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Witnesses to history: Top 10 best castles worth seeing in Ukraine

Witnesses to history: Top 10 best castles worth seeing in Ukraine Khotyn Fortress (
Author: Liliana Oleniak

Most Ukrainian castles have been preserved as ruins, but some strongholds will amaze our descendants for centuries. Castles are one of the most interesting objects left by Ukraine's turbulent history. Most Ukrainian castles are ruined, but some still look great and attract thousands of tourists.

Roman Malenkov, a well-known researcher, local historian, traveler, and author of the Ukraine Incognita project, tells in his column for RBC-Ukraine which castles are worth seeing first and what interesting stories they can tell.

The walls and towers that have protected Ukrainians from enemies for centuries now serve as museums. There are more than a hundred of them, but there are few left that correspond to the idea of a castle - the rest are in ruins.

Some of them fell in the course of military battles, while others were spared by people and time. How many foundations of rural houses in Podillia are made of rubble from majestic fortresses? How many roads have been paved and fences built? Some castles are so damaged that it is difficult to guess what they once looked like without a reconstructed image.

However, there are also castles and fortresses in Ukraine that one can admire and be proud of. The majestic strongholds, whose powerful walls have withstood more than one century and will continue to amaze our descendants for centuries to come, deserve to be seen. This rating is a kind of recommendation on which castles and fortresses in Ukraine are worth seeing in the first place.

10. Zbarazh Castle (Zbarazh, Ternopil region)

No other region of Ukraine has more castles than Ternopil, but most of them, unfortunately, are not in the best condition. Some of them are very ruined, others have been rebuilt and do not look like castles at all: psychiatric hospitals, tuberculosis hospitals, service stations.

Witnesses to history: Top 10 best castles worth seeing in UkrainePhoto: Zbarazh Castle (

The castle in Zbarazh is undoubtedly the best preserved and restored castle in the region. Although the bastions of Zbarazh Castle are still mostly "headless," in addition to the moats and walls, there are also exhibitions and museums, and the castle was designed by the world-famous Italian architect Vincenzo Scamozzi.

9. Uzhhorod Castle (Uzhhorod, Zakarpattia region)

Another well-known name for Uzhhorod, Ungvar, came to us in the 10th century, when the Hungarian horde defeated the local Slavic rulers, the White Croats, and captured Zakarpattia.

The castle is perfectly preserved. Although it does not have tall walls and towers, it remains one of the most visited tourist attractions in Zakarpattia. People come here to feel the spirit of the centuries-old traditions of the white Croats, Magyars, Austrians, Germans, Czechs, Slovaks, and, of course, the Rusyn-Ukrainians who ruled Ungvar. They come hoping, among other things, to see the ghost of the White Maiden, which is standard for most castles.

Today, the castle has a museum. What an incredible collection of Carpathian musical instruments is presented here. The fabulous painting of the house church will also not leave anyone indifferent. As well as the wine cellars.

Witnesses to history: Top 10 best castles worth seeing in UkrainePhoto: Uzhhorod Castle (

8. Medzhybizh Castle (Medzhybizh, Khmelnytskyi region)

Among the large, spectacular castles, Medzhybizh is the closest to Kyiv, 315 km away via Zhytomyr, Berdychiv, and Khmilnyk. Berdychiv also has a spectacular fortification, but it is a monastery.

In 2001, Medzhybizh Castle was included in the historical and cultural reserve, although this did not help save the side wall of the castle palace. Even 10 years ago, the castle was not in the best condition, but its size, multiplied by its color (perhaps due to the peeling walls), already made this historical stronghold between the Pivdennyi Buh and Buzhok rivers a great tourist attraction.

Witnesses to history: Top 10 best castles worth seeing in UkrainePhoto: Medzhybizh Castle (courtesy of RBC-Ukraine)

Especially given that Medzhybizh is a world center of Hasidism, and the legendary Besht is buried here. Nowadays, restoration work in the castle has gained momentum. Every year the Medzhybizh stronghold becomes more beautiful and interesting.

7. Svirzh Castle (Svirzh, Lviv region)

Svirzh Castle, located on a hill called Belz, surrounded by ponds and swamps, attracts not only travelers. Back in Soviet times, it became a famous location for film shoots. Many scenes from the movie D'Artagnan and the Three Musketeers were filmed there, and it was here that the unfortunate Constance Bonacieux, who was poisoned by Milady, lived her last days.

Witnesses to history: Top 10 best castles worth seeing in UkrainePhoto: Svirzh Castle ( Kiryanova)

The Bethune Monastery, the executioner's dwelling, D'Artagnan's estate in Gascony, and the bastion of Saint-Germain in La Rochelle - four roles were given to Svirzh Castle at once. Unfortunately, the current status of this fabulous building does not match its beauty and grandeur. It stands empty, although they were going to open a rest home for the Union of Architects.

6. Olesko Castle (Olesko, Lviv oblast)

More than six centuries have passed since a castle appeared on a high hill in Olesko. It was probably built by Prince Yuriy Danylovych, but no one can say for sure.

What can be said for sure is that it is one of the most famous castles in the Lviv region, and also one of the smallest but best maintained castles in Ukraine. In addition to the museum, there is a very prestigious restaurant with recreated medieval interiors designed not only for Ukrainian but also for foreign guests, among whom the Poles are the most active, because their famous king, Jan III Sobieski, who defeated the Turks near Vienna, was born in the castle.

Witnesses to history: Top 10 best castles worth seeing in UkrainePhoto: Olesko Castle (

A big bonus when visiting Olesko Castle is the Capuchin monastery with a sculpture park.

5. Lutsk Castle (Lutsk, Volyn region)

This stronghold was built on the site of the wooden fortifications of the Russian princes. The construction was started by Lithuanian Prince Lubart (that is why the castle is named after him) and continued by Witold and Svydryhailo.

Perhaps the most striking representative of medieval defense architecture in Ukraine once consisted of two parts: Upper and Lower castles. The lower one, much larger in area, dissolved among the later buildings - only some sections of the walls and one tower remain. But the Upper Castle is quite well preserved.

Witnesses to history: Top 10 best castles worth seeing in UkrainePhoto: Lutsk Castle (

The towering towers and walls of Lubart's castle hide interesting museums and dungeons. You can climb the towers: from them, you can see two more impressive Lutsk sights - a Jesuit monastery and a church.

4. Akkerman Fortress (Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi, Odesa region)

The fortress over the Dniester estuary, on the ruins of the ancient city of Tyre, was founded by the Genoese in the 13th century, and the castle that later served as a citadel remains.

The main part of the largest medieval fortress in Ukraine was built by Moldovans. In the Moldovan period, the city was called Chetiata Albă (White Fortress), and it was one of the main trading policies of the Northern Black Sea region. The fortress then had thirty-four towers and was an impregnable stronghold, but it still could not resist the huge army of Turks and Tatars.

Witnesses to history: Top 10 best castles worth seeing in UkrainePhoto: Akkerman Fortress (

In the 15th century, they became the masters of the city and named it Akkerman (also the White Fortress, but in Turkic). It was during the Ottoman period that the fortress acquired an almost modern appearance.

3. Palanok Castle (Mukachevo, Zakarpattia region)

In the middle of a wide plain, which is the valley of the Latorytsia River, a mountain rises in the southwestern part of Mukachevo. Its top is crowned by the towers of an ancient castle. There are few monuments in Ukraine like this one.

Ruthenian-Ukrainians, Hungarians, Wallachians, Austrians, and other peoples shed sweat and blood within the fortress's mighty walls for almost a thousand years of its history. Palanok has survived hundreds of assaults and sieges. It changed hands many times and was completed and rebuilt. From the end of the 18th century, Palanok served as an Austrian prison, and in the Soviet period, it housed a vocational school.

Witnesses to history: Top 10 best castles worth seeing in UkrainePhoto: Palanok Castle in Mukachevo (

Today, it is one of the most famous Ukrainian castles - well-maintained, and museumized, with many souvenir shops, coffee shops, and wine cellars.

2. Kamianets-Podilskyi Castle (Kamianets-Podilskyi, Khmelnytskyi region)

The most famous castle in Ukraine is located in the city that got its name from it - Kamianets-Podilskyi (although the second half of the name should have been dropped long ago, given the absence of other "Kamianets" in Ukraine).

The medieval fortress, located on a steep rocky hill above the Smotrych River canyon, fascinates with its scale and fabulousness. This is the standard of the castle we draw in our imagination. And if you look at the castle and fortress from the Smotrych Canyon, you won't believe that this is Ukraine at all.

Witnesses to history: Top 10 best castles worth seeing in UkrainePhoto: Kamianets-Podilskyi Castle (

1. Khotyn Castle (Khotyn, Chernivtsi region)

This is a movie star castle - the main medieval castle of Soviet films. La Rochelle, Torquilston, Moth - it has been in many movies. Soviet filmmaker Bortko decided to make it the Dubno Castle because the real Dubno Castle is not so cinematic. That's why the Cossacks in Taras Bulba stormed a "Polish" castle, which was a Moldovan-Turkish castle. The Cossacks never stormed Khotyn but defended it heroically, led by the great hetman Sahaidachnyi.

Witnesses to history: Top 10 best castles worth seeing in UkrainePhoto: Khotyn Fortress - a movie location (

Like the Akkerman Fortress, the Khotyn Fortress was built by Moldovans, who used it as their residence for two centuries. Stefan the Great, who can be seen on all Moldovan banknotes, made Khotyn Fortress an incredibly impregnable stronghold.

Video: Top 10 castles in Ukraine ( Incognita)