Karlstein Castle

By train: There is a regular suburban rail service (trains approximately hourly) from Smichov station – Metro: Smichovske nadral. Journey time 50 mins.

By road: Highway 4 or 5, southwest Prague.

Nestling in an attractive wooded landscape, the pretty village of KarlStejn is only about 17 miles (28 km) from Prague and is an ideal day, or even half-day trip. The 14th-century Gothic castle dominates the hillside but, surprisingly, cannot be seen from the station. Turn right, then left across the river to reach the village. The castle is directly ahead. The village is geared to cater for tourists in the summer and there are plenty of restaurants, souvenir shops and other facilities. There is a homely atmosphere in the Restaurace u koronu, though it is difficult to make yourself understood in English.

The castle was built in 1348-57 to guard the Imperial treasures, including the crown jewels, and to house Charles IVs impressive collection of relics. The Emperor’s taste for meditation was as pronounced as his passion for hunting and Karlstejn provided plenty of opportunity to indulge in both. In 1422 the castle sustained a seige by Hussite forces, lasting for seven months. Badly damaged during the Thirty Years War, it declined in importance thereafter. Its excellent state of preservation is due partly to a major restoration undertaken towards the end of the 19th century. The castle interior is open to the public.

The Chapel of the Holy Rood, inside the main keep, dates from 1360. Sumptuously decorated throughout, its walls are inlaid with more than 2,000 semiprecious stones. The painted wood panels of the saints by Master Theodoric are copies -the originals can be seen in the National Gallery. The Chapel of St Catherine, in the smaller tower, was the Emperor’s private oratory where he was not to be disturbed – important messages were relayed through a slit in the wall. Next door is the Church of Our Lady, with a fine timber ceiling and exquisite medieval wall paintings, the earliest of which dates from the 14th century.

Extensive restoration work is being undertaken at the moment, so parts of the castle may be closed.

Open: Tuesday to Sunday, May to September 08.00 to 18.00 hrs; March, April and October to December 09.00 to 16.00 hrs. Closed: Monday and all of January and February.

Konopiste

The chateau at Konopiste served as a hunting lodge for successive Austrian Emperors and Archdukes – Kaiser Wilhelm II also stayed here. It once belonged to the heir to the Habsburg throne, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, whose assassination on 28 June 1914 led to the outbreak of the World War I. The castle is built on medieval foundations but its present appearance is largely 19th century. The landscaped park is pleasant to stroll in but the central attraction is the exhibition of hunting paraphernalia including armour and weapons dating back to the 16th century.

Open: Tuesday to Sunday, May to August 09.00 to 18.00 hrs; September 09.00 to 17.00 hrs; April and October 09.00 to 16.00 hrs.


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