To the west of the capital a landscape of hills and forests opens up to visitors along the Berounka and Vltava rivers and in the Křivoklát area, Brdy Hills and Czech karst area. It was here that the Czech kings and notable members of important noble families built their residences. Witnesses to those times include Karlštejn, Křivoklát, Krakovec, Točník and Žebrák castles, Hořovice, Dobříš, Nižbor, Roztoky and Nelahozeves chateaux and the Přemyslid dynasty-era fort at Levý Hradec.
Thanks to the Berounka this area is also heaven on earth for canoeists. The river enables them to discover places of great beauty in an unusual way and at a slow pace, perhaps with fishing rod in hand. Fans of industrial heritage sites and various pieces of the country´s technical past also have something to look forward to in the shape of the Solvay Quarries, Velká Amerika, the Mayrau open-air mining museum near Kladno and the Czech Railways Museum in Lužná u Rakovníka, which includes the Kolešovka heritage line. You can also take the plunge at water parks in Slané and Kladno, pedal off along cycling trails including the greenway Berounka-Střela route or tee off at any of the area´s golf courses.
Highlighted from the area:
Karlštejn Castle – This Gothic castle was founded in 1348 by Czech King Charles IV as a fortress to protect the holy relics and the imperial crown jewels. The Chapel of the Holy Cross contains a unique set of Gothic panel paintings by Master Theodoricus dating from the 14th century; during the tour look out for the replica of the Crown of St Wenceslas. In the village below the castle is the small Nativity Scene Museum.
Křivoklát Castle – Originally a hunting lodge for the Czech monarchy, this castle has a wonderful chapel, a Knights Hall, a Royal Hall and an exhibition of Gothic art. Many special events with bizarre names such as ‘Křivořezání´, ‘Křivoklátské panování´ and ‘Křivoklání´ take place here every year.
Krakovec Castle – This mid-14th-century ruin is often called Bohemia´s last castle or first chateau. A unique hand-fashioned timber bridge leads to the castle, built between 2000 and 2005 using ‘technology´ and tools from the late 14th century.
Chateau Hořovice – This Baroque and neo-Classical chateau possesses an interesting park and numerous exhibitions such as the gallery of decorative cast iron pieces, a collection of toys once belonging to wee aristocrats, music boxes and an exhibition on mysterious beings said to inhabit the Brdy Forest.
Nelahozeves Chateau – This Renaissance mansion belongs to the Lobkowicz family. Tours include the period interiors adorned with oil paintings and demonstrations of artistic skill. Every year it is the venue for the Dvořák´s Nelahozeves international music festival.
Okoř castle (see top image) – Situated around 15km to the northwest of the capital, Okoř is the best known castle ruins in the area around Prague. The large complex is dominated by the trunk of a high, square-built tower with the remnants of an early Gothic chapel. And the way to Okoř isn´t as thorny as one Czech song would have us believe – on the contrary the path leads through pretty countryside along the Zákolanský Stream. The summer months at Okoř Castle see sword fencing and battle re-enactments and the area below the castle is a venue for festivals and concerts.
Official tourist website of Rakovnicko region: www.rakovnicko.info/en