Konopiště Castle is considered one of the most beautiful and popular in the Czech Republic. The majestic construction for over seven hundred years towers over the countryside 45 kilometers southeast of Prague, near the town of Benesov.
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Video: Konopiště Castle
The castle was originally a cylindrical defensive tower with a moat and a suspension bridge. Over time Konopiště was expanded in the spirit of French Gothic to a powerful fortress: two belts of walls with a parkan, seven round towers (four corner ones, one in the center of the eastern and western walls, and the main tower with a gate – the first tower that has survived to this day).
Each epoch brought something new to the appearance of the castle. In the XVII century its Gothic appearance was changed under the influence of the Renaissance, in the XVIII century Konopiste was fundamentally rebuilt in the Baroque style, and in this form it survives to this day. The last major reconstruction of the castle was carried out under Archduke Franz Ferdinand d’Este von Habsburg. In accordance with his wishes, the architects Josef Mocker and Franz Schmoranz equipped Konopiště according to the state-of-the-art technology of the late 19th century: water, electricity, sewage, a mechanical shooting gallery and a hydraulic elevator were installed, which was powered by a dam that was specially built for this purpose on a nearby pond. An English park of 225 hectares with a rose garden, terraces and marble statues was laid out around Konopiště.
The Archduke Franz Ferdinand is mainly credited with the interior decoration of the castle. The new owner added his extensive collections of furniture, paintings, tapestries, glass, porcelain, arms, armor and hunting trophies to the existing collections, and all of this splendor has been preserved almost entirely to this day. Franz Ferdinand, as a passionate collector and hunter, also took care to catalog his collections precisely. As a result, today, thanks to a detailed catalog and photographs, it has been possible not only to return all the objects (with the exception of two lost ones) to Konopiště, but also to install and hang them exactly in the places they occupied during the Archduke’s lifetime.
Three of the collections represented in the castle are considered the most significant. The first is the collection of arms and armor, sometimes called the D’Estaing Armory. It includes the collections of the Obizzi, d’Estaing and Habsburg families, which had accumulated over several centuries and were inherited by Franz Ferdinand. By adding his own exhibits and those already in Konopiště, the archduke created one of Europe’s largest collections of combat and hunting weapons and armor from the 16th to 19th centuries, including almost five thousand items, some of which are very rare.
Also on display at Konopiště is the rich hunting collection of Franz Ferdinand, which he collected from around the world. The number of trophies reaches up to 300,000, all the rooms and corridors of the castle are decorated with them. Every scarecrow, hide, horn, etc. is marked with the exact place and time when the trophy was taken. In this way the Archduke tried to put his hobby at the service of science.
Another jewel in the castle’s collection is the St. George collection. It includes works of art, crafts and folk crafts depicting St. George. The collection has about four thousand artifacts from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries and is on display today in the special St. George’s Castle Gallery.
History of the castle
The castle was built in the 13th century by Bishop Tobias of Benešov in the Gothic style and was reconstructed several times. Initially Konopiště castle was built after the model of the French castle as a powerful Gothic fortress of a rectangular shape with round towers in the corners, which allowed for maximum defense during sieges. The castle had a total of 7 towers: 4 on the corners, 1 in the center of the northern wall and 2 in the center of the short western and eastern walls. The fortifications of the castle were supplemented by a moat and earth ramparts.
The Benešovič family owned the castle until 1327 when the castle was taken over by the noble Sternberk family who also owned Cesky Sternberk castle near Benešov. In the 17th century the Sternberk family rebuilt the castle in late Gothic and later Late Renaissance styles. During the Hussite wars the castle was besieged by the king’s troops for a long time, which lasted for 17 months. In 1468 the castle was conquered by the troops of King George of Podebrady.
In 1648, during the Thirty Years War, the castle was seized and looted by the Swedish army, after which it fell into disrepair. The dilapidated castle was bought at an auction by a Czech nobleman Jan Josef Vrtba. In the early 18th century the castle was rebuilt again by the Vrtba family in Baroque style. A stone bridge was built instead of the drawbridge, a new entrance to the castle was cut in the east tower, the height of the towers was reduced to the level of the chateau buildings, and a large south outbuilding was built.
In 1887, the castle was sold for 2 million gold to Archduke Franz Ferdinand d’ Este, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, on whose initiative the castle was once again fundamentally rebuilt in 1889-1894. The reconstruction of the castle was supervised by the Viennese architects Josef Motzker and Franz Schmoranz. The archduke, who was a keen hunter, equipped the castle with a mechanical shooting gallery, enlarged the existing collection of weapons and armor and created several “hunting lanes” with thousands of antlers, wild boar tusks, stuffed foxes, exotic animals and birds as trophies. Under the Archduke, the castle was equipped with water mains, a sewerage system, electricity, a hydraulic elevator in the central wing of the castle (it was operated by a dam built on the nearby pond) and a number of other technical innovations for those times.
At the same time around the castle was laid out English-style park with terraces, rose garden and marble statues. Konopiště Castle was a favorite resting and hunting place of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. During his ownership of the castle, Franz Ferdinand collected a large collection of historical weapons and various objects with the image of St. George in addition to hunting trophies. When Franz Ferdinand was murdered in 1914, his children inherited the castle and its collections.
In 1921 the castle became the state property of Czechoslovakia. In 1943 the castle became the seat of the General Staff of the SS troops in Bohemia and it served until 1945 also as a trophy art repository. At the end of the Second World War a considerable part of works of art and collectibles was removed from Konopiště, but by 1946 most of them had been returned to the castle. A part of the Konopiště art collection is now stored in Prague.
After World War II, the castle, which was in state ownership, was opened to tourists. Currently (at the beginning of the XXI century) Czech Ministry of Culture spends about 800,000 dollars to maintain the castle, partly offset by tourism.
The castle is open from April to October from Tuesday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (4 p.m. in some months).
In November from Tuesday to Sunday: from 9.00 to 15.00.
The best time to visit the castle is from May to August, when all the exhibitions and attractions are available. In other months, some of them may be closed, for more details see the official website of the castle.
The ticket office, shooting gallery and St. George’s Museum are closed from 12 noon to 1 p.m.
The castle offers several tour options:
1 – Guest Rooms and Hunter’s Corridor (south wing) 2 – Armory, chapel, library (old part of the castle) 3 – Living rooms of the Franz Ferdinand family.
Ticket price 90-310 CZK, depending on the chosen tour itinerary, the language in which it is conducted, and the eligibility of the particular tourist for certain benefits. Tickets for the shooting range, the rose garden and the St. George’s collection range from 15 kronor (per person) to 80 kronor (per family, foreign language version). When buying tickets for several routes at once there are discounts on visits to other excursions. More information on the official website of the castle.
It should be noted that the castle is trying to make money on almost everything, so offers a wide range of additional services, such as falconry in front of the castle, walks in the garden, walks around the pond, on weekends you can listen to live music concerts and much more.
Various business receptions and weddings are also available.
How to get there
Address: Konopiště 1, 256 01 Benešov GPS: 49.779444,14.656667 Phone: +420 317 721 366
To get to Konopiště by train, buy a ticket in Prague for the train to Benešov, then the castle is 2 km away. Immediately at the train station turn right, cross the bridge over the railroad and continue to the first yellow marker. Then you can walk to the castle along the markers. Travel time from 40 minutes to one hour, the ticket price is 45 CZK.
You can also go to Benešov by bus from the Florenc station in Prague. Buses also run from the metro station Roztilí, the cost of the ticket is 45 CZK and the travel time is about 45 minutes. It is possible to go to the bus station. Sometimes drivers stop the bus on the way to the forest, claiming that it is easier to get to the castle this way – and it is true. You have to follow the paved road into the forest, then continue along the yellow markers and in 25 minutes you will be there.
You can drive from Prague in 40 minutes by car and you need to take the road to Benesov (45 km from Prague), through Kamenice, Senohrabi. After 43 km, after the turn to Vaclavice, you will make a right turn, after 1.5 km turn right again and you are there.
The beautiful and romantic Konopiste Chateau (Konopiste) is located 45 km from Prague. Here unfolded one of the most beautiful love stories of the 20th century – between Crown Prince Franz Ferdinand and his beloved Czech Countess Sofia Chotek. The story was tragically cut short in Sarajevo in 1914, when Ferdinand and his wife were killed by revolver shots.
History of Konopiste
This romantic castle, surrounded by a green park with the Rose Garden, is located only 45 km from Prague. It was built at the end of the 13th century by members of the Penešovići dynasty. In its original form it consisted of two parts and was an exact copy of a French fortress. Later the castle had several reconstructions and changes of owners.
The Konopiste performed various functions because it was used both for defense and as a home residence of the Archduke, his wife and children. It was originally built in the Gothic style and was equipped with towers surrounded by a high rampart and deep moats. In the middle of the 17th century Konopiště was taken by the Swedes. At the beginning of the 18th century the castle was reconstructed in Baroque style, and a stone bridge replaced the drawbridge. Also at that time the large south wing was rebuilt.
Despite frequent changes of owners, there was a man who was able to turn this structure into a romantic palace and a cozy home for the family.
In 1887, Konopiste was purchased by the Archduke of France, Franz Ferdinand d’Este, for 6,000 gold pieces.
Interesting: Ferdinand bought the castle to live there with his chosen Countess Sophia, who was not part of the royal dynasty.
In 1889 Ferdinand began another reconstruction of Konopiste, which lasted about 5 years. As a result, the castle acquired the appearance of a romantic early Gothic residence with a main tower, which can be seen from afar.
Since 1921 Konopiště Chateau in Bohemia became a state property.
Tour routes pass through the hunting corridor with trophies, the armory, the extensive library, and the luxurious chambers of the duke and his family. The interior is striking with picturesque paintings, sculptures, unusual art objects and souvenirs from the Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance periods.
The ceiling of the large hall is decorated with frescos “four seasons”. The marble fireplaces with unique carvings are a real decoration of the hall.
The rooms of Ferdinand and his family have unique furniture and porcelain, elegant chandeliers, and picturesque tapestries.
Warning: The castle walls are full of an incredible number of stuffed heads and horns of animals, testifying to Ferdinand’s real passion for hunting. It can be frightening for particularly impressionable children.
In the castle there is a collection of unique weapons of the 16th-18th centuries. It is considered one of Europe’s largest collections of hunting weapons. From his ancestors from Italy, the crown prince inherited not only the family name d’Este, but also a substantial estate. Part of his inheritance was a vast collection of hunting weapons, numbering more than 4,500 pieces. The famous armory is located on the 4th floor.
Of particular note is the huge green park built by the Crown Prince in the English style, an area of 225 hectares. The most interesting place in the park is the rose garden with sculptures by artists from Italy.
Castle church, where weddings are held
Information on excursions to the castle can be found on various Internet resources. Many travel agencies offer their services in organizing tours in this direction. Tourists who have already visited Konopiště, note the magnificent green park with a rose garden, many sculptures and exotic trees. The interior is distinguished by an incredible number of hunting trophies, luxurious furniture and a unique collection of weapons and armor.
You can find videos and photos of Konopiště Castle in Prague on various Internet sites.
Note: Many travel agencies offer to see Konopiště Castle and Krivoklát Castle at once.
Excursions to these destinations are organized daily. You only need to book them in advance.
|April, May and September||10:00 – 16:00 from Tuesday to Sunday|
|June – August||10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday|
|October, November||10:00 – 15:00 Saturday and Sunday|
|January, February, March – closed||Tours by prior arrangement (extra charge)|
Attention: The castle is closed on Mondays.
The lunch break is from 12.00 to 13.00.
There are four routes for guided tours:
- A tour of the executive and guest suites of the south wing.
- Visit to the north wing – library, armory and chapel (the oldest halls of Konopiště).
- Living quarters of the archduke’s family.
- The hunting trophies of the crown prince.
Ticket prices range from 90 to 310 CZK (1 CZK equals 2.3 rubles). The castle has tours for Russian speakers and an audio guide (50 CZK).
How to get from Prague to Konopiště Castle:
- Take the train from Prague train station to the Benesov u Prahi stop. When you arrive, go right over the bridge over the railroad. After the bridge go left through the yellow markers. The ticket price is CZK 45. The distance from the railway station to the castle is about 2 km. Part of the road goes through Benesov, and the other part through the forest along the road.
- By car take the D1 highway and drive to the turn to Benesov. Then follow the signs.
- You can take a bus to the stop “Benesov” from the subway station Rozliti or from the station Florenc. Then walk a little bit on foot. The ticket costs 45 CZK.
On the approach to the castle there is a parking lot, snack bars and a guesthouse where you can stay when traveling by car.
Just before reaching the park, there is the hunter-style restaurant Stara Myslivna, which serves venison, pheasants and other game. It used to be the site of a chamber for feasts after pheasant hunting. Next to the restaurant, real deer live in a small pen. There is a game bird farm in the park. In small houses live owls, eagles and crows, and their owner can tell interesting facts about their lives, although in Czech. For 50 CZK you can take pictures with the birds.
The address of Konopiste: Konopiste1, Benesov. Tel: +420 317 721 366
In conclusion it can be said that Konopiště is one of the most beautiful castles in the Czech Republic. It is considered a national cultural monument and every year it opens its doors to thousands of tourists from all over the world.