Třeboň, like Tábor, is off the international tourist trail, but it's a favorite with cyclists. And the town offers an appealing mix of adorable old buildings and authentic workaday local life.
Třeboň itself is a charming jewel box of a town. It was settled during the 12th century by the Wittkowitzes (later called the Rožmberks, or Rosenbergs), once Bohemia's noblest family. You can see their emblem, a five-petal rose, on castles, doorways, and coats of arms all over the region. Their official residence was 40 km (25 miles) to the southwest, in Český Krumlov, but Třeboň was an important second residence and repository of the family archives, which still reside in the town's château. The main square, Masarykovo náměstí, is a pleasing arrangement of baroque and Renaissance structures. Various markets pop up here all through the summer, and the Town Hall has notable frescoes.
To Czechs, Třeboň and carp are almost synonymous. If you're in the area in late autumn, you may be lucky enough to witness the great carp harvests, when tens of thousands of the glittering fish are netted from ponds in the surrounding area. Traditionally, they are served breaded and fried as the centerpiece of Christmas Eve dinner. But regardless of the season, you'll find carp on every menu in town. Don't be afraid to order it; the carp here are not the notorious bottom-feeders they are elsewhere, but are raised in clean ponds and served as a fresh catch with none of that muddy aftertaste.
One of the most pleasant activities here is a walk around the Rybník Svět (World Pond), an easy 12-km (7½-mile) trail that takes you through grassy fields and forests. When taking the walk (or as a destination itself), visit the Schwarzenberg Family Vault. Built in English Gothic style; it’s a bit startling at first, but then seems to blend into its woody environs. If you’d rather not walk, 45-minute boat tours go around the lake about once an hour (in season and weather permitting). There’s a variety of other walks and lots of cycle paths in the region; ask at the tourist information office for recommended routes and maps.
Along with the ponds, the region is known for its peat bogs. This has given rise to a local spa industry, and wellness weekends are popular attractions at the city’s two main spas; Bertiny Lázně (384–754–111 www.berta.cz) and Lázně Aurora (800–611–009 www.aurora.cz). A variety of treatments are on offer, but both do peat massages. A dip in the iron-rich squishy substance is supposed to help with arthritis and other joint problems. But the sensation and smell are acquired tastes.