Walking down the cobbled stone laneways of Český Krumlov early in the morning, it is easy to feel like you are stepping back in time. The streets of this South Bohemian town are lined with gothic, renaissance and baroque style houses, with large boulders on every corner, placed originally to avoid damage from the horse and carts cutting corners. As you walk down to the wooden bridge, the tall, elaborately decorated castle stands tall on the cliffs, watching over like a good omen.
Walking up the hill to the 13th century castle, you will be greeted by a brown bear in the moat. Through the palace gates and you will reach a large courtyard and fountain, where you can climb the Gothic round tower for endless views over the town. From up here, you can see the Vltava river curving its way around the old town, full of canoes and rafts. The terracotta roof tiles and the colourful houses are well-preserved and are backed by rolling green hills and forests.
Descending from the tower, continue through the castle and across the bridge for more views, both over the town and the surrounding countryside. Further up the hill is the entrance to the formal palace gardens, which combine formal hedge rows and garden beds, with a large forested area and lake, covered in lily pads.
Back in the old town, dine in restaurants that serve traditional Czech meals, such as beef goulash, or pork knuckle with dumplings and cabbage. If vegetarian is more your style, there are plenty of options down by the river. Some restaurants even specialise in medieval cuisine, introducing old grains into the menu and serving wine and other beverages in clay cups. Of course, their are endless options for drinking Czech beer and, if you are after a sweet snack, the Trdelník is delicious, a dough wrapped around a stick, grilled and covered in cinnamon sugar.
Protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Sight, Český Krumlov is extremely popular for day-trippers from Prague and can feel rather crowded. However, if you stay over night, the crowds disappear, and you can wander peacefully though the castle and down every narrow laneway of the old town, without being interrupted.
Have you been to Český Krumlov? Where else would you recommend traveling in this region?