Karlštejn Castle

Top choice in Bohemia

Karlštejn Castle, 30km southwest of Prague, started life in 1348 as a hideaway for the crown jewels of Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. After falling into disrepair, it's been restored to fairy-tale perfection and wouldn’t look out of place on Disneyland’s Main Street. Entry is by guided tour only (three main tours available), and is best booked in advance by phone or email. Even if you don't go inside, the views of Karlštejn’s stunning exterior are worth the trip alone.

The three main tours:

Tour 1 (55 minutes) is considered the 'basic tour' and will be enough for most visitors. The tour passes through the Knight’s Hall, still daubed with the coats-of-arms and names of the knight-vassals, Charles IV’s Bedchamber, the Audience Hall and the Jewel House, which includes treasures from the Chapel of the Holy Cross and a replica of the St Wenceslas Crown.

Tour 2 (100 minutes, May to October only) takes in the Marian Tower, with the Church of the Virgin Mary and the Chapel of St Catherine, then moves to the Great Tower for the castle's star attraction, the exquisite Chapel of the Holy Cross, its walls and vaulted ceiling adorned with thousands of polished semiprecious stones set in gilt stucco in the form of crosses, and with religious and heraldic paintings. Because of the length of the tour, this is not recommended for children.

Tour 3 (45 minutes, May to September only) visits the upper levels of the Great Tower, the highest point of the castle, which provides stunning views over the surrounding countryside.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Bohemia attractions

1. Divoká Šárka

12.58 MILES

The valley of the Šárecký potok (Šárka Creek), in the far western end of the city, is one of Prague’s best-known and most popular nature parks. People…

2. Futura Gallery

13.04 MILES

The Futura Gallery focuses on all aspects of contemporary art, ranging from painting, photography and sculpture to video, installations and performance…

3. Brownnosers (David Černý)

13.05 MILES

This sculpture by visual artist David Černý dates from 2003 and is on permanent display at Smíchov's Futura Gallery. The work shows former president…

4. Staropramen Brewery

13.23 MILES

More of a museum visit than an actual brewery tour, the presentation here focuses on the 100-plus years of history of the brewery, the only big nationwide…

5. Gothic Cellar

13.3 MILES

The restored Gothic cellars that once lay beneath Charles IV’s palace (now gone) house an exhibition dedicated to the history and legend of Vyšehrad. The…

6. Národopisné muzeum

13.35 MILES

One of Prague's least visited museums is a joy for those into a bit of Slavic colour. Housed in a renovated summer palace, the National Museum’s…

7. Church of Sts Peter & Paul

13.38 MILES

There's been a church on this site for around 1000 years, though the distinctive twin steeples, a feature of the Vyšehrad skyline, were added only in 1903…

8. Vyšehrad Cemetery

13.4 MILES

Vyšehrad Cemetery is a major attraction for many visitors, being the final resting place for dozens of Czech luminaries, including Antonín Dvořák, Bedřich…