One of the most obvious locations in Prague on every tourist must-visit list is Prague castle. Though a very promising castle in terms of its history and architecture, you have to spend time waiting in a long queue with a big hole in your pocket to get into the castle.
The drifters suggest, click the beauty of Prague castle from outside and take yourself to Karlstejn to visit a very different gothic castle.
Karlštejn Castle is a large Gothic castle founded 1348 CE by Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor-elect and King of Bohemia. The castle served as a place for safekeeping the Imperial Regalia as well as the Bohemian/Czech crown jewels, holy relics, and other royal treasures. Located about 30 kilometers (19 mi) southwest of Prague above the village of the same name, it is one of the most famous and most frequently visited castles in the Czech Republic by locals.
How to reach Karlstejn- There are frequent trains from Prague main train station at the Hlavní nádrazí metro stop on line C) or from Smíchovské nádrazí, metro line B. Return tickets for 2 would cost nearly 188Kč. Group discounts are also available. Enjoy the scenic beauty of the train journey and get down at Karlstejn station. The castle can be spotted from the train itself. Turn right at the station exit, walk 200 meters then turn left over a bridge into the village, or just follow the flow of tourists and you’ll get there. The village starts about 500 meters from the train stop, the castle is a short half km hike up a large hill. There are various picturesque opportunities as the houses in the village are cutely decorated and beautiful and the path gives you a good angle to capture the entire castle.
For those who don’t want to walk up the hill to the castle, it is possible to take a taxi (100Kč per way) or a horse-drawn carriage (150Kč per way) from the car park.
When to visit the castle- Although the prime time for visiting the castle is in summers (Mondays closed) and it remains closed from starting of winter through January. We recommend visiting it in off-season i.e. when it reopens in February to avoid the rush. But remember, in the off-season, it is open only on weekends.
What to do- We suggest pre-booking your guided tour online to avoid long queues in season and waiting for your guide. There are only 3 types of tour and are guided. Choose from shorts tours, which is sufficient but if you have a deep interest in holy Roman history then you can opt for longer tour of 100 minutes. There is no option of a self-guided walk. Don’t miss the magnificent tower view!
- On way to castle one can make a stop to Karlstejn zoo although we suggest to visit the castle first and then take a halt at the zoo while on the return walk to the station.
- There is a lovely and picturesque hike available to the Svatý Jan Pod Skalou monastery through the Český Kras protected area, . The hike can be challenging if you are not in the good physical condition and lack proper hiking shoes. The interesting path gallivants through forest, stream, several steep uphills, rocks, and tricky downhills. The monastery is open daily, closing time- 4pm.
- For the more adventurous, there are also several open pit limestone quarries, called Malá Amerika/Velká Amerika (“Little America”/”Big America”). They’re filled up with water and have become a popular place for Czechs to go swimming. The pits are connected by an extensive system of shafts and galleries, waiting for your exploration.
Unlike Prague which is a full-fledged city and a tourist hub, Karlstejn town pour the essence of the village life of Czech. A small but very beautiful village settled at the base of a castle welcomes people with a variety of cute cafes that serves authentic Czech dishes.
Karlstejn can also be reached via private cars, bikes and by hiking. We suggest to take secondary road to Karlstejn to enjoy the countryside beauty. Ride a bike along the river bank from Prague to reach Karlstejn. For a detailed biking route, here is an interesting blog to look. For hiking, get down on Beroun station. Clear markings are laid for the hike as well as bike trails to castle.