There are only six extremely well preserved castles in Europe at present, and one of them is the Mukachevo Palanok Castle in Ukraine. Standing on the town hill, the medieval castle with its peaked turrets is the key sight of the ancient Mukachevo. Yearly over hundred thousands travelers from all over the world come here in order to see this unique sample of fortification architecture, recognized as one of the most interesting defensive complexes in Ukraine.
The founding cornerstone for the castle was laid sometime in the 14th century by the members of the Hungarian noble family Aba and was an important fortification of the Kingdom of Hungary throughout the centuries. The castle was later transformed into an impregnable fortress by French engineers. After the storming of the Bastille, a famous French prison, the Palanok Castle was used as an all-European political prison. Through the centuries, the castle served as a residence to many people: the Koriatovych family for almost 200 years, the Serbian prince Đurađ Branković, Regent of Hungary János Hunyadi, and the wife of a Hungarian king, Laiosh Maria, among many others.
During the ownership of Prince Fedir Koriatovych, the castle became one of the most protected castles in the region. The prince and his family lived in the highest part of the castle, which had lavishly decorated interiors. Francis II Rákóczi later used the castle as the centre of a war of independence led by himself. In 1726, Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, granted Palanok Castle with Mukacheve, Chynadiyovo and 200 villages to Elector Lothar Franz von Schönborn who had elected and crowned him and was one of his main political supporters within the Empire. The estate, one of the largest in Eastern Europe, remained in the family well into the 20th century. From 1796 to 1897, Palanok Castle was used as a prison. During 1805–1806, the Crown of St. Stephen was kept within the castle to protect it from Napoleon I’s troops. In 1926, the castle was used as a barracks, and later as an agricultural college.
Since 1989, castle premises are occupied by Mukachevo History Museum, where over ten interesting expositions are shown. The picture gallery featuring the best canvases by west-Ukrainian painters and ancient icons is also located here. Some Palanok’s halls are allocated to the exhibition ,,Wooden Churches of Zakarpattia’’ and artistic salon, where one can buy local artists’ pictures and souvenirs. There are also cozy coffee houses on the fortress’s territory, where it is pleasant to drink a cup of fragrant coffee and admire castle’s sceneries.
Mukacheve’s highlight is the hilltop castle that pops up from the surrounding plain as you approach Mukacheve from Uzhhorod, like something in a fairy-tale fantasy. To get here, board any bus 3 in front of the church on vul Pushkina or take any marshrutka heading to тімірязева. I´t’s truly a time capsule which tells visitors the stories that have long been forgotten.