The Czech Republic has the most castles per square kilometre of any country in the world according to the Guinness Book of Records. This article features four impressive castles near to Prague to be added to the three UNESCO-listed Czech castles featured in part one.
Konopiště Castle (top photo) was home to the Archduke Franz Ferdinand whose shooting in Bosnia began World War 1 (the actual bullet is on display in the castle). Though built in the 14th century, it is furnished around 1900 and includes the modern conveniences of the time including a flushing toilet, running water and a lift. Somewhat morbidly, the Archduke was a passionate hunter credited with killing over 300,000 animals. The castle including numerous hunting trophies, a shooting gallery (with moving targets), stunning gardens and forests and an extensive collections of medieval arms.
Karlštejn Castle is a photogenic Gothic castle just outside of Prague. Built by Charles IV (the same Charles who has numerous structures named in his honour in Prague) in the mid-1300s to hold the Bohemian crown jewels (now in Prague Castle). The interior of the castle is dull with the exception of the striking Holy Cross Chapel in the Great Tower (the tallest building), guarded by four metre thick walls. The chapel contains pictures of all Czech saints and is richly decorated in gold leaf and in-laid gemstones. Visiting the chapel is difficult and needs advanced purchase tickets.
Hluboká Castle is a gleaming white almost-fairytale Gothic castle in the south of the Czech Republic near České Budějovice (Budweis in German, where the original Budweiser Beer was created and brewed). The interior is typically regal with sumptuous but impractical furnishings and decorated with striking tapestries and paintings.
Křivoklát Castle is a medieval castle set among scenic rolling forested hills, only a short distance west of Prague. Celebrating its 900th year, it served as a brutal prison in the middle ages with a torture chamber and a variety of nasty instruments still on display. A superb library of historic books, knight’s dining hall and elegant chapel highlight the castle’s interior while its strategic defensive capabilities are evident throughout. In the courtyard, displays of middle-aged trades are displayed including blacksmithing, wood-carving and ceramics.
The Czech Republic spent centuries at the crossroads of cultures, empires and religions leaving a rich fabric of castles. Enjoy these seven travel wonders that are among the jewels of castles with superb architecture and fascinating histories.