Medieval Town is Postcard Perfect

Cesky Krumlov, in the Czech Republic, is a worthwhile day trip from Prague

By: Joanne Blain

PRAGUE, Czech Republic Despite all its charms, Prague is a big city with some big turnoffs for visitors, including pollution, traffic noise and rampant commercialism.

But a two-and-a-half-hour drive away is an antidote to those annoyances, a tiny jewel called Cesky Krumlov.

Designated in 1992 as a UNESCO world heritage site, the town is a virtually intact example of a medieval central European village.

Looking down on its clay-tiled roofs from the summit of its fortified Bohemian castle, cars and sneaker-clad tourists seem wildly out of place you almost expect to see horses carrying lance-wielding knights clopping down the cobblestone streets.

The castle, one of the biggest in central Europe, dates back to the 13th century and took centuries (and several noble dynasties) to complete.

As a result, the castle incorporates elements of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque design, topped by a distinctive round tower.

Even if you don’t have time to take one of the three tours, which run from April to October, of the castle’s rooms, it’s worth the uphill climb to see its exterior courtyards, whose intricate pastel murals were meticulously restored in the early 1900s.

And from the castle’s upper walkways, the unparalleled view of the town, tucked into a crook of the Vltava River, is postcard-perfect.

Below, Cesky Krumlov’s narrow streets are largely reserved for pedestrians and particularly in the summer months, there are many visitors toting cameras and guidebooks.

Predictably, that means every other building houses a souvenir shop or café, but from the outside, their facades are a delight of pastels and trompe l’oeil brickwork.

Except for its hilltop castle, the town did not escape the floods that ravaged the Czech Republic in the summer of 2002.

But thanks to a concerted restoration effort, most businesses and attractions were back in business within weeks proving that it takes more than the flood of the century to wash away 750 years of history.


Getting there: Cesky Krumlov is small enough to see in a day trip from Prague, but only if you make the five-hour round trip by car you can get there by bus or train via the regional capital, Cesky Budejovice, but it will take about twice as long.

Accommodation: In Cesky Krumlov, the most sumptuous and interesting place to stay is the five-star Hotel Ruze, a Jesuit monastery dating back to the 1500s. If you decide to stay in Prague, the luxury Hotel Hoffmeister and Hotel Pariz are good bets.

Visas: U.S. citizens do not require visas for visits of 90 days or less for the Czech Republic, but Canadians do. For a complete overview of entry requirements, see the Czech government Web site,

Web sites: For dozens of photos and a chatty overview of the town’s history and main attractions, go to, which has links to four online hotel-booking sites. Also worth checking for accommodations in Cesky Krumlov and Prague is www.hotel