Spis Castle – how to visit one of Europe’s largest castle ruins

Spis Castle in Slovakia is one of the largest castle complexes in Europe, yet it stays under the radar for most travelers.

Although only a restored ruin and a museum remain, locals told me it still had a lot to offer. I decided to visit on my way from Kosice to the High Tatra mountains.

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History of Spis Castle

At 41,426 m2, Spis is the largest castle in Slovakia and one of the largest in Europe. Spis Castle, also known as Spissky Castle and Spišský hrad in Slovak, started as a single tower in 1113.

It was enlarged to protect the wealthy Spiš area, which was then part of the Hungarian empire.

In the span of the following 600 years, it acquired its great size, and in that time it had several owners, including Hungarian kings, the Szápolyi family, the Thurzo family, and the Csáky family. Since 1945 Spiš Castle is owned by Slovakia.

The castle was destroyed by a fire around 1780 and gradually fell into ruins until 1970.

At present it has a museum, a tower, and a torture dungeon, and movies like Dragonheart (1996) with Dennis Quaid and The Last Legion (2007) with Colin Firth and Ben Kingsley were filmed here.

In 1993, the castle became a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Spis castle, Slovakia
View from the main entrance road
Spis castle, Slovakia

Where to find the best views of Spis

Spis Castle is located on a hill which gives you a great view of the castle itself and its beautiful surroundings. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the High Tatras

From the tower

The Slovakia castle is towering and beautiful from the village and it’s just as pretty from the top.

I walked around the castle and got some pretty sweet views from the enormous window sections, but the best view was from the tower. You can almost imagine the castle lords scouting for enemies, who could be spotted many miles away.

If you climb the tower, expect poor lightning and a lot of steep walking on uneven surfaces. In return, you’ll get outstanding views of the castle grounds and the countryside.

Drive around the castle

Before driving up to the castle, I drove around it to take pictures from all angles. I really recommend it as the views change.

Spis castle, Slovakia
Spis castle, Slovakia
I’m spotting the High Tatras
Spis castle, Slovakia
Panoramic view from the tower
Spis castle, Slovakia
And this is the tower
Spis castle, Slovakia
Spis castle, Slovakia

Spis torture dungeon

Like any other self-respecting castle, Spis castle also has a torture chamber, and a quite inventive one I might add. I got the opportunity to tour the castle and see firsthand the torture devices still inside.

From excruciating medieval weapons to an entire room filled with bona fide instruments of torture, it’s not difficult to imagine what went on here.

Prisoners could be left for days in this room, with no one to hear them scream but the cold stone walls.

I mean this in all seriousness; people of the Middle Ages were alarmingly creative. How do you come up with making The Wheel for example?

This torture device had the prisoner strapped to a wheel and slowly turned over a fire. The few moments of relief at the top of the turn gave him (or her) a chance to confess their crimes before the wheel brought them back over the scorching flames.

I didn’t see this particular device at Spis Castle, but it made me wonder. You had to be a sadist or someone who laughs at horrible things to invent and use torture instruments like these.

Spis castle, Slovakia
Spis castle, Slovakia

Weaponry, chapel, and chamber

After the dungeon, I went to the castle’s chapel, St. Elisabeth, which is very small with tall, arched windows.

In the castle museum is also a replica of a bedroom with a bed, chair and what looks like a medieval preacher chair. I particularly liked the dragon figures on the bed; a symbol I’ve seen a lot in Slovenia and Romania.

I liked the museum, and it did its job by showing how life was in the Middle Ages.

Although Spis Castle largely is a ruin, you still get an idea of what it looked like and how life was back in the day.

Spis castle, Slovakia
Chapel of St Elisabeth
Spis castle, Slovakia
Spis castle, Slovakia
Spis castle, Slovakia
Spis castle, Slovakia

Spišska Kapitula

Another UNESCO site nearby is Spišska Kapitula. A walled city from 1245, known as the Slovak Vatican.

The small, medieval town consists of St. Martin’s Cathedral, a former monastery, and a single street. It’s not as impressive as Spis Castle, but it’s worth a visit when you’re in the area. 

Pro tip: From the lower gate, walk a little further to get a beautiful and extensive view of Spišska Kapitula and Spis castle in the background ↓

Spis castle, Slovakia

How to get to Spis Castle

Spis Castle is located in the town of Spišské Podhradie. You can reach Spis Castle by car, bus and train. Just be aware that several towns in the area begin with Spis, which can seem confusing.

By car: The castle is 5-10 minutes from the parking lot.

By bus:  Take a direct bus from Kosice (1.45 hours) or Poprad (55 min). Find bus schedules here: www.cp.sk. If you arrive by bus, you can walk from the village of Spišské Podhradie. It’s up a good slope and takes about an hour.

By train: There are no direct trains from Kosice, Poprad, or Bratislava. But Spišské Podhradie does have a train station. Find train schedules here: www.cp.sk

Spis castle, Slovakia
View from the village Spišské Podhradie

Tips for visiting Spis

Entrance fee

  • Admission fee 5€ (adult). There’s also a night tour!
  • Audio guides are available for a fee.

Opening hours

The season runs from March – October. Find more information here.

  • Opening hours: March – April: 10-16, and May – October: 9-19
  • Spis Castle is closed during winter
  • Get there before 10 am to avoid “the crowds” (this is off-the-path so it never gets really crowded)

General tips

Here are a few general travel tips for visiting Spis Castle:

  • Free Parking
  • Dogs are allowed on a leash
  • The castle is not handicap friendly as there are quite a few steps
Spis castle, Slovakia
Spis castle, Slovakia

A thousand thanks to Martin from Kosice Region Turizmus for showing me around Kosice Region. I was a guest, but all opinions are my own as always.

FAQ – Spiš Castle Slovakia

What is a fun fact about Spis Castle?

A fun fact about Spiš Castle: it’s one of the largest castle sites in Central Europe and was a filming location for the movie “Dragonheart.”

Who owned Spis Castle?

Spiš Castle was owned by various rulers over the centuries, including the Kings of Hungary, and it played a major role in the history of Hungary and Slovakia.

How do you get to the Spis Castle?

To get to Spiš Castle, you can drive from nearby towns like Spišské Podhradie or use public transport from larger cities like Košice.

What is the oldest castle in Slovakia?

The oldest castle in Slovakia is Bratislava Castle, with parts dating back to the 9th century, serving as a central part of the city’s skyline and history.

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Spis castle Slovakia. Slovakia aesthetic. Slovakia photography. Europe. Things to do in Slovakia. What to do in Slovakia. Slovakia attractions. Slovakia itinerary.
Spis castle Slovakia. Slovakia aesthetic. Slovakia photography. Europe. Things to do in Slovakia. What to do in Slovakia. Slovakia attractions. Slovakia itinerary.

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  1. I’ve seen the castle so many times (from the train, the car or I simply was in Spisske Podhradie) yet I never made it inside the walls. The closest I was couple of years ago in March but of course it was close :/ and I climbed all the way up on the icy path! 😉 Guess I have to return for the 10th or so time and finally see it inside! It looks amazing!

    1. Hehe, it sure is worth the (10th) trip 😉 If you do make it there, be sure to get the audio guide so you can hear the history. It makes all the difference.

  2. You mentioned when the season opens. Could you tell me when it closes for the winter? I really enjoyed the insight of your visit and I plan on going in October 2018. Thanks

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