Some 18 miles (30 kilometers) southwest of Prague, Karlstejn Castle (Hrad Karlstejn) dominates the surrounding area from its hilltop perch. The castle has been a feature of the landscape here for almost 700 years, and its fairy-tale turrets and steep roofs attract visitors from around the world who come to step back in time.
Karlstejn Castle was founded in 1348 by Charles IV of Bohemia—one of the Czech Republic’s best-loved historical figures (the Charles Bridge in Prague is named after him). He intended the castle to act as a stronghold for his priceless crown jewels and holy relics. In the years that followed, the castle was besieged by Hussite forces and damaged by fire before being restored in the 19th century. Nowadays, guided tours from Prague bring the castle’s many secrets to life.
One of the highlights of a visit to the castle is the chance to see the Chapel of the Holy Cross in the Great Tower. The walls of the chapel are decorated with more than 2,000 semiprecious stones along with 128 paintings by the craftsman Master Theodoric.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Entry to the castle is by paid ticket.
- All visitors must join a tour to see the castle.
- Discounted tickets can be purchased for seniors, students, and children under 15.
- With steep steps and uneven floors, the castle is not suited to people with limited mobility.
- Horse-drawn carriages can be hired to transport you from the village to the castle.
- A number of cafes and restaurants offer refreshments on-site.
- Try a glass of Karlstejn wine—grapes have been grown here since the 14th century.
How to Get There
Trains depart several times a day from hlavni nádrazi (Prague’s central station) to Karlstejn village at the bottom of the castle hill. The walk up to the castle takes around 30 minutes. Alternatively, numerous guided tours visit the castle from Prague with round-trip transport from Prague. It’s also possible to drive and there is parking in the village.
When to Get There
Karlstejn Castle’s opening hours vary by season. In July and August, it is open daily from 9am to 6pm. The castle is closed on Mondays the rest of the year. From mid-November it’s only open on weekends, and closes over Christmas week and for most of February (dates vary by year). Double-check before traveling if you’re planning to visit in the winter months. In the summer months, the castle can get very busy with tourists.