Vranov nad Dyjí - A hidden hub of activity in South Moravia
January 1, 1970
by Nandor Groger
Why did we decide to go to Vranov Nad Dyjí?
Well, we were just looking for a long weekend getaway place near Hungary. We did not know much about Vranov Nad Dyjí, just checked a few photos, and immediately booked a room in an apartment. We did not regret it.:)
Vranov Nad Dyjí is located in the southern part of Czech Republic, South Moravia. Really close and a perfect weekend getaway for both Czechs, Hungarians, Slovaks, and Austrians. It’s just a 1,5 – 2 hrs. drive from Vienna and Bratislava, and 2.5 hrs. from Prague, and 4 hrs. from Budapest.
Vranov Nad Dyjí is very similar to the famous city of Cesky Krumlov, it has its own river, and small medieval castle, and cultural spots, although it’s more like a hub for activities, and nature lovers. We visited the city in late May. Note that the main season is June-August. According to the locals, during the summer the area gets more crowded with mostly Austrians, and Czechs bikers. But during spring and autumn, the area is not touristy at all. To tell the truth only 2 restaurants and 2 small groceries were open in May. Restaurants were open until midnight, but shops closed around 6-7 pm.
It was an easy call, which restaurant to go to, as one was full of Austrian pensioners, so we decided to have dinner one filled with locals. It was called Parník Vranov, a restaurant with a marine theme. Don’t expect fine dining here, but the restaurant is cheap, the atmosphere is great, the staff is extremely caring, compensating their lack of English knowledge. They mostly had pizzas and local dishes such as cabbage with pork, but it was more than satisfying for us, after a long day of hiking.
Once the restaurants closed, the city was quite, and streets were empty, that made the whole place more charming, and romantic for us, but those who want to go out at night might get disappointed. But trust me, you don’t want to stay later than midnight after a long day of hiking or biking around the city.
Activities in and around the city
Speaking of all the activities you can do in Vranov Nad Dyjí, May seemed the best time to travel here. It was already warm enough to hike for a whole day, but not extremely hot so we could really hike long distances. The best and easiest hiking route is going along river Thaya, that crosses Vranov Nad Dyjí. No matter you head south or north you will find exceptional, natural environment to hike in. Note the river is both called Thaya ( Austrian) and Dyje (Czech), also the national park that is around Vranov Nad Dyjí has two names: Podyjí National Park (Czech), and Thayatal National park (Austrian). Don’t get confused both names refer to the same area, it is only because the border crosses the national park.
But before moving out of the city, let’s check the best spot inside the city. Even simply walking in the narrow streets of the center of Vranov Nad Dyjí is quite an experience, but the real deal is, of course, the castle over the city. We hiked up the Castle in like half an hour, but it was not that easy as expected, the route is quite steep and long compared to a regular sightseeing route. But it is worth hiking up due to the spectacular view, even though you won’t catch your breath at the top. (You can drive up to the castle as well, but the parking spots are extremely limited.)
As I have mentioned the castle and the view worth all the efforts. The castle itself is tiny, but that makes it even more charming. The view from the castle is gorgeous, you can see the whole valley of river Thaya, and you can even plan where to hike or bike along its river. We did not visit the internal part of the Castle, as the historical exhibitions were not appealing for us. We came here for more like an experience and didn’t want to waste time.
When standing on the top of the castle hill you are probably on one of the highest spots in the area. Hiking around Vranov Nad Dyjí looks like going up in down between valleys and hills. We strongly recommend you to firstly take a route along river Thaya, unless you really would like to work out, because areas outside of the river valley are a little boring. In case you feel lost do not be afraid just try to go down the hill and you will reach the river. So stick to the river!
One-day hike to Hardegg
In case you decide to head south you will be heading to Hardegg, and the Austrian border. On the way, you will go through several bridges over the river, and will probably meet with local Czechs standing the river fishing or just relaxing on the riverside. You can also run into lumbermen, and foresters working on preparing the hiking routes for the main season. We only met a few tourist on the way in May, so expect a real chilled and quite hike.
Our longest hike was a 1 day 40 km hike to the city of Hardegg. Hardegg is exactly on the border between Austria and the Czech Republic, there are several routes there with different difficulties, you can buy a hiking map of the area at the KIOSK near the bus station in Vranov Nad Dyjí. We took the most difficult route on the way there, through the ridge of the hills, and took a lot easier, route backwards through the villages. While hiking in the hill ridge, you’ll find several lookout points with benches, where you can eat your sandwiches or just stop to look out at the river.
It is worth staying an hour in Hardegg before heading back to Vranov Nad Dyjí, although Hardegg’s castle is far less attractive compared to Vranov Nad Dyjí’s. It looks more like a robust fortress than a real castle. In case you are too late and can’t hike back to Vranov Nad Dyjí before sunset, you can easily spend the night in Hardegg, but keep in mind that the prices for both accommodation and food will be much higher on the Austrian side than they are on the Czech side.
There is only one important thing left to visit while staying in Vranov Nad Dyjí, which is the former border, the so-called Iron-curtain between Austrian and the Soviet block. You can easily reach it on the way back to Vranov Nad Dyjí if you go back, crossing the village called Cízov.
I’d recommend spending 3-4 days in Vranov Nad Dyjí for those nature lover youngsters and families, who would like to get away a for a weekend locally on a reasonable price. We will definitely visit again, and rent a bike to bike along the riverside, and reach even further distances.