Orava Castle

Top choice castle in Central Slovakia

The sight of Orava Castle, roosting on a forest-cloaked hilltop, sends a chill down the spine. Vampire aficionados may recognise its stern silhouette from Murnau’s classic 1922 movie Nosferatu, but the castle’s history is easily as interesting as its silver-screen appearances. Famous residents include György Thurzó, who sentenced real-life vampiress Elizabeth Báthory for hundreds of bloodthirsty murders, and Nicolaus Draskovics, rumoured to have skinned servants alive. Check the website for English-language tours (thrice daily in summer).

Never conquered, this 13th-century fortification has outlasted the centuries thanks to its curved defence tunnels, 5m-thick walls and the liberal use of projectile boiling water against intruders. Navigating the castle, visitors tour numerous architectural styles: Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance. Hair-raisingly steep stairs connect various castle chambers, which are draped with bearskin rugs and filled with magnificent furniture and weaponry. The end of the exhibition shines a spotlight on the castle's starring role in movies and popular culture – and there's a chance to stare down Nosferatu himself...