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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
The river banks & 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…
Wandering around the picturesque town:
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!!
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.