Szigliget Castle is one of the most beautiful castles in Hungary. Learn about the history of the castle and what’s worth seeing in it.
Lake Balaton has a wonderful panorama and a castle with an exciting past. These markers are inviting in themselves, but seeing what a wonderful environment it really is, the Szigliget Castle rising high, there are no more questions, just a desire to get here.
There is a view of Lake Balaton, the history of the castle, and the best confectionery in the area.
History of Szigliget Castle
This 750-year-old castle is truly one of the most popular attractions on the northern shore of Lake Balaton in Hungary.
It is bordered on the south by Lake Balaton and on the north by the fields and mountains of Tapolca. From anywhere you approach the castle and the surrounding area, as the sights of Szigliget are noticeable from afar.
Construction of the Szigliget castle
The adventurous history of Szigliget Castle began in the 13th century. The settlement belonging to the castle changed owners several times, and one of its most important roles was given during the reign of King Bela IV.
After the terrible and devastating Tartar invasion, the king decided that he would build stone castles all over the country because only these could protect the country.
However, the castle built in Szigliget at that time was much smaller than it is now – although unfortunately we can only see the ruins today – and it was only expanded later.
The castle in Szigliget was built with record speed, which may have been helped by the fact that there were local quarries, lime kilns, and many masons and serfs in the area who worked quickly and well.
The strategic advantage of Szigliget Castle
The village belonging to the castle was once surrounded by water and a dense grove. A charter from 1260 mentions it as an island, hence the name of the settlement and the castle.
The word “island” means sziget in Hungarian, and “grove” means liget. Thus, the name Szigliget was created from these two words.
The castle of Szigliget is one of the few castles in Hungary that could never be occupied by the Turkish conquering army.
The reason for this is that even in the 16th century, the castle was almost completely surrounded by Lake Balaton, so it could only be attacked from one direction.
Today, Lake Balaton has receded and the island has disappeared, but much of the castle and the beautiful panorama have survived.
The castle which has changed hands several times
After the construction of the Szigliget castle, many wanted to acquire it because of its facilities. The bishop of Veszprém occupied the castle and confiscated the rich church equipment and treasures of the monastery of the Pok clan. This was the first attack on the castle, but not the last.
For almost 100 years, the Móriczhidai family owned the castle and its estate. Probably at this time was when today’s inner castle was built.
At that time, the Szigliget of the Árpádian period slowly ceased to exist, and the population of Újfalu, which is located under the castle, began. And then a longer ascending phase began in the history of the castle and the village.
Then the castle of Szigliget changed hands several times. According to a royal donation dated in 1543, the castle had five villages: Felsőtomaj, Hegymagas, Nagyfalu, Sziget, and Újfalu.
For centuries, the castle remained in the possession of the Lengyel family in Lake Balaton, but politics intervened again. Namely, Ferdinand the I confiscated it and the estates under the title of infidelity.
Although the change of ownership did not go so easily, in the end Imre Martonfalvy took over the castle with a trick, without a single shot.
It was then that the renovation of the building began, and the 16th century floor plan of the Szigliget castle was formed.
At that time, the Turkish attacks multiplied quite a lot, but there was a truly legendary castle captain of the Szigliget castle by the name of Bálint Magyar. Not only did he defend this castle from the Ottoman armies, but he also saved Fonyód, Veszprém, and Tihany.
A lightning strike that destroys the Szigliget Castle
In the 17th century, the castle was already an obsolete castle and had begun to decline steadily. Like most of the loss of the castles on the mountain peaks, the castle of Szigliget was caused by a lightning strike that blew up the gunpowder in one of the towers.
The castle buildings burned down and were not restored, and their tactical significance was lost after the Turkish occupation. And the castle slowly disintegrated, its stones used for local constructions.
However, you can still see what the castle used to be like in its current form, and it is worth walking up there just because of the panorama.
What to see in Szigliget Castle
Let’s start with the fact that it’s worth parking at the upper parking lot of the castle because if you choose to walk up from the lower parking lot, it will be much harder.
We shouldn’t be afraid of that hike, though, and let’s not miss out on the castle visit by any means. In exchange for a little exercise, there is a wonderful view that awaits us. 🙂
The multi-story fortress, consisting of lower and upper castles, is located on the 229 m high Castle Hill, which rises directly above the Öregfalu (Old village), among several heights of Szigliget.
Fighting on the steep road, we find ourselves in the lower castle, the center of which is the castle courtyard.
The Castle Gallery is located in the Castle courtyard, and it was once a teaching house. The exhibition in it is located on two levels.
The castle history awaits us on the ground floor, and the weapons exhibition is upstairs. In the courtyard, which is today a handcrafted courtyard, we can explore local castles through models.
Inside, we can find Renaissance life pictures, finds from excavations, and even the reconstruction of a working stove. Those who can’t go up to the castle can admire the castle here, via webcam.
If our imagination is not enough, we can also look at a model and watch a short film, to give us a look into the everyday life of the once bustling castle and then into its unfortunate destruction.
Bálint Magyar tower
On the side of Castle courtyard close to Lake Balaton we can find the Bálint Magyar tower. This was constucted in the 14th-15th century.
From here, the castle was mainly protected with rifles. The name of the tower is derived from the famous castle captain, Bálint Magyar, who protected the castle from the Turks several times between 1547 and 1573.
The ascents are not over yet, as another steep flight of stairs leads to the upper castle which is 25 meters higher. Here used to be the palace and tower of the old tower and castle lord.
On each level you can see more and more of the amazing panorama and Lake Balaton. The coffin-shaped mountain of the nearby Badacsony and Szent György Hill and the barren-roofed Csobánc with its castle ruins is an unforgettable sight.
In the Upper Castle we can admire today’s reconstructed version on the site of the former castle chapel. According to Béla the IV’s charter, in 1260 he donated Szigliget to the Benedictine Order of Pannonhalma for the purpose of building a castle. It later became a royal castle.
And here, according to researchers, members of the Benedictine order most likely built a chapel. According to archaeologist Károly Kozák, this function was performed in the vaulted hall of the upper castle.
Out of all the rooms, it is also the largest in size and ceiling height. Thus, the re-design of the chapel took place here according to the original plans, and several objects pay tribute to King Bela the IV and Bishop St. Martin.
If you are wondering what a real castle kitchen looks like, you have an opportunity to see one here.
In the kitchen with a free chimney and an oven, we can get an idea of how food was prepared hundreds of years ago, as well as what dishes and cutlery were used by the people living in the castle.
The true Baroque kitchen shows the ancestors of today’s modern appliances. In front of the stove you can see simple unadorned tables; the room next to it used to be a room and then a warehouse.
In the oven there used to be all sorts of goodies like pies, pretzels, pasta, and bread for the people of the castle.
The chefs lived not far away, next to the kitchen. Meals were held together and everyone was seated at a table appropriate to their rank.
Castle games and weapons exhibition
It is also worth finding out about the programs in advance, as there are often castle games, when there is a real medieval atmosphere in the place, and in the summer, there are many concerts, too.
And if it is the Middle Ages with knights, then of course there is also a weapons exhibition. In the exhibition entitled “Weapons of the Ages” we can see a range of weapons and armor from prehistory to the Middle Ages to the latest ages.
The castle lord’s house
This is where the castle lord and his family presumably lived. To meet the needs of the 14th century, a toilet was provided on each level.
Here you can see what the room of a senior soldier looked like in the 15th-16th centuries.
The tower, built up with a castle wall on the west side, was built in the 14th century. At the bottom, deep and below ground level, was the castle prison, to which a long flight of stairs led.
It functioned as a cellar and was then converted into a water reservoir by Captain Bálint Magyar around 1543.
Beautiful panorama from the top of the towers of Szigliget Castle
From the upper castle, a steep staircase leads up to the top of the towers. When going down the stairs, it is worth holding on because it is much more dangerous than going up.
Once we have successfully climbed up, there is nothing left but to admire the stunning panorama and take a lot of pictures.
Ticket prices for Szigliget Castle in 2020
- Adult: 1000 HUF
- Child (6-18): 500 HUF
Groups do not need to book in advance!
Card payment is also available at the castle cash desk.
Szigliget Castle – Summary
I think the Szigliget castle is an unmissable sight if we are around Lake Balaton.
The pictures do not fully convey the indescribable sight that awaits us if we get up to the castle after a little exercise. Of course, the 750-year-old castle and its history are captivating for everyone, not just for lovers of history.
And we could walk through every corner of the castle, which would require a little fitness, and admire the countryside from everywhere. We could then look around in the tiny village as well. The lovely little houses, lots of vineyards, and tiny little streets are all part of the time travel.
If we are very sporty, thanks to the bike path, we could ride around the area on two wheels, and after the castle, we could go straight to the beach if the weather was nice.
The whole area is a very magical and truly authentic little Hungarian village with all its beauties. And the Szigliget Castle just puts the icing on the cake.