Our second destination (and my second favorite place of the whole holiday) was the medieval Czech town of Cesky Krumlov, a UNESCO World Heritage site, where we stayed for two relaxing nights. I liked this description by Lonely Planet, “Crowned by a spectacular castle, and centered on an elegant old town square, Český Krumlov is a pocket-sized Prague.”
Cesky Krumlov definitely reminds you of Prague – a quainter, quieter version of it. Even in August with all the other tourists, it wasn’t nearly as crowded. The Vltava River winds through the center, with the Old Town Square on one side and the Castle on the other. The whole center is untouched, with its cobblestone streets and medieval, renaissance, and baroque buildings. No cars are allowed (except for the occasional taxi) which makes it perfect for strolling. We felt like we stumbled upon a fairy tale village.
Where We Stayed
I found The Orangerie on Airbnb and we unanimously agreed it was the best place we stayed. A 16th century garret room turned into a comfortable flat, with lots of windows and a very nice bathroom, provided the perfect place to relax.
It felt like this place was part of the destination and that’s always fun. And just like all of the other Airbnb spots, it was incredibly affordable for 3 people! And sorry, I was so busy enjoying it I didn’t take any pictures of the inside!
What We Did
1. The River
We arrived in CK by train, and walked to our apartment in the town center. It was a nice walk but we were only thinking about ditching our backpacks and jumping in the river. It was SO HOT, 90 something and high humidity. Luckily for us the river bank was easily reached behind the place we stayed! We spent the first evening splashing around and wading. It was perfect.
The next day we had to follow good ol’ Rick Steves’s advice and take a raft or kayak down the river to the monastery at Zalta Koruna. As he describes it, “One of my favorite activities here is to rent a canoe and go for a three-hour float down the dreamy river, through Bohemian forests and villages, past cafés and pubs happy to welcome paddlers for a break. The destination? A 13th-century abbey.” Well, while CK itself was charming beyond my imagination, the Monastery at the end of the paddle and the cafes along the way were not what I thought. We didn’t get to see the Monastery because it was closed and the “cafes” are really more like food truck shacks – charming in their own way but not what I had imagined. None the less, it’s a great activity when the weather is hot and you want a break from regular sightseeing. The locals were out floating down the river with coolers of beer, laughing and singing. All of the stops along the way were full of tents and picnic tables full of campers. It’s easy to pull up your raft and stop for a beer or a snack. You can also just rent a boat and float around CK for 30 minutes, which feels longer than it sounds and is the perfect break! If we go back in the summer we will certainly do it again. Rent the boats from Malecek.
2. Walking and Shopping
Cesky Krumlov is one of those places where you can happily walk around, pop in and out of stores, grab a cappuccino or a beer, and just enjoy the sites all day. We had a morning to enjoy the town and I bought some cheap pink sunglasses that I wore the rest of the trip. I also tried to take artsy pictures of the old houses and shops with all the windows open to the street. I love the colorful paint used on homes and buildings in the Czech Republic.
3. The Castle at Night
We decided we love visiting castles at night time. They are extra magical after dark and with all the stones bathed in the warm lamplight, they kind of glow. In keeping with our plan to be extra cheap for this leg of the trip we didn’t pay to see inside the castle or go up the tower. Instead Sarah and I wandered through the courtyards and arches, and she lamented being forced to marry the duke instead of her true love – Nate, the stable boy, err something like that
Where We Ate and Drank
This was our favorite restaurant from the whole trip. It’s a vegetarian place, with fresh, flavorful dishes that are inexpensive and very filling. Down one of the small streets just before you get to the river, the patio faces the river bank, and you can wave at the boaters as they go by and admire the view of the castle looming above. But what really sold us (and made us eat there twice) was the delightful service. The two servers there we so friendly to us, and I’m pretty sure Sarah made life long friends with one of them named David, who has been working there for 12 years! If you go there you are almost certain to see him, the cheerful middle aged fellow with blond hair. Tell them hi from “the Nebraska girls” if you go, they’ll know who you mean, as we were the first Nebraskans to eat there!
2. The Creperie
What is a trip to Europe with out creps? The Creperie in CK makes traditional creps, with all sorts of delicious savory or sweet toppings. Its the perfect snack or meal for any time of day. We had the banana, nutella and almond one. SO GOOD.
3. The Coop
We wanted to spend less in CK than we had in Prague so we ate picnic lunches. We got all of the food at the Coop, a small grocery store just around the corner from where we stayed. Fruit, bread, meat, and cheese and Fanta of course! Picnics are always more fun on vacation.
I highly recommend taking a few days to enjoy this little Czech Town. If I were to plan our trip again I would have spent half our time in the Czech Republic here and half in Prague.
Any other quaint European towns I should put on my bucket list?