Are you thinking of visiting Konopiste Castle? Konopiste Castle is one of the most picturesque and prestigious castles in the Czech Republic.
In our Konopiště Castle guide, we tell you its remarkable story and also describe the numerous tours and attractions you can visit there.
We also show you how to get to Konopiště from Prague, and reveal a hidden beauty spot you can visit en route from or back to the Czech capital.
This beautiful lakeside Bohemian castle, with its white towers and red rooftops, is over 700 years old.
Yet it‘s most famous as the residence of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austria-Hungary Imperial throne, whose assassination was the spark that led to the First World War soon afterwards.
Read on for everything you need to know about Konopiste Castle.
Konopiště Castle – An Introduction
Konopiště is one of the most famous castles of the Czech Republic
It’s located in Central Bohemia, on the outskirts of the town of Benešov u Prahy, 40 km (25 miles) south of Prague
Konopiště Castle was founded around 1294 by Bishop Tobias of Benešov
It was initially inspired by French military design, with a rectangular plan and four corner towers – the closest contemporary French castle in appearance is probably the Chateau de Saumur in the Loire Valley
After some rebuilds, the Castle was bought by Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in 1887, and it became one of his favoured residences
A few years after acquiring Konopiště Castle, Franz Ferdinand became heir to the Austro-Hungarian Imperial throne
His assassination was a pivotal event in the lead-up to the outbreak of World War I, with Austria declaring war on Serbia soon aferwards
Its German name is Schloss Konopischt
It’s pronounced ‘Kono-peesh-tyeh’ in Czech
Who Was Franz Ferdinand?
Archduke Franz Ferdinand d’Este was the last heir to the Habsburg Imperial throne. At the time of his death in 1914 the Austro-Hungarian Empire, as it was also known, comprised all of modern Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, and large parts of Serbia, Italy, Poland, Romania and Ukraine.
Franz Ferdinand – known in Czech as František Ferdinand – spent a lot of time at Konopiště Castle, and while there did a great deal to decimate the local deer population, as some of the interior walls of the Castle show.
He also had a predilection for travel, once completing a round-the-world trip, and he made sure he shot as much of the local wildlife as possible. This didn’t endear him to my 7-year-old son.
He substantially altered Konopiště Castle, commissioning architect Josef Mocker to redesign the building in a Historicist style and add the English style gardens and park.
The assassination of Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in June 1914 was the precursor to a series of crises which led to the outbreak of the First World War in August of the same year.
A network of old alliances dragged much of Europe into the morass, a conflict that brought about the end of the Habsburg Empire, the birth of several new nations including Czechoslovakia.
Some of you will also know the sort-of-post-punk Scottish band Franz Ferdinand who named themselves after him. Their first two albums have stood the test of time well, and they are great live. And Benešov’s local beer, Ferdinand, which I also recommend, is named after him too.
Konopiště Castle – What To See
It’s free to explore the grounds and gardens of Konopiště Castle, and there’s enough to see there to make a full day out from Prague with the family. Several of our friends in Prague have taken their kids there for the day and not taken any of the guided tours of the Castle.
As you walk up the hill from the main car park, the first thing you’ll see is a small herd of deer, who you’re encouraged to feed. they seem happy in their fenced-off area, blissfully unaware of the predations of the former owner of the Castle.
When you reach the Castle, you may encounter its most famous current resident, Medvěd Jíři, or George the Bear. Keeping a bear outside a Castle isn’t something you see often – three are also kept in the dry moat of the Castle in Český Krumlov. George, a Himalayan bear, was content to remain inside his quarters out of the summer heat while we visited, only emerging momentarily as we were leaving.
The Konopiště Castle gardens are a delight, especially the Main terrace, with its parterres and views of the south front of the Castle and over the lake just below.
The splendid Rose Garden is one of the highlights of Konopiště, with gorgeous flower beds and statuary making it a wonderful place to stop and relax for a while. When we visited in summer 2021 the website stated that entry was ticketed, but this didn’t seem to be the case.
There were, however, small charges for the Greenhouse and the quirky Museum of St Jiri, a collection of artefacts related to the legend of dragon-slaying St George.
Konopiště Castle Tours
I’d strongly recommend going on at least one of the four tours of the Castle. The Konopiště Castle interior is one of the most sumptuous of all Czech Republic castles, running the likes of Lednice Castle and Hluboka Castle mightily close.
Two of the tours – 1 (the south wing) and 2 (the north wing) – run whenever the Castle is open, each taking around an hour. Both cover a mixture of representative rooms (where social events were held), guest quarters. The north wing also includes St Huberta’s Chapel, the oldest (Gothic) part of the Castle.
The third Konopiště Castle tour route is open between May and October, and covers the private apartments of Franz Ferdinand, his wife Princess Sophie Hohenberg and their children. Numbers are limited to 8 visitors per tour, and it is one of the most exclusive of all Czech castle tours, along with the Chapel of the Holy Cross tour at Karlštejn Castle.
There is also a fourth tour which takes you around a small selection of the creatures shot by Franz Ferdinand. As well as the usual walls full of antlers – something you encounter in many castles of Czech Republic – there are bears, bison, foxes and many more animals stuffed for posterity. Not one for me.
If you were to go on all four tours and see the other attractions around the park and gardens you’re looking at around 50 euros per adult. You can also experience the life of a high aristocrat for an hour or two, either enjoying a full Viennese Breakfast on the Balcony or Afternoon Tea and Cake – both can only be booked for groups of six people, for 3,360 CZK (130 euros) in total.
Konopiště Castle Opening Hours
Konopiště Castle grounds are open throughout the year.
is open Tuesdays to Sundays between April and October, with hours varying from 1000 to 1700 in the peak summer months to 1000 to 1500 in October.
The Castle is also open Saturdays and Sundays in November.
Getting To Konopiště Castle
Konopiště Castle is one of the easier day trips from Prague by train, as the nearest station, in the town of Benešov u Prahy, is on the busy main line down to South Bohemia.
As well as the busy mainline trains (which take as little as 30 minutes), slower suburban trains (crawling along at 50-55 minutes) also terminate at Benešov.
It’s a 2 km (1.3 mile) walk from Benešov station to Konopiště Castle, initially through the town outskirts then along a pleasant pathway next to a field. You cross a road just after this and reach one of the Konopiště car parks from which an uphill path leads to the Castle. Bus 438 is the only service which runs there from Benešov station to Konopiště, making the journey in less than five minutes. It’s a request stop, Benešov Konopiště, and is the second stop on the route after leaving the station.
There is also a tourist eco train which does a circuit of Benešov and Konopiště. It runs between April and October – three times daily in April and October and five times daily from May to September, and goes most of the way up the hill to the Castle. It isn’t much help getting to the Castle because it only travels one way, meaning you have to do the whole circuit and wait an hour if you board at the Station. However, it’s ideal for coming back, taking just six minutes from Castle to Station. It only costs 20 CZK (0.8 euro), far less than similar trains I’ve seen elsewhere around the country.
Day Trip From Prague – Konopiště Castle And Vyhlidka Maj Viewpoint
It’s also possible to tie in a Konopiště Castle visit with a short stopover at one of the most beautiful places in the Czech Republic, the Vyhlidka Maj viewpoint over a horseshoe-shaped meander in the River Vltava 30 km (20 miles) south of Prague.
The viewpoint is a short walk from the hamlet of Teletin, which, like Konopiště, is on the 438 bus route. This runs from Benešov Terminal to the village of Stěchovice, where you can connect with buses 360 or 361 to or from Prague Smichov station. The marvellous idos.cz website helps you plan the journey in either direction I went from Prague to the viewpoint first, then onto Konopiste, and walked into Benešov before catching the train back to Prague.
Our article on Vyhlidka Maj covers everything you need to know about getting to the location and what to expect there. It’s a place with virtually no facilities or signage, and you have to make your way carefully down a steep rocky slope to get the best view. Check it out by clicking on the link above.
David Angel is a Welsh, photographer, writer and historian who has been travelling and photographing Europe for over 30 years. His work is regularly featured in worldwide media including the BBC, Condé Nast Traveller, the Guardian, the Times and the Sunday Times.
Other Bohemian Castles to Explore
- Křivoklát Castle – atmospheric royal castle in hilly forests west of Prague
- Kokořín Castle – romantic castle in enchanted rocky forest landscape
- Mělník – lovely medieval town with fine Castle, wine cellars and vineyards
- Blatna Castle – beautiful water castle and Deer Park in South Bohemia
- Vyšehrad Prague – riverside fortress, one of the spiritual homes of the Czech nation
- Troja Castle Prague – fine Baroque chateau and garden, home to a branch of the City of Prague Museum
- Ctěnice Castle Prague – wonderful small chateau in the rural outskirts of Prague