Spissky Hrad & Levoca
Levoca, Spissky and the Associated Cultural Monuments comprise a group of religious, military and civil medieval buildings that have integrally survived.
Spissky Hrad (Spis Castle) dates from the early 13th century and is the biggest surviving castle of Central and Eastern Europe. It is strategically located on a limestone hill and was originally built as a defence against Tatar invasions. In later centuries it has seen many additions and alterations. The castle has both Romanesque and Gothic elements. It burned down in 1780 and is now in ruins.
The ‘surrounding monuments’ that are also part of the designated world heritage, and date from roughly the same period as the castle, include:
- the town center of Spisske Podhradie
- the complex of religious buildings in Spisska Kapitula
- the Church of the Holy Spirit in Zehra
During the WHC session of 2009, the town of Levoca was also added to this WHS. It is particularly known for the polychromatic wooden masterpieces of Master Paul, which are characteristic of the Late Gothic. They include Europe's highest altar (dated ca. 1520).
Visit May 2008
This for sure is the most popular tourist attraction in Slovakia. There’s a large car park, a 135 SK entree fee, souvenir shops and you can get drinks and snacks at the inner castle courtyard. Be aware though that like many other sights in Slovakia it is closed between the months of November and April. You’ll have to make do then with the majestic view of it from across the surrounding plains. Which possibly is the best part of the visit anyway.
For those who can get in it is wise to wear sensible shoes. First there’s the uphill walk to the castle itself, and its interior isn’t paved either. It’s kind of a climbing experience because it’s just all ruins. It is possible climb the remaining residential tower. Some of the best preserved rooms at the back hold a little museum with the usual medieval castle displays of canons, guns and armour. There’s also an original chapel.
I didn’t visit any of the towns inscribed together with the castle (bit fed up with churches), but chose Levoca instead. This city about 15kms away is currently proposed as an extension to the Spis WHS. Its central square has a definite Italian flair because of the many Renaissance buildings. But what I really came to see is its remarkable wrought-iron ‘Cage of Shame’. This is were the local 16th century Protestants kept their women that wouldn’t behave!
More photos can be found in the Picture Gallery
|john booth (New Zealand):|
A number of interesting buildings are included within this site. I reached four of the locations:
Levoca : The centre of the old town is the Namesti Majstra Pavla, and around this verdant open space are a number of private and public buildings. The Cage of Shame stands outside St James' church. I reached Levoca by bus from Poprad-Tatry station
Spisska Kapitula : a majestic cathedral on a hilltop surrounded by monastic buildings, reached by bus from Levoca.
Spisske Podhradie : a short walk down the hill from the cathedral, this village contains many interesting buildings. It can be accessed by train and bus.
Spisske Hrad : much has been written about this magnificent building already.
| Date posted: December 2012|
|Klaus Freisinger (Austria):|
Spis Castle and Levoca are probably Slovakia's finest and most impressive tourist attractions. Levoca is a very pretty town with a large main square featuring several very interesting buildings, including the large Church of St. James with the altar by Master Paul. The town is surrounded by well-preserved walls. Spis Castle, or Spissky Hrad, is a fascinating and very large castle about a 25-minute drive from Levoca, partly in ruins but still an impressive sight. It is set on a steep hill and overlooks the surrounding area for many kilometres around. The castle consists of several courtyards and distinct buildings, but you have to watch your step on the slippery walkways. Very close to the castle is Spisska Kapitula, a Gothic cathedral in a religious complex that is definitely worth adding to your visit. The WH site also includes the town of Spisske Podhradie (between the castle and the cathedral) and the church in Zehra (about 3 km away). I saw both of them from a bus, but I don't think they would add a lot to the experience. The castle, the cathedral, and the town of Levoca make this a great site.
| Date posted: June 2011|
|Assif Am-David (Israel):|
Spissky Hrad is close to a small village named Zehra in the church of which beautiful frescoes were descovered. This church is also covered by the Unesco title. Booklets are found in English and German. As I was there (summer 2007) a lady was sitting in the church awaiting visitors. She had so much to say about the church (in English!) that we literally had to ask for permition to get out (but don't be afraid - Slovaks are extremely kind to visitors). I would definitely recommend a visit if you are at the Spissky Hrad. Another beautiful nearby town is Levoca (Leutschau) where you can admire the work of the local artist Master Paul. Don't miss the local Townhall which can also be visited from the inside.
|Christer Sundberg (Sweden):|
The castle ruin of Spissky Hrad should – if I was the Tourist Minister - really be the logotype of the country. Spissky Hrad is the biggest castle ruin in central Europe and an absolute must-see for anyone travelling in Slovakia.
You can spot the ruin from miles away where it sits on its hill-top, standing out like a beacon, overlooking a landscape that ends far away with the snow covered peaks of the Tatra Mountains. It is both spectacular and photogenic.
The castle was built in the early 12th century by Hungarian Kings and many royal families have lived here through the years until the Csaky family took over in 1636 but quickly decided that a hill-top castle was not there type of life and instead built a modern mansion in the valley. In 1780 the castle burnt down and has been deserted ever since.
Arriving to the small village of Spissky Podhradie is possible by train and the climb uphill to the castle starts more or less by the train station. It’s a tough one-hour walk uphill until you reach the gates and then you still have far to climb to reach the top of the old Gothic Tower from where you have a brilliant view over the landscape. If you come by car you can cheat and drive round the back of the castle and get almost up to the eastern entrance. Finding a taxi is easier said than done in this small village though.
Opposite the castle on a lower hill-top you find the Spissky Kapitula, sometimes described as the Vatican of Slovakia with its nice Cathedral and many monasteries that now has been turned into hotels or B&B’s. A few kilometres away, and also included in the World Heritage, is the small church of Zehra with unique frescos from the 12th century. At the time of my visit this one was closed for refurbishing but its still a nice one from outside.
| Date posted: September 2006|
|Peter Sebesta (Australia.):|
A Slovak friend of mine originally from Poprad Slovakia, and living in Australia at the time told me i must visit this beautiful place. In May 2005 i saw what i can only be descibed as something out of Camelot. No sooner stepping out of the train, a one car rail car, i looked up to see a magnificent sight perched on the hill called Spissky Hrad. The view is stunning going up and from the old towers and walkways the scenic outlook is just one of the best. You could really picture yourself there a few hundred years ago. In thirty years of travelling the world i rate this the number one. The worst thing was that my trusted SLR camera, 25 years old finally called it a day, so a photographic memory will have to remind me of that great experience.
| Date posted: November 2005|
|Rob Wilson (UK):|
This castle joins my list of what I consider the very finest of the WHSs. It is right up there with the Taj Mahal.
A truly stunning ruin that is in excellent condition.
This is not to say it is perfect - the is rather a lot of modern metal junk lying around in one particular part that should be removed at the earliest possible opportunity.
See this place before it gets really discovered!
| Date posted: July 2005|
|cliff jones (Isle of wight England):|
As an englishman and somewhat spoilt for choice in historic castles i was not over excited when my fiance (now wife)from Presov,suggested we visit.
all that changed when Spissky Hrad came into view, it is a truly amazing structure and i do not believe i have seen a castle to match its splendour and sheer presence when viewed from afar.
i have since visited the castle in summer and winter and it is allways breathtaking, i love the place and like an earlier comment show it off at every chance
|Lubi Witt (USA):|
I presently live in Kansas City, but I was born in Slovakia. In 1996 I visited my parents who live very close to Spissky castle. One afternoon I decided to go and see the castle with my family members because I planned it for years. I took several pictures during our visit and whenever I have a chance to show them here in Kansas City to my friends or aquintances they are amazed how unique and beautiful this place is. It makes me feel good that UNESCO took notice of the castle because this "jewel" of Eastern Slovakia, so dear to my heart, is heritage not just to Slovaks but to the whole world.
|Bibiana Kurta (USA):|
I am originally from Spisska Nova Ves. Its a city very close to Spissky Hrad.
We used to go there almost every months just to walk around this beautiful castle and pretend we were princesses and kings...
The view from Spissky Hrad is amazing and unforgotabe.
If you ever get to visit Slovakia dont miss this magnificent part of it.
Its worth it.
|Kelly Theien (United States of America):|
I visited Spissky Hrad on a grey drisly day at the end of April of 1999. The museum wasn't open yet for the season, but they allowed us to walk around the castle. It was amazing to see. I have never been more excited to tour a building in my life. Just walking up to this huge ruin was impressive. My mother and I walked up a long muddy trail through a farmer's field, almost straight uphill through the mud to get from the town to the castle. It really made it feel like you were back in time. Not to mention you got a really great workout :) Once in the castle, you were able to wander through the various rooms and courtyards and imagine what they were like before the fire. This was my favorite part of the two months I spent in Slovakia.
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