The romantic Konopiště Castle, located just south of Prague, is one of the most beautiful castles to visit in the Czech Republic. Known to many as the Franz Ferdinand Castle, this chateau was once home to Austrian Archduke and Heir to the throne, Franz Ferdinand d’Este. This beautiful Czech castle is hands down one of the most breathtaking spots in the countryside, and makes for a simple day trip from Prague. There’s so much to see when visiting Konopiste Castle!
Before you get any further into this article, I have to be clear: I am biased. I live really close to Konopiste, and I spend a lot of time walking through the castle grounds. I’ve seen a lot of Czech Republic castles, though, and I have to say: this place is one of my favorites, particularly because of the Konopiste Castle interior and the sprawling castle grounds. Whether you’re planning a Czech castles road trip or you’re looking for the best day trips from Prague, Konopiste Castle Czech Republic won’t disappoint!
Konopiste Castle History
Konopiste Castle was founded as a Gothic fortress in the late 13th century; the chateau took much of its inspiration from a French fortress with a symmetrical layout of the towers, several entrances and drawbridges. In 1327, Zdeslav of Šternberk took over the castle’s possession and kept it in his family for more than 275 years. Unlike other castles, Konopiště castle was not damaged during the 15th century Hussite wars.
In the late 15th century, Konopiste was remodeled in the Gothic-Renaissance style with vaulted ceilings and gardens. Several other owners came and went, and the castle suffered a major setback as well: it suffered major damage during the Thirty Years’ War.
In the late 19th century, 24-year old Franz Ferdinand d’Este, the oldest nephew of Austrian Emperor Francis Josef I and later heir to the Habsburg throne, took over ownership of Konopiště. He’s perhaps the best-known heir to the throne, and his items remain inside the castle.
Ferdinand d’Este made a number of changes to the chateau and installed advanced equipment, like central heating and electric lights. He also built the Rose Garden and furnished the armory, much of which you can still see today.
Franz Ferdinand d’Este of course went down in history as the man who started World War I, according to many history classes (including the ones I took). The reality is much more complicated, but his assasination in 1914 in Sarajevo by the 19-year-old Gavrilo Princip, a member of Young Bosnia, did lead to a series of events that led to the start of the war.
Following his death, Konopiste was taken over by the Hohenbergs, and the chateau was nationalized in 1921. Many years later, the castle is now owned by the Central Bohemian Institute for Preservation of Historic Monuments in Prague.
What makes Konopiste Castle so special?
Konopiste has a lot of cool little quirks! It was one of the first-ever chateaus to have an electric lift installed, as well as electricity and plumbing mains.
Because Franz Ferdinand loved hunting, the castle is also home to an extensive and impressive collection of his hunting equipment in the armory.
The Rose Garden is home to nearly a dozen peacocks, which roam the grounds during the summer.
But most of all, it’s a beautiful and well-preserved castle with lots of history and great walks.
How to get from Prague to Konopiste Castle
It’s easy to get to Konopiste Castle from Prague! Konopiste is 30 kilometers south of Prague, and it’s accessible by bus, train, and car. If you drive, it takes around 35 to 40 minutes to reach the castle from Prague. However, most people visiting don’t have a car.
The simplest way to reach Konopiste is to take a train from Prague to Benesov. The slow train, the S9, will stop in every small town along the way. That train takes around an hour. There’s also a fast train twice an hour, the R17, which will stop at two Prague stations before Benesov. That train takes around 40 minutes.
Once you get to Benesov, I’d recommend simply walking to the castle. It will take around 15 to 20 minutes.
However, if you don’t want to walk, you can also take the Ekovláček, or “eco train,” a cute little trolley-type transport that stops around Benesov and takes you to the castle. This train operates during the spring, summer, and fall.
Unfortunately, there’s no easy bus from Benesov u Prahy to Konopiste Castle.
The bus is significantly more difficult to take to Konopiste, but it is possible. You have a few options:
- The 337 bus, which will drop you off on the western side of Benesov. You’ll have to walk from there or take the Ekovláček.
- The 770 bus, which will take you to Benesov
During the summer season, there’s a seasonal bus service that runs from downtown Prague directly to the castle.
If you do happen to have a car, you can drive directly down the E55 heading south and follow signs for Benesov. Once you reach the city, take a right turn towards Konopiste and follow signs for the castle.
What to see at Konopiste Castle
Visit Konopiste Castle’s Armoury
Franz Ferdinand was a passionate hunter, and you can’t miss his collection at the castle. The so-called Este Armory has the largest collection of valuable weapons in Europe. The Archduke killed nearly 300,000 animals during his life. You can see the influence of his passion for hunting around the castle in areas like the Great Trophy Corridor, which displays some of his prizes. The collection of weapons and animals are truly unmatched.
The St. George Museum
Franz Ferdinand loved to collect things, and Konopiste is home to one of his most odd collections: the St. George collection. The archduke was competing with Edward VII to collect the most portraits, figures, and statutes of St. George, though Edward VII has a much bigger collection. The collection spans more than 1,500 objects, though not every object is on display. In the castle, you can see one room devoted entirely to his collection.
The North Wing of the Castle
In one of the guided tours, you can visit the North Wing, the oldest area of the castle. Take in the beautiful vaulted ceilings and witness the electric lift!
Visit the Rose Gardens
The Rose Gardens at Konopiste Castle in the summer are truly a sight to behold. Located right behind the castle, these gardens have a big variety of carefully pruned roses. The best part? Peacocks walking freely around the grounds! There’s even a little cafe nearby to stop and grab a drink. This area is probably one of my favorite areas on castle grounds.
Tour the Castle Grounds
Konopiste Castle has a number of beautiful trails around the park. Take some time to walk around the grounds. Some of my favorite hikes include the walk around the park or Ferdinandova Cesta, both of which are especially pretty during the fall.
Food and Drink near Konopiste Castle
There are a few places to eat near Konopiste Castle. Perhaps the best place is Restaurace Stará Myslivna, or Old gamekeeper’s lodge, a restaurant located right below the castle, across from the parking lot.
On first glance, this little restaurant seems like the epitome of tourism traps. But it’s actually a popular place among locals, too, for their unique game dishes.
Full disclosure: many, if not all, of the dishes on the menu are made with game meat. They have a truly unique variety, from boar to deer and beyond. But if you don’t like game meat, you may want to head somewhere in town. I personally don’t eat much game meat, but I really loved the boar gulas at Restaurace Stará Myslivna. Give it a try! It’s pretty common in the Czech countryside, and the chefs normally know how to prepare the dishes so they don’t taste strongly of game meat.
The best part of this place: they have a deer preserve right next to the restaurant, and the kids can feed the deer. The outdoor seating is really lovely on a summer day, too.
How to get tickets to Konopiste Castle
During the summer season, you need to reserve your tickets in advance, especially given the popularity of day tours to Konopiste Castle. Reserve your tickets online in advance.
Samantha Tatro is a Czech-American third culture kid who grew up living and traveling abroad. Many years later, after living in California and working as a journalist, she decided to take the leap and move abroad again…this time to Prague, Czech Republic. Samantha started Undiscovered Path Home to help couples and solo female travelers find the courage to visit countries – and locations – off the beaten path. Her work has appeared in Bon Appetit, NBC News, The Adecco Group, and more.