Spišský Hrad Castle in Slovakia, How to get there and description

Spiš Castle in Slovakia. Attractions, pictures, history of the castle.

The Spiš Castle is the largest medieval fortification in Slovakia, and since the 13th century it has undergone several major military attacks and sieges. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is currently under active restoration.

Where is the castle, how to get there

The Spiš Castle in Slovakia rises on a 200-meter high hill in the middle of the valleys near the village of Žegra, 15 km from Levoč, and is visible from many kilometers away.

Occupies an area of about 4 hectares, which is considered large even by European standards, not just countries:

  • You can get there on your own by bus from Levoca or Poprad for 3 euros, and then you have to walk 3 km on foot. You can take the train to the nearest station in Spiska Poprad.
  • You can order a cab, which will take you from the station to the sight for 40-60 euros.
  • The most convenient way will be by car, and leave the car at the paid parking lot at the foot of the castle, or for free on the opposite side of town. Then you will have to climb on foot, not far, but on a fairly steep stony path.

During the ascent, you can admire the magnificent views of the vast expanses of the valley.

History of Spis Grad in Slovakia

Archaeologists have found signs of the first Celtic settlement in this area dating back 10,000 years. The first Slavic settlements on the nearby Drevenik rock elevation are attributed by scientists to the V-VI centuries.

During the local wars in the Hungarian kingdom between X and XIII century, the foundation of Spisz castle was laid. The main stone tower of that time has not remained, and reached only in the form of ruins and the foundation of the central column 3.4 m in diameter. However, we can surmise from these remains that the tower was quite large.

Spišský hrad Castle in Slovakia. Attractions, photo, history of castle.

Next to the master residence there is a water reservoir from those times.

The castle dates back to the early XII century, when it belonged to the Hungarian crown. It was repeatedly rebuilt and strengthened. In the XIII century there appeared a Romanesque palace and a donjon. In the middle of the century the fortress managed to withstand the Mongol attacks of Batyi Khan, after which King Bela IV started another reconstruction of the castle and built a church.

Under the king’s daughter-in-law Elisabeth Kumanska Italian architects made improvements to the fortifications of the citadel, which enabled it to withstand the siege of Matusz Szak. The Hungarian civil war brought about a new change of the owner of the castle. Jan Iskra became it’s commander, who rebuilt and equipped the citadel’s Lower Town.

Spišský hrad Castle in Slovakia. Attractions, photo, history of castle.

In the mid-15th century the castle was taken over by the famous Hungarian Zapolyai family, who built many different buildings there. It was in the castle of the Spiš Castle that the last national king Janos was born. During this period the castle takes on its modern appearance.

Since the middle of the XVI century. almost 100 years the castle is owned by the merchant family Turzo, who bought it from the Hungarian crown, and strengthened the fortress with new bastions with loopholes for guns, the closure of the Romanesque gates.

The last owners of Spis Grad were the noble family Čaks, who, after a devastating fire in the 18th century, abandoned the castle forever.

Spišský hrad Castle in Slovakia. Attractions, photo, history of castle.

The ruins begin to be revived only in the middle of the last century. Restoration and archaeological works in the castle continue up to the present time.

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Architect and architecture

Spiš Castle in Slovakia has an interesting architectural feature. It is divided into 3 courtyards, virtually isolated from each other parts, represented by different autonomous fortresses with separate entrances and secret passages.

The Romanesque palace in the Upper Courtyard was built by Italian architects as a royal residence by order of Bela IV. At the same time there was also erected a round donjon. The Upper courtyard is surrounded by a massive wall of irregular shape, also in Romanesque style.

Spišský hrad Castle in Slovakia. Attractions, photo, history of castle.

The later palace complex was built in the Gothic style, but during the reconstruction of the new owners, Renaissance elements were added. Especially beloved by all tourists is the impregnable tower called “Do not be afraid”, built in the center of the residence, it is connected by a wooden bridge, which could easily be destroyed when attacked by the enemy.

Many of the castle’s living quarters are united by a single gallery with portals. The entrance to the castle was protected by additional stone walls with massive columns. The height of walls reached 40 m in some places.

Interior of the castle, description of the halls

On the central square of the courtyard there was a cashier’s office and an archery range. Nearby there are cozy cafes, where you can eat and rest after seeing the torture chamber or the armory.

Spišský hrad Castle in Slovakia. Attractions, photo, history of castle.

In the lower courtyard you can lie on the green lawn, and children are happy to climb the cannons and battlements. There is also a shooting gallery with medieval weapons, playgrounds with animators conducting entertainment competitions and programs in the mini-open-air theater.

In the palace complex housed a collection of weapons and armor, and you can see the restored ancient interiors:

  • bedroom;
  • knight’s hall;
  • tavern;
  • chapel;
  • storerooms.

Spišský hrad Castle in Slovakia. Attractions, photo, history of castle.

You can visit the chapel and the knight’s hall, decorated as a refectory. Narrow stone spiral staircases with worn antique steps help you feel the atmosphere of the past. And the observation deck offers breathtaking views.

Excursions

The Spiš Castle has already been almost completely restored, but the museum tours are very different from those known in Slovakia. Instead of the usual guides and curators, visitors are offered a variety of fairy-tale characters in the form of mysterious stargazers and wizards, beautiful princesses and brave knights.

Children’s audiences especially love it, with each group proudly parading their own hero.

Interesting themed competitions and costume programs with professional presenters, as well as concert performances with the folk song choir and interesting theatrical performances are held in the Lower Courtyard.

Spišský hrad Castle in Slovakia. Attractions, photo, history of castle.

In August the annual festival with costume parades and tournaments, festive concerts and master classes in pottery and ceramics is organized. The trip to the castle can be successfully combined with a walk to the national nature reserve Drevenik with an easy route for 1-1,5 hour.

Mode of operation, cost of visits

The Spiš Castle in Slovakia is open to the public from early April to the end of October. In the winter months it is not possible to get inside, but it is possible to admire the external power. The ticket office is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free admission is available once a month on the 1st Sunday. On all other days you must buy a ticket.

Spišský hrad Castle in Slovakia. Attractions, photo, history of castle.

Ticket categories Price in euros
Adult full 8
Senior 6
Student 4
Child 3
Family + 1 adult + 3 children or 2 + 2 19
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In the evening the castle walls and the castle are beautifully illuminated.

Tourist information

When going to the castle, you should wear comfortable shoes. There will be a fairly steep climb to enter the castle. It is also interesting to climb the spiral staircase in the tower. Many experienced tourists recommend taking water and a snack to have a picnic, admiring the magnificent views from the castle walls.

Spišský hrad Castle in Slovakia. Attractions, photo, history of castle.

At the ticket office should take a map of the castle with explanations in different languages, including Russian. Audio guide in English is offered free of charge. At the foot of the castle there are souvenir stalls where you can buy commemorative magnets.

What to see in the vicinity, attractions

A must-see is the Ostra Mountain natural monument and the Drevenek National Reserve, which is located on a nearby travertine rock face, covering an area of approximately 1 million square meters.

Spišský hrad Castle in Slovakia. Attractions, photo, history of castle.

In the nearby village of Zhegra it is interesting to visit the late Romanesque Cathedral of the Holy Spirit from the second half of the 13th century, also under UNESCO protection.

The Spisska Kapitula street in the sub-urban area is built up with small Gothic residential buildings, on one end it is decorated with the late Romanesque St. Martin’s Cathedral, on the other with a seminary and a bishop’s palace. Entrance to the church except on Sundays is paid, costing 1-2 euros.

Nearby is a small town Spissky Hrhov with a beautiful palace, belonging to the family of Hungarian magnate Count Chaka from the late 19th century. The palace was built by the Viennese Heinrich Adam. Today, this building is occupied by the House of Children’s Art, surrounded by a magnificent old park.

Spišský hrad Castle in Slovakia. Attractions, photo, history of castle.

The pride of Levoche is the St. Jacob’s Cathedral, built in the 14th century, with a 19-meter altar, carved by a medieval master for 9 years. The Basilica of the Apparition of the Virgin Mary, the most famous pilgrimage site in Slovakia, stands on Mount Mariánské Lázně. On the 1st Sunday in July thousands of pilgrims come to the hill to pay homage to Our Lady.

Hotels in this area: name, address, and prices

If you would like to stay in the area for more detailed sightseeing, you can choose comfortable hotel rooms in the immediate vicinity and with views of the impregnable fortress.

Hotel Under the Castle

Right at the foot of the mountain is a small cozy hotel, but there are few places there and it is advisable to book in advance. The price starts at $25. Private bathroom, TV, refrigerator and electric kettle as well as free connection are included. The hotel also offers a spacious garden, barbecue area, living room with fireplace and winter conservatory.

Spišský hrad Castle in Slovakia. Attractions, photo, history of castle.

The hotel’s restaurant can offer traditional local cuisine and will prepare and pack a dry picnic lunch. For an additional fee, there’s the option to swim in the outdoor pool or play table tennis and billiards. Laundry and ironing services are available.

Hotel Penzion Chalupka

A distinctive feature of the hotel is the close proximity to the castle, in Spiska Podhradie. A room in the guesthouse with an open terrace will cost from 19 dollars.

Spišský hrad Castle in Slovakia. Attractions, photo, history of castle.

Guests are provided with shared bathrooms, a fully equipped kitchen and a lounge with a TV. There are 2 restaurants, grocery stores and a bus stop within walking distance.

Penzion St. Martin

Located in Spišské Hradě, this guesthouse is surrounded by its own picturesque garden and a sunbathing terrace with a wonderful view of the old castle. All rooms are colorfully furnished with antique furniture, but equipped with modern appliances and satellite TV.

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Spišský hrad Castle in Slovakia. Attractions, photo, history of castle.

A private bath and toiletries are included in the room rate, which starts at $25. A morning breakfast, prepared in the hotel restaurant, offers guests a variety of buffet dishes. A delicious dinner is offered for an additional fee.

It is possible to stay with pets . Horseback riding and winter sports equipment rental services are offered. Around the area there are interesting routes for hiking and biking.

Penzion Ranch FAH

A small hotel 1 km from Spiska Castle is conveniently equipped with a playground for children. There is a large outdoor terrace for evening relaxation outdoors with stunning views. The en-suite rooms offer all the necessary bath and beauty products. All rooms are equipped with TV with cable channels and wireless internet connection.

There is a equipped kitchen with an electric kettle and a microwave oven, which allows you to eat at any convenient time. Room rates can be picked up starting at $65. The hotel has a 24-hour bar, which offers very good coffee.

Spišský hrad Castle in Slovakia. Attractions, photo, history of castle.

Near the hotel there is a ranch with pets like a contact zoo. Guests can actively relax and enjoy horseback riding, fishing, downhill skiing, rock climbing, or gliding. There is an opportunity to explore the surroundings on a bicycle ride.

The Spiš Castle is a landmark of Slovakia and is especially appreciated by male tourists, irrespective of their age or social status.

Spiš Castle

Spiš Castle is a majestic castle located in Slovakia. It rises in the suburbs of Spišské Podhradie. The defensive structure is considered a landmark of the country and is often put on souvenirs. The castle of Spis Grad does look majestic indeed, occupying a rock in the middle of the valley. The powerful walls of the fortress are a reminder of its former greatness, because in medieval times it was almost impregnable.

Even tourists who have visited many castles in various parts of Europe are surprised by monumentality of Spis Grad. The castle is definitely worth a visit, as it is considered the largest castle in Slovakia and the largest in Central Europe. The area of the building is 41 thousand square meters (4 hectares). It is worth spending two to three hours on a visit to take a leisurely stroll around the towers and photograph the scenery.

The historic site is protected by UNESCO. Of the 170 castles in Slovakia, only 6 are included in the list of this organization, and one of these is Spišský Hrad. Interestingly, in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, many historical films were filmed in this place.

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Video: Spiš Castle

History of Spiš Castle

The first fortifications on the rock appeared in the XI century, but written records of the castle date back to the XIII century. Even then, Europe felt the threat that was coming from the East. To protect the land from attacks of the Mongol hordes, the mountain was fortified and a border outpost was built. Later the fortress was expanded and rebuilt. Soon the Mongol-Tatars became interested in the fortress, but their attempts to seize it were unsuccessful. The Spis Grad continued to be rebuilt, and in the XIII century the Upper Court was created. There was a tower for local inhabitants, who occupied it during the siege.

At the end of XIII century the Spis Grad was inhabited by the royal family. Since then the fortification changed a lot of owners, but all of them paid special attention to security. The castle was regularly fortified, new weapons were added, the number of guards increased. In the XV century the noble Zapolsky family lived here. A century later Ferdinand I of the Habsburg family defeated Jan Zapolski during the civil war, and the castle of Spis Grad passed to him as the Hungarian king. Although the new owner could not hold the reins, he retained the castle. The castle was sold to a Hungarian merchant and a century later the castle was bought by the Čáky family. The fortress remained in their possession until 1945.

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Spisz Grad had several attempts to seize it, but unsuccessfully. Only the elements of nature had “defeated” it – it was destroyed in a fire in the XVIII century. The owners decided not to rebuild the structure. After the war the castle became Czechoslovak state property, it was declared a national monument and was reconstructed. Today the Spiš Castle is partially open to visitors, and it continues to be reconstructed, with archaeological research being carried out in the area.

Castle tour

Spis Grad is situated on a mountain (height from the foot – 200 meters). It takes about 15-30 minutes to get up to the construction. Along the same steep slope the Tatar and Mongol conquests in the XIII century. By car you can drive up to the parking lot, from which you will have to walk 5 minutes on an asphalt path. The height of the walls is different in different parts – it varies from 20 to 40 meters. Spis Grad consists of the Upper, Middle and Lower Courtyards. Although they are interconnected, they are separate units in the complex of the fortification. Each of them has its own secret passages, walls, and towers. If the enemy conquered any of them, it didn’t guarantee the final victory.

The Middle Court was built first. The lower one was created later, in the XV century. Then a defensive tower and a Romanesque palace were installed, the Upper Court was built. Then added warehouses, a knight’s room and living quarters.

Today you can look at the walls and towers of Spis Grad. There are no customary guides or custodians. Instead, there are guides who appear in the guise of wizards, stargazers, princesses and knights. This helps to create a romantic atmosphere of antiquity. Each group of tourists is guided by a knight in armor, who carries the banner of his unit. Tourists have the opportunity to use an audio guide, but the Russian language is not provided. But there are information booklets translated into different languages.

After entering Spis Grad, guests arrive at the central square. There is a cafe, an archery range and a cash register. Tourists can visit the torture chamber with guns, the armory, climb the tower and walk along the walls.

On the territory of the Lower Courtyard is spacious – kids can run around and climb the cannons. Guests rest on the green lawn, weather permitting, and stroll along the restored part of the fortress wall. There are different areas with animation, contests, songs of the peoples of Slovakia, and a shooting gallery with an opportunity to use medieval weapons. For example, for children there is an animation program about the dragon and the princess. There is a museum of arms inside the castle.

Partially preserved palace, which houses a collection of weapons and restored ancient interiors. Part of the palace premises is allotted under the mini-open-air theater. Tourists are also shown a torture room, and opposite it is a chapel. Between the objects is a narrow corridor. The knight’s hall, where the meal took place, is also preserved.

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The first monumental structure was the donjon tower, made of stone. With it the creation of the Spis Grad began. The tower had several stories, where the owner’s family lived and the guards were located. Only the foundation of the building and remnants of the water tank are preserved. The structure was destroyed in the XIII century because of an earthquake. Most of the castle has not survived, and the ancient structure continues to crumble because of the voids in the rock.

From the highest tower of the Spis Grad you can have a magnificent view. The stairs to the top are narrow and slippery, so shoes that are comfortable and non-slip should be taken. After climbing up the spiral staircase, guests can admire the view: forests, vast fields, meadows and small houses. In the evening the fortification is illuminated.

A trip to the Spiš Castle can be combined with a visit to the Drevenik National Nature Reserve, located nearby. There is an easy hiking route between them, and on the way there is a view of the hills. Often, tours to Spišský Hrad are supplemented with an hour-long hike through Drevenik. A few kilometers from the castle, in a small town, there is a splendid palace, built for the Čaki family, the last owners of Spišské Hrad.

Festivals in Spiš Castle

Concerts, festivals and plays are regularly held in the castle grounds. Officially the Spiš Castle tourist season opens in May, and the castle entertainment program is timed to coincide with it. Every year the Spiš Castle joins the international campaign “Night of Museums” and offers excursions after sunset with free admission. In August there is a festival “Summer in Spišské Hradě”. It includes theater performances, concerts, pottery workshops. During the days of historical reconstructions, the mummers create a special atmosphere.

Opening Hours and Prices

Spiš Castle is open from April to October. During the rest of the year the castle can be admired from outside – the entrance to the castle is closed. Tourists are allowed to stay in the castle from 9 am to 5 pm. The ticket office is available until 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Every first Sunday of the month – free admission. The rest of the time the ticket price is 6 euros for adults, 4 euros for students and seniors, 3 euros for children from 6 to 18 years. It is possible to buy a family ticket (up to 4 people) for 14 euros: for one adult and three children or two adults and two children. For more than one and a half hours you must pay a surcharge.

Guest amenities

There are two parking lots near Spišské Hradě – a paid parking lot at the foot of the castle and a free parking lot on the side opposite the town of Spišské Podhradie. Near the free parking there is a toilet. There is a cafe and souvenir store inside the castle.

How to get there

Buses go to Spišské Hrad from Levoč and Poprad. About 3 km you have to walk on foot. The nearest railway station is only in Spiska Poprad. Travellers by car take the D-1 freeway and turn onto the road leading to the castle.

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