When plans were being made on a trip to the Czech Republic, some close friends from Switzerland suggested a driving holiday in the south of the country – saying it would be a choice we won’t regret! And they were spot on. Beautiful roads, a landscape of forests, gorgeous countryside, fairytale chateaux, castles and farms – simply take one’s breath away. South Bohemia is a paradise for a road trip. It has many historical monuments and cities, and here are some of the highlights.
Český Krumlov is a 3-4 hour drive from Prague and is one of the most picturesque towns in Europe. The historic centre of Český Krumlovis situated on both banks of the Vltave river and is one of the Czech Republic’s most visited towns – one that once had a majority of German-speaking residents from neighbouring Bavaria and Austria.
If you want to beat the crowds and enjoy a quiet visit, I recommend walking the cobblestone streets of Český Krumlovat at the crack of dawn! Do that and you will most likely have the town to yourself to explore. The town’s historic centre is a fine example of a European medieval town whose architectural heritage has remained largely intact over the centuries.
The highlight of Český Krumlov is its magnificent castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site, founded in the 13thcentury, featuring Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque elements. A beautiful Baroque-style garden here is worth visiting. The castle complex is one of the largest in central Europe, and the second largest castle complex in the Czech Republic. In fact, the Castle seems rather large for a small town!
The main tower of the castle featuring a colorful façade could solidify your imagination. The beautiful 11- hectare garden and a Baroque theater dates back to the 17th century and includes a large cascading fountain, manicured lawns, flower beds and a large pond. Dating back to year 1240, this awe-inspiring national heritage site is one of the best castles in the Czech Republic. Cesky Kurmlovmay sure is a must-do if you visit the Czech Republic.
While it is possible to make Cesky Krumlov a day trip from Prague, a two-day stay at the least is recommended to take in this place at leisure.
Given the popularity of Cesky Krumlov town, it comes as no surprise that it has a lively culinary scene. Le Jardin (only a five-minute walk from the Castle) one of the best restaurants in town,with its celebrated degustation menu (tasting small portions of all of a chef’s signature dishes in one sitting) is well prepared and presented.
For simple tasty Czech food, the Švejk Restaurant is recommended. Meal done, head out to Apotheka Café Bar for a cocktail. Designed like an old fashioned pharmacy, it has a great ambience; a nice place to unwind at the end of a day exploring Cesky Krumlov.
Using Cesky Krumlov as a base to stay for a few days, some nice day trips to do are the Hlubokánad Vltavou Castle and the Rožmberk Castle.
Hlubokánad Vltavou Castle
This castle is one of the most visited castles in the Czech Republic and a must-visit for all romantics! Located near České Budějovice in South Bohemia, the castle was originally built in the 13th century. The castle’s present day Neo-Gothic appearance is based on the English castle of Windsor. Castle Hluboka has 140 decorated rooms, 11 impressive towers and is surrounded by a well–maintained garden. Paintings from the 16th-18th century adorn the castle’s interior, as do beautiful chandeliers, exquisite china and priceless period furniture.
Rožmberk castle, located about 20 km to the south of Český Krumlov dates back to the 13th century and is a glorious sight along the Vltava River. Its long history was established by the families of the Rožmberks, Švamberks and the final owners, the Buquoys, to name some of them. The Buquoys repaired the building in the style of romantic Neo-Gothic, and kept it until 1945 when it was nationalised after the end of World War II. Tourists and visitors to the castle can admire the armory, the art of Baroque paintings, as well as the valuable collection of ceramic and glass. The setting of the castle, perched on a rocky promontory, above the river Vltava, is most enchanting.
Having explored Cesky Krumlov and some of its neighboring areas, it is time to get on the road again – which will take you to the town of Telc.
Telčin Moravia is a little fairy tale town in southern Moravia, near Jihlava, about 110 kms from Cesky Krumlov and its town square looks straight out from a fairy tale or Disneyland, with its multi-coloured houses, cafes, chateaux and fishponds surrounding the city.
Telč has one of prettiest town squares and is a UNESCO world heritage site.This town was created as a moated fortress, and has its inhabitants to thank for its stunning appearance. Legend has it that the beauty and size of the gables of homes demonstrated their wealth and that brought with it competition amongst the inhabitants to try and make their home better than their neighbours’. It is hard to say which house is prettier!
Large ponds surround the small historic centre, which is a paradise for photographers. Telč is a good place to stay for a few days, visiting neighbouring towns, castles and chateaus. Its gentle pace makes it perfect to relax and unwind. Hotel Telč is a good place to stay and I would recommend U Marušky for a hearty meal.
Explore the town of Slavonice, the Landštejn Castle and ČervenáLhota Chateau from Telč. This region is covered with perhaps the most beautiful countryside, a heaven on Earth for road trippers. Carry a picnic basket, stop along the way and bask in the glorious sunshine of a European summer day.
The town buildings are covered with Sgraffito, a painting technique dating from the 14th to 16th centuries. It is one of the most photogenic towns in the region. Slavonice is popular for its well preserved Renaissance town centre and also for the underground tunnel system dating back to the 12th century.
If you are physically fit, then a climb to the top of the tower of the Church of the Virgin gets you views of the town that is worth the effort! Many artists have set up galleries and workshops that are good to check out while strolling about this town. The area around Slavonice is great for walking trails and cycling. With its rugged landscape, this area has some calling it Czech Canada!
Standing in the middle of forests, this castle was built in the 13th century, then the biggest Romanesque castle in the Czech lands. Like most castles in the area, it also had a troubled history having many owners through the years. One of two original towers still rises majestically, providing a dramatic view of the landscape around it. The beautiful area around the castle is a popular camping site, with many adventure seekers setting out from here to explore the cycling trails and walking paths in the region. Even though only a ruin of the castle now remains, it still commands respect with its impression of a massive fortress that appears almost out of nowhere in the middle of the wooded forests.
Červená Lhota Chateau
“Life beyond the boundaries of time” – the words used by Zdeně Kalista, a famous Czech art historian, to describe this unique water castle sums up the feeling when you visit this castle. Built mid-14th century, its name Červená Lhota meaning “red lhota” can be explained by the colour of the château’s bright-red roof tiles and facade. The château occupies a rock that’s like an island on a fishpond. A stone bridge links the château with the banks of the pond. Certainly worth seeing is the interior furnished in early 20th century style, when the castle belonged to the noble family of Schönburg-Hartenstein.
The castle is modest in size compared to many others in South Bohemia but is charming and unique. A walk around the path circling the fishpond gets rewarded with beautiful views of the chateau on the water from various angles. This chateau is the sort of place that will remain etched in your memory forever. It is a fairy tale on water!
With that, my time in this beautiful country came to an end. As I drove across the border into Austria, I could not but think of making plans to come again to this land of castles, chateaus, gardens, beautiful landscapes, lakes, ponds, legends and mysteries! Till we meet again… takzatimahoj (‘Bye for now’ in Czech)!