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.