Český Krumlov was settled in the 13th century and remains renowned primarily for fine architecture and Krumlov Castle, the second largest in the country after the Hradčany castle complex in Prague. Her unrivalled beauty and preserved Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque elements led to the old town being deemed an Historical Urban Reservation in 1963 and in 1992, UNESCO declared ČK a World Heritage Site. However, ČK isn’t just an open air museum; she also provides numerous cultural and sporting activities including some stunning day trips and hours spent messing about on the river.
Český Krumlov was first mentioned in a letter in 1253, but legend states the Přemyslovci slaughtered a rival family and gave the town and castle to relatives, the Witigonen (or Vítkovci in Czech), the first Lords of Krumlov, way back in 995. From 1302 the House of Rosenberg owned the town and castle, having taken their name from nearby Rožmberk castle where they also lived. At this time, the Latrán, the pedestrianised old town of today, was haphazardly laid out below the castle in a horseshoe bend in the river and until 1555 Krumlov consisted of two independent towns – Latrán and Krumlov, which was situated on the farther side of the river and around today’s old town square.
The Vltava has long been a natural transportation route and towns on these trade routes rise and fall in importance with time and alternate paths. The Bavarian salt trade route in the 16th century, its profitability resulted in it being named Zlatá (golden), created important towns on its path, but in 1706, another salt trade route, named Linz connected Austrian countries and Bohemia and ČK became the salt store. Economic stagnation followed the Thirty Year War (1618 - 1648) when the town was garrisoned by Imperial troops, leading to invasion by Swedish troops in 1648.
In 1602 Emperor Rudolf II bought Krumau and it became another centre for alchemy then in 1622 Ferdinand II gave Krumau to the House of Eggenberg who ruled until 1719, when the House of Schwarzenberg took over (and remained owners until war changed everything in 1945). By 1919 there were some 7,300 Germans and 1,300 Czechs living in the town.
After WWI, Krumau lay within the Republic of German Austria until November 1918 when Czech troops occupied the town and it remained in Czechoslovakia until 1938 when Nazi Germany annexed the town and incorporated it into the Sudetenland. Her German inhabitants were expelled in 1945 as part of the controversial Beneš Decrees and Český Krumlov was restored to Czechoslovakia. During the communist era, the town fell into disrepair but since 1989’s Velvet Revolution and tourist influx, the superb architecture has been lovingly and beautifully restored.