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A weekend in South Bohemia

Ceske Budejovice and Cesky Krumlov

If you’re in Prague for more than a few days a trip out of town is a nice way to take a break from the city. We offer a whole range of day trips from Prague including a coach trip to Cesky Krumlov in South Bohemia. If you prefer independent travel we’ve put together this short trip diary, with useful info on getting around and things to see.

On this trip we stopped off in Ceske Budejovice, home of the original Budweisier beer before continuing on to Cesky Krumlov, a UNESCO world heritage site.

Getting there

Whilst you could hire a car, train or bus will work out much cheaper and less stressful. Both stop in Ceske Budejovice, which is about 35-50 minutes before Krumlov, depending on mode of transport. If travelling by train ask for a group return ticket (there are discounts for multiple travellers and return combined). You can buy a ticket straight through to Cesky Krumlov and break your journey at Ceske Budejovice. If travelling by bus you’ll need to buy tickets for each individual part of the journey, also there are no discounts for group travel. We recommend the Student Agency Yellow Express service. Their buses are modern, air conditioned, have comfortable seats, free wifi and on-board movies. Trains by contrast are something of a time warp to the 70s. If you’re breaking your journey you could take the train to C.B. then the bus to C.K. Timetable information is available from IDOS.

Ceske Budejovice

Ceske Budejovice’s two main claims to fame are the Budweiser Budvar brewery, a very successful state-owned enterprise, and in the centre of the town, the country’s largest piazza (namesti Premysl Otakar II). It’s well worth a stop for lunch on the way to Cesky Krumlov. From the train or bus station (located close to each other) head west to the town center on foot, on Lannova Trida, a pedestrian area.

Get up high
In less than 500m you’ll be at the square. Just before the square, in a street on the right you should notice the Black Tower, a watchtower and bell tower. Completed in 1577, it is open to the public from April to October and is one of the city’s most popular attractions. Entry is 30Kc and 225 steps worth of climbing (the cash desk is near the top). From here you will have excellent birds-eye views of the town and surrounding countryside. There are signs around the ledge showing you what you’re looking at.

Square meal
If you left Prague early it should be just around lunchtime now. Have a stroll round the square and have lunch anywhere that takes your fancy. Or take the street on the north-western end of the square (Krajinska) and eat at the recently renovated ‘Meat shops‘, a 170 seat restaurant owned by the Budweiser brewery. Have a classic Czech dish washed down with some of the local brew.

 

About that beer
If you’re curious to learn more about the origins of the Budweiser beer you just drank, you can take a tour of the brewery. Tours can be pre-booked for a minimum of 5 participants at 100Kc each in English, otherwise tours for individuals without reservations start at 2pm. There are no tours on Sundays or Mondays. Continue north on Krajinska, cross the main street and you’re on Prazska. From here it’s a mile or so walk to the brewery. Alternatively hop on a number 2 or 8 trolleybus (you’ll need a 12Kc ticket which you can purchase from the machine at the stop). The tour lasts an hour and you’ll get to taste some wonderful unfiltered unpasteurised Budvar whilst you’re in the cellars. When you’re done, the quickest way back to the train and bus stations is the Number 2 trolleybus. Again, a 12Kc ticket is needed.

Cesky Krumlov

Cesky Krumlov’s inclusion on the UNESCO list is a mark of just how magical this town is. You’ll feel like you’re walking round a movie set, except it’s real.

First, a stroll
If you stopped in Ceske Budejovice it may be too late for a castle tour (last tour is at 5pm June thru August, 4pm the rest of the year) but an early start in the morning will rectify that, so start off with a stroll around Latran, the oldest part of the city, then head up towards the picturesque castle gardens which were founded in the 17th century, a mixture of Baroque, Rococo and Renaissance styles.

The Castle Gardens

Take it to the river
One of the best ways to see the town is from the water, the Vltava (the same river that flows through Prague) meanders around the town. The energetic (and non aquaphobic) can rent a kayak, canoe or an inflatable raft for a short trip around the town – one of the rental companies even offers night rafting. For a leisurely version of the trip, an 80 minute trip on a 12 seater wooden raft is an option, with cruises starting at 4pm and 8pm.

For dinner
There’s no shortage of places to eat in this town, many with river views. We have no particular favourites but were pleased with the food, if not how long it took to arrive, at Krcma Barbakan.

Where to stay
It seems every second building in the town is a hotel. There are a couple of places we recommend, but there are plenty others.

To the castle!
An early start will enable you to make the most of your day. The castle at Cesky Krumlov was the seat of various aristocratic families, most recently, and for the longest time, the Schwarzenbergs (yes, the country’s current foreign minster, Karel Schwarzenberg is one of them). It has been in state hands since 1947. There are two castle tours available, both in English. The first focuses on the architecture and history of the castle itself, the second on the Schwarzenbergs. We took the first tour and enjoyed padding around in the footsteps of monarchy and nobles. The tour lasts an hour.

What to do with the rest of the day
If you’re done with your tour by 10:30am, we’d suggest the Eggenberg brewery tour, 11am every day, meeting at the brewery gates. If you did the Budweiser tour the day before you’ll appreciate the contrast of scale. The Eggenberg brewery produces in one year what Budweiser produces in 2 days. Tours cost 100Kc, or 130Kc with two beers in the restaurant afterwards. The brewery restaurant is cheap and quick, but won’t win any awards for culinary greatness. Expect hearty Czech standards.

What next?
If you didn’t have time for some rafting yesterday, get to it! If you’ve been there and done that…

To the tower!
Located within the castle complex, between the first and second courtyards and accessed from the 2nd courtyard, 50Kc grants you entrance to the Castle Tower. It is 162 twisting, narrow steps to the top and you will be rewarded with views over the red rooftops of the town and superb sights of the castle itself.

Down the mines!
Not far from the centre of the town is a now mothballed graphite mine. Closed since 2003 when graphite mining there became uneconomical compared with importing from China. Now it’s a tourist attraction. You’ll suit up in boots, overalls, helmet and headlamp, get on a small train and go deep into the mine. The journey back is on foot and you’ll stop at various points along the way and get a feel for what it was like to work there.

Back to Prague
If you’re tuckered out from all the sightseeing, head back to Prague and on the journey review the hundred or so photos you’ve surely taken.

Care to share?
Have you been to Ceske Budejovice or Cesky Krumlov already? What did you do that we’ve missed out here and you’d like to recommend? Not been yet but got questions? Ask them here!

Charlie
Charlie takes care of the marketing side of things at JayWay Travel. A long-term Prague resident, his interests are cooking, eating out, cycling, skiing and travel.

2 Responses to A weekend in South Bohemia

    • In peak season at least we find it best to stay overnight. Most day-trippers are gone by 4pm but they do tend to overwhelm the tiny town center for several hours. Much more pleasant when it’s just the few hundred people staying overnight.

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