Few places on earth look as good as the Czech Republic's Cesky Krumlov. Built around a loop of the Vltava River, it features a swathe of intricately painted Renaissance buildings underneath a humungous but dainty castle complex that curves around on the cliffs. It's not a hidden secret – Cesky Krumlov has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List for 25 years – but it's special.
The Museum Fotoatelier Seidel is a curious timewarp. The former residence and photography studio of innovative photographer Josef Seidel, much has been left as it was decades ago. That means the office and dressing rooms give a pre-WWII snapshot, while the upper floor studio itself is a marvel of old cameras, preserved photography plates and negatives. See seidel.cz
This is the land of stodge. Giant, intimidating pork knuckles and mammoth plates of dumplings rule here, and you're better off just embracing it. Krcma V Satlavske puts a nice twist on the gigantic mixed grill by cooking the meat over an open fire, with a stack of logs ready to throw on at any moment. See satlava.cz
The castle, its exteriors painted like a giant fresco, is the star. There is a confusing range of ticket options for seeing inside – but make sure to get one that includes the exquisitely beautiful baroque theatre. Otherwise, enjoy ambling through the courtyards, spotting alchemists' symbols on the walls and ogling the view from the terraces. See castle.ckrumlov.cz
That river is more than just decoration, you know. During the summer months, canoeing or rafting down the Vltava is an excellent way of spending a few hours. Malecek takes you and your craft upstream by van, then lets you float back into town. It costs from 160Kc per person on a large raft for two kilometres to 700Kc for 35 kilometres of barely paddling canoeing. See ckvltava.cz
There's an old-fashioned charm to the Hotel Latran. The black and white photographic portraits on the walls resemble those in the Seidel Museum, while unvarnished wooden floors, plush red rugs and carefully picked old wooden furniture round off the vibe. There's also a cafe specialising in strudels downstairs. Doubles cost from $80. See latran.hotely-krumlov.cz
The local green semi-precious stone, moldavite, is sold in several shops around town. But it's not always of entirely reputable provenance. To make sure you're getting the real deal, head to the shop at the Moldavite Museum's shop which provides certificates of authenticity. See vltaviny.cz
David Whitley was a guest of Czech Tourism.