Prague Karlstejn Castle
If you are looking for a trip outside of Prague then Karlstejn Castle is an option as a half-day, whole-day or overnight stay. I’ll describe why you might want to visit, options for what to see in the area and how to get to and from it.
Staying in Karlstejn
When I was still a tourist I stayed at the Hotel Karlstejn and it was basically for three reasons. Firstly they had free on-site secure parking. Second I could hire a bike directly from the hotel to explore the area and lastly because it also has a mini-spa so in the evening it was great to take a glass of wine or a beer up to the pool terrace and enjoy the view of the Karlstejn Castle. There’s not much to do after 8pm in Karlstejn.
Tours to Karlstejn Castle
As an organised tour this is considered as a half-day tour or 4-5 hours in total (travel there, 2 hours on-site and travel back). I recommend four tours.
ONE: Do It Yourself. Take a train (details below) and book places on Tour 2.
TWO: A basic organised half-day tour. It’s run by Premiant which has been around for years and has a good reputation. Pick-up and drop-off is included so allowing for that and the transfer to Karlstejn it’s a 4.5 hour day with a 1 hour interior castle tour included.
Check the Organised Half-day tour
THREE: A bit more adventurous but great fun. It’s an e-bike tour. Be prepared for an 8.5 hour day of which about 4 hours is riding, 90 minutes for breaks (you pay for lunch), 2 hours at the castle including an external tour and finally a train trip back to Prague. You have time for the optional basic 1 hour tour which is simply joining a regular castle tour group but you pay extra for that.
Check the Karlstejn Castle e-Bike Tour
FOUR: Only of interest if you like caves as this is a combined Karlstejn Castle and Koněprusy Caves trip with a bonus. I’ve done the caves separately and they are quite impressive. Even in the summer take a light jacket as it gets a bit cool. So the format of the tour is usually the caves first, then Karlstejn Village for lunch, then the castle for a basic guided tour and finally the Velka Amerika (Czech Grand Canyon) which is a flooded limestone quarry on the drive back. Lots of scenery on the drive.
Check the Karlstejn Catle and Koneprusy Caves Tour
A Bit of History and Legend
Without doubt it is the most visually striking Gothic castle in the country. Built the year after the coronation of King Charles IV it’s less than 10 years older than Charles Bridge. Set in rolling hills your view is drawn to the Great Tower (don’t get that mixed up with the smaller “Well Tower”) and surrounding battlements. On the inside it’s typically plain Gothic style. The interior tours cover the use of the rooms and the decor plus the lineage of kings. Karlstejn Castle was used on and off for the purposes of storing the crown jewels but at the start of the 30 years war in 1618 the jewels were moved to Prague. In the Hussite wars of the early 15th Century siege, the attacking forces catapulted animal dung and dead bodies over the battlements. Rebuilt several times in different styles after war and fires, the look of the castle now comes from a Neo-Gothic upgrade in the late 19th Century. You’ll learn all about the history during the tour.
There is a legend associated with the castle in that unlike most castles it did not have it’s own independent water supply. Bad news! so they brought in miners to dig a channel under the castle to the river Beroun (no small feat as it’s almost a kilometre). This created a column of water and allowed the “well tower” to function as the pressurised water supply to the castle. What happened to the miners? Supposedly killed to keep the secret of the source of the water.
What’s to See at Karlstejn Castle – Interior Tours
Regardless of how you get here, the Castle offers 3 specific guided tours for which you can reserve places online. My advice is to go to the Karlstejn Castle Website listed at the end of this post. Organised tours go with Tour 1. If you’re doing this on your own you have the option of Tour 2.
Tour 1: Basic 55 minute tour (group size up to 45 people) which does NOT include the Chapel and does NOT include the Great Tower. This is the tour that most organised groups will do i.e. anything listed as “tour of castle” or “1 hour tour”.
Tour 2: 1 hour 40 minutes. This is the “see everything” tour, including the Chapel and the Great Tower (more expensive but you see more and group size is maximum 16).
Tour 3: 45 minutes. This is just the guardroom/armoury plus some wall art on the stairs and the Great Tower (group size up to 20 people) so you take this one to get to the top of the towers on the wooden ramparts for the view.
On a good day it will be 30 minutes from central Prague. You park at the bottom of the hill opposite the restaurant and tourist info centre. It’s metered pay and display parking so be sure to allow at least 3 hours of time.
It’s pretty simple. You go to Prague Main Train Station and buy a return ticket from the “national” ticket desk (that’s next to the “international” desk with the glass doors). It’ll be @CZK120 for a return and the service is hourly. Ten stops (45 mins) last time I looked. When you leave the station at Karlstejn you have a 500m walk over the river to the base of the hill. Walk a little further and opposite the car park there’s an information centre and a restaurant.
I don’t recommend any bus service as they take way too long. Check the train option above.
Website and Photo Credit: https://www.hrad-karlstejn.cz/en/