1st January - 31st March– 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, each Monday closed. Last tour begins at 4:00pm
1st April - 16th November – 10:00 am – 6:00 pm, each Monday closed. Last tour begins at 5:00 pm
17th November - 31st December - 9:00 am - 5:00 pm, each Monday closed. Last tour begins at 4:00 pm
The castle tour can be chosen from two alternatives
The alternative A: the treasury and castle tour
The alternative B: the treasury tour
€ 7 - the alternative A
€ 2 - the alternative B
Pupils and students
€ 4 - the alternative A
€ 1- the alternative B
€ 4 - the alternative A
€ 1- the alternative B
2 € *
Guided tour in English language or German language - 15 € per group
The strategic heights above the Danube channel and the crossroads of long distance roads have been settled since prehistoric times. In the 9th century the site was built up into a hill fort as a part of Great Moravia, one of its true centres of power, a centre for religious organizations and an important defensive reinforced embankment structure that stretched along the edges of the flat top of castle hill. The site is first mentioned under the name Brezalauspurc in the Annals of Salzburg dating to 907 in connection with a battle between the Bavarians and ancient Hungarians, which foreshadowed the definitive end of Great Moravia. The fortress was expanded and retained its importance after the area of Slovakia was added to the Hungarian Kingdom as an important county castle and the most important centre of Árpád-dynasty power along its western border.
Bratislava Castle even managed to hold off the Tartar hordes which overran the area from 1241 to 1242. Major changes in castle building took place at this time in Hungary. They began to build stone fortresses using proven examples from the west. In 1245 King Bela IV rewarded a group of vassals from the garrison at Bratislava Castle for building a large square keep in the place of older palaces, the first structure of the early-Gothic castle to come; in 1261 this site hosted the wedding of King Přemysl Otakar II of Bohemia and Princess Kunigunda, the grand-daughter of Hungarian ruler Bela IV and was the site of battles until the end of the 13th century between Hungarian and Bohemian soldiers and the conflict between the Hungarian King and Austrian Duke Albrecht I.
With the death of Louis I., Sigismund of Luxemburg was crowned as the Hungarian King in 1387 and later became Holy Roman Emperor; he selected Bratislava Castle as one of his three primary residences. Bratislava administrators, the Rozgonyi brothers, ordered the construction of the first masonry battlements around the circumference of the older embankments in the 1520s. The older keep was demolished in 1431 (today a part is marked in the pavers inside the castle's courtyard) and the early-Gothic castle was replaced by a grander structure with four wings in the style of an Italian manor house with a preserved ancient donjon incorporated into the south-western corner, which later became the Crown Tower. A more clear idea of the layout of this late-Gothic fortress is provided by the Sigismund Gate, which survived later changes in relatively original condition.
As the end of August 1526, the Hungarian army suffered a catastrophic defeat to the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Mohács, with King Louis II also lost in the battle. The royal court, following instructions prepared just for such a contingency, moved from Buda to Bratislava Castle. The new leader of the country became Archduke of Austria Ferdinand and the castle above the Danube then became a part of the domain of the House of Habsburg. While the castle had protected Hungary against attack from the west during the entire Middle Ages, the castle now played an important role in protecting Vienna from Ottoman expansion. Bratislava became the centre of political and religious life in the area and was the coronation site for Hungarian kings. These changes resulted in structural and visual changes to the castle as well.
A second round of anti-Habsburg rebellions in Hungary broke out in 1619. Prince Gabriel Bethlen of Transylvania advanced with a large army and occupied Bratislava in the middle of October, taking with it the castle and the crown treasure kept in the Crown Tower. The rebels held out until May of 1621, when Imperial General Bucquoy with support from heavy artillery units conquered the castle and Bethlen was forced to signs the Peace of Nikolsburg. At that time the Pálffy family became the de facto administrators of Bratislava County and the hereditary captains of the castle. The Diet declared the castle as uninhabitable in 1635 due to battle damage and fire damage caused by lightning and Pál Pálffy accepted the job of repairing and modernizing the castle. The castle took on its unmistakable silhouette and shape during the expansion work that took place from 1635 to 1649. The palace was expanded to include a third floor, which was covered with gabled roofs and the heavy emphasis on the Crown Tower was balanced with the construction of more observation towers on the other corners.
The situation changed after the defeat of the Ottoman Turks near Vienna in 1683. The defeat forced the Turks to retreat and Bratislava Castle lost its defensive role. Under the rule of Maria Theresa, the castle underwent further expansion following projects from the best of the imperial architects, who transformed the castle into a representative seat for the local Hungarian governor. In 1765 the empress named her son-in-law Archduke Albert to this position. Many of the structures that served the needs of his large court have disappeared. Reminders of this period include the wide palace staircase, decorated with gold-plated Rococo stucco, the courtyard of honour in front of the entrance to the palace and the replica Baroque outbuildings constructed in more recent times on the western terrace.
Empress Maria Theresa died in 1780. The governor left Bratislava soon after and took with him a large collection of paintings, copper work, weapons, porcelain and rare books, which today form a major part of the collection of Vienna's Albertina. The crown jewels were also moved and the guard unit was disbanded. The abandoned castle did manage to serve as a central seminary for the Catholic clergy in the transitional period in which young seminary Anton Bernolák laid down his working basis for the first codification of the Slovak language. The buildings were later converted into barracks. In the early morning hours of 28 May 1811, a fire broke out in the military storehouses.
Nothing was done with the massive ruins of the burned out castle palace for a full 150 years. The army, which continued to use the burned out rubble, tore down a portion of the remaining walls and sold it as construction materials. The army also used a few other buildings on the castle site that escaped the destructive flames of 1811. These were used as barracks as well. In 1918, these were the site of a mutiny of Slovak soldiers from the 72nd infantry regiment, who refused to serve the monarchy. After World War I, intense discussion began as to the future of the ruins of Bratislava Castle but the ruins themselves would have to wait until after World War II until meaningful work would take place. Leading Slovak painter Janko Alexy (1894-1970) is deserving of recognition for his efforts. His charitable efforts are recognized on a memorial plaque with a bust located on the southern wing of the castle courtyard. In 1953, prof. Alfréd Piffl and his team of collaborators conducted research of the ruins and conservation work on the most at-risk wall structures remaining. His efforts expanded in 1956 into the full-scale reconstruction of the castle. The most important phase of the landmark restoration of the castle reached its peak in 1968 and work on the castle palace finished in the same year. The date was not completely random. The palace was readied in order to host the celebratory signing of the Act on the Czechoslovak Federation in one of its grand halls on the first floor on 28 October. The event was marked by the planting of three linden trees near the previous site of the Great Moravia basilica in the south corner of the eastern terrace. Bratislava Castle also entered into Slovakia's modern history as the host site for a summit between American President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Both of the presidents met during their visits to Bratislava in the castle's treasury for meetings held on 24 February 2005.
The restoration of Bratislava Castle continued on into 2012 to transform the castle into a fully functional and exceptionally attractive place for relaxation for all of Bratislava's inhabitants.
The central structure of Bratislava's castle is a four wing palace, which includes the late-Romanesque corner tower which later became the Crown Tower. The palace courtyard provides access to underground areas including the well and cistern. The palace grounds include the courtyard of honour bordered by a pair of victory gates and guards from the imperial guard. The palace's eastern terrace hosts symbolic replicas of the Great Moravia basilica, the Church of St Saviour from the 11th century and other structures from the period. Lower ward fortifications include the Lugisland bastion to the east, with a preserved sally port located nearby, along with another artillery bastion to the north and a system of angled bastions to the south. The castle grounds are reached through the Sigismund Gate, the Leopold Gate, which opens to the south-western bastion, and the Baroque Vienna Gate, which is the primary access point to the castle. The outer ward contains refurbished buildings with quarters for officers built in the area of the south-eastern bastion and other buildings that were originally used to house troops and labourers as well as stables and other outbuildings. Replica Baroque buildings on the western terrace were used for such purposes as well.
Multiple parts of the Bratislava Castle open to the public underwent renovation work beginning in April 2008. They housed short-term exhibitions as well as permanent exhibitions of the Slovak National Museum. They returned to the renovated parts of the castle once work finished. The castle site includes a park, which has visible traces of the foundations of the Great Moravia basilica. A walk through the park reveals a number of superb views of Bratislava to visitors as well as an inconspicuous statue of St. Elizabeth, who was born at Bratislava Castle in 1207. The best views of Bratislava and its surroundings are from the castle's oldest part, the Crown Tower.
A walk up to the castle is a part of almost every excursion route through Bratislava. It most frequently begins at St. Martin's Cathedral, then beneath the New Bridge over the Danube to access the other side of the busy main road and then up the Castle Stairs, which lead to the Sigismund Gate. Drivers wanting to visit the castle most often take Palisady (Palisades) Street, which winds up the hill to a parking lot near the castle entrance, a short walk from the parking area through the Vienna Gate.