Konopiště Chateau – The Karlštejn Alternative

A Chateau, a Park and a Meal 

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The chateau with its distinctive cylindrical towers.

Located approximately 50 kilometres south-east of Prague, Konopiště is a sizeable expanse of carefully preserved woodland park with a stately chateau and garden at the heart of it. Also on the property is a restaurant specializing in wild game dishes.

Typically, when one visits Prague, it may be recommended that they pay a visit to the very famous Karlštejn Castle which is 30 kilometres south-west of the city. While Karlstejn is a grand place and worth checking out for views of the castle and views of the surrounding countryside from the castle towers, it has quite few empty rooms on the tours and is decidedly touristy in atmosphere. It’s also not the place to go if you don’t like waiting for tours with nothing else to occupy your time.

Happily, Konopiště offers an alternative to Karlštejn and is just as easy to access from Prague. There’s much more on display inside the chateau at Konopiště and the surrounding park and gardens will give you something to enjoy if you find yourself having to wait a bit for your tour to start.

A view from a chateau balcony to the parkland surrounding it.
A view from a chateau balcony to the parkland surrounding it.

In the Hands of the Habsburgs

As with so many chateaus and castles, Konopiště has had many chapters to its history and had been through several owners before coming into state ownership in 1921.

Tracing its history back to a Gothic fortress of the late 1200s, the chateau itself has seen both Renaissance and Baroque restylings through the centuries.

The mid 1600s saw a period of decline for the chateau. With a peasant revolt in 1627 and a plundering by the Swedish army toward the end of the 30 Years War in 1648, the chateau was in need of some care.

The 1700s saw the chateau come under new ownership and some renovations performed upon it.

Without a doubt, the chateau’s most famous era commenced in 1887 when it was purchased by Archduke Franz Ferdinand d’Este, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne. It was during his ownership that the chateau was repaired and the extensive grounds and rose garden were built up around the chateau.

The Archduke was said to have prefered Konopiště to his official residence in Vienna. In fact, Konopiště is generally considered to be his last residence prior to his assassination in 1914. It is the Habsburg era of the chateau’s history that you will find on display here.

A view to the greenhouse from across the rose garden.
A view to the greenhouse from across the rose garden.

What’s on View

You could easily spend the better part of a day exploring the chateau and surroundings.

As one might expect of a property once held by a dynasty as powerful as the Habsburgs, the interiors of the chateau are rich and opulent, showcasing not only the usual trappings and fixtures of nobility, but also highlighting many of Franz Ferdinand’s hobbies and personal interests.

Franz Ferdinand was, as were so many other nobles of the period, an avid hunter. The halls of the chateau are lined with many examples of his extensive collection of personal hunting trophies.

The chateau also houses one of the more extensive collections of medieval armor and weapons in Europe.

Outside of the chateau, the large park that surrounds it is criss-crossed by many walking trials that are both relaxing to travel and will give you a number of great views of the chateau.

The idylic rose garden gives the grounds a splash of colour while the adjoining greenhouse features a number of non-native plant species to appreciate.

Domestically raised deer on view in the chateau park.
Domestically raised deer on view in the chateau park.

Working up an Appetite

With as much as there is to see at Konopiště and as much walking around as you could do there, it’s easy to get hungry and thirsty.

Happily, there are a couple of small cafés on the property for light refreshment.

For something more substantial, a visit to the Stará Myslivna restaurant in the chateau park could be just the thing. This restaurant is themed to match the chateau in decor and echo the Habsburg period. It also specializes in wild game dishes using meat from locally farmed deer, wild pigs and birds.

I have seen some reviews claiming that Stará Myslivna is overpriced, but I would disagree. Given its location near a popular tourist site and that the chefs featured on its website have all represented the Czech Republic at multiple international culinary events, I felt the prices to be quite reasonable.

A lovely plate of locally raised pheasant at the Stará Myslivna restaurant in the chateau park.
A lovely plate of locally raised pheasant at the Stará Myslivna restaurant in the chateau park.

Paying a Visit and Learning More

Konopiště is quite easy to access from Prague by train, bus or car. The train or bus will get you to Benešov, the small city that the chateau and park sit on the edge of. From Benešov’s train or bus stations, the chateau is approximately a three kilometre walk. It is also possible to take a small tourist train from the city’s main square to the chateau.

While Konopiště does make a good day trip from Prague, there is also good reason to incorporate it into a longer stay as it is in a picturesque region of Central Bohemia that is home to other castles and chateaus that can be easily accessed from Benešov if you take accomodations there. Benešov is a fairly ordinary city, but it is well connected by train and bus to a variety of attractions in the region.

This is a link to the official chateau website:

http://www.zamek-konopiste.cz/en/

This is the website of the Stará Myslivna restaurant:

http://www.staramyslivna.com/index-en.html

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