43km (27 miles) W of Prague

Less crowded and much less touristy than its neighbor upstream at Karlstejn, Krivoklát is the perfect destination for a lazy afternoon of touring. A royal castle mentioned as early as the 11th century, Krivoklát is set in the tranquil Berounka River Valley. The fortress was rebuilt several times over the years but retains its Gothic style. The royal family was among Krivoklát's frequent visitors, and during the Hussite Uprising, King Sigmund of Luxembourg hid his jewels here. The area surrounding the fortress is protected by UNESCO as a biosphere preservation area.

Getting There -- Trains run regularly from Prague's Smíchov station to the town of Beroun, where you must change to go on to Krivoklát. The trip takes 1 3/4 hours; the one-way, second-class fare is 98Kc. This is one of the nicer train rides in the Czech Republic, even though you have to change trains in Beroun. The train winds its way along the Berounka through some wooded areas near Prague.

If you're driving, leave Prague on the E50 expressway heading west toward Plzen and exit at the Krivoklát cutoff. From there, follow Hwy. 116 as it snakes along the Berounka and turn left onto Hwy. 201, which eventually winds its way around to Krivoklát. The trip takes 45 minutes.

Visitor Information -- There is no tourist information center, but the castle can provide information on the area. There is also an official website for the castle: www.krivoklat.cz.

Organized Tours -- At the time of writing, none of the major sightseeing tour operators were offering dedicated tours to Krivoklát.

Exploring the Castle

Often a castle tour fails to live up to expectations (Karlstejn comes to mind), but this is one of the best castle tours; it's almost a reverse of Karlstejn. Outside, Krivoklát pales in comparison to Karlstejn's beauty. But inside, Krivoklát blows its rival out of the water. Take time to study the intricate carvings at the altar in the Royal Chapel. They're not exactly angelic, as the angels are actually holding instruments of torture; Krivoklát was a prison for political criminals in the Middle Ages. The Kings Hall, a whopping 24m (79 ft.) long, is the second-longest secular hallway in the country after Prague's Vladislav Hall. In the Knights Hall you'll find a collection of fabulous late Gothic art. And the Furstenberg Picture Gallery is one of the country's largest castle libraries, with some 53,000 volumes on its shelves. Take that, Karlstejn!

Admission is 150Kc for adults and 105Kc for children. The castle is open to the public in March and November on Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 3pm. In October it's open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 4pm. In April, May, June, and September, hours are Tuesday to Sunday from 9am to 4pm. In July and August, hours are daily from 9am to 6pm. The tour runs about half an hour, and information in English is available.

A Sightseeing Tip -- Krivoklát is near Karlstejn, so consider visiting both in 1 day if you drive or take the train. The contrast between the bustling Karlstejn and the sleepy Krivoklát is startling.

Where to Stay & Dine

Since Krivoklát is less touristy than Karlstejn, there aren't many restaurants here. Of the few that do exist, Pension U Jelena, at the bottom of the hill as you approach the castle, is your best bet. With six rooms, the pension can be used as an overnight stop if you want to spend a leisurely weekend hiking and biking between Krivoklát and Karlstejn. The restaurant specializes in game and main courses run from around 70Kc to 300Kc; American Express, MasterCard, and Visa are accepted.

For reservations at the hotel (you won't need them for the restaurant), call tel. 313-558-529 (fax 313-558-235; www.u-jelena.cz). Doubles cost 1,000Kc. If you don't want to stop here, you're better off eating down the road in Karlstejn or back in Prague.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.