climb the deer-head-decorated staircase as much as Hluboká’s highest level. From right here, the small city beneath, backed by dense forests, seemed like a pop-up guide, whereas a community of lakes close to and much added cerulean splodges to the panorama.
Prime three issues to do in Hluboká nad Vltavou, South Bohemia
Tour the State Chateau of Hluboká
The grounds and exterior of the chateau are free to enter and open to all, whereas a ticket for the tower prices just a few euros. To enter the constructing, you’ll have to guide a tour (accessible in just a few completely different languages), and if you happen to’re coming in the summertime, it’s finest to order your time slot on-line prematurely. There are just a few completely different excursions to select from (Personal Flats, Kitchen or the spectacular Consultant Rooms) – in case you have the finances to do all three, nice, however I used to be more than pleased with my singular tour and tower ticket.
Stroll by the city of Hluboká nad Vltavou
The State Chateau isn’t tucked away from the actual world anymore and is definitely amidst the city of Hluboká nad Vltavou. Small, fairly and with loads of nice espresso retailers, it’s price strolling across the city after you descend from the fort to peek into the 2 church buildings and take a espresso.
Stroll or boat across the Munický Rybník lake
From the highest of the tower, it’s this expansive lake which stands out most. You’ll be able to take a ship out on the lake or simply stroll round it and revel in a picnic for lunch – I discovered it surprisingly calm, given how in style the chateau is.
Arguably South Bohemia’s crowning glory, and now one of the in style locations to go to in all the Czech Republic, Český Krumlov is a literal fairytale. Like I mentioned, I had been doubtful about visiting since I noticed the explosion of beautiful pictures on Instagram in recent times. But, arriving on a heat summer season’s day in July, I used to be happy to see that Český Krumlov was removed from overrun, and that was on a weekend.
Wrapped inside a horse-shoe-shaped part of the Vltava River, the mediaeval Outdated City is storybook personified. Cobbled streets, vibrant squares, and hovering towers all add to the painting-like panorama, whereas the spectacular Thirteenth-century fort overlooks all of it from a excessive.
However the fort’s look has modified vastly since its first building. The spectacular Renaissance extension was constructed within the Sixteenth century, whereas the distinctive aqueduct-like Cloak Bridge was constructed within the 18th century, changing an earlier wood construction. No matter dates, it’s mighty spectacular and holds the title of the second largest fort within the nation after Prague – no imply feat given the a lot smaller dimension of Český Krumlov
Inside, it’s equally lavish, with elegant carriages and upscale furnishings adorning the ornate halls, full with detailed wall work and frescoed ceilings. There’s additionally an extremely well-preserved and restored Baroque Theatre, one among solely two in Europe nonetheless preserved on this model, visitable with a separate ticket.
Past the hulking fort complicated and fairly gardens, the remainder of the Outdated City unfurls in its shadow. Beautiful at each flip, I can see why this has turn into one of many nation’s hottest day journeys, however there are nonetheless loads of wonderful unbiased bars – each alongside the river and down aspect streets – to get pleasure from an ideal pint of craft beer.
At a type of spots, Bistro 53 Beer Level, I used to be fortunate sufficient to satisfy an area rafting information Michal, who I had examine in an article concerning the metropolis’s over-tourism issues earlier than arrival. He advised me all about his rafting firm, which makes use of the identical conventional boats and strategies because the previous manufacturing rafts from the eleventh century. With a Na zdraví, as we clinked glasses, I ended my day with a smile, joyful to see that historic traditions and conversations have been nonetheless very a lot alive on this busy nook of South Bohemia.
Prime three issues to do in Český Krumlov, South Bohemia
Tour the State Fort of Český Krumlov and the gardens
There are 5 completely different excursions you possibly can take contained in the fort, which may all be booked on-line prematurely if you wish to assure entry. The grounds are free to enter; nonetheless, the tower ticket is mixed with the Fort Museum.
Get pleasure from some river rafting in the summertime
Given Michal’s nice beer banter, I’ve received to provide a specific shout-out to his conventional rafting firm, Voroplavba. These flat timber rafts have been a convention of the Vltava River for almost one thousand years, and it’s an effective way to see the town from the water. Alternatively, pack rafts and kayaks give one other option to loop the Outdated City by water.
Get misplaced within the Outdated City
Strolling across the Outdated City here’s a photographer’s dream, with loads of museums masking every part from artwork to torture. Bragging quite a few superb viewpoints, resembling Seminární Zahrada, the tower, or the raised space close to the bus station, Český Krumlov appears to be like good from all angles. After you’ve had your fill of cobbled streets and river strolls, settle in on one of many floating pontoons with deck chairs for a refreshing brew.
Surrounded by synthetic lakes and fishing ponds, quaint Třeboň is probably Czechia’s excellent countryside metropolis. Getting off the bus from České Budějovice, I made a beeline for the Spolský Potok lake, monitoring the shore and canals earlier than coming into Třeboň Outdated City through the historic gates.
One in every of South Bohemia’s historic spa cities, Třeboň is a well-liked getaway for locals trying to recharge and reconnect with nature. That’s to not say the town is with out storied structure, and the Twelfth-century Gothic Saint Giles Church and Renaissance-style State Chateau of Trebon are two of the standouts.
Entered through an enclosed courtyard, the chateau operates in the identical model as others within the area, with three completely different excursions to select from. One will information you thru the extra spectacular Rosenberg interiors, whereas the others, which I didn’t expertise, enter the Schwarzenberg suites or the stables.
For me, Třeboň was extra of a standout for the cobbled streets and pure walks close by, and I’m glad I made time to squeeze a go to into my final day earlier than persevering with to Prague.
Prime three issues to do in Třeboň, South Bohemia
Tour the State Chateau of Třeboň
Three forms of guided excursions are supplied by the chateau, and tickets could be bought on-line prematurely. Nevertheless, that is much less visited than a number of the area’s different castles, so that you doubtless don’t have to guide as far forward.
Stroll alongside the canals and lakes
Třeboň’s ‘Golden Community of Canals’ and carp-loaded lakes and ponds have been Center Ages engineering marvels. From the again of the city, you possibly can observe the canal out in direction of the lake, the place in summer season, boats and watersport leases can be found. The Dům Štěpánka Netolického museum explains extra concerning the pond system.
Discover the Outdated City
Quaint and compact, Třeboň’s Outdated City highlights could be visited in a few hours. Above the market sq., the Outdated City Corridor’s tower offers the most effective views within the metropolis, and the historic Saint Giles Church is price a peek. Or, simply sit back within the Regent Brewery with an area brew.
The Lakes Past
South Bohemia is a lot greater than castles and cute cities, although, and this area is famed for one thing else: ponds and lakes. Because the Twelfth century, quite a few our bodies of water have been established and created, each for fishing and leisure use. This makes South Bohemia a improbable summer season getaway – particularly in a landlocked nation – as you possibly can quiet down, take a dip, or get pleasure from watersports.
With loads of dense forests and untouched corners, it’s a pure paradise for lengthy leisurely hikes and even biking between a number of the Czech Republic’s most spectacular castles on canopy-covered tracks.
A few of the most spectacular clutches of ponds are discovered round Třeboň, the place a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve protected the canals, ponds and flooded plains, which have been established again within the fifteenth century. These days, they match into the surroundings like a wonderfully sized glove, however loads of years of onerous work went into creating these our bodies of water, with historic engineering strategies re-shaping the panorama.
Nevertheless you spend your time in South Bohemia, my greatest recommendation is to not simply come on a day journey to Český Krumlov from Prague. There may be loads of historical past and heritage to discover within the area apart from essentially the most well-known chateau, and I can’t let you know how good it was to expertise the Czech Republic past the large cities and see the nation’s extra pure aspect.
When you have longer than I did, you may also wish to try the beer-heavy metropolis of Plzeň (Pilsen), the varied tree walkways resembling Lipno, or hunt down much more castles – there are many Europe’s hidden gems to be present in South Bohemia.
I visited the Czech Republic as a part of my very own large journey by Europe this summer season and was subsequently invited to put in writing this text by the tourism board as a part of the nation’s Thirtieth-anniversary marketing campaign, #Czechia30, highlighting regional experiences.