Aerial spring view of Palanok Castle in Mukachevo town, Ukraine.

© VladimirGerasimov/Getty Images/iStock

Palanok Castle

Top choice in The Carpathians

Built atop a 68m-tall volcano, Mukacheve's highlight is this dramatic castle that pops up from the surrounding plain west of town, like something in a fairy-tale fantasy. This 14th-century fortress, famous as the site where Croatian-Hungarian princess Ilona Zrini held off the Austrian Emperor's army for three years before finally capitulating in 1688, is also popular among Hungarians for its association with Sándor Petőfi (1823-49), the Hungarian national poet, who was held here during the century the building served as an Austrian prison.

A couple of ageing exhibits (folk costumes, archaeological finds) with English explanations provide minor distraction, unlike the views, which are wonderful. The scruffy souvenir stalls that once plagued the main courtyard have been cleared and once derelict spaces filled with exhibits. Half of the fun here, however, is scrambling through the different wings, getting lost on the various levels of arcading as you go.

To get here, board any bus 3 in front of the church on vul Pushkina or take any marshrutka heading to Тімірязєва.

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