You keep returning to Prague. It’s one of your favorite cities in Europe, if not the world. But what about the rest of the Czech Republic? If you love its capital so much, shouldn’t you give the rest of the country a shot, as well?
Český Krumlov is an easy place to start. It’s only two hours from Prague, and it sits near the Austrian and German borders. The Český Krumlov Castle and its surrounding village were built in the late-13th century along Bohemia’s trade route. Both came under disrepair when the town became part of Nazi Germany and then Czechoslovakia. Restoration only began after the Velvet Revolution in 1989.
Today, many consider it the prettiest town in the Czech Republic. The center of the UNESCO World Heritage Site is filled with Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque buildings from the 14th-17th centuries. They now house cafés, bars, shops, and galleries. The castle is the country’s second-largest castle after one with which you’re already quite familiar: Hradčany in Prague. While the Vltava, the longest river in the country, meanders through town and continues into nearby forests and national parks.
Begin your tour at the Český Krumlov Castle. Enter through the red iron gates. Cross the Bear Moat, where real bears have been kept since 1707. See the Cloak Bridge, the extensive gardens, and the frescoes in the Church of St. Vitus. Wander through the Baroque Castle Theatre, which has its original stage machinery from the 1680s. Productions are now held three times a year by candlelight. And, as you’re leaving, stop for chocolate ice cream at Bon Bon—you can’t miss the green building.
There’s a lot more to explore in Český Krumlov—the museums and the brewery are at the top of your list—but first, you want to go relax at your hotel. Hotel Bellevue is located right in the historic center’s car-free zone. The 16th-century building once housed a bakery. It still has wooden beams and a view of the castle. Make a beeline for Le Jardin. The summer terrace has hanging plants, shady umbrellas, and Czech wine. Order a glass of crisp Grüner Veltliner. It’s so peaceful and quiet away from the crowds that one drink turns into dinner—salmon marinated in brandy, poached dark codfish, and lemon cheesecake—and more wine. Your Czech adventure is off to a great start.