You might know that I was born in a tiny town in Eastern Slovakia and logically, out of our small country I’ve mostly traveled around its Eastern part. But a few weeks ago, I finally found time to revisit Central Slovakia. Usually I go there to the mountains but on my last trip I dedicated time to history, too. So grateful for strolling around top castles in Central Slovakia.
I was there with a friend from a Slovak blog Nie je tura bez Stura, who is also crazy about castles, which made it easy to pick locations to visit. Every day we found another beautiful castle to explore. There’s so many in such a small territory!
Useful local words in Slovak: Castle is called ”hrad”. And ”kastiel” means manor-house.
Top 10 castles in Central Slovakia
Similarly to English, also in my mother tongue we use different words for castles, fortresses, mansions and manor-houses but I decided to include them all on this list. If you like visiting historical buildings such as castles, it would be a shame if I didn’t mention also manor-houses and marvelous mansions in the area, right? But to make it clear, I use the original Slovak names too together with the English translations.
1. Deserted castle Zvolen
The oldest part of the Deserted castle dates back to the end of the 12th century. Its original part was called Dončov hrad (the Donc castle) and then other parts were constructed mostly in the 13th and 15th centuries. Nowadays, the castle has Upper castle (”Horny hrad” with the main entrance) and Lower castle (”Dolny hrad”) which is now being reconstructed.
In the present, the castle is called ”Pusty hrad” in Slovak. It translates as Deserted or Abandoned castle in English. You can get up there walking, cycling or by car from Zvolen. In summer months different events take place at the castle.
I put this castle on the first place because it has the nicest view out of all the castles on this list. It’s possible to see the whole Zvolen town and surrounding villages from up there. Pusty hrad is my very favorite castle in Central Slovakia, indeed. Walking around it you will notice that it makes so much sense why the Deserted castle was built right on this hill and not any of the others in the area. Its strategic location above the Hron and the Slatina rivers helped to protect the castle until the 17th century.
The Medieval Zvolen castle, called ”Zvolensky zamok” in Slovak was built in the second half of the 14th century as a hunting residence of Hungarian Kings. Initially, it was a Gothic castle inspired by the architecture of Italian castles. Over the centuries parts of the castle were erected also in Renaissance and Baroque style. Until the 17th century the castle belonged to the Hungarian Royal families, then to a wealthy aristocratic local family and since 1805 it’s been the property of the Slovak republic country.
If you show a photo of the Zvolen castle to any Slovak person, they will all know where it’s located thanks to its unique architecture, mostly the roof.
In the present the Zvolen castle is located right in the heart of Zvolen town. You can get there walking from the city center within a few minutes. It’s even visible from the main square. The Zvolen castle hosts the largest collection of paintings in Slovakia which belongs to the Slovak National Gallery. On our last trip we did not have time to go inside but only walked around the castle. However, if you are into paintings, then you can visit the exhibitions with paintings from the 13th to 21st centuries. The gallery is open from Wednesdays to Sundays from 10 am to 5.30 pm (all days except Mondays and Tuesdays).
I found it very interesting to revisit the castle after many years. The first and the last time I’d been there was on a school trip. Ever since I’d only passed by the castle by car or train but the castle still looks the same to me.
*There’s entrance fee if you want to visit the gallery. Otherwise you can walk around or even visit the courtyard for free.
”Hrad Dobra Niva” can be found above Podzamcok village on a nice tiny hill. It carries the name of the nearby village Dobra Niva, but the access to it is by the road from Podzamcok village. The castle was built in the late 13th century but first mentioned in local documents in the very beginning of the 14th century. In late 17th century the stone castle had a big fortified wall, a bastion and 2 entrance gates.
Unfortunately, just one wall was preserved but it’s so perfectly renovated that it’s worth a visit. The whole area is lovely, with beautiful trees and pretty grass (if you visit from spring to fall).
*There’s no entrance fee.
Dobra Niva castle seen from Podzamcok village
4. Slovenska Lupca castle
Half of the big white castle with gray and red roof dates back to the mid-13th century. The other half was constructed from the 16th to 19th century. Originally, the medieval castle guarded the trade route Via Magna leading to the East.
The Lupca castle is situated on a limestone cliff above the village of Slovenska Lupca (spelled correctly as Ľupča in Slovak). Until the 17th century the castle was a seat of the Austro-Hungarian Kings. Then different aristocratic families lived there, also a Polish knight, and it was even the seat of an orphanage.
One of the many legends says that a young girl Verona living in the castle did not fall in love with the man she was forced to marry so she jumped out of the castle tower instead. Her ghost has been haunting the castle ever since.
Since the Lupca castle became a private property in 2002, it has been almost completely renovated. The castle is a lot bigger than it looks like from the main road. There’s also a chapel, torture chamber, and exposition of ceramics and furniture from the mid-17th century. When visiting the castle, remember to check out the 700-year-old lime tree (linden / tilia tree) under which the King Matthias Corvinus loved to sit. The Corvinus’s lime tree is now an important natural monument.
Parts of the Lupca castle are open to visitors. In summer months of July and August the castle is open from 10 am to 3.30 pm daily, except Mondays and state holidays. Other months you need to call them or send them an email at least one day ahead. More info about the Lupca castle is here. You can only enter with a guide.
5. Hronsek manor-house
The Baroque manor-house was built with 4 bastions in 1775. The manor-house is located in a nice garden in Hronsek village. If you pay a visit there, remember to look at 2 old important trees: a lime-tree (linden/tilia) and an oak tree. Both are more than 200 years old. The manor-house is open to visitors every year on the second Saturday in May during the village celebrations. Otherwise you can walk around it and admire its interesting rococo facade and the garden. The building has been beautifully reconstructed into a real eye-candy.
6. Water castle Hronsek
The Water (moated) castle, called ”Vodny hrad Hronsek” in Slovak is the oldest existing two-storey stone building in Slovakia. The original Gothic castle was built by the aristocratic Geczy family to protect the area during the Ottoman expansion in the 14th century. Later on from 1576 to 1612 the castle was rebuilt in Renaissance style and now it looks like a mixture of castle and mansion. The cellars served as prison first, later the place of coin manifacture and after that simply to store food.
Part of the fortification was removed in 1920’s. The castle has been always surrounded by a water ditch. Thankfully, after being in ruins for many years, it’s been under restoration since 2002. Its owner, a Slovak historian, is really trying to restore the castle in the best way possible, the important wall paintings included. Nowadays the Water castle Hronsek is a place of some events and the plan is to finish a hotel with a restaurant there. Fingers crossed! It will be a very unique place to stay 🙂
The castle is located in Hronsek, a small village with only 700 inhabitants. If you are visiting, also check out the manor-house I mentioned above and the UNESCO Wooden Protestant church close-by. They are both magical 🙂
7. Dolna Micina manor-house
The late 16th century ”Dolna Micina kastiel” is the landmark of the village Dolná Mičiná. Unfortunately, the Renaissance manor-house with late-Baroque modifications is closed to the public and can be seen only from the outside. We only checked it from below the hill but if it was renovated, it would be a perfectly cute romantic hotel.
By the way, I am looking for sponsors that would renovate the manor-house and invite me there for a visit then 🙂 Let me know if you know of someone 😀
If you are in the area, go check out the Micina travertine (”Micinske travertiny”). Bring your water bottle to fill it in with the spring water next to the travertines.
8. Banska Bystrica town castle
When visiting Banska Bystrica, the largest city in Central Slovakia, you will notice a big church-style building not far from the Clock Tower next to the main square. In the 13th century this building was a parish church first, then it was part of the town castle. The castle was built gradually over centuries and consisted of 4 bastions, onion-shaped towers and fortifications. It was built to protect the income which the Royal family gathered from silver and copper mines.
Nowadays the town castle is a restaurant. Yes, you hear me right. It still looks like a church from outside so many people get confused when they hear there should be a town castle in Banska Bystrica. I was also wondering what my friend meant when he mentioned a castle in the city. I was like ”you mean this church?”
9. Grand Viglas
If I’m not mistaken, Grand Viglas is the only one out of these castles and manor-houses where you can actually stay overnight. At least when I wrote the article it was that way. The original 13th century castle above the village Viglas is now a wellness hotel with 55 rooms and apartments, restaurants, saunas, a jacuzzi and a small swimming pool.
We stayed there just one night but I loved it. It’s so awesome to sleep in a king size bed in a big romantic castle room. Wandering around the hallways will bring you back in time. Even if you are not staying at the hotel, you can go there for the castle guided visit.
10. Zolna manor-house
Zolna is a small village in Central Slovakia with a lovely fortified church. Just a few metres in front of the church, closer to the main road, we can find a simple manor-house from the 14th century. It’s not open to visitors right now as it’s under a slow renovation. If it was open, we could find interesting Gothic portals inside. But if you have Zolna village on the way, go check out the square looking manor-house at least from the outside.
Lubietova town castle ruins can be seen next to the white Town Hall in the village of Lubietova.
TIP: Did you enjoy the post? Then you should definitely pay a visit to my home country. Besides breath-taking castles, here’s another 9 reasons to visit Slovakia 😉
*I could visit all these castles in Central Slovakia thanks to Central Slovakia tourist board. Thanks for an incredible and very interesting trip which took me back in history. To find out more about the area and other things to do in there, check out Central Slovakia website.
Alex is a crazy Slovak girl who made traveling the reason of her life. In March 2011 she quit her stewardess job and hasn't stopped ever since. Her motto is ''I live to travel, I travel to live.'' She writes about crazy travel, fun adventures and sexy photos.
Alex is a crazy Slovak girl who made traveling the reason of her life. In 2010 she quit her stewardess job and hasn't stopped traveling ever since. Her motto is ''I live to travel, I travel to live.'' She writes about crazy travel, fun adventures and sexy photos. Alex is also a raw vegan specialist, fitness health coach and yoga teacher.