FTF guides you on a road trip, by foot, bike or car, to beautiful country castles in the Czech Republic.
Many families find the slow pace and engaging nature of overland journeys to be the most rewarding way to enjoy a new culture, as well as economical! If you mix stunning scenery with wonderful cuisine, eons of history and the majesty of the mountains, you’ll understand why France, Switzerland, Germany, Italy and farther afield, Great Britain and the Czech Republic, are some top destinations for active on-the-ground vacations with all ages.
One of Europe’s most enduring and traditional rural areas blankets the Czech Republic and Slovakia. If you can tear your self away from the medieval majesty of Prague, transport the family for a weekend in the country to a nearby castle.
We loved our stay in an inexpensive “countryhouse castle,” the Zamek Stirin (420/255-736 111 or Fax 420/255-736 261). Although not a huge or grand one, it was nonetheless a 64-room, including one family room and 6 suites, Beverly Hills-type place with valets and butlers and lovely manicured grounds surrounding a private lake. Many groomed trails led off into the nearby dark forest. Our family and one other French family were the only ones there in a chilly Spring fog, but we rendezvoused each morning in a chandeliered dining room that must have sat one hundred! Castle Stirin was simply decorated (read: few antiques to break in the rooms) but elegant in style, with gracious service and reasonable rates.
The castle-rich Czech countryside south of Prague is criss-crossed by narrow blacktops winding through farmland dotted with tiny homes and beerhalls.
Adventurous families can plan their own day hikes or bike tours by basing themselves in the medieval, picture-perfect Cesky Krumlov (420/380-704 621). Its enormous castle towers above a mostly restored, cobblestoned village. The live-action remake of “Snow White” was filmed there so you know the steep bowl of tile-roof homes perched above a river is truly picturesque. In mid-June, the town returns to the time of knights, noble ladies and jesters during a splendid costume parade, with performances of music and games, a medieval market featuring local crafts, and plenty of food and drink. Another highlight is the international music festival that takes place here from mid-July through the end of August, where leading performers are featured in concerts throughout the town. Czesky Krumlov has a lot of small pensions and rooms-to-let which welcome families.
Contact the Czech Center (646/422-3399) for touring and lodging suggestions. Walking Softly Adventures (888/743-0723) and Classic Journeys (800/200-3887) both offer guided art and culture tours suitable for parents or grandparents with like-minded children above 15, which include some easy hiking and urban sightseeing.
Other escorted tours include those of Butterfield & Robinson (866/551-9090), a well known firm which offers a variety of very high-end, pure luxe, skillfully guided biking and walking tours. Families with children age 10+ can join B&R this summer in the Czech Republic and Austria, Switzerland or France. Toddlers age 3+ are welcomed on walks through the Dolomites or on bike rides through Ireland.
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