The South Bohemian region in Czechia is a great short-trip/weekend destination from Vienna, thus I was not surprised when our collaborator Irina brought up this travel challenge. Full of authentic charm, medieval fortified towns, spa facilities, and beautiful natural landscapes, there is plenty to choose from when setting up a weekend itinerary here. The only question is where is it best to go?
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Crossed by the Vltava river, South Bohemia is best known for its fairytale castles, glittering fish ponds, and magnificent scenery of wooded hills, pine forests, and lush green meadows. To the southwest, the Šumava Mountains form a natural border between Czechia, Germany, and Austria. This area of unspoiled nature was preserved partly because it was closed off during the Cold War, and it is Central Europe’s largest forested area.
What we did is to put together a list of places and things to do, each thought to cover half a day to a day in terms of time. This would allow to mix and match according to interests and weather and to explore the region at one’s own pace. The itinerary below (see the map and sections marked in blue) is the one Irina followed during a long weekend trip from Vienna, and it is thought as a couple getaway. I have added a few more points of interest in South Bohemia in case you have extra time on your hands, and you can always contact us for your own personalized trip.
1. Arrive in Český Krumlov! Welcome to fairytale land!
The beautiful and lively medieval town on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list is undoubtedly the touristic hotspot of the area, but massive tourism has not decreased its authenticity and charm, as it nestles in the arms of the Vltlava river.
As you descend, do spend some time to visit the surrounding Latran district, once the residence of merchants and craftsmen that serviced the castle, the Convent of the Poor Clares, and the Budějovice gate, the last remaining of the old town gates.
As you cross the bridge to the inner town, make sure to check out all the important landmarks of its medieval past – the market square, the town hall, and the church of St Vitus. Egon Schieleaficionados will be thrilled to hear their favorite painter was driven out of Český Krumlov for employing young girls to pose for him, and that there is a center dedicated to him in the old town.
Families with children are advised to not miss the Puppet Museum, that includes a small theater and provides ample opportunities for the little ones to enjoy themselves.
If you have more time on your hands, we hear that the Regional Museum is worth its money, not only for history lovers but also for those interested in ethnographic traditions. If in search for unique souvenirs of your visit, do pay a visit to the interactive Moldavite Museum, dedicated to precious natural glass formed as a result of a meteorite collision in the area. Finally, pop culture fans should not leave before browsing through the Museum of Commerce and Merchandise.
Irina made stops at Coffee Provence and Ideal Café, but if in search for a restaurant in Český Krumlov check out this list.
2. Visit lake Lipno, enjoy the outdoors and relax at a Spa
Affectionately called the South Bohemian Sea, the man-made Lipno water reservoir is the largest in the Czech Republic and one of the most popular. The huge lake offers excellent facilities for sports and recreation, including swimming, cycling, inline skating, sailing and windsurfing, A unique attraction in the area is the Treetop Walk, a constructed platform that will take you from the roots of the forest right up to its treetops. You can climb easily the wooden ramps that take you up 40 meters to enjoy spectacular vistas of the surrounding landscape.
To relax at the end of an active day, the local marina is a great spot to have a drink and watch the sunset. Alternatively, you can pamper yourself at one of the many excellent spa hotels in the area. Irina was particularly impressed with Hotel Relax and its amazing wellness center and restaurant, located close to the lake.
3. Extra activity – explore the Šumava National Park
If you have more time to spend in the area, the next point of interest, the amazing Šumava National Park is literally at your doorsteps. You find on their website information about hiking and outdoor activities. A drive through the region is also well worth it, points of interest including the beautiful village Srni, Volary with its nicely preserved wooden houses, and Rabi, the largest medieval fortress in the Czech Republic.
4. The fairytale continues – visit Hluboká Castle
Reconstructed in the romantic style of Windsor’s castle, this iconic architectural jewel has gone through a restructuring in every major architectural style since the 13th century. South Bohemia’s most beautiful aristocratic residence and its 11 towers is located amidst a beautiful garden and impresses visitors with a collection of medieval tapestries and art.
5. České Budějovice – Europe at its best
A historic center that has preserved its layout and architecture at the confluence of three rivers; one of the largest town squares in Europe, exactly one hectare in size, and its elegant houses and facades; a memorable richly-decorated fountain (Samson’s fountain); a Black Tower; an active industrial center; amazing coffee houses; one of the world’s most famous beers – you have arrived in České Budějovice, the capital of the South Bohemian region.
Irina stayed in the beautiful Hotel U Solne Brany, right in the old town, and had a delightful coffee experience at Café Datel and a great dinner at Brio Restaurant, tasting the mouth-watering beef cheeks with mashed potatoes.
For accommodation in an original setting, try out Hotel Budweis, a tastefully restored former mill at the corner of the old center and the Malše River.
Is there even more to South Bohemia than this? Read on, I promise it gets even better!
6. Extra stop – Třeboň, veritable offbeat historic charm
Overlooked by a Renaissance castle, the spa town of Třeboň is an ideal off the beaten path stop of any itinerary through South Bohemia. It is picturesquely situated among hills and fish ponds, and it features an amazing main square lined with Renaissance and Baroque houses. Climb the watchtower for a birds-eye view of the main square and its colorful houses, visit the castle and its gardens, enjoy the local Regent Brewery, and do not leave before having learned about the medieval fish pond system at the Stepanek Netolicky House Museum. Your kids will be well entertained here!
OR here’s a crazy thought – do not leave just yet. Why not take advantage of the wellness retreats in this town?
7. Extra stop – Two castles in an enchanted landscape – Jindřichův Hradec and Červená Lhota
Go off the main track to discover the astonishing castle Červená Lhota, in the middle of a pond, that is in the middle of a park amid forests. I won’t say more, you’ll do the dreaming!
The name of Jindřichův Hradec castle is linked to the story of the White Lady ghost, but also to one of the most charming towns in the area with richly decorated merchants’ houses. The local museum hosts the world’s biggest mechanical nativity scene, while the surrounding landscape of fish ponds, deep forests, and a harsh climate is known as “Czech Canada”.
8. Extra stop if you are driving towards Prague – Tábor, home of the Hussites
The labyrinth of narrow medieval alleys and city walls of Tábor were the setting of one of the most important pages of Czech history. Center of the Hussite reform movement, the town received a biblical name and was built with the purpose to create a commonwealth governed only by the law of God. The museum in the Old Town Hall will bring to life these early days for you, including a tour of the underground connected cellars system used by locals to hide in times of war. From the tower of the nearby Church of the Transfiguration, you can see a great panorama of the entire town.
It is with a heavy heart that I left behind the land of fairytales and legends, enchanting forests, insanely delicious foods, great beer, and amazing holiday facilities”, Irina was telling me when back in Vienna. I am hopeful that a region that has so much to offer will be chosen as a destination not only for weekend or day trips but also for longer stays. On that note, I hope this article convinced you of its attributes, and if you contact us before your stay in South Bohemia, you’ll only have to do the dreaming!
MORE ABOUT IRINA
We met Irina in Vienna and from the first moment, we realized she is a perfect fit for Dream, Book, and Travel. She previously wrote here about Amsterdam and Tyrol/Vorarlberg. Irina is simply in love with life, with everything that is beautiful and good about the world. Beyond her day job and activity as a fitness trainer and coach, she travels extensively, cooks divinely, dances, and explores Vienna for the best coffee places and healthy food restaurants. We are happy she agreed to share her adventures on our website, and transmit some of the positivity and sunny vibes she always exudes.