Bohemia is one of the three historical regions that make up the Czech Republic, and one of the most relevant parts of the country historically. Its towns are filled with centuries of history and incredible sites. During one of my visits to the Czech Republic, I decided to explore the southern cities of České Budějovice and Český Krumlov. I only had one spare day, but visiting both is totally possible!
How to get there
České Budějovice and Český Krumlov are located an hour and a half and two hours south of Prague respectively. Both cities are very close to each other, with the travelling time not reaching the 30 minutes. With a bit of planning and taking advantage the excellent bus routes of this region, it is possible to combine the two cities in just one day with enough time to spend in both.
The best option is departing early from Prague and stopping in České Budějovice. The bus to Český Krumlov will stop here anyway, so why not purchasing the tickets separately and spending a few hours in České Budějovice first. After exploring the town, you can take a 30 minute bus to Český Krumlov and make it there before lunch time. That will give you the entire afternoon and evening to explore this fascinating town before arriving back in Prague by dinner time!
The company Student Agency has constant buses leaving every few minutes, so it's very easy to organise the trip. Personally, I would suggest trying to spend a bit more time in Český Krumlov as the town has more to offer, but if well organised, you should have enough time to see all the main highlights of both.
The town of České Budějovice was founded in the middle of the 13th century by the Bohemian King Premysl Otakar II. Thanks to its strategic location in the middle of multiple trading routes, it became one of the most prosperous cities of the kingdom.
The town was built using a regular ground plan, where the centre was the main square, the unquestionable highlight of town and one of the best examples of medieval urbanism in the Czech Republic. For a short visit to Ceske Budejovice, the main focus will be the exquisite main square and the surrounding area.
The streets around the Main Square are known by their surprising Art Nouveau architecture, located mainly along the Lannova and Kanovnická streets. They are the perfect place to start exploring the old town.
One of the most striking buildings on this street is the seat of the Československá obchodní
Before entering the Main Square, I reached the Black Tower.
Located right next to the Church of St. Nicolas and built in a Gothic-Renaissance style from the end of the 16th century, this tower used to be the bell tower of the church.
With a height of 72m, the tower also served to protect the town for many centuries, and after falling into decay, people started to call it 'black'. Fortunately, it was restored in the 18th century and was saved until our days.
Quite common in other countries such as Italy, it is quite unusual to find in the Czech Republic a tower separated from the church. The tower also used to be the home of the guard and his family, who had the task of raising a flag and swinging the bell to alert the inhabitants in case of fire.
Even though I didn't, it is possible to climb the 225 steps and enjoy nice views of the town.
Just around the corner, I finally reached Premysl Otakar II Square, one of the most beautiful architectural ensembles in the Czech Republic.
Right in the middle of the square is Samson's Fountain, a Baroque work from the beginning of the 18th century decorated with four gargoyles and four statues of atlantes holding a shell. The fountain is topped with a statue of Samson fighting a lion. With a diameter of 17 meters, it is one of the largest in the Czech Republic.
The square has a total of 48 houses, with the blue Baroque Town Hall standing out. The original building was a Renaissance house that was later reformed in a Baroque style in the 18th century.
I was surprised that the square was so lively from that early in the morning, it seemed to be a very popular meeting point for locals and families.
Most tourists completely skip České Budějovice and head straight to Český Krumlov, but in my opinion, this is a big mistake. There weren't too many tourists the day that I visited, which was just perfect.
The uniqueness of each façade, all painted in different colours, makes the main square worth the trip from Prague, even if you only have a couple of hours to spend there.
Some other attractions of České Budějovice are the Piaristic Square, a quiet corner where you can find the Dominican Monastery and the Church of the Blessed Virgin's Sacrifice, a site from the 13th century full of history. The town also preserves part of the fortification system, an arsenal and the beautiful Dominican Friary.
After spending a few hours in Cesky Budejovice, I took my bus to Český Krumlov, a short 30 minute ride.
It is said that the name of the town, Krumlov, comes from the German word 'Krumme Aue', meaning 'crooked meadow'. The name would've been given due to the topography of the town, set in the meander of the Vltava River, which splits the town in two.
The town was built on a crossroads between Czechia, Austria, Bavaria and the North of Italy, cultures that have influenced the town along the centuries. Český Krumlov was declared a UNESCO site in 1992, becoming one of the main cultural centres of the region.
As you approach the old town, the town is dominated by the State Castle, the main historical sight of the town and my first stop.
The ensemble is quite big and composed of many different sections divided in courtyards, all included with the main ticket.
The building is accessed through the Red Gate, part of the old fortifications of the castle. The visit starts in the first courtyard, where you can see some of the original buildings of the castle, including the former pharmacy or a brewery.
It then continues across a stone bridge, built to replace the original wooden bridge that gave access to the second courtyard. The moat of the castle is home to bears, that have been bred in the castle since the 16th century.
To be honest, the moat didn't look like the happiest place to live, but still, it was quite interesting to see, as apparently having bears in the moat is a tradition that has been preserved for centuries.
This second courtyard is dominated by the Gothic castle tower, a 6 stories round tower symbol of the town of Český Krumlov. You can climb the tower with panoramic views of Český Krumlov.
The third courtyard leads to the upper part of the castle, a single building with paintings depicting scenes from Greek and Roman mythology.
The fourth courtyard is formed by multiple cellars with an exhibition of Czech ceramics, and the visit finishes in the fifth courtyard, accessed from the Cloak Bridge, a three storey arched bridge standing on stone pillars.
After visiting the main buildings of the castle and its gardens, I crossed the river to explore the rest of the old town.
The entire town is filled with medieval buildings and pretty churches to explore, making it the perfect town to enjoy a relaxed stroll.
The town also has an elevated part that offers great views of the castle, the typical postcard photo of Český Krumlov. There is no better place to finish exploring this wonderful town sometimes overshadowed by Prague, but that it should be on everyone's itinerary during a visit to the Czech Republic!
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