Sunday, June 28 marks the anniversary of the shot heard around the world — the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne whose death in Sarajevo in 1914 triggered World War I.
The archduke’s last residence, the Gothic castle he used as a summer palace and hunting chateau (which also appeared as a location for the 2006 film The Illusionist) is just a short drive or train ride from Prague.
The castle, first built in the 14th-century was transformed into a Baroque residence in the 19th century. The Archduke later rebuilt the structure in historicist style and created its landscaped park — today the castle remains largely the same as he left it.
Ferdinand was an avid hunter, and his home features the third largest collection of medieval armor and weapons in Europe as well as a number of hunting trophies and antlers.
Now is the perfect time to visit — or revisit! — Konopiště Castle with tours possible once again as the castle reopens after coronavirus closures with a number of new exhibits.
From authentic Czech food to visiting Konopiště Castle and beyond, take a look at our guide for a day trip from Prague.
The castle is split into three main parts: the salon’s south wing, the salon’s north wing, and the private residence of Franz Ferdinand. In June, tours of the castle are limited to the north and south wing and should be booked online in advance.
Visitors should walk the expansive castle grounds which encompass a lake and forest to the south, and the beautiful Rose Garden where peacocks roam freely (there is currently a limit on the number of guests allowed to walk through the garden).
Tours take place every 30 minutes with a maximum of 19 people.
There are several exhibits on permanent display at the castle right: the Archduke’s shooting range, and the St. George’s Museum featuring the world’s largest collection of historic motifs devoted to the legendary dragon slayer.
Opening in July: a mini exposition about bears for kids (A 14-year old-bear lives in the fortification moat!) and an exhibit on Baroque mask fashion and social customs from the time of Marie Theresa.
If you plan to visit on the June 28 anniversary of the archduke’s death, a funeral mass is held annually in Latin in the chapel.
Note that face masks and social distancing are still required in the interior spaces of the castle.
For the most up-to-date information visit www.zamek-konopiste.cz
Restaurace Stará Myslivna
This restaurant, located under the castle and near the second parking lot, may seem like a tourist trap — but it’s not. This cozy space offers local Czech food in an authentic, hunting-themed setting; it feels like you’re in the middle of a hunting lodge! It’s not just a theme, though. The menu features local wild game, from pheasant to venison.
If game intimidates you, don’t worry, there are other restaurants in Benešov that offer delicious, authentic Czech food minus deer meat. Try nearby Restaurace Na Bejkárně or Švejk restaurant Benešov further into town for traditional, home-cooked meals.
For directions or to make a reservation visit www.staramyslivna.com
This museum, tucked away off the main square in Benešov’s Malé náměstí, offers several exhibitions, a cafe, and an open courtyard — and entrance is currently free until mid-summer.
Currently, the museum has four exhibits: one exhibit from a young painter who paints predominantly in lines; one exhibit from Luboš Plný (1961), a Czech painter and conceptual artist; an exhibit from a self-taught artist who plays around with form; and an exhibit featuring Petr Holeček’s sculptures, a variety of animals and humans in comical situations touching on serious topics.
For a full program visit mudbenesov.cz
Here’s a fun fact: Franz Ferdinand may be one of the only people with a band (Franz Ferdinand) and a beer (Ferdinand) named after him. You can’t stop in Benešov without visiting Ferdinand brewery. Beer was brewed as early as 1495 in the city. Later, in the 1880s, Franz Ferdinand brought the castle and all its farms — including the joint-stock brewery and malt house, later known as Ferdinand Brewery.
When you visit the brewery, you can take a tour of the facility and try one of their freshly brewed beers, including unpasteurized, or live, beer, which has a short shelf life.
On July 4 there is a popular annual punk festival in the brewery’s courtyard.
To plan your visit see www.pivovarferdinand.cz.
How to get to Benešov
Konopiště Castle is located just outside Benešov, within walking distance. During peak summer months, the city operates a free shuttle to the castle.
The town is 45 minutes south of Prague and easily accessible by speed train or car.
If you want to visit by train, head to Prague’s main train station, Hlavní nádraží, and take a train to Benešov u Prahy. The speed train will likely be heading to Tabor or Ceske Budejovice and make a stop in Benešov. The train will take between 30 minutes to an hour.
If you plan to drive, you’ll head down E55 following signs for Benešov. There’s ample parking right by the castle grounds, though getting to the castle does require a bit of a hike.
What are your tips for visiting Benešov and Konopiště Castle? Share them below.