Orava Castle – 700 Years of Slovak Heritage (History & Travel Tips)

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With a long history of aristocratic ownership and a stunning outlook, Orava Castle has become one of the prettiest destinations for history buffs and tourists alike. It’s one of Slovakia’s finest medieval heritages, and below, we’ll look at everything that you need to know about it:

Legend has it that Orava was built by the devil himself, as no man could have been able to construct it in such magnificent might.

The Orava Castle's view uphill.
The Orava Castle’s view uphill.Slovakia-01893 – Orava Castle flickr photo by archer10 (Dennis) shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license
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Frequently Asked Questions

FOR HISTORY | BEAUTIFUL IMAGES | INTERESTING FACTS | TRAVEL TIPS

Early History

Earliest Data

Surrounded by nature and acting as one of Slovakia’s main historical hubs, the site of Orava Castle has shown signs of habitation since the Late Stone Ages. Excavations have revealed that the place where the castle sits today was previously occupied by a fortified elevated settlement (Hallstatt first, and later by Slavonic people), which was later converted into a castle. 

An 1840 painting of Orava Castle.
An 1840 painting of Orava Castle. Slovak National Gallery, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Succession Stories

Orava Castle was mainly built to protect the highly important merchant route that leads into Poland. Therefore, it was an important center for administration and also doubled as a vanguard for the protection of the state borders that ran nearby. This is why its initial owners consisted mainly of sovereigns.

The Balasa family (the first documented owners of Orava) bestowed it to Belo IV, who hired castellans to maintain it. After that, it successively belonged to Matus Cak Trencansky, the Zvolen Counts, and King Charles Robert. After that, it was maintained by a series of high-caliber castellans, starting with Master Štefan of Štiavnica and ending with Peter Komorovský. After a decade as castellan, Orava Castle was given to Komorovsky through a royal donation bill. Peter made a lot of changes through his time as castle keeper, working on a lot of the defense systems and the masonry.

A beautiful painting of Orava Castle from the 1860s.
A beautiful painting of Orava Castle from the 1860s. Thomas Ender, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Peter sold Orava Castle to King Matiáš Hunyad.He later gave it to his illegitimate son Ján Corvinus, who hired exemplary castellans such as Horvath Kišovič and Irnrich Zápoľský to govern the castle. Václav Sedlnický was the last of them, before Orava became the property of the Thurzos.

In the hands of the Thurzos

As one of the richest families in Slovakia, the Thurzos rebuilt and refortified Orava to suit their status. Amongst their refurbishments was the addition of the chapel, a well that was cut into the cliff, a cellar, and a major update to the defense systems of the castle. They also colonized the area extensively. When the Spear side of the Thurzo family died out, inheritance passed through a number of heiresses who hired governors to maintain the castle.

The interior inside Orava Castle.
The interior inside Orava Castle. orava castle flickr photo by .Milan shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Downfall of Orava

Orava Castle suffered a near-fatal catastrophe in the fire of the 1800s when all of the wooden elements were destroyed. Only a few areas from the Lower Castle were salvaged; the Middle and Upper parts were not reconstructed until 1861. In 1868, the very first exhibition was held at the castle under the foundation that aimed to make it a regional museum.

Current Times

It wasn’t until 1914 that all the gothic elements of the Middle Orava Castle were restored, but the most extensive refurbishments were carried out in 1948. 

In 1951, Orava’s museum collections became the property of the State Cultural Propriety, and 1953 saw the whole castle being repurposed as the “All Orava Natural History Museum.”

An aerial view of Orava Castle and its lush surroundings.
An aerial view of Orava Castle and its lush surroundings. Civertan, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Today, Orava Castle is one of the most amazing tourist destinations and museums in Slovakia. With the Knight’s Room, period furnishing, painting gallery, weapons room, and the chapel, it is a catalog of medieval renaissance that is simply begging to be explored.

The stairs at Orava Castle.
The stairs at Orava Castle. orava castle flickr photo by .Milan shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Interesting Orava Castle Facts

  • Orava Castle was used as the filming location for the movie Nosferatu. It was a silent movie released in 1922, where Orava plays the role of a Transylvanian castle where Count Orlok is based.
  • Local students and actors dress up as medieval characters to complete the historic atmosphere of the castle.
  • Legend has it that Orava was built by the devil himself, as no man could have been able to construct it in such magnificent might. 
  • Francis Thurzo, one of the more well-known owners of Orava, was close friends with Elizabeth Bathory, the infamous Bloody Countess of Cachtice Castle.
  • A steep and narrow iron staircase leads to the highest part of the castle. It has an amazing view and is said to be hosting Elizebeth Bathory’s ghost.

Visiting Orava Castle – Tips and Tricks

Orava Castle is certainly a wonderful place to visit and should be a part of your itinerary if you’re exploring Slovakia. Here’s all the information for planning a convenient trip:

The Orava Castle complex in its current state.
The Orava Castle complex in its current state. Miro Svorc, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

How to get to Orava Castle?

The cheapest way to get to Orava Castle from Brastilava, the capital of Slovakia, is by taking the train from Bratislava Hlavna Stanica (journey: 3 hours and 6 minutes) to Kralovany. From there, it’s another 50-minute train ride to Oravsky Podzamok, where you can walk to the Orava Castle in 10 minutes. It will cost you €12-€19 ($13-$21 USD) in total.

You can also drive the 268.3 km (166.7 miles) yourself in 3 hours at the cost of €27-€45 ($30-$50 USD).

Ticket Prices, Visiting Hours & Travel Tips

Orava Castle is open to visitors all-year round, from 9:30 am to 3:00 pm. Ticket prices for the normal 60-minute tour are €9 ($11 USD) for adults and free for a child aged 0-6 that’s accompanied by parents. It’s €4.5 ($6 USD) for a child aged 0-15 in a group (aka school trips), students under 26 years old, and pensioners over 60 years old. 

The shorter tour (30 minutes) can be availed at €7 ($8 USD) for an adult, €3.5 ($4 USD) per person for a group of kids, students, and pensioners.

The full castle tour at 90 minutes long has a price of €13 ($15 USD) for adults, €6.5 ($7 USD) for kids in a group, students under 26, and pensioners.

You can avail of both English and Slovak guided tours.

Rightside view trapdoor at Orava castle.
Rightside view trapdoor at Orava castle. János Korom Dr., CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

How Long Will It Take to Tour Around?

The full castle tour lasts 90 minutes (versus the 30 or 60 minutes shorter tours), but you can always add in an extra half an hour or so for personal exploration.

Some words of advice and tips: 

  • There’s a parking lot down in the village where you can park your car.
  • It costs €3 ($4 USD) to take pictures inside the castle.
  • Do remember to have breakfast before your trip, as you’ll need a lot of energy for the trip.
  • You can visit a local eatery on your way down to revive your energy for the next destination!

Quick Video Tour of The Main Orava Castle Areas

Zunaira Ghazal
Zunaira Ghazal
Zunaira is an architect and designer on paper, but a writer at heart. She’s got a Bachelors in Architecture and a passion for traveling, both of which combine in her writings about timeworn castles and fortresses that have withstood the tests of time and stand proud to this day.

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