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Histories and legends: 5 best castles in Ukraine worth seeing in summer

Histories and legends: 5 best castles in Ukraine worth seeing in summer Photo: Castles of Ukraine (collage by RBC-Ukraine)
Author: Liliana Oleniak

Ukrainians are increasingly combining traveling around the country with visits to historical sites. Many majestic castles in Ukraine have played a role in Ukraine's history.

RBC-Ukraine tells about the best Ukrainian castles to see in summer.

Kamianets-Podilskyi Castle: Place of festivals and romance

The Kamianets-Podilskyi fortress in the Khmelnytskyi region is one of the most famous and popular among tourists. The castle is located on the ledge of the Smotrytskyi Canyon on the island, and it is connected to the city by the Castle Bridge.

The first mention of the castle was in a 14th-century charter, although archaeological research points to an older history of the building - from the 11th-12th centuries. At different times, Kamianets-Podilskyi Castle served as a defensive fortress and residence for various rulers.

Now the fortress is part of the Kamianets-Podilskyi Historical and Architectural National Reserve. Various events are held there; before the war, it was a place for festivals, balloon flights, and romantic weekends.

The castle complex has 11 towers with separate stories and exhibitions. For example, the Papal Tower, built at the expense of the Pope, used to be a prison. Ustym Karmeliuk was imprisoned there. According to legend, women visited him and gave him handkerchiefs. He allegedly used them to tie a rope and escape from the dungeon.

Histories and legends: 5 best castles in Ukraine worth seeing in summerPhoto: Kamianets-Podilskyi Fortress (

The Black Tower has a wooden wheel that was used to extract water from a well. It was carved into the rock to provide the city with water in case of a siege.

Palanok Castle: Museum with legends

Another of the most beautiful castles in Ukraine is Palanok Castle in Mukachevo, Zakarpattia. This is one of the oldest defensive structures, which was built on a 68-meter-high mountain of volcanic origin before the 11th century.

Underground passages were built in the fortress, where the inhabitants hid during the siege. Inside the castle, three terraces divide it into three levels - the Upper, Middle, and Lower Castles. The oldest castle is the Upper Castle, the others were built later. Palanok survived many sieges and was at the center of the Hungarian-Austrian confrontation.

The history of the castle also has its legends. For example, the owner of the castle was once the Transylvanian prince Zsigmond Bathory, a close relative of Elizabeth Bathory, who was called the bloody countess for the murder of young girls.

Histories and legends: 5 best castles in Ukraine worth seeing in summerPhoto: Palanok Castle (

According to another legend, there is a well inside the castle that was dug by a devil. He was cheated out of the payment and since then the sounds of his fussing can be heard from the well.

Nowadays, the Palanok Castle houses a historical museum. The buildings are in good condition, and tours of the former stronghold are available.

Khotyn Fortress: Picturesque stronghold on Dniester River

Khotyn Fortress is one of the most powerful defensive structures in Eastern Europe, built in the 13th and 14th centuries on the site of a Rus settlement (10th-13th centuries). The castle is located on the right bank of the Dniester River in the south of Khotyn district, Chernivtsi region.

It is one of the largest and most beautiful fortresses in Ukraine. At the end of the 14th century, the castle was rebuilt, and in the 17th century, it was expanded and fortified by order of the Turkish Sultan Mohammed IV. At that time, the famous fortification towers and bastions were built.

The Khotyn fortress belonged to many state formations, including the Moldavian principality, the Kingdom of Poland, and the Ottoman and Russian empires. In the 19th century, the castle lost its importance as a military facility.

Histories and legends: 5 best castles in Ukraine worth seeing in summerPhoto: Khotyn Fortress (

In Soviet times, the castle was actively used during the filming of historical movies. It acted as a medieval castle: La Rochelle, Torquilston, and Mott.

Since 2000, the Khotyn Fortress State Historical and Architectural Reserve has been established.

Lutsk Castle: One of the oldest in Ukraine

Lutsk Castle is considered one of the largest, oldest, and best-preserved castles in Ukraine. It was built on the site of the wooden fortifications of the Kyivan Rus princes. The Ipatiev Chronicle mentions the Lutsk fortress in 1085. The construction was started by the Lithuanian Prince Lubart, so the castle is named after him.

The defense structure once consisted of two parts: Upper and Lower castles. The construction of the Upper Castle began in the 14th century and was completed in the 15th century, although it was slightly altered later. The Upper Castle is well preserved to this day.

The Lower Castle - the Okolnyi Castle - began to be reconstructed in brick in the early 16th century. It was much larger in area, but only parts of the walls and one tower have survived.

In the 18th century, the fortress lost its defensive significance. In the 19th century, as part of the Russian Empire, the castle's activities were suspended, and after the fire of 1845, the towers and walls were dismantled for building material. At the beginning of the 20th century, the castle was renovated when Volyn was part of the Polish Republic. A museum was opened there. At that time, the castle was called Lubart's Castle in documents. Under Soviet rule, work on the castle began in 1963.

Histories and legends: 5 best castles in Ukraine worth seeing in summerPhoto: Lutsk Castle ( Kovalov)

Nowadays, in Lubart's castle, you can climb the tall towers from where you can see other sights of the city. The castle has interesting museums and dungeons.

Schönborn Castle: Romantic palace in Zakarpattia

Another famous castle in Zakarpattia is the Schönborn Palace in Zakarpattia (in the village of Karpaty, 16 km from Mukachevo), built in the late 19th century. The estate originated from a wooden hunting lodge in the Berehvar tract owned by Austrian aristocrats. Then the palace was rebuilt into a castle in the Neo-Romantic style.

The palace was built on the astronomical principle. Four towers at the corners symbolize the seasons. There are 52 chimneys on the roof of the castle: the number of weeks in a year. The building has 12 entrances and 365 windows. One more window is bricked up in honor of the leap year. The windows were decorated with stained glass windows on biblical themes. Bas-reliefs on ancient themes are still preserved.

Histories and legends: 5 best castles in Ukraine worth seeing in summerPhoto: Schönborn Castle in Zakarpattia (

Until 1944, the castle belonged to the Schönborn family, and later the Soviet government opened a sanatorium there, which still operates today.

Read also about the top 10 best fortresses worth seeing in Ukraine. These are castles that have been well preserved to this day.