Central Europe has many small towns that make you feel as if you’ve departed from “the real world” and fallen into a fairy tale.
Cesky Krumlov was one of my favorite small towns that I visited on my trip to Central Europe.
This beautiful town, nestled in the Czech Republic, looks like it was torn out of an illustrated edition of Brothers Grimm. Tiny homes, cobblestone streets, evocative town squares, and an assortment of churches, independent hotels, and shops are all charming and adorable, for sure; however it’s important to note Cesky Krumlov is not a hidden gem.
Sorry, I’ve seen Cesky Krumlov on many “hidden gems of Europe” lists. Too many, actually. I hate to be the bringer of bad news, wayfarers, but Cesky Krumlov is smack on the tourist trail.
But who really cares, right? This place reminds me of Hyrule, for god’s sake! It makes plenty of sense people, myself included, would want to spend time holidaying here.
Okay, so you’ve arrived in Cesky Krumlov, you lucky person you. What do you do next?
The castle in Cesky Krumlov is the main tourist attraction and a good place for you to begin exploring. I didn’t go into the castle itself, but my camera snapped some spectacular views after climbing to the site’s peak.
Be warned: to take the best pictures, do the castle climb early in the day or later in the afternoon (think after 4). Why? Because day trippers clog this beautiful town especially around the castle. Once they retreat back to their tour buses, Cesky Krumlov offers far more authentic magic which is reserved for overnight visitors.
In addition, don’t miss the castle’s free gardens! They’re not as spectacular as the gardens at Versailles or Schonbrun, but the flowers and fountains are still quite pretty and hey, they’re all free.
Now let’s theoretically say you’re burnt out from the typical European sightseeing routine. You know what I mean: an obligatory visit to the church, town square, and museum. You don’t feel like trekking around the castle grounds, because quite frankly, all the castles have blurred together and you don’t care if you miss another one.
Well. Here’s some good news:
In Cesky Krumlov, you can participate in a rafting pub crawl! Yes, I promise you correctly read that sentence.
The Vltava River cuts through the town of Cesky Krumlov. Many companies will rent canoes or rafts, so you can effectively explore the Czech countryside, stopping at pubs, campsites, and small towns on the river’s bank. Make sure to check TripAdvisor for reviews and prices.
Furthermore please be aware that 99% of the time, these rafting tours are entirely self-guided. Meaning you need to be responsible for your own actions (ugh, I’m using my teacher voice).
So don’t act stupid on the water! My raft mates were calm and talented rowers, but I saw quite a few tipsy tourists capsize into the Vltava when they sped too fast into the rapids. Not fun.
By the time you return, still exhilarated from your river adventure, the town should be quiet and serene for dinner.
The riverbank offers so many surprises, and you can even customize the length of you trip. It may take four or five hours to reach certain destinations. Most rental companies allow you to bring food and drinks onto the raft, as well as offer a dry bag to safely store your electronic equipment.
On my own visit, I participated in the rafting pub crawl on a complete whim, but if I returned to Cesky Krumlov, I’d research the stops in a bit more detail and take a longer trip down the river. I’m not a rafter, yet I could’ve stayed on the river longer than an afternoon.
Honestly, whichever campsites and/or pubs you decide to visit, expect to enjoy your trip for at least two hours. Longer journeys work into your favor. Why?
I want to reiterate: Make sure to wander around the town after four in the afternoon.
As I’ve already said earlier in the post, Cesky Krumlov isn’t off the beaten path itself. The charms spill into the quiet streets after most of the selfie-stick totting tourists have hopped on their day coach and left.
Rafting gives you an adventure for the busiest times of the day, and then allows you to return when Cesky Krumlov is less packed with mobs of day trippers, blocking the small streets and snapping photos each time they walk five inches in a new direction.
Cesky Krumlov also has some hiking opportunities right outside of town.
Personally, I’m not a hiker. Take a look at my pictures. Do I look like a skilled hiker to you? Heck, no!
But for those of you who are more in-shape than I am, Cesky Krumlov has some great opportunities for you. Mount Klet (the highest point in this area) is not too far from the town and offers hiking trails for the more active traveler. There are also many shorter hikes that are accessible by foot from your hotel/hostel. You can even rent mountain bikes for your speedy trip down the hillside if you only want to hike “one way!”
Anyway, shorter hikes. For example, I took a 20 minute hike from my hostel to check out an abandoned church, which overlooked the town. Okay, it was more of a walk than a legitimate hike, but pssh, semantics.
What are your favorite small towns in Europe? Why do you love them? Do you think visiting smaller towns is more rewarding than checking out the big cities?
If you’re visiting the Czech Republic, be sure to check out the most recent Lonely Planet guide book.
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