The picturesque Czech city of Český Krumlov makes for a good overnight trip from Vienna. We drove up on a Friday morning, returning Saturday afternoon.
On the way up, both Google Maps and our GPS directed us to the E49, crossing into the Czech Republic at Gmund. This may be the shortest route as the crow flies, but it is not for the easily carsick! The roads between the border and Český Krumlov were small, winding, not in good repair, and included a detour. On the way back, we drove south to Linz, and then took the A1 back to Vienna. This route took about the same amount of time, but was much smoother!
Český Krumlov is very pedestrian-friendly, though I’m told that with the cobblestones and the hilly streets it is not exactly convenient for strollers! We had visited once before, in 2001 or 2002, and the city has basically been completely renovated since then. Very few crumbling buildings remain, and there are gift shops and restaurants on every corner (along with the requisite wax museum and torture museum). It was quite crowded with tourists, especially on Saturday. It seems that most of these are day-trippers though, because the town was quiet on Friday night and very pleasant to walk around.
We stayed at the Hotel Dvořák , which is very conveniently located, but just OK otherwise. Nice and clean, but very plain with few amenities that you normally see in European hotels, such as a coffee pot in the room. There was no heat in the freezing bathroom, and no shower curtain (or shower door) either, so more than one night could be a problem if you want a real shower. However, the bed was fine, and the breakfast spread was pretty good. So, no serious complaints, but I would probably try another hotel if I were to visit again.
The castle is the town’s main draw, and it is pretty impressive. There are several different tours and attractions, each requiring a different ticket. We did the Tour Number One, which covers the earlier history of the castle, and also visited the museum, climbed the tower, and strolled through the gardens.
The guided tour was good, made even more interesting by the guide’s English, which left us looking around for the church’s “arteries,” among other things. They do have this peculiar Czech habit of locking the group into each room before beginning their spiel which can be a bit off-putting if you aren’t used to it!
The museum is fun, and there are English texts for everything. It can be toured in 30-45 minutes. There are enough weird little objects in the museum to be of interest to many kids as well as adults.
The castle tower is not difficult to climb up, and the view is spectacular. Definitely do it if you are at all able. The climb, on open stairs, might be slightly terrifying for little ones (or their parents) though, and there is no guardrail or screen at the top level apart from the old stone railing.
We also visited the Egon Schiele art center. This is a really cool art space in a renovated old building, but the art, alas, does not measure up to the surroundings. The most famous Schiele works are reproductions, except for a small exhibit of drawings done when he was in jail on pornography charges–and evidently feeling very sorry for himself. That said, entry is just 5.50 Euros for adults, so it won’t cost you much to see it!
Dinner Friday night was at the oddly named Papa’s Living Restaurant. It was delicious! We had pork cutlets with dumplings, salmon with risotto, and a goat cheese salad with walnuts and cranberries. The place was packed by 7 p.m. so be sure and make a reservation online or in person ahead of time if you want to eat there.
Lunch the next day was canalside at a vegetarian restaurant called Laibon. Again, very good, and a nice change from all the meat! We had a Greek salad, bean burritos, and a couscous dish with nuts and dried fruit that I intend to find the recipe for ASAP.
If you are a beer drinker, make sure you stop for a Czech beer or two while visiting. Eggenberg is the local brew, and the dark (tmavé) version is one of the best beers I’ve ever tried. You can even tour the brewery if you are so inclined.
Český Krumlov runs pretty chilly with a good wind off the Vltava river, so bring at least one more layer than you would wear in Vienna, as a good rule of thumb. And pack warm jammies: though it was in the high 40s on a mid-September night, there was no heat in our hotel room. Brr!
Reviewed by Kelly.