Visit the Czech-Danish chateau where history meets hygge

Ever wondered what it's like to restore a castle? A stylish chateau refurbished by a Czech-Danish family is now open for day trips and overnight stays.

Diana Bocco

Written by Diana Bocco Published on 21.10.2021 15:00 (updated on 24.10.2021) Reading time: 4 minutes

From the moment visitors arrive at Chateau Trnová, the very essence of its centuries-long history shines in every corner. Located a 20-minute ride from the center of Prague  – and currently open for day trips and overnight stays – the chateau is a dream-come-true for Czech-Danish couple Markéta and Finn Hansen.

The story of today’s Chateau Trnová began to be written in the 17th century when the first rooms were built as accommodation for the Sv. Jiljí Monastery. It has since been renovated, expanded, and rebuilt, and eventually served as the First School of Agriculture (founded in the location in 1791) and the holiday residence of famous opera singer Ema Destinnová.

“Ema Destinnová often came to Zámek Trnová between 1908-1911 to relax after one of her long journeys to sing at the Metropolitan in New York,” explains Markéta. “We even know which room she slept in, and we’ve named that room (which is now part of the restaurant) ‘Salon Ema Destinnová’.”

Earlier on, the chateau had been the home of the brother of František Škroup, who composed what became the national hymn of Czechoslovakia when the first republic was formed in 1918 after WW1. “It’s mentioned in history books that Škroup got his inspiration from Trnová, as he often stayed with his brother at the castle,” Finn says.

Before current owners Markéta and Finn bought the chateau, the last owner was Ivan Pilip, a former Czech minister of School and Finance. “Pilip and his ex-wife bought the castle in 2006 when it was a complete ruin,” Finn says. “They reconstructed the castle very nicely back then, and we continued that work.”

The Hansens found the castle almost by accident, though the seed had been planted a long time before after the couple spent a company weekend at a small castle in South Bohemia.

“After that stay, we talked about how it could be an interesting project one day in the future to have such a small castle and create a cozy atmosphere for people to enjoy themselves,” he says.

Years went by and the couple had three children – and then the pandemic came around.  

“Last autumn, during the lockdown, I started browsing the web for zamek na prodej (castle for sale) and Trnová popped up,” he says, adding that they knew exactly where the chateau was located because Markéta’s brother lives in the next village.

“So for years we had passed by on bikes and even collected chestnuts on what is now our own parking lot,” Finn says. “But we didn’t know there was a small castle there, because it’s quite hidden behind the trees.”

It took only one viewing and the couple immediately fell in love. They got the keys in December 2020 and started renovations right away. By June, they were holding weddings on the grounds of the chateau.   

Transforming the old-style rooms at the chateau into practical spaces that still respected the history of the place required some intense work, though.

“We took a lot of inspiration in Nordic designs, especially Swedish countryside-style and Danish minimalism,” Hansen explains.

The chateau is now a perfect example of “Hygge” – a Danish word used to describe a feeling of coziness and comfort that promotes wellbeing. “We tried to create a cozy, home-like feeling at the castle,” Markéta explains. “We do not want it to look like a museum, but a place where people feel well and like to spend time and enjoy themselves.”

That’s certainly what you’ll get when you stay at the chateau boutique hotel, which offers accommodation in 10 renovated rooms, including a bridal suite with stunning views over the gardens. 

Chef Pavel Veltruský, who once worked at three-star Michelin restaurants in France and England, is in charge of the kitchen and producing stunning dishes like Smoked salmon with thyme potato pancakes and caviar, Potato cappelletti with truffles and roasted pumpkin, and an array of desserts that include a selection of homemade ice creams and sorbets.

You can expect to find everything from yoga weekends and family barbecues to live jazz concerts at Trnová, and the chateau also offers wedding packages and a large hall perfect for corporate parties or private celebrations.

“But whatever we do at Chateau Trnová, gourmet food and a great selection of wines will always be at the core,” Markéta adds.

When asked about his favorite thing about Trnová, Finn says the sense of peace he gets when he visits.

“I normally have my office in Václavské náměstí, which is great but usually full of people, music and other noise. So when I come here, it’s like being home on my home island in Denmark. This is what we at Chateau Trnová call ‘Life in balance’.” 

This article was written in cooperation with the Chateau Trnová. Read more about our partner content policies here.

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