I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: There’s so much more to the Czech Republic than Prague. Don’t get me wrong, Prague is a wonderful place and certainly worth visiting, but I had no idea about all of the other Czech gems until moving right across the border in Germany.
All of the towns in this post are wonderful in their own way. They have stately castles, charming parks, dusty antique shops, colorful squares, quiet restaurants, and cobblestone streets. Most of them are much less touristy, and are perfect for the traveler looking for a more intimate (and budget-friendly) experience.
If that’s the kind of traveling you’re after, keep reading about Southern Bohemia’s hidden gems of Blatná, Hluboká nad Vltavou, České Budějovice, and Český Krumlov. Two days and a car are all you need!
Is that a castle on a lake? Yes, it is! And one of the best preserved water castles in the Czech Republic at that. Castle Blatná is the main attraction of this rural town in Southern Bohemia. Like most castles in Europe, it is hard to say definitively when it was built, and it’s current appearance is the result of modifications made over many centuries. The castle has a rich history that includes a legend of hidden treasure from the Templars and the castle owners escaping to Ethiopia during the Communist era!
If you aren’t convinced to visit from the pictures or description, watch this aerial video of the castle grounds. It’s so much more impressive with a bird’s eye view!
The perfect start to your Southern Bohemia tour would be to take a guided tour of the castle, although you can just walk the courtyard and grounds for free. Afterward you can walk through the town a bit more (the Church of the Assumption is noteworthy) and peruse some of the antique shops. For lunch I suggest grabbing some foodstuffs from one of the grocery stores and having a picnic in the park behind Castle Blatná.
Now on to the next stop!
Hluboká nad Vltavou
I bet you didn’t think the castles on this tour were going to get more remarkable than the first, but I present to you Hluboká Castle, which many actually refer to as a château. The differences between palaces, castles, châteaus, and fortresses are interesting to research, but for this post I’ll stick to calling it a castle.
The origins of a castle being located in this spot date back to the 13th century, and over time it has been rebuilt and modified from a Gothic, to Baroque, to now Romantic style structure. It reached it’s present appearance in the 19th century when Adolf II von Schwarzenberg decided he wanted to emulate the style of England’s Windsor Castle. The Schwarzenberg family fled Czechoslovakia in 1939 to escape the growing Nazi regime, and ultimately the castle was turned over to the government.
There are several tours you can take of Hluboká Castle, and the well-manicured grounds are also lovely to walk through. Keep in mind that you have to park in the town of Hluboká and walk up to the castle, as there is no on site parking.
Besides the castle, Hluboká nad Vltavou has other activities and sites you might be interested in visiting, like the Zoo Hluboká, walking the trail around the Munický Pond, or visiting the Jewish Cemetery.
Two towns and two castles down for the Southern Bohemia itinerary! You can stay the night in either Hluboká nad Vltavou or the next town and rest up for another full day of sightseeing.
Check out (or should I say Czech out?!) that big, colorful square! České Budějovice is the only town on the itinerary that doesn’t have a castle, but there’s a lot of other great things to see, like Přemysl Otakar II Square. It’s one of the biggest (1 hectare large) squares in the Czech Republic, and that pretty blue building pictured above is the historic town hall.
The fountain in the middle, Samson’s Fountain, was built in the early 1700s and lights up the square beautifully at night. Near the fountain is the weirdly named erratic boulder, which is the only remanent of the original paving and the spot where executions used to be held in the square.
To get a great view of the square you should climb the 225 steps up the Black Tower. Built in 1577, this tower was important from a defense standpoint, as the guards inside could ring the bells to alert the town if enemies were approaching or if there was a fire in the city.
Another highlight of České Budějovice is the Budweiser Budvar brewery. Now I know what you’re thinking…is this the home of American Budweiser beer?! Yes and no. Beer brewing in this town dates back to the 13th century, and Budweiser Budvar was established in 1785. Anheuser-Busch created their beer based on the Czech version, but it did eventually develop it’s own taste over time. Disputes over who can legally call their beer ‘Budweiser’ have been going on for decades, so each company’s beer has different names in different regions.
So to start day 2 of your Southern Bohemia itinerary, I recommend grabbing a coffee in one of the cafes along the main square, climbing the Black Tower, and then touring the brewery. Then it’s on to the final stop!
If these pictures look familiar to you it’s because you’ve already seen my Český Krumlov photo diary. Out of all the towns on this itinerary, Český Krumlov is certainly the most well known. As an amazingly well-preserved medieval town, it is especially popular as a day trip from Prague.
The final castle on this itinerary is the State Castle and Chateau of Český Krumlov. With origins in the 13th century, it had many periods of development and stagnation before being handed over to the state in 1950. You can get beautiful views of the city by the Vltava River when you explore the castle grounds (for free), or take a tour through the inside rooms.
After checking out the castle, you can get a different perspective of the city by taking a wooden raft tour along the Vltava River. How neat does that sound?! And when it’s time to eat you can grab some homemade dishes at Cafe Strudl.
Český Krumlov will probably be the busiest town you visit, but it’s well worth it to experience the medieval city and those tasty strudl!
That wraps it up for the Southern Bohemia itinerary! All the towns, castles, sights, and restaurants are marked on this Google Map to make your visit even easier.
Have you been to Southern Bohemia? What do you think of these hidden gems for traveling?