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Spilberk Castle: Brno’s hilltop fortress and prison

Casting a shadow across the old town from atop the city’s highest peak, Spilberk Castle is Brno’s most important landmark and offers a constant reminder of the city’s chequered past. A hike up to the castle will reward you with 360-degree views of Brno as well as an eery journey through Spilberk’s history as a fortress, prison and German military base.

A brief history of Spilberk Castle

Dating back to the 13th century, Spilberk Castle originated as the royal residence of the Moravian margraves before later being turned into a large military fortress that successfully held off the Hussites, Swedes and Prussians. In the 18th century, under the Habsburgs, it was used as a jail for serious criminals and political prisoners, and it garnered a reputation as one of the most brutal prisons in the whole of Europe with its residents shackled to the walls of damp, dark cells throughout the day and night.

During WWI and WWII it then acted as a prison once again, firstly for opponents of the Austrian regime and secondly for Czech patriots during the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. During the Nazi era, the casemates were also used as air-raid shelters for the German army and Gestapo.

Spilberk Castle Brno

What to see at Spilberk Castle

While Spilberk may not be as whimsical as many of the fairytale castles located throughout Europe, it has its own charming style with whitewashed walls set against a warm red roof and towering brick walls. A path runs all the around the castle, offering the chance to see it at every angle, while several terraces and turrets provide a number of different perspectives of the city – be sure to look down over the cathedral through the embrasure in the old fortress wall. 

In terms of going inside Spilberk Castle, visitors are invited to venture underground into the casemates to explore the old prison cells and air raid shelters as well as climb up to the very top of the tower, from where you can enjoy far-reaching views across the whole of Brno. The bastion fortifications – built to help defend Spilberk against the Swedish army during the Thirty Year Raids – are also open to the public. 

Additionally, visitors can explore the large inner courtyard of the castle, which can be done without a ticket, and visit several temporary exhibitions in the cultural centre.

How much it costs to visit Spilberk Castle

Access to the pathway that runs around the perimeter of Spilberk Castle is free, and so is the courtyard that sits at its centre. If, however, you want to visit the casemates, the tower, the bastion or the exhibitions, you will need to purchase a ticket.

There’s the option to buy a general ticket that covers everything for 320 CZK (around €12) or you can buy tickets to the individual attractions. The casemates cost 120 CZK (around €5), the lookout tower is 50 CZK (around €2) and the bastion is 130 CZK (around €5).

Spilberk Castle Brno

Opening hours of Spilberk Castle

The exhibitions: 

Tuesday to Sunday 9am to 5pm all year round.

The casemates, lookout tower and bastion: 

April to September: Monday to Sunday 9am to 5pm

October to March: Tuesday to Sunday 9am to 5pm

Note: The lookout tower will be closed in bad weather. 

What else to see near Spilberk Castle

At the base of the castle hill on the eastern side, you will find the entrance to the 10-Z Bunker, a sprawling underground shelter first built during WWII to protect government representatives from the American and Soviet bombings. It was then used as a wholesale wine store in the 1940s before being discovered by the Communist government and turned into a protection facility against nuclear bombs. It was designed to hold up to 500 people for three days. Today, visitors can explore the bunker either just for a few hours on a self-guided tour or choose to spend the night in the atmospheric hostel. 

Just up the road, you will also discover the notoriously hard to find Super Panda Circus, a discreet yet outré cocktail bar hidden behind a curtain and a locked door. Once inside, you can settle in for an evening of bespoke experimental cocktails. 

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✎ Travel writer ☼ Adventurer ≈ Waterfall chaser

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