The castle was initially constructed as a Gothic fortification in the 13th century. It was later transformed in a Baroque style. Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria bought Konopiště in 1887, with his inheritance from the last reigning Duke of Modena, and rebuilt it into a luxurious residence, suitable to the future Emperor; which he preferred to his official residence in Vienna. He invited William II, German Emperor to see his roses early in June, 1914; insofar as they discussed politics, they discussed Romania, but conspiracy theories about their planning an attack on Serbia or a division of the Austro-Hungarian Empire arose at the time and since. (After the Archduke's assassination, later in the month, the memory of this visit may have moved the Emperor to give Austria more rein in dealing with Serbia than he had in the Bosnian crisis of 1909.) Since 1921, the castle has been property of the Czechoslovak and later Czech state, one of 90 such in state ownership. The Ministry of Culture is said to spend more than US$ 800,000 per year to maintain the castle, and recovers about as much from entrance ticket sales and rental for occasional functions.
Konopiště castle is now open to the public. Visitors can observe the residential rooms of Franz Ferdinand, a large collection of antlers (Franz Ferdinand was an enthusiastic hunter), an armory with medieval weapons, a shooting hall with moving targets and a garden with Italian Renaissance statues and greenhouses. It is a popular place for weddings.
Currently, HSH Princess Sophie von Hohenberg, a descendant of Franz Ferdinand, is claiming for the restitution of the castle to her family, which was never recognized as part of the House of Habsburg, on the ground that the provisions of Article 208 of the Treaty of Saint Germain, and the Article 3 of Law no.354 of 1921 in Czechoslovakia, do not apply to them. She filed a law suit in December 2000 in Benešov, the nearest city, for the Castle and its dependencies comprising 6,070 hectares of woodland and including a brewery
The castle can be toured from April to October. To get there, take a train from Prague to Benešov u Prahy (about a one-hour ride) and then walk about 2.5 km from the station, or catch one of the not-too-frequent buses.
Part of the film The Illusionist was filmed in Konopiště, which is supposed to be the Prince's castle in the movie.