Exploring the Château

Reputedly the second-largest castle in Bohemia (after Prague Castle), Ceský Krumlov Château was constructed in the 13th century as part of a private estate. Throughout the ages, it has been passed on to a variety of private owners, including the Rozmberk family, Bohemia's largest landholders, and the Schwarzenbergs, the Bohemian equivalent of the Hilton family. Perched high atop a rocky hill, the château is open only from April to October, exclusively by guided tours.

Follow the path for the long climb up to the castle. Greeting you is a round 12th-century tower -- painstakingly renovated, with its Renaissance balcony. You'll pass over the moat, now occupied by two brown bears. Next is the Dolní Hrad (Lower Castle) and then the Horní Hrad (Upper Castle).

There are three main guided tours, plus separate entries to the Castle Tower and the Lapidarium. If you don't have the money or time for one of the tours, you're free to walk around the grounds, though most of the interiors will be inaccessible. Tour 1 begins in the rococo Chapel of St. George, and continues through the portrait-packed Renaissance Rooms, and the Schwarzenberg Baroque Suite, outfitted with ornate furnishings that include Flemish wall tapestries, European paintings, and also the extravagant 17th-century Golden Carriage. Tour 2 includes the Schwarzenberg portrait gallery as well as their 19th-century suite. Tour 3 presents the Castle's fascinating Baroque Theater, though at more than $20 a ticket, sadly, this is priced more for real theater aficionados than the general public. Tours last about 1 hour and depart frequently. Most are in Czech or German, however. If you want an English-language tour, arrange it ahead of time (tel. 380-704-711; www.castle.ckrumlov.cz). The guided tours in English cost 240Kc adults, 140Kc students (Tour 1); 180Kc adults, 100Kc students (Tour 2); 380Kc adults, and 220Kc students (Tour 3). The tickets are sold separately. The castle hours are from Tuesday to Sunday: June to August 9am to 6pm; April, May, September, and October 9am to 5pm. The last entrance is 1 hour before closing.

Once past the main castle building, you can see one of the more stunning views of Ceský Krumlov from Most Na Plásti, a walkway that doubles as a belvedere to the Inner Town. Even farther up the hill lie the castle's riding school and gardens.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.