Český Krumlov

Český Krumlov is a small gem of a town in the South Bohemia region of the Czech Republic. It's narrow, winding streets open up unexpectedly onto small and charming plazas. Even the town's main square – dubbed Unity Square (námĕstí Svorností) – is on a small scale.

But Český Krumlov offers travelers two great attractions despite its small size: (1) It is one of the most picturesque and well- preserved towns in the Czech Republic (earning it a designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site); and (2) The grandeur of the enormous Krumlov Castle with its distinctive tower is eclipsed only by Prague Castle.

Český Krumlov lies on the Vltava River (in German, known as the Moldau). The river makes an almost complete circle around the town and thus lends its scenic beauty to unexpected places. Most of the town lies on one side of the river, while the castle complex lies on the other.

For some 300 years Krumlov Castle (Hrad Krumlov) was the home of the Rosenbergs, one of the most influential Czech noble families. The castle – and its distinctive tower – were begun in the 14th century, but the succeeding three centuries saw many changes, additions and renovations. In the second half of the 17th century, the castle and tower were transformed into the grand Renaissance style seen today under the leadership of Vilém (Wilhelm) von Rosenberg, who also made Český Krumlov a center of cultural and political life. But the Rosenberg dynasty and its ownership of Krumlov Castle came to an abrupt end after Wilém's death when his dissolute brother sold both the castle and town in 1602 to pay off his debts.