Český Krumlov, The Czech Republic

In South Bohemia in the Czech Republic, is a small town featuring a castle on a hill, a small river flowing right through its middle and quant streets with picturesque pastel buildings. It is often referred to as Europe’s most beautiful town. Welcome to Český Krumlov four hours south of Prague, it’s bisected by the Vltava River and watched over by a 13th-century castle. While there are a number of people who will argue over the title of Europe’s most beautiful town it is without question in the top ten.

The historic center of the town was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1992. The castle incorporates Gothic, Renaissance and baroque elements, and includes a large garden and an original 17th-century baroque theater. Český Krumlov has mostly remained unchanged over the course of centuries and is one of Europe’s best examples of a historic European town. There were many such towns all over Central Europe, but most of them suffered damages during wars or their architectural heritage was destroyed in order to make space for more “modern” buildings.

Český Krumlov has worked at preserving its heritage by keeping old architecture and maintaining the original street layout. Just walking the streets and admiring the beautiful old architecture is an experience. The town is actually located on a horseshoe bend of the Vltava river and often gets very busy as it is a favorite location for canoeing and rafting, especially on weekends. Add to that more than a million tourists visiting each year and the town can be crowded at times.

Český Krumlov Castle (Státní hrad a zámek Český Krumlov) is the most important feature of the town. Its history dates back to the 13th century when it was founded by the Vítkovci (Witigonen) family. It was rebuilt in the Renaissance style in the 16th century. At that time the castle was owned by the Rosenbergs. Members of this family were prominent Bohemian aristocracy and many of them were great patrons of the arts.

The Emperor Rudolf II of the House of Habsburg bought the Český Krumlov dominion in the early 17th century. Its current form of a large Baroque residence castle owes to Johann Christian I von Eggenberg, who undertook its remodeling in the 1680s.

The bloodline of the Eggenbergs died out in 1719 and the town with the castle became property of the Schwarzenbergs. After World War II it was transferred to the Czechoslovak government. It remains in state-ownership today. It is the second largest castle complex in Czechia (after Prague Castle) and one of the largest in Europe.

There is an entrance fee providing access to a number of historic exhibits. One of the favorite sights in the castle is its unique Baroque Theatre and the characteristic round castle tower is open to be climbed for spectacular views of the town.

The Church of St. Vitus (Kostel svatého Víta) also stands out on the town skyline, competing with the castle. The church was built in the Gothic style in the early 15th century.

Unity Square (Náměstí Svornosti) is the center of the historic Town. The beautiful square features a Renaissance town-hall from the 16th century and a Marian plague column making the square one of the most beautiful town squares in all of the Czech Republic if not all of Central Europe.

Latrán is another section near the Inner Town located in the northeastern part of the town, near the castle. There is a high concentration of Gothic and Renaissance buildings in the Latrán quarter.

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