When most tourists visit the Czech Republic, most will head straight to the country’s Capital City of Prague. And why wouldn’t they? The city of a hundred spires is an inspiration to all those who love history and architecture.
“Prague never lets you go”, said Franz Kafka, “this dear little mother has claws”. Prague gets her claws into tourists too, and few ever make it outside the capital. But those who tear themselves away are in for a treat; the honey-colored spa towns, the mountains of Sumava, Bohemia’s breweries and tumbling vineyards and medieval hill top ruins are all worth a visit.
But some of you might be surprised to learn that the Czech Republic has its fair share of castles too. Most of the tourists that do venture out of the city head to the most famous castle of Karlstein. However the Czech Republic is said to have around 1800 castles and chateaus that only get a small number of visitors per year.
Konopiště Castle is an easy day trip out of Prague, located around 50km southeast of the city and easily reachable by public transport. It has become famous as the last residence of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir of the Austro-Hungarian throne, whose assassination in Sarajevo triggered off World War I. Konopiště is known for its large collection of Ferdinand’s hunting trophies and weapons, antique furniture and art objects, as well as its Rose Garden.
For animal lovers, the castle also has its own resident bear, housed in the bear pit at the rear entrance of the castle.
They also have a small collection of Birds of Prey including a lovely Bald Eagle. They aren’t in cages instead they are chained. There are opportunities to hold some of the owls although there is an additional charge for this.
How to get there
Konopiště is located about 45-minute drive (50 Km) from Prague — see directions and a map. You can also go by train from Prague Main Railway Station (Hlavní nádraží) to Benešov u Prahy (about one hour) and then follow the red hiking trail (less than 3 Km through a beautiful castle park). Alternatively follow the blue road signs to Konopiště and follow the road around to the castle (2km walk). There is plenty of parking available a short walk from the castle grounds. There is also local buses that run from Benešov if you don’t want to walk.
When to visit
Konopiště is open to the public from April to October. While there are no entrance fees to walk around the castle grounds there are fees if you wish to take a tour around the residence. The castle residence is split into three; the first salons south wing, second salons north wing and the private residence of Franz Ferdinand. You can pay to visit each one separately or buy a combined ticket (470Kc per person) which allows you into all 3 parts as well as entry into the museum of St George and the shooting range. There is an additional fee if you wish to have the tour in any other language other than Czech.
Places to eat
There are a few places to eat around the castle. There is a restaurant inside the castle grounds and another traditional Czech restaurant called Stará Myslivna just a short walk away. be mindful that at peak times there will be limited seating. The restaurant has inside and outside seating areas but it can get very busy. There are also two small cafes near the car park which sell hot dogs, ice creams and small snacks.