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One of the most popular day trips from Prague is the medieval town of Český Krumlov. So many tourists make the day trip from Prague to Český Krumlov with the best intentions, hoping for the highlight of their trip.
The truth? Český Krumlov is often listed as of the best day trips from Prague — but everyone else has realized the same thing. As a result, Krumlov is almost intolerably crowded during the day, especially during the summer.
I’ve been spending a lot of time in the Czech Republic lately, and one of my top priorities was to finally visit Český Krumlov. My boyfriend has lived in Prague for 18 years and works in the tourism industry. One of his top tips to his clients is NOT to day trip to Český Krumlov — instead, to stay overnight.
Overnight in Český Krumlov? I thought. But it’s only two hours away. That’s a perfectly fine day trip.
There is a specific reason for this, though. Český Krumlov has become enormously overtouristed in the past decade or so. As a result, doing a day trip to Český Krumlov means spending your day fighting through crowds, waiting in lines, and trying to get photos that don’t have a million people in them.
But after 5:00 PM or so, it all beautifully clears out. The crowds hop back on their buses, back to their whistle-stop tour of Central Europe. The day trippers go back to Prague to stroll the Charles Bridge and watch the Astronomical Clock.
When the town goes quiet, once the streets are empty, that’s when Český Krumlov becomes exceptional.
Why Travel to Český Krumlov?
Český Krumlov is a tiny medieval town in the Czech Republic. Like many Czech towns, Český Krumlov is beautifully preserved — you could imagine the skyline looking exactly the same in the 1400s. Because of this, the historic center of Český Krumlov was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992.
The Czech Republic doesn’t get enough credit for having some of the most beautiful towns in Europe. (Turns out letting the invaders march in is GREAT for preserving your city’s architecture.) When I first came to Prague as a college student, I marveled at the candy houses, thinking this was one of the prettiest places I had ever seen.
Come to Český Krumlov and you’ll get to see more of those candy houses — but you’ll also get to enjoy a castle tower with a hell of a view. And a Baroque theater the likes of which you’ve never seen. And a river that is waiting to be rafted. And one of the country’s best craft cocktail bars. All in a small, walkable, adorable package without the noise and traffic of a big city.
If you’re traveling to the Czech Republic and you want to see more than just Prague, Český Krumlov should be at the top of your list.
I wrote this Český Krumlov guide to make sure you have the best visit ever.
Frequently Asked Questions about Český Krumlov
Český Krumlov is pronounced CHESS-ky KROOM-lov.
Don’t take the train to Český Krumlov — there’s only one per day and the station is far from town. I recommend arriving by bus, tourist shuttle, or renting a car.
PLEASE don’t do a day trip from Prague to Český Krumlov! It’s way too crowded with day trippers. Stay overnight and you’ll fall in love with the city. Here’s why.
Český Krumlov Overtourism
Overtourism has become a major issue over the past decade, especially in places like Venice, Dubrovnik, and Barcelona. Overtourism is when a certain destination has too many tourists within a small place and makes negative impacts on locals.
A lot of people think that Prague is the epicenter of overtourism in the Czech Republic — and if you head down the Old Town, you’ll understand its severity. Almost nothing in Prague’s Old Town exists for locals; it’s a sea of hotels, money change offices, and chimney cake sellers. My local friends in Prague rarely go there.
Thankfully, though, Prague is a large city and outside the city center, you have interesting neighborhoods that see very few tourists. I hope this is what keeps the city livable into the future.
Even though Český Krumlov gets fewer visitors than Prague — roughly 1.5-2 million per year to Prague’s 8 million or so — Český Krumlov’s overtourism problem is much more severe. This is primarily due to its size — it’s geographically tiny and there’s nowhere for people to spread out.
Tourism to Český Krumlov has increased enormously in the past decade. There are two big factors that account for this — the growing popularity of river cruising and massive increases in tourism from Asia.
River cruises were once a niche product but have recently become a popular way to explore Europe, especially for North Americans over 50. Ironically enough, Český Krumlov isn’t even a river cruise stop! The Vltava River is too tiny to support a cruise ship here. Instead, Český Krumlov is a popular day trip from Danube River cruise ports like Linz, Austria, and Passau, Germany.
As for Asian tourism, there was initially a wave of Korean tourists after Korean Air bought a 44% stake in Czech Airlines in 2013 and began running direct flights to Prague from Seoul. In the last decade, however, Chinese tourism to Europe has been increasing year over year, and according to the European Travel Commission, they’re heading further east, particularly to Hungary, Estonia, and especially Croatia.
Most East Asian tourists to Europe travel in large bus tours, primarily so they can have guides who speak their language. While it’s good that these tours make interesting destinations accessible to more travelers, large bus tours have a negative impact on small towns like Český Krumlov.
How bad is the overtourism in Český Krumlov? If you visit during the summer months, the small medieval streets will be packed wall-to-wall with people. If you’re looking to get one of the signature photos overlooking the castle or city skyline, you’ll have to push people out of the way. There will be lines everywhere; it will be tough to get into restaurants at lunchtime.
Things are a bit calmer in the winter months, particularly January and February, but overtourism is a year-round issue in Český Krumlov. It is crowded 12 months out of the year and the more busloads that arrive, the worse it gets.
What can you do to avoid overtourism in Český Krumlov?
Stay overnight in Český Krumlov. It’s that simple. It is JARRING how different it is at night.
People often ask me whether it’s worth visiting an overtouristed destination. You can avoid destinations suffering from overtourism if you want to, but that’s not always an option. Some of them have no feasible alternatives — there’s nowhere in the world like Venice. I don’t have the heart to tell someone that they should never travel to Venice if they’ve been dreaming of visiting their whole life!
Sometimes you can avoid overtourism by visiting in the off-season. This works spectacularly well for Dubrovnik, for example, but not so well in Barcelona, which is popular year-round. And for cruise ship hubs, you can often look up the port schedule and visit on the day when the fewest ships are in port.
But for popular day trip destinations, the answer is simple: just stay overnight.
This is the truth for Český Krumlov, for Mostar in Bosnia, for Bruges in Belgium, for Kotor in Montenegro. All of these are popular day trip destinations in Europe, and all of them empty out by the late afternoon.
And that is when the magic happens. It cools down, the light turns beautiful, and suddenly you have those winding streets to yourself. I’m betting that if you travel from Prague to Český Krumlov, you will like the city a million times more if you stay overnight.
Things to Do in Český Krumlov
So what are the best things to do in Český Krumlov? Most of the charm of the city is just strolling around and marveling at its beauty. Krumlov is a city made for wandering.
But there are plenty of sights. And if you’re planning on seeing several, I recommend getting the Cesky Krumlov Card. It costs 300 crowns ($13) for adults, 150 crowns ($7) for children, students, and seniors; and it gives you admission to Castle Tower and the Castle Museum, the Regional Museum, Seidel Photographic Studio Museum, Egon Schiele Art Centrum, and the Český Krumlov Monasteries.
You can buy the card at any of the five attractions it gives you access to, or the Tourist Information Centre in town.
Český Krumlov Castle
One of the highlights of visiting Český Krumlov is getting to see Český Krumlov Castle. You can enjoy the castle from the outside or explore the sumptuous rooms on the inside.
Guided tours are available in Czech, English, and German. There is written material in French, Italian, Spanish, Russian, and Dutch. Tours are 300 crowns ($13) per person.
It’s 162 steps to the top of Castle Tower and the views are outstanding (especially in the afternoon). Your ticket also gives you admission to the Castle Museum, a small museum focusing on the castle’s history. Admission is 150 crowns ($7) for adults.
This beautifully preserved Baroque theater is spectacular on the inside. The scenery is made from layered painted items that slide in and out. You must visit as part of a tour. English language tours are 270 crowns ($12) per person.
Canoe, Kayak and Raft the Vltava River
The river may be tiny around Český Krumlov, but travel outside the city and it gets strong! Shops in Krumlov will tell you what river trips are currently available. This is one of the best things to do in Český Krumlov during the summer months.
Seidel Photographic Studio Museum (Museum Fotoatelier Seidel)
This museum is actually the former home of local photographer Josef Seidel, who spent his life photographing Krumlov and its people. Entry is 120 crowns ($5) per person.
St. Vitus Cathedral
This is the white church on top of the hill in the city. It’s worth a quick peek. I was here just as locals were leaving Sunday Mass, dressed up far more than American Catholics!
Read The Bloodletter’s Daughter
I often enjoy reading books that are set in the place that I’m visiting. The Bloodletter’s Daughter by Linda Lafferty is a historic novel that takes place in Český Krumlov in 1606. Marketa is the assistant to her father, a bloodletter, who is hired to treat the madness of the Emperor’s bastard son Don Julius. As his illness progresses, Don Julius becomes increasingly dangerous and obsessed with Marketa.
(Full disclosure: I wasn’t a huge fan of the book. I loved the setting, liked the plot, and disliked the writing. You may disagree; writing is a subjective thing. But this is so vividly descriptive of Krumlov that I thought it was worth sharing.)
Get Photos from the Best Viewpoints
You might think that in a city as beautiful as Český Krumlov, you’re going to have gorgeous photos no matter what. But if you make an effort to visit the best viewpoints at the proper time of day, you’ll have even better photos. There’s nothing worse than getting to a photo spot and realize you’re shooting into the sun.
Here are the best photography locations:
Across from Hotel Ruze. The light is best in the morning. Scroll down and you’ll see rainbow shots!
Castle Tower. A must. The light is best in the afternoon.
Cloak Bridge at Český Krumlov Castle. You don’t need a ticket to enter. The light is best in the afternoon.
Just past Cloak Bridge on the left. There are half-moon shaped cutouts that are nice for framing St. Vitus’s Cathedral. The light is best in the afternoon.
Kaple Penny Marie Bolestné. See the little white building on the hill in the distance in the top right of the above photo? That’s the spot. It’s about a 30-minute walk from the old town. The light is best in the morning.
Eat Traditional Czech Food
If you’re spending a short time in the Czech Republic, be sure to try some Czech food! Český Krumlov’s medieval environment lends itself well to quirky, traditional restaurants serving up dishes that stick to your ribs.
This is garlic soup (česnečka), a popular Czech dish that is so much more than its name — it’s a buttery, herby soup with potatoes and croutons.
Tavern of the Two Marys looks like a restaurant of centuries past — you climb stairs in a quirky, narrow house decorated with blankets and two portraits of the Virgin Mary. You sit at wooden benches and dine on hearty Czech specialties.
Another fun option is Krčma Šatlava, a medieval restaurant where you dine in a cave-like atmosphere as meats roast on a roaring fire. Reserve ahead here; it tends to book out.
Český Krumlov at Night
In mid-December, when I visited, sunset in Český Krumlov is at about 4:00 PM — yikes! (The good news? Sunrise is around 7:50 AM at that time of year, so if you’re an early morning photographer, you can sleep in!) And of course, if you visit during the summer months, sunset can be as late as 9:10 PM.
Either way — night is the most magical time in Český Krumlov. The bus tours begin leaving at around 4:00 PM, and by 6:00 PM, the streets are empty.
Suddenly you can walk down the street and be one of three people rather than three hundred.
I felt so free in Český Krumlov after dark — and I loved the city more and more. Two of my favorite experiences in Český Krumlov were at night.
If you’re looking for a nice restaurant in Český Krumlov, or celebrating a special occasion, I highly recommend eating at Le Jardin. This restaurant serves elevated fine Czech cuisine.
Full honesty: I’m not a huge fan of Czech food ordinarily. I’ll eat goulash and dumplings on occasion, like if I’m at a brewery, but if I want a special meal, I’ll choose virtually any other cuisine.
Le Jardin is an exception. Their food is EXQUISITE, delicate and thoughtful and not stodgy at all, from the amuse-bouche through the dessert. You can eat à la carte or choose a tasting menu. The restaurant is small and cozy, like Český Krumlov itself. And the service is among the best I’ve had in Europe.
Le Jardin’s menu changes with the seasons. But the pork tenderloin and duck confit are both terrific, and if they have squash soup or pumpkin soup on the menu, I implore you to get it! That soup may be the best dish I’ve ever had in the Czech Republic.
But the best part of being in Český Krumlov overnight was spending an evening at Apotheke, one of the best cocktail bars in the Czech Republic (and there are a LOT of incredible cocktail bars in the Czech Republic). Apotheke was once an apothecary, or pharmacy. Today the booze serves as medicine.
It’s a very cool space, dark and old-fashioned and with lots of oddly shaped bottles.
We tried two of their signature cocktails — both spectacular. One tasted like raspberry Kool-Aid (and I easily could have drank that all night!) and one buttery cocktail was topped with popcorn!
You could tell the crowd were almost entirely locals. They were well-dressed, chatted with the bartenders, and seemed to know each other. It can tough to find a bar in a touristy town that has a cool factor but isn’t taken over by tourists. Apotheke is a rarity.
Make sure you bring cash! Apotheke is cash-only. There is an ATM when you leave the bar, take a right, and it will be on the left in what looks like a bit of an outdoor nook.
Apotheke does not permit photography. The manager graciously let me take a few photos after I showed him my media credentials, told him about the story I was writing, and had been there for awhile.
A few cocktails, another evening stroll, and I went to sleep surrounded by quiet and calm.
Morning in Český Krumlov
If you’re a photographer, you’ll want to shoot Český Krumlov in the early morning — that’s your best chance for daytime shots without people in them. And staying overnight ensures that you’ll get to experience good light in different areas than you did in the afternoon.
When I woke up in Krumlov the next morning, the rain had cleared up. But we had the BEST result — a rainbow! A full, bold rainbow that stretched from one end of the skyline to the other.
We headed back to the viewpoint across from the Hotel Ruze and photographed the view with the blue sky, getting more rainbow shots.
After a stroll around town (I recommend stopping for a coffee at Kolektiv), we left at 11:00 AM. And BOY, was that fortuitous timing!
As I left the town, this was the view of the Cloak Bridge. Hardly any people in the morning sun.
No joke — not even ten seconds later, the crowds started pouring in from the big bus tours.
Right behind them were river cruise excursion groups led by sign-toting tour guides.
I couldn’t believe it. Had my fairy tale disappeared? I had enjoyed a quiet and beautiful morning in Český Krumlov, and by 11:00 AM, it felt like the city was under attack.
Staying overnight in Český Krumlov was a wise decision.
Where to Stay in Český Krumlov
You can find Český Krumlov hotels at every price point, and you get great value for money. Even though the city is primarily a day trip destination, the city caters well to its overnight visitors.
On my trip to Český Krumlov, I stayed at the Hotel Oldinn, which I really enjoyed and recommend. The Oldinn is a comfortable, newly renovated mid-range hotel in an excellent location.
Here are the top-rated hotels in each price category:
Best luxury hotel in Český Krumlov: Hotel Bellevue
In a city full of old-fashioned luxury hotels, Hotel Bellevue is a breath of fresh air. Modern, innovative, and tucked into a quiet corner of the Old Town, the hotel features a sauna, tennis courts, and even a bowling alley! The rooms are quiet and tastefully decorated in muted colors. The on-site restaurant, Le Jardin, is the best fine dining restaurant in town, serving exquisite Czech fare.
Be sure to get a room that is “deluxe” or higher — the “superior” rooms are very small. Rates from $217.
Best mid-range hotel in Český Krumlov: Hotel Oldinn
I loved my stay at the Hotel Oldinn. Located right on Náměstí Svornosti, one of the most picturesque squares in the old town, this hotel is modern with large, recently renovated rooms. The quotes painted on the walls add a touch of quirkiness, and the hotel provides room service.
Please keep in mind that Hotel Oldinn renovated in 2019 — if you see reviews talking about dated, old-fashioned decor, this was prior to the renovation. It now looks like the photo above. Rates from $62.
Best budget hotel in Český Krumlov: Pension Galko
Located in the heart of the old town, this five-room guest house is a cozy option if you’re traveling on a budget. Rooms are a bit small and dated, but the Bohemian murals are warm and cheery. Rates from $44.
How to Get from Prague to Český Krumlov
Český Krumlov is a bit isolated — it’s not along any of the main transportation lines, and it’s not a strategic stop between major cities. You’ll be going a bit out of your way to get to Český Krumlov, but there are a variety of ways to get there.
Prague to Český Krumlov by Train
In the past, there wasn’t a Prague to Český Krumlov train. Today there is exactly one train that is limited to once per day, at 9:01 AM, and it takes 2 hours and 51 minutes, arriving at 11:52 AM. The one return train is at 2:07 PM and gets back to Prague at 4:56 PM.
While I prefer to take trains in Europe whenever possible, I don’t recommend taking the train from Prague to Český Krumlov. The trains are a bit awkwardly timed and Český Krumlov’s train station is about a 16-minute walk from the edge of the old town, much further away than the bus station (six minutes away).
The buses are more frequent, take about the same amount of time, and drop you off much closer to the old town (which makes a big difference when you have luggage).
Prague to Český Krumlov by Bus
Most people who take public transportation from Prague to Český Krumlov do so by bus. There are buses throughout the day and they take 2 hours and 45 minutes.
If you want to take public transportation to Český Krumlov, I recommend doing so by bus. The bus station is about a six-minute walk from the edge of the old town.
Prague to Český Krumlov by Shuttle Transfer
Shuttle transfers are usually a minibus that you share with other travelers. Many of them pick you up from your accommodation.
You can also book a shuttle from Prague to Český Krumlov, and book your next shuttle to a different destination — to Salzburg, Vienna, Halstatt, and more.
Prague to Český Krumlov by Private Transfer
If you’d like, you can hire a private driver to take you from Prague to Český Krumlov. This is the most expensive option but if you’re traveling in a group, it could work out to be the cheapest option.
Prague to Český Krumlov by Car
Renting a car is an option, and I highly recommend road tripping all over the Czech Republic, not just its two most popular cities! There are great cities like Olomouc and Brno, there is gorgeous nature like the Moravian Karst and the Bohemian Switzerland region. There are even excellent Czech wineries when you go further east into Moravia!
There is a parking lot right outside Český Krumlov’s city walls, next to the castle, with a rate of 450 crowns ($20) for 12-24 hours and 900 crowns ($40) for 24-48 hours. If that lot is full, there are several others on the same street.
If you’re driving from Prague to Český Krumlov and interested in UNESCO World Heritage Sites, stop by the town of Holašovice. It’s about 30 minutes from Krumlov.
The town received its World Heritage designation for its architecture, but the town doesn’t have any tourism value otherwise. It’s a cute place, but if you’re not into World Heritage Sites, you can give it a miss. We stayed for about 10 minutes, then continued back to Prague.
Other sites in the area you can visit are Hluboká Castle and the town of České Budějovice, home of the Budweiser brewery (the Czech Budweiser — nothing like the American counterpart!).
Best Time to Visit Český Krumlov
I’m guessing that you’re not going to plan your whole trip around one small city, but just in case, I urge you not to plan your trip to Central Europe in the heart of the summer. It’s incredibly crowded, it gets a lot hotter than you’d think, and the prices are at their highest.
If summer is your only time to travel, you can absolutely make the best of a visit. (If you’re a teacher or you have kids, I get it. Summer is what you have.) I would encourage you to visit earlier in summer, in June rather than August, if you can. August is the absolute busiest time in the Czech Republic and temperatures can be searing.
The shoulder seasons, spring and fall, can be a good time to travel to Český Krumlov. Temperatures are milder, but know that the city will still be extremely crowded during the day.
I visited Český Krumlov in mid-December. This is still a popular time to visit due to the growing popularity of Christmas market river cruises. Český Krumlov has a few Christmas markets, and they’re cute, but I recommend going to Germany instead if you really want the best Christmas markets.
The absolute lowest season in Český Krumlov is January and February. Tourism never dies here, but this is when it will be at its lowest (not to mention chilliest). I’m not a fan of visiting Central Europe during the winter months — it’s gray, dark and cold — but if weather isn’t a dealbreaker, you may enjoy visiting at this time.
Overall, I’d aim for November or December, or perhaps April.
But as always, no matter what time of year you visit, Český Krumlov will be far less crowded when the day trippers leave.
Should You Visit Český Krumlov?
One mistake I think a lot of travelers make is visiting Prague, then leaving and not seeing anything else in the Czech Republic. (Hell, I’m one of them. I visited the country for three days when I was 20, never left Prague, and didn’t return until I was 35.)
Český Krumlov is such a special town, and I think it’s the prettiest place in the Czech Republic. It’s absolutely worth your time to visit…
…just as long as you don’t do it as a day trip. STAY OVERNIGHT IN KRUMLOV!
How to Plan a Trip from Prague to Český Krumlov
Here is a cheat sheet on how to plan the perfect trip to Český Krumlov:
Step one. Choose a date for your trip.
Step four: Make a dining reservation if you have your heart on a particular restaurant, like Le Jardin or Krčma Šatlava.
Step five: Get travel insurance. If you have an emergency, it could save your life or your finances. I use and recommend World Nomads.
Looking for more Central European gems?
Have you been to Český Krumlov? Share your tips!