I must admit I have a bit of a sweet spot when it comes to castles. Maybe it is the child that still wonders within me or the fact that my husband proposed to me overlooking one of the most magical castles of all, Neuschwanstein in Germany. Whatever the reason, I adore visiting castles as they have a way of taking me back to the carefree days of reading Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia or dreaming of Sleeping Beauty’s castle in a fairytale.
It came as no surprise that during a recent trip to Prague, we decided to get out of the city for a day and see one of the Czech Republic’s most beloved castles: The Karlštejn castle (Hrad Karlštejn). Only 20 kilometers southwest of Prague, the Karlštejn castle is one of the most famous and visited castles in the country.
We arrived around 11 am by personal driver. Hiring a driver for the day was one of the best decisions that we made. For six hours, the cost was a mere $65 and we had the freedom to do and see as we pleased. Most tourists arrive via tour bus in a package deal that brings you to other sites as well. You can visit the castle either way but I am glad we did it on our own.
Once in town, there are two ways to reach the castle, both on foot. You can either walk up along the medieval village of Karlštejn bringing you past souvenir shops and restaurants (about one and half kilometers steep walk to the castle) or you can leave from the car park which takes about ten minutes walk through the forest. Once you arrive, you must purchase castle tour tickets if you haven’t already done so online (recommended) or as part of your tour package if you are coming via tour bus. The lines were quite long so I’m relieved we arrived early. One of the tours was already sold out.
Built between 1348-1355 by Emperor Charles IV, the gothic-style Karlštejn Castle was a symbol of the Golden Age and served as a safe depository of the Bohemian royal and imperial jewels, holy relics, royal treasures and an archive of state documents. The history of Karlstejn is a mix of many myths and incredible true stories that can be heard while touring the inside of the castle. Despite its ornate beauty and massive size, it is said that Charles IV visited the castle only six times.
After the short walk through the forest up to the castle, the first thing you see is a large stone gate that enters into the castle grounds. Set high up within the forest, the castle is perched perfectly atop a hill affording a magnificent and important strategic view of the valley below.
There are three main parts of the castle that can be toured: The historical interiors of the Emperor’s Palace, the Chapel of Saint Cross and the Bell Tower (which provides an amazing view). You are unable to see any of the castle without a guided tour. Each tour is separate and takes anywhere from 40 minutes to a little over an hour.
The first tour we did was of the great Bell Tower where the crown jewels used to be stored. It involves walking up a lot of stone steps but the view of the valley and village below is incredible and worth the effort. If I could only do one tour, I would pick this one.
Once on top, we could open up the windows and look out to take pictures. The 360 degree bird’s-eye view was outstanding. You could see the brilliant rapeseed fields way up in the hills surrounding the castle. You also can see how this would have been the perfect lookout place for the knights who guarded the castle years and years ago.
The next tour we did was of the knight’s and emperor’s quarters. We learned all about the bizarre lives of the knights who lived crammed within the castle walls and the bizarre myths and stories of the castle. Some true, some that we will never know for sure. There isn’t much left to see inside the castle of interest. Most of the furniture and artwork is long removed so if you are looking to see a beautifully decorated castle inside you will be quite disappointed. However, in my opinion it still is pretty fascinating to walk within the walls of a medieval castle and learn about its ghosts of history.
The neighboring Karlštejn village that surrounds the castle is also a great place to have a traditional bohemian lunch and shop for fun gifts and souvenirs to bring home. Our visit was the perfect escape from the city and a great way to also see a big of the lush countryside surrounding Prague.
Karlštejn castle (Hrad Karlštejn castle) is about 20 km outside of Prague. There are several tour companies that will take you there via bus. We hired our own driver from the hotel for $65 (4 hours). You can only see the castle via organized group tours which can be purchased at the window or online in advance (highly recommended to avoid the long lines). Visit the official website here for more details.
You should come to Wales, we’ve got lots of castles 🙂
I would love to Sas!
Wow! You must have a good head for heights.
Yes I do! I love the bird’s eye view of a place!
Wow, Nicole, that’s a stunner! You have some wonderful shots, although the one had me hanging onto the edge of my chair. 🙂
Thanks Janet! It was a really fun day! 🙂
Wow Looks Amazing. I haven’t been to the Czech Republic.
It is really a beautiful place Louise. 🙂
The best thing about castles is they are usually on hills and afford great views – as this one does! How nice to escape the city for a day, take that beautiful walk in the woods, and get your castle fix! Very nice.
Simply delightful Nicole. It amazes me that they were able to build such magnificent structures like this in the 1300s. I too love castles and would love to live in one after I finish this sailing adventure. Dreams do come true, so who knows 🙂
Yes I love castles and Prague is so surreal. I can’t believe how amazing the architecture is there! I went crazy!
So sweet that your husband proposed at a castle Nicole. This one is a beauty!
Yes it was quite a memory Sue. I loved seeing Prague. In July, my dad and I are headed to Romania which will be a little similar but we are doing hiking. I can’t wait!
Fantastic! So wonderful you are spending this time with your parents.
Yes I’m excited Sue!
What an amazing and picturesque town
Thanks for stopping by! Yes, it was really lovely. I loved how the castle is set so high up in the hills. Very beautiful.
A lovely castle, Nicole. Fantastic views from the windows. 🙂
Thanks Sylvia! It was quite beautiful.
Proposed to overlooking a castle, how wonderfully romantic! I must admit Nicole I’m also a bit of a romantic too and love everything about castles. Thanks for taking us along on this fairyland tour. 🙂
Yes isn’t it wonderful Miriam! I love castles. When we went to Germany years ago, we did the “romantic road” tour of all the castles. It was so amazing and then my husband proposed at the end. 🙂
What a perfect way to end the tour! xo
What spectacular views of the valley! Thank you for that fabulous castle tour Nicole. Bookmarking for a future visit to the Czech republic 🙂
Thanks Madhu! You would love the Czech Republic if you haven’t been. I have loved your photos on IG from Croatia. I have never been there but would love to check it out. Hope you are well!!!
Wow! I will have to make it there someday! We only traveled to Prague and Kutna Hora during our time in the Czech Republic.
Thanks for the comment! Yes it was lovely and so close by. I always like to get out of a city and see a bit of the countryside when I go somewhere.
I have to say, the view outshines the castle itself 😉
I agree the view is stunning!