Karlstejn Castle or hrad Karlštejn in the Czech language is one of the most famous castles in the Czech Republic and I definitely could not miss it. What I made my decision even easier is the fact that it is not far from Prague and makes for a perfect day trip, just like a visit to Karlovy Vary does.
The castle of Karlstejn stays on the hill and definitely dominates the area. Trust me, it is an impressive sight.
How to get to Karlstejn from Prague
Getting to Karlstejn from Prague was, frankly, the easiest part. After googling a bit and asking around in my hostel in Prague, I realized that the best and quickest way to get there is by train. I still remember how I tried to buy tickets online using my phone but it just did not work. In the end, I decided to go to the main train station and buy tickets there.
Luckily, I happened to queue for the desk where the lady spoke English so I did not have any problems buying the ticket. As it was my second time at the station I knew the procedures more or less (when I tried to buy tickets to Kutna Hora, it was a tragedy. I will write about later).
The tickets sold for Karlstejn are open tickets, meaning you can get on any train going in that direction. Then again, you will not see departure time or platform number or seat number on your ticket. What I did was checking the train schedule and number on the official site of the Czech railways and when I was at the station I knew where I should go. You can ask the ticket seller as well, if you get to talk to a nice one.
The tickets are very cheap, like 2-2,5 EUR one way. I advise you to buy the return ticket as well, it will cost you around 4 EUR. I paid for my tickets 106 CZK, which is about 4 EUR. Just keep in mind that you will get just one ticket for both ways.
Trains to/from Karlstejn are very comfortable, they are newer, every station was announced, and I love the purple color of the seats 🙂
I am pretty sure that there are buses running between Prague and Karlstejn, but I strongly advise to go by train.
What to pay attention to: make sure you wait in the right line as there are desks that sell domestic tickets and others sell international tickets!
The way to Karlstejn Castle
Naturally, after I got out of the train I had no idea where to go, so I did what I do every time: I followed the crowd 🙂 It has always worked so far.
On my way to the castle I passed a bridge over the Berounka River with picturesque views from both sides. And be careful when you cross the road after the bridge: the drivers are a bit crazy 🙂
After the bridge just follow the road up: you will pass along a street with many shops where you can buy souvenirs and restaurants. What I strongly advise you to do is to buy kolaches in a small bakery Hukvaldská pekárna on your way to the castle: it will make for a nice breakfast. They are quite cheap, mine were 12 Czech Crown each.
The closer you get to the castle the steeper the way gets: just keep this in mind.
A bit of history of Karlstejn Castle
The castle of Karlstejn is very old: Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia, built it about 700 years ago in the 14th century. It served mainly as a treasury where the kings kept their jewels and other precious objects. Now one of the most famous exhibit in Karlstejn is the replica of the Bohemian kings’ crown. In case you wonder: I asked our guide whether the stones are real and she said that only some of them are, the rest is glass.
If you look at the history of the country, you will see that many wars tore it apart, and as Karlstejn was close to Prague, the treasures were moved to other places and then brought back.
During the years, the castle underwent reconstructions in different architectural styles, including the Gothic and Renaissance ones. The last one happened in the 19th century and gave the castle its modern look.
Legends of Karlstejn Castle
It would be really strange, if there were not any legends associated with it 🙂 One of the most popular legends claims that women were not allowed to enter the castle. This ‘fact’ was used in the play Night in Karlstejn by Jaroslav Vrchlický, but it is far from being true. The proof is in the second legend: according to it, a lady who lived in the castle killed a dozen of her servants and even animals. And this one is true.
Karlstejn Castle tours
The tours to Karlstejn Castle are split into three parts and each one of them requires a separate ticket.
– The private and representative rooms of Emperor Charles VI, which is considered the basic tour. As the title suggests it, visitors can see the private chambers of the king like his bedroom and chapel, and halls where banquets were held and petitioners received.
– A visit to the Great Tower with a panoramic viewpoint. This one is pretty clear: visitors will see the panoramic views from the tower, some parts of the tower itself, including the armoury.
– And the sacred rooms of the castle including the Chapel of the Holy Cross. Keep in mind that this tour requires a reservation: you can’t just come to the castle and buy a ticket for it. During this one visitors will see the heart of the castle: the Chapel of the Holy Cross, exclusive decorations, the gallery, the staircase with the original medieval paintings (this staircase can be seen during the tower tour above as well).
More info on the tours is here.
PS: all tours are guided! Visitors are not allowed to wander inside the castle alone except the main yard where the ticket office is and the wall next to it.
Karlstejn Castle entrance fees
Well, here is the catch: seeing the whole castle will cost you some money or namely 57 EUR. I think it is too expensive and I was not ready to pay it. And I thought that the British castles are expensive 🙂 Of course, you don’t have to visit the whole castle and just choose one tour. But read my impressions first. So, this is the cost of the tours:
– The first one, the basic one which allows to visit the private and representative rooms costs 330 Czech Crowns or 13 EUR.
– The tower tour costs 260 Czech Crowns or 10 EUR.
– And the sacred rooms and the chapel is the most expensive: 880 Czech Crowns or 34 EUR.
Here is the link to check all the current prices. There are discounts for groups and some categories of visitors.
My impressions after visiting Karlstejn Castle
I took the basic tour hoping that it will be enough. I liked what I saw. I still vividly remember some of the rooms and stories. Just look at the chair in the picture below: in this room the king used to meet with petitioners. What is so special about it? Due to the specific position of the chair the king was completely hidden in the shade and he could clearly see everyone in the room while the others could not see his face and had not a slightest idea about what he was thinking while they were petitioning. Very convenient 🙂
And this crossbow is authentic: one can clearly see how old it is.
Our guide was knowledgeable, she told us about the castle and the history of the Czech Republic in general.
Yes, I liked it but I was disappointed as well. I think taking just this tour is not enough of a reason to come to Karlstejn. Like I said, seeing the whole castle costs 57 EUR, and I could not afford it. I still think that I had to take at least the tower tour as well, but I was short of money.
In case you go to Karlstejn take more than just one tour, that’s my sincere advice.
What else you can do in Karlstejn
Frankly, I was disappointed with the castle and did not want to see anything else, but it does not mean you have to do the same 🙂
After visiting the castle you can go right to the Wax Museum which is next to the entrance to the castle.
Other places worth a mention are the Museum of Nativity Scenes (Muzeum Betlémů) with the exhibits of wooden, wax, bread and sugar carved Nativity scenes and the Clock Museum (Dům Hodin) with clocks and watches. According to the website, the clock museum is not open to the public, so you have to book a visit.
Is one day in Karlstejn enough?
In my opinion, yes. There is not much to do in the town except visiting the castle and a couple of small museums. Even if you decide to see the whole castle, it will take 3-4 hours at the most (have a look at the image above on how much each tour lasts).
Then again, the hills nearby look very tempting for hiking but I did not see anyone there. But I have some useful links for you: here you can find a list of hikes in the area and here is a vivid description of a hike.
In this case, you will most likely have to spend in Karlstejn to be fresh for the hike. Here are some of the best places to stay in Karlstejn:
– Penzion Karlštejn-Vinice is a hotel with double and triple rooms with private bathrooms and all amenities. The price is between 75-95 EUR per night depending on the room type.
– Hotel Karlštejn: it is a 4-star hotel where rooms offer a view of the castle. Naturally, all of them have private bathrooms, and their restaurant has a summer garden. The price is between 60-110 EUR depending on the room type.
– Pension Bellevue: this hotel offers studios with kitchenettes and terraces for 45-65 EUR per night.
– Apartment Na Karlštejně: if you are not a fan of hotels, then this apartment might suit your needs. For 45 EUR per night you will get everything you need starting with towels and ending with a coffee maker.
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