If you're based in Ceske Budejovice, it's worth exploring the region of South Bohemia where small medieval towns were built amidst forests of spruce and pine or on the banks of one of the tributaries of the Vltava River.
The small town of Prachatice, 60kms west of Ceske Budejovice for example, has untouched medieval buildings with a taste of Bavaria while Trebon, 30kms east boasts a splendid historical castle still undiscovered by tourists. In an area of unparalleled natural beauty, the small village of Rozmberg has the largest natural carp pond in the country while the town of Pisek, constructed on the embankment of the Volary River has a stone bridge which comes a close second when compared with the famous Karluv bridge in Prague.
All this may seem interesting to travellers who intend to explore the region. However, if your time is limited, it's better to stick to one or two towns rather than move quickly from one to another without having the opportunity to discover and taste the historical atmosphere, culture, folklore and architecture of the area.
The small picturesque town of Cesky Krumlov, 25kms south of Ceske Budejovice and world famous for its preserved 13th-century Gothic castle and its numerous medieval buildings and narrow meandering streets is a favourite among group tours and travel agents. It has lately become a haven for Austrian and Italian tourists. To get a taste of the town's architectural beauty and to visit the castle's interior, you require at least a full day of sightseeing. If however you want to escape from the crowds of tourists and backpackers, it's advisable to take a day trip to each of the following:
1. Hluboka nad Vltavou is a small town 8kms north of Ceske Budejovice and easily accessible by frequent bus from the bus station in Ceske Budejovice. Buses run all day long and there's at least one bus every hour except on Sunday when buses are limited. If you have your own transport, take the E49 north and then drive along motorway 105 which is clearly signposted and leads you close to the town. The Tourist Information Office at Masarykova 35 in front of the church can provide maps, free brochures and information about Hluboka Castle.
Built in the 13th-century, this castle was rebuilt and renovated several times over the years. What you see today is the last impressive reconstruction of the mid-19th-century carried out by the rich Schwarzenberg family. This huge romantic castle in neo-Gothic style was remodelled after England's Windsor Castle. Its external architecture in stone was given a facelift a couple of years ago and is now in tiptop condition. The castle's interior rooms are furnished with elaborately carved wooden ceilings (removed from the Schwarzenbergs' residence at Cesky Krumlov), fine furniture and priceless paintings. About one third of the castle's rooms that can be visited on guided tours only are open April to October 9am to 4:30pm, closed on Monday. Tickets for tours in English (three daily at 11am, 2pm and 4pm) cost 100Kc equivalent to US$3.50 and they include a short detour to the Alsova Jihoceska Galerie housed in the adjoining former riding school. Being the second-largest art collection in Bohemia, it includes numerous interesting Gothic sculptures from the area and Dutch paintings. The extensive surrounding park laid out by the landowning Schwarzenberg family is open all year round and is worth exploring. Stroll towards the entrance to the castle's main chapel, its facade decorated with an unusual large yellow iron structure and enjoy the view of the surrounding untouched countryside.
2. Tabor, 50kms northeast of Ceske Budejovice can be reached easily by train since all trains between Ceske Budejovice and Prague pass through here. The Tourist Information Office at Zizkovo namesti 2 can help you with anything related to the town, transport and accommodation. The highlight of Tabor is Zizkovo namesti, a medieval square lined with burgher houses and the imposing Renaissance Town Hall which houses the Museum of the Hussite Movement. From the museum, you can go down a 650 metres stretch of 15th-century underground passages used formerly as war shelters and food stores. Enter through the arch on Zizkovo namesti and walk along Marianska, which soon leads into Klokotska. This street runs southwest to Bechyne Gate, which houses the modest Peasant Museum. Nothing remains of the adjoining 12th-century castle but you can climb the reconstructed round tower for a breathtaking view of the Luznice River and the surrounding countryside.