Bezděz Castle – Gothic Fortress on Top of Old Volcano

Bezděz Castle

Mysterious Bezděz castle will catch your eye. It stands on top of a hill with two summits. It’s impossible to mix up its silhouette with any other Czech mountain! Bezděz lures visitors with its raw beauty and authenticity. Take a day trip from Prague and experience the feel of this medieval castle on your own!

Old volcano that makes noise

The double-peaked Bezděz hill is a famous Czech landmark. It’s formed of rock called phonolite, which means “sounding stone”. When hit, the rock makes a metallic sound. Try it!

The castle is constructed of this local material. Experiencing a thunderstorm here is unforgettable. Imagine the roaring noise of lightning hitting that weird stone!

I’m the king here!

The history of his royal castle is over 700 years long. Its construction began in the middle of the 13th century, as an initiative of King Ottokar II of Bohemia. During his reign, he founded many towns and built a large number of castles. It was a smart way how to show his power over the nobility.

Bezděz was never meant to be a representative seat of the king with a large number of fancy rooms. It was rather a stronghold protecting an important trade-route.  But it was fitted for the occasional accommodation of the king and his company, too.

gate
One of the Bezděz Castle’s Gates

Prison for a little prince

Unfortunately, king Ottokar died even before the construction of the castle was completed. The heir to the throne, his 7-years-old son Wenceslaus, was too young to reign. The administration of the kingdom took over Wenceslaus’s cousin Otto. He also became his guardian. But a very bad one! He not only treated the Czech land as a conqueror. He also imprisoned the little boy and his mother in Bezděz!

It had to be a very traumatic period of life for the little prince. Until the end of his life, he suffered from many phobias and was very afraid of thunderstorms. Do you remember the sounding stone?

Later, as the king, Wenceslaus returned to the castle several times. The castle complex was finished during his reign. It was an unconquerable stronghold but of a high artistic value.

In the early 14th century, Bezděz became a pledge of local aristocrats. They did not care much about the castle that was difficult to access and not very comfortable. They were not willing to spend money on reconstructions, so it remained in its original state basically to this day.

Monastery and pilgrimage site

In the 17th century, Bezděz was turned into a fortified monastery. The new residents of the castle came from Montserrat Abbey in Spain. The monks brought along a miraculous statue, a copy of the famous Black Madona of Montserrat. Thanks to that, the castle became a famous pilgrimage site for years to come.

rainwater tank
Rainwater tank in the 1st courtyard

Romantic ruin

A century later, the monastery was closed down, and the abandoned castle began to decay. That didn’t affect its popularity, though, especially during the 19th century. In the Romantic era, Bezděz became a place to be for romantic souls and artist. And also a popular trip destination! In 1930, the last owners of the castle sold the castle for a symbolic price to the Czechoslovak Tourist Club, and its members started to adjust it for visitors.

Visit to the Bezděz Castle

Bezděz Castle is open from April to October. The entrance fee is 120 CZK. There is no guided tour, you can explore the castle by yourself and spend there as much time as you like! At the ticket office, ask for a pamphlet in English where you can read more about the history of the castle. It costs 20 CZK.

After passing through the gate, you’ll find yourself in the 1st courtyard. To the right, there is the Burgrave’s palace. It was the place where the warden of the castle used to live. He was in charge of the castle administration and represented the king in his absence.

Climb the Great Tower!

It’s not possible to overlook the 34-meters-high Great Tower. This tower with a circular floor plan (so-called bergfried) served for defense purposes, and in the case of danger, as the last refuge. Climb the stairs up and enjoy the panoramic view from the top of the tower! Besides others, you can see Ještěd Mountain or Lake Mácha from here. Czechs love to spend their summer vacation at this lake. With a bit of an exaggeration, we call it the Czech Sea (because we don’t have any)!

Behind the Great Tower, there is the 2nd courtyard with another building. It served as a dwelling for the men who took care of the castle’s security and helped with other duties.

view from the tower
The smaller bergfried tower seen from the Great Tower

Royal palace and chapel

When the king was present in the castle, he stayed in the Royal Palace. It’s the two-story building on the left behind the entrance. The lower floor was used for housekeeping purposes, the representative rooms and bedrooms were on the upper floor. These floors separated a timber ceiling. In the masonry, you can still see the holes where the wooden beams once used to be. Outside, on the level of the upper floor, there was a wooden walkway. The individual rooms and also the Great Tower were accessible from it.

The most beautiful and valuable part of the castle is, without any doubt, the Early Gothic chapel. Its pure beauty is stunning! Later, in the 17th and 18th centuries, the copy of the miraculous Black Madonna was displayed here, and thousands of pilgrims were heading here to worship her.

Bezděz Castle chapel
The Early Gothic chapel

How to get to Bezděz Castle

Under the Bezděz hill, there is a village with the same name. In the middle of this village, there is a bus stop with a regular bus connection. But if you travel from Prague, it’s easier to get here by train.

The train station isn’t located directly in the village but about 2 km to the south. The shortest hiking trail is the blue one. Unfortunately, it leads along the road with traffic, and that’s not much fun. But this trail has its bright side, too. The whole time you’ll be approaching the castle, it’ll be in front of you, and you’ll have a nice view of it and many opportunities to take pictures. Keep on the left side of the road, and be careful!

But there are also other options! You can get off the train at the station Okna (one station further) and walk to Bezděz village through the forest along the green-marked trail (4 km).

Another alternative is to get off at the Bezděz station. But instead of turning to the right and following the blue-colored route, turn to the left. Cross the railroad over the bridge and right after that turn to the right. There is a path through the forest leading along the rail track. This trail is not marked, but you can’t miss it. See the map above. After 2 km, you’ll come to a crossing where you’ll join the red-colored trail (4 km total).

I suggest choosing one of these two trails for the way up to Bezděz and keeping the shortest route for the way back.

Up to the castle!

Once you arrive in the village, the hike up to the castle is awaiting you! The path is quite steep, be ready for it. In the Middle Ages, the noblemen used to travel on horseback. Nowadays, you have to manage it on foot! Depending on your fitness level, the hike takes 30 to 45 minutes.

Sounds good? Share this trip with your friends and visit Bezděz Castle together! 😉

2 Comments

    • Nikola

      Thanks for your comment Jitka. I’m glad you liked it! 😊

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