Slovakia is known for unspoiled nature and breathtaking landscapes. However, the country also has a lot to offer culturally. Did you know that Slovakia has the largest number of castles in the world measured by population? Unbelievable, but 600 castles, palaces and palaces stand in the state, in which only 5.4 million people live. The magnificent buildings were erected in different epochs, but they all have something in common: they were all scenes of historical events in the past and the rulers of the castles influenced the history of the country. When traveling to Slovakia, one cannot avoid visiting a castle. Because it feels like a castle ruin or a palace stands along the route every 10 minutes. With so many options, it’s hard to keep track of things. That’s why I’m going to introduce you to three castles in this post that I particularly liked.
My visit to three fascinating Slovak castles
While we were planning our trip, we couldn’t decide which castle to visit because of so many possibilities. After a long research, we decided to simply visit the castles that are on our route anyway.
The best known is probably the ruin of Devín, which is enthroned on a rock north of Bratislava. Here is spectacular masonry directly on the slope leading to the Danube and the imposing view extends as far as Austria. In addition, this place has an important role in the history of the country, as the Slovaks see their origin here as a Slavic nation.
Beckov Castle is a fabled place where some rulers allegedly mysteriously died. The castle is located on a high rock in the Inowetz Mountains and is an ideal stopover on the journey to the High Tatras. Here, mighty buildings transport you back in history and actors show you the ancient life in the castle.
The Spiš Castle in northeast Slovakia is the second largest castle complex in Central Europe. Huge walls surround the huge core, which watches over the idyllic landscape on a hill. This fortress was rightly declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site. For me, the most impressive castle in Slovakia. But decide for yourself! Because in this article I will introduce you to all three castles in detail.
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Devín Castle – In search of the roots of a Slavic nation
Bratislava is an ideal starting point for a visit to Devín Castle. Only 20 minutes northwest of the capital, the castle ruins watch over the small town of Devín. The fortress is not only a popular destination for tourists. Slovak families also flock to the historic buildings in summer and on vacation. We had to experience that first-hand after we turned into the parking lot. Cars are packed close together. Tour buses park on the edge. Exhausts blow hot air on our legs. The midday sun hits the shimmering asphalt and the smell of gasoline wafts through the stuffy air. We suspiciously follow the screams of small children. At the entrance there are two clowns on stilts who ask us about our nationality. A strange woman wants to take a picture of us and the clowns who are still trying to prove their knowledge of German. We feel out of place, quickly pay the 4-euro entry fee and escape the situation.
The ascent leads past food stalls, playgrounds, and petting zoos. Green grass grows along the way, the flowers bloom, and the wind blows cooler air into our faces. The crowds are now better distributed over the large area. Our mood is getting better. Above, a beautiful inner courtyard awaits us, from which countless narrow paths lead towards the Danube. We look out over the idyllic landscape from several vantage points. The Danube flows past the rock in a surprisingly calm manner. Even the forests of Austria can already be seen on the opposite side. Bizarre ruins stand directly on the slope, which used to be used as observation towers. A unique construction, but still in harmony with the landscape.
On the other side of the courtyard, stone stairs lead up to the highest part of the castle. From here we look out onto the courtyard and watch a kind of drama for children with actors in medieval clothing. They speak Slovak, so we save ourselves the drama and enjoy the view over the country in peace.
History and conclusion
In several buildings within the walls, we learn about the history of the fortress. You can playfully learn what happened here centuries ago. The Celts built a settlement here and the Romans monitored the Limes from the rocks from the Nordic peoples. A fortress was built first here during the Moravian Empire, which was considered the first Slavic state. After its fall, the castle was considered the western border of the Hungarian Empire for centuries until it was finally blown up by Napoleon’s troops in 1809.
Devín Castle is a popular travel destination. So, I recommend coming in the early morning before families and busses are arriving. The facility is very attractive for families because of the plays, petting zoos and games. But even single travelers will not be disappointed. Because impressive structures and great views over the idyllic landscape await you.
It only takes 20 minutes by car from Bratislava. A free parking lot is located at the foot of the rock. There are also some restaurants here.
You can also easily reach the castle from the capital by bus. From the Most SNP stop, bus 29 goes directly to the nearby Štrbská and Hrad Devín stops. Both are marked on the map. A ticket costs 0.90 euro and can be bought from the yellow machines. This app helps when traveling by bus and train.
April – October
Tuesday to Sunday: 10 am to 5 pm
November – March
Tuesday to Sunday: 10 am to 4 pm
The exhibition rooms and toilets are closed in winter. Moreover, the facility is completely closed in the event of snow and ice. You can find more information on the castle website.
Adults: 4 €
Students, Kids, Pensioners: 2 €
Families: 8 €
You can find more information on the castle website.
Short Facts for your Trip
The main season lasts from May to September. We were in Slovakia in July and it was very hot and dry. You can find climate data on the following website. Since most castles only have a limited range of offers in winter or are completely closed, I recommend visiting between April and October. The forts are particularly empty on weekdays and in the early hours of the morning.
Beckov Castle – A legendary fortress
Beckov is a small community in the Inowetz Mountains, which belongs to the Inner Western Carpathians. Here, the castle of the same name watches over the region on a huge rock. On the way to the High Tatras we take the opportunity and make a stop here. We are just turning into the street leading to the castle when a man with a safety vest asks us to open the window. He’s talking wildly. In Slovak. When he notices that we only speak German and English, he waves it away in annoyance. True to the motto ‘oh, do what you want.’ So, we drive on and find that we cannot find a parking space here. He probably wanted to explain that to us. After we parked the car elsewhere, we headed towards the castle. The path leads upwards past a small cemetery. At the entrance we pay 4 euros to employees in disguise and enter.
We stroll through the old ruins. In the rooms, archaeological finds and props show what life in a castle must have looked like. Narrow paths and stony stairs lead to new levels and rooms again and again. We constantly experience the fortress from a different perspective and discover new, exciting details. From several platforms you have a breathtaking view of the place and the surrounding landscape.
We are the first visitors early in the morning. The food stalls are empty, the games for children that have been set up are resting and the animals are enjoying their peace and quiet. Around 10 different birds of prey sit in an open enclosure, waiting to be used. It seems that air shows are held here as soon as the families arrive. In the upper area of the castle, an artist has openly exhibited his paintings and we wonder how quickly he can save his works of art if it suddenly rains. At almost every corner there is an iron sculpture or a play station for children with bow and arrow or sword fighting. In the back of the fortress, a church that doesn’t quite match the rest of the ruin has been restored. The door is locked.
During our exploration tour we notice a hill in the east all the time, which promises a clear view of the entire castle complex. We leave the fortress and keep to the left after the exit. A sandy path leads up the hill. Grasses, in which insects chirp, block the way. In the blazing sun, which is now higher, we look at the full splendor of the castle. This viewpoint is definitely worth a detour.
The history and legends of Beckov Castle
An important settlement of the first Slavs was established in Beckov during the Moravian Empire. The proximity to the Váh made the settlement an important trading point. At the time of the Hungarian Empire was a fortified castle built on the rock. It served to secure the north-western outer border and even survived the attack by the Ottomans. The fortress changed hands more often and was constantly strengthened and expanded. According to legend, Count Ctibor is said to have thrown a servant down the rock. He is said to have hit the count’s hunting dog when the dog attacked his child. During the fall, the servant is said to have shouted that he would take revenge in a year. As a result, Ctibor is said to have been bitten by a snake exactly one year later. Due to the poisonous bite, he is said to have lost his orientation and fell down the rock as well. In any case, I didn’t come across any snakes here, but I found the legend very worth mentioning.
The easiest way to get here is by car. Free parking spaces are located directly on the main road that runs through the village.
There are several bus stops in Beckov that can be reached by bus from the cities of Nové Mesto nad Váhom and Trenčín. The stations Beckov, OÚNZ and Beckov, ZŠ are particularly suitable for a visit to the rock castle. These are marked on the map. In the cp.sk app you can find timetables and prices for your journey by bus and train.
Saturday and Sunday: 9 am to 5 pm
April – September
Monday to Sunday: 9 am to 6 pm
Monday to Sunday: 9 am to 5 pm
November – February
You can find current information on the castle website.
Adults: 4,50 €
Students, Pensioners: 3,50 €
Kids: 3 €
Somewhat cheaper in the spring and autumn months. You can find current information on the castle website.
Spiš Castle – The second largest castle complex in Central Europe
Spiš Castle watches over the Spiš region on a high travertine cone. The mighty fortress is the second largest castle complex in Central Europe and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In fact, the huge complex looks towards us from afar. It is surrounded by grain fields and forests. On the west side is the town of Spišské Podhradie. Overwhelmed by the sight, we take a few pictures on the street side. The gray clouds in the sky give the fortress something threatening. We park at the foot of the hill, as the visitors’ cars stand already hundreds of meters from the parking lot. So, we suspect something bad.
We have to hike uphill for around 700 meters until we reach the actual parking lot. Then a steep path leads up to the castle. The climb is arduous. Our legs hurt. Nasty sore muscles from yesterday’s hike on the Rysy are noticeable. We could have saved ourselves the trouble. At the entrance people stand in an endless queue, so we decide not to visit. We had already visited two castles within a very short time anyway. After a quick look at the map, we decide on a spontaneous tour of discovery. Hoping for beautiful views, we take a yellow route south of the parking lot. After a few meters, a path leads on the left to a plateau from which we can enjoy a great view of the castle. In the distance we watch the tourists pouring in while we have the full splendor of the fortress to ourselves.
Our hike continues along the signposted hiking trail until we keep to the right and climb an increase. The legs hurt. Doesn’t matter, the curiosity is greater. At the summit, a rocky platform awaits us, which allows a great view of the surrounding landscape. The Spiš Castle protrudes splendidly behind a small, wooded area. The aching legs are forgotten.
We explore the elevation, take a lot of pictures and marvel at the pleasant calm. Although the view of the castle is fantastic here, we didn’t meet a single person. At this vantage point do we realize first how far this fortress stretches over the hill. For me, an absolute highlight in Slovakia.
History of the Spiš Castle
At the end of the Iron Age, the Celts founded a settlement along the hill. Centuries later, during the Moravian Empire, the first Slavs established a fortified settlement. A first castle followed, which even withstood the Mongol invasion. Like most fortresses in Slovakia, the Spis Castle became the property of the Hungarian Empire after the end of the Moravian period. It changed hands frequently and was constantly developed and strengthened. The facility burned down twice in the 18th century and was finally abandoned. After the Second World War, the castle was restored until it was declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.
The easiest way to get to the fortress is by car. Parking spaces are available on site free of charge. Parking along the road to the castle is also possible.
The journey by bus and train is unfortunately a bit more difficult. On the west side of the castle is the town of Spišské Podhradie, which is connected to the transport network. Buses from Poprad, Prešov or smaller towns go to the Spišské Podhradie, Nám stop, which is marked on the map. From there, a 2 km long hiking trail (green marking) leads up to Spiš Castle. The cp.sk app helps you plan your route.
May – September
Monday to Sunday: 9 am to 7 pm
October und April
Monday to Sunday: 9 am to 5 pm
Monday to Sunday: 9 am to 4 pm
December – March
You can find current information on the castle website.
Adults: 8 €
Students, Pensioners: 6 €
Kids over 6 years: 4 €
You can find current information on the castle website.
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