Český Krumlov – a fairy-tale come to life

Český Krumlov is a small medieval Renaissance town in south Bohemia with the Vltava river twisting through the center. It’s beautiful, it’s charming, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and during the height of tourist season it’s probably bustling with people.

Fortunately, my group chose to go during a good time – September is towards the end of the season but still reasonably warm. Since it’s a smaller town we decided to spend only a day and a half arriving Friday afternoon.

The first day we mainly wandered the cobbled streets, hiked the very steep hills, saw beautiful vistas of the red roofed town, and tried a cinnamon Trdelník. It felt like every sight we saw or little alley we walked was straight out of a postcard or a Disney movie come to life. Český Krumlov was built atop two tall hills and originally was two separate towns until they were unified.

That night we tried to find a place to eat dinner around 7:30 but everywhere we stopped they were either reserved or closing so we ended up at a fairly sketchy walk-up burger shack along the river. It was open and serving food.

Day 2 – Saturday – we started out with a free tour that went up and down the hills and streets we hiked previously but the guide colored in the history and local legends. Having a knowledgeable guide who not only knows the area but also knows the people is a huge help!

After wandering the town we decided it was time to explore the river so we took to the raft. For $7/person we rented a raft and paddles. No life vests, no instruction on what to do – all we got was a friendly wave good bye from the drop point and the promise that there were bars along the way we could stop at.

We quickly realized that the river was only 1 or 2 feet deep and all we really needed to do was float down the river since there weren’t many rapids. It was a very fun trip and we made it back in one piece!

Later that night we headed up to the castle gardens to watch the fireworks our guide promised from the tour earlier. We were a little early and when we reached the top of the hill the gates were closed so we walked back down to wait. 15 minutes before it was scheduled to begin we walked back up… still nothing. Finally we walked all the way down the hill the other way but ended up finding a bar with country music. Slightly disappointed we headed back up the hill (again!) and ended up finding a stream of people going in a side entrance!

When preparing to pay the entrance fee I asked if there was a student discount. One woman paused and said something in Czech to another who waved me in – free! I’m amazed at how powerful it is to ask if there’s a discount for students then give them an impoverished student shrug.

The fireworks were interesting; instead of going directly into the air they were attached to a metal jungle gym and went off synchronized to classical music. It felt like a very elegant affair and I was incredibly under dressed in my jeans and sweater next to people in dresses and suits.

It’s very hard to get a good picture of fireworks

A fun, but late night. I had to wake up very early the next morning to catch the 7AM bus out of town but it was worth it – such a great time!


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