Exploring the ruins of Castle DEVIN on the Slovak/ Austria border.

Devin castle is one of Slovakia’s main historical icons and lies only 7 miles from Bratislava city centre but yet has a marvellously secluded and rural vibe.

Clinging to the side of a huge crumbing cliff this imposing ruin sits at the meeting points of the Danube and Morava rivers and the border of Slovakia and Austria. This place has been of strategically and historical importance from the founding of the castle in 864 through to being the frontier of the iron curtain. We headed over to the tiny Slovakian town of Devin to visit this mythical and mysterious place…

Devin Castle, Ruins, Slovakia, Bratislava, Maidens tower, Austria border, Iron Curtain.

History:

Devin castle is actually one of the most important historical sites in Slovakia and as such it has become a national symbol, it even featured on the reverse of the former 500 Czechoslovak Koruna and 50 Halierov Slovak coin. The word “Devin” has even become a synonym for all things typically Slovak!

Devin Castle, Ruins, Slovakia, Bratislava, Maidens tower, Austria border, Iron Curtain

The castle in it’s earliest form dates back as early as the 8th century when a wooden fortification stood on this rocky outcrop. The site was chosen due to it’s raised location along the two major rivers of the Danube and Morava which provided key defensive and lookout opportunities as well as trade control over the waterways.

Devin Castle, Ruins, Slovakia, Bratislava, Maidens tower, Austria border, Iron Curtain

The stone fortress on the 212 meter cliff was built centuries later and added to and improved over hundreds of years to serve as both a palace as well as being a strengthened fortress.

Devin Castle, Ruins, Slovakia, Bratislava, Maidens tower, Austria border, Iron Curtain

The castle at one point or another has been in the hands of various kings, queens, Dukes, knights and nobility in it’s long and complicated history! It has guarded the western frontier of the Hungarian Kingdom in the 13th century. In the 14th century the castle was held by the Dukes of Austria and then King Charles I of Hungary.

Devin Castle, Ruins, Slovakia, Bratislava, Maidens tower, Austria border, Iron Curtain

After changing hands again several times between esteemed families…more dukes and rich investors it became occupied by King Frederick IV of Germany in 1444 and the Palace was added shortly after. The castle even stood firm against the attacking Ottoman empire before being pawned for 40,000 Guilders!

Devin Castle, Ruins, Slovakia, Bratislava, Maidens tower, Austria border, Iron Curtain

The last owners of the castle were the Palffy family, however in 1809 after the siege of Pressburg it was destroyed by Napoleon’s army on direct orders from the man himself. After that the castle stood in ruins and became a monument to the troubled and fascinating history of Slovakia.

Devin Castle, Ruins, Slovakia, Bratislava, Maidens tower, Austria border, Iron Curtain

In the 20th Century the castle yet again became an area of political importance as it stood at the border between the soviet Eastern bloc and the west. Prior to 1989 the border of the iron curtain ran just in front of the castle in a once again heavily fortified and restricted military zone which stood until the Velvet Revolution and the split of Czechoslovakia

Devin Castle, Ruins, Slovakia, Bratislava, Maidens tower, Austria border, Iron Curtain

Exploring the castle:

The bus which had trundled through the tiny village drops you off right at the foot of the castle and the joining of the two rivers. Straight away it’s an unmissable sight, it towers above the town and is what brings the majority of new faces onto it’s peaceful and picturesque streets.

Devin Castle, Ruins, Slovakia, Bratislava, Maidens tower, Austria border, Iron Curtain

The walk up through the carpark was eerily quiet, visiting in March we just missed the start of the season and it was evident that they were starting to gear up for the rush. As much as visiting in the off season can sometimes result in missing a few things, it also brings with it the bonus of seeing this place as serine and idyllic on this bright spring morning. I imagine in the summer the gentle stroll up from the carpark is a sweltering and snaking queue up the hill.

Devin Castle, Ruins, Slovakia, Bratislava, Maidens tower, Austria border, Iron Curtain

We ended up with the castle almost to ourselves apart from a small local family exploring these ruins before the seasonal rush. The price was half the advertised cost as some of the museums ended up being closed and a section of the Castle was shut for renovation (although of course we jumped the barrier for a look anyway and almost died!) However in all honesty after seeing almost as many relics and rediscovered treasures in various museums across both Bratislava and Vienna over the past week it wasn’t something which we felt too disappointed by!

Devin Castle, Ruins, Slovakia, Bratislava, Maidens tower, Austria border, Iron Curtain

The castle has a real grand feel to it, wandering around these ruins you get the sense of the history of the place, it’s strategical importance clear to see from the impressive views down on the town below to one side and the merging rivers to the other. It’s obvious why such an imposing position was chosen and the advantage this amazing panoramic view would afford.

Devin Castle, Ruins, Slovakia, Bratislava, Maidens tower, Austria border, Iron Curtain

The castle in fact feels much bigger than what in reality is left of it. The scale of the cliff and the rural riverside edge create a feeling of splendor and a quite romantic atmosphere. The day we visited the weather was glorious and the fantastic cloud formations over the rolling landscape added to the feeling of magnitude.

Devin Castle, Ruins, Slovakia, Bratislava, Maidens tower, Austria border, Iron Curtain

Exploring the labyrinth of this National cultural monument it was a strange but cool feeling to be stood in Slovakia looking over the river into Austria, something which we haven’t experienced in this way before, especially when crossing that border is actually harder than it looks given the fast current of the river and the lack of bridges for miles and really brings the legacy of the Iron curtain into focus.

Devin Castle, Ruins, Slovakia, Bratislava, Maidens tower, Austria border, Iron Curtain

The river banks & Iron curtain:

Alongside the castle is a multitude of cycle and hiking trails that follow alongside the rivers and again have a peaceful and ambient atmosphere in which to enjoy the natural beauty of the area. Walking alongside the river you will find the memorial to the victims of communism who died trying to flea into Austria. It’s bullet holed gateway symbolising Slovakia’s escape and subsequent independence.

Devin Castle, Ruins, Slovakia, Bratislava, Maidens tower, Austria border, Iron Curtain

If you have time the area also has over 20km of cycle paths which run through a stork reserve, wetlands and the wonderful Slovakian countryside. Otherwise there is also much to explore on foot, the first thing you will come across along the riverbanks is the striking “Maiden’s town” which is the most well know feature of this mythical castle. It also serves for the basis of many legends and myths about beautiful imprisoned virgins jumping to their deaths…

Devin Castle, Ruins, Slovakia, Bratislava, Maidens tower, Austria border, Iron Curtain

Wandering around the picturesque town:

The town of Devin itself is well worth a wander around, it is home to only around 1000 inhabitants and has a real village like feel. The narrow winding streets are lined with a mixture of small traditional housing as well as larger gated villas. There is also a beautiful old church standing proudly in the tiny centre and a few local shops to explore.

Devin Castle, Ruins, Slovakia, Bratislava, Maidens tower, Austria border, Iron Curtain

Devin is known for it’s rural charm and it characterised by it’s hillside apartments, crumbing farms and lines of vineyards. It quiet ambiance is a wonderful departure from the city centre and a trip to the castle in complimented with a stroll around this tiny village. There also seemed to be dogs in pretty much every single garden… which we loved!!

Devin Castle, Ruins, Slovakia, Bratislava, Maidens tower, Austria border, Iron Curtain

How to get to Devin from Bratislava:

It is possible to take a ferry from Bratislava to Devin from April through to the end of the main season from the main harbour just a short walk from the Novy Most Bridge (UFO bridge) but it relatively expensive for what it is at €10 each way and taking over an hour.

However we took this bus which only takes around about 20 mins and costs only €0.70 and takes a route which follows the meandering river through the outskirts of the city and little villages before heading through the heart of Devin town and dropping you in the Castle carpark.

Devin Castle, Ruins, Slovakia, Bratislava, Maidens tower, Austria border, Iron Curtain

By bus:

City buses 28 and 29 run from the Novy Most bridge (The UFO bridge and main bus station on the Old town side of the river). They run twice per hour, bus 29 terminates below the castle and 28 continues past the village so be sure to alight at Devin.

The bus takes around about 15-20 mins and costs only €0.70, buy a ticket at one of the machines before boarding and validate with a time stamps once on board, or if not you can also buy tickets from the driver.

By boat:

To take the boat head over to the main offices on the harbour, a 10 min walk from the Novy Most bridge. There are several companies who operate these routes from ferries to hydrofoils. Some are operated by as day trips which also call at the town of Hainburg just over in Austria too and others are seasonal tourist boats. Expect to pay at least above €10.

Devin Castle, Ruins, Slovakia, Bratislava, Maidens tower, Austria border, Iron Curtain

Cost:

Entrance to the castle in the season is only €3 but in the off season it cost us each only €1.50, add that to the fact that the bus only cost us €0.70 and this is a great value trip out of the city. We headed to the nearest pub afterwards too and had the nicest veggie burger and chips ever and along with some drinks and a great atmosphere cost us only €10 each!

Devin Castle, Ruins, Slovakia, Bratislava, Maidens tower, Austria border, Iron Curtain

Opening hours:

The castle is open pretty much day light hours throughout the year and despite several internet sources which claimed the castle was totally shut in the off season it is open but just runs slightly shorter hours. If you get there for just after the 10am opening time you will have more than enough time to see everything.

The castle is open April – October (10.00 – 16.30), Mondays are closed.
Winter/ Off season (10.00- 15.30)
During summer season (May – Sep), castle closes at 17.30.

Devin Castle, Ruins, Slovakia, Bratislava, Maidens tower, Austria border, Iron Curtain

Have you ever visited?

Check out our guide to Bratislava here Charming and Contrasting Bratislava

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Nicola Hilditch-Short

Nic is one half of the Roaming Renegades, a passionate traveller, climber, adventurer, photographer and artist who has a B.A in Fine Art and M.A in Design & Art Direction.