With its teal-topped turrets and warm stone façade oozing fantasy, Slovakia’s Bojnice Castle will take your breath away.
The castle is one of the most visited in the world, welcoming hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. Its breathtaking fairytale aesthetic has also made it a popular filming location for fantasy movies.
Perched on a rocky hill overlooking the town of Bojnice, 167 miles northeast of the country’s capital, Bratislava, Bojnice Castle began its life as a wooden structure. It was developed into a stone castle by the Poznan family in the 13th century, according to the website of the Slovak National Museum, passing through several aristocratic families into the 14th and 15th centuries.
In 1527, King Ferdinand I gifted the castle to Alexej Thurzo, whose family gave the gothic building a renaissance transformation. The castle’s last aristocratic owner, Count Jan Frantisek Palfi, decided to revert the estate to a more romantic, neo-Gothic aesthetic with the help of architect Jozef Hubert.
The neo-Gothic rebuilding took 22 years, from 1889 to 1910. Since 1950, Bojnice Castle has been a heritage site and part of the Slovak National Museum.
Offering day and night tours, the castle boasts a “golden hall” with an angel-adorned ceiling in gold foil, an armory with swords, maces, and suits of armor, and a castle moat, a space now used to host events and wedding ceremonies. The area surrounding the castle contains a purpose-planted “natural park,” the Bojnice Zoo, and the 700-year-old King Matthias Linden Tree, one of the oldest-recorded trees in Slovakia.
The site also hosts the annual International Festival of Ghosts and Spirits, owing to a rich legend pertaining to prior residents of the castle.
As the legend goes, according to Every Castle, a lord and military leader and his wife, known as the Black Lady, were happy and successful until jealous relatives told the lord that his wife had been unfaithful. Enraged, he decided to test her virtue: she was ordered to jump from the castle’s highest tower into the moat with their newborn child. If she survived, she was innocent.
The Black Lady is said to have jumped, and floated, as the spiteful relatives disappeared in a puff of smoke. To this day, she is said to wander the halls and stairs of the castle in black clothing, mourning the tragedies of the past.
The romance, history, and fantasy of Bojnice Castle embody a timeless sentiment, which has made the castle a top tourist destination, according to polls worldwide.