The Gothic Karlstejn Castle sits high atop a hill, looming over the village of the same name 18 miles southwest of Prague. Charles IV, King of Bohemia, founded the castle in 1348 as a kind of safe for the Imperial Regalia and for his personal collection of crown jewels and holy relics.
The castle’s medieval turrets, towers and high walls evoke a fairy-tale ambiance and make it one of the Czech Republic’s most visited attractions. A visit to the castle is an easy, and very popular, day-trip from Prague – in the summer months the volume of visitors crowding the castle grounds can get somewhat overwhelming.
Trains leave roughly every hour from Prague’s main train station (hlavní nádraží) and take around 35-40 minutes to reach the village of Karlstejn. From the train station, it takes about 30 minutes to walk uphill to the castle. The view from the walk, however, is the most attractive part of a visit. Exterior views of the castle, surrounded by lush forests and vineyards, arguably beat anything you will see on the inside. To see more views of the castle and the Czech countryside, you can also bike the 30 kilometer route from Prague.
Tours of the castle include the ornate Chapel of the Holy Cross, where the thick walls contain 2,200 semi-precious stones and 128 paintings by Master Theodoric. The Chapel is connected by a wooden bridge leading to the Emperor’s chambers and the Great Tower, the highest point of the castle.
Several surrounding restaurants offer patios where you can leisurely take in the castle’s exterior views while sipping a glass of the local Karlstejn wine, a vintage started by Charles IV himself.