Karlštejn was founded by Charles IV in 1348 as a treasury for the imperial regalia and his collection of relics. Today with an average of 300,000 visitors a year it is a prime choice for a short day trip from Prague. It is important to note that all excursions and independent drivers must park their vehicles at the foot of the hill, so be prepared for a 15-minute walk up to the castle entrance. As you walk up the hill you are rewarded by the view spread out in front of you over beautiful rolling hills, the town and river. It is a good place to visit even if you do not want to do the castle tour as you can just walk around its exterior and capture the ambience of the place.
The Tour Of Karlštejn
In spite of its’ partial re-building over the Renaissance period, and the extensive restoration work late in the nineteenth century, Karlštejn’s in-penetrable towers and walls – particularly the eighty eight-foot-tall (twenty seven metres) Great Tower, or keep, – remains a splendid sight.
The inside of it, while stark, is worth visiting. Here you’ll be able to see the apartments of the emperor, including his 2 chapels and bedroom. The 1st is St. Mary’s Chapel, adorned with time-worn, fourteenth century frescoes displaying the founding of the castle. More interesting is St. Catherine’s Chapel, the private praying place for the emperor. Embellished with frescoes from the Medieval era and tablets of semi-precious gems fixed into the walls, it displays a picture of Charles the fourth with his 3rd wife, Anne (of Svídnik).
The centre of this castle is the ‘keep’ tower, which is where the most valuable relics and jewels were kept. Within this, the amazing Holy Cross Chapel is extensively embellished and gilded with 2200 valuable gems and a massive fourteenth century painting cycle, by Master Theodoric (from Prague), displaying the saints. The chapel was constructed to store non-replaceable religious artefacts, along with the Habsburg imperial insignia and jewels, now exhibited in Prague and Vienna. For a long time, this was shut to tourists to conserve its’ artistic valuables, though a few of Theodoric’s panels are exhibited in Prague in St. Agnes’ Convent. Tours that include this chapel are provided for some parts of each year, restricted to fifteen people. It is charged at virtually twice the price of other tours, but it’s definitely worth it. You have to pre-book this tour.
Admission depends on the tour: 200 CZK or 300 CZK. You can book tickets online (www.hradkarlstejn.cz) – a worthwhile option during the busy summer months – otherwise you will be fine purchasing tickets on the spot.
July-Aug daily 9:00-12:00 & 12:30-18:00; May June and Sept Tue-Sun 9:00-12:00 & 12:30-18:00, closed Mon; March-April and Oct Tue-Sun 9:00-12:00 & 13:00-17:00, closed Mon; Nov-Feb Sat-Sun 10:00-12:00 & 13:00-15:00, closed Mon-Fri.
Open: 8am-8pm; Pension Vinice Information Centre is situated just across the road from the main car park.
Eating at Karlštejn
You can also have lunch or dinner at one of Karlštejn’s pubs and restaurants. Pod Draci Skalou is a nice typical Czech restaurant with outdoor tables and a barbecue grill. Mains are from 110 to 250 CZK.
From the train station it’s about 10 minutes’ walk to the village. You just turn left out of the station, cross the river and turn right. Once you are in the village car park then it’s nearly 1km to the castle, and you will past numerous crystal and souvenir stalls. Alternatively take a shared taxi (100 CZK per person) or a horse-drawn coach (150 CZK per person), departing from the car park. If you are driving your own car note that private vehicles are not allowed to drive up to the castle. For this reason you might rather consider pre-booking the excursion.
Situated 35 km from southwest of Prague. You can take a train to Beroun from Hlavní Nádraží (Main Station) or Praha-Smíchov and stop at Karlštejn (40 minutes, hourly). Tickets cost around 60 CZK. But to save a hassle, it is better book guided tour with organized transport.
The Golf Club in Karlštejn
Founded in 1993, The Karlštejn Golf Club staged its’ 1st European P.G.A. tour in 1997. It features a demanding 18 hole, par 72 course upon the hill right across the water from the castle. It also offers some really amazing views. This course is 1 of the few Czech Republic courses that genuinely challenges the ability of the golfers. It is an uphill course where golfers have to lug their clubs up the hills in-between holes. Games here are a little pricey by the normal standards of the country (green fees begin at 2000 CZK), although it is worth it for golf enthusiasts. Also, there is a great relaxation centre and restaurant, a hot steam room, massages and a swimming pool, so you can indulge yourself following a tough day out on the green. Reservations are necessary for week-ends. Visit wwww.karlstejn-golf.cz, Opening times are from 08:00 to sunset each day.