For those, who have seen the castle of Sárospatak only on the back side of the 500-forint bill, it is well worth visiting it and see it live. Because of extensions and remodelling throughout the centuries it is blend of Rennaissance, Baroque and Romantic elements. Today it hosts Rákóczi Museum, which showcases not only the history of the eponymous family but, for example, that of winegrowing and winemaking in the Hegyalja region too.
Archaeological findings have shown that Sárospatak area has been inhabited since prehistoric times. The town itself became a royal property in the 11th century. The construction of the castle began in the 16th century by Péter Perényi, who acquired the area past the battle of Mohács. Besides the walls, the five-storey keep of the castle was also built then by Italian master builder Alessandro Vedani in late-Rennaissance style.
Past the extinction of Perényis, the castle changed hands more times until 1616, when it passed into the hands of György Rákóczi (Prince of Transylvania from 1630) by marriage (with Zsuzsanna Lorántffy). In the 1640s, considerable extension works began and the famous Lorántffy wing and loggia were constructed. The castle served as the headquarters for kuruc activities during Rákóczi’s War of Independence and the Diet of 1708 was held here too. After the war the castle was confiscated by the Habsburgs and acquired by Prince Trautson and then Prince Bretzenheim. Constructions in this period added Baroque, Romantic and eclectic elements to the design. After WW2 the castle was nationalized.
The keep called Red Keep forms the key part of the castle. The corners of the old rhomboid inner castle are protected by bastions and surrounded by a moat. One of the architectural gems of the castle is the Lorántffy loggia with a series of columns and arches connecting the eastern wing and the keep. The casemate wall protecting the keep from the southeast is also a peculiar feature. The Sub Rosa Room, a round balcony room played a key historical role as leaders of the Magnate Conspiracy allegedly met there. The name of the room comes from the roses decorating the ceiling as “sub rosa” means “under the rose” but the expression is also used a synonym for secrecy. The northern wall of the castle church used to serve as the wall for the castle itself. The monumental building is one of the largest Gothic hall church in North Hungary with an amazing exterior and interior.
Today the castle is home to Rákóczi Museum with various exhibitions. Visitors may get an insight into life in the Rákóczi era, winegrowing and winemaking in the Hegyalja region. Guided tours are available to explore the keep and an authentic Rennaissance kitchen. Another curiosity is the cannon foundry founded by György Rákóczi I and restored recently. This is the only relic of its kind from the Early Modern Period and a rarity in Europe too.
Starting from downtown Sárospatak, following the Red (P) trail and then the Red + (P+) markers along Malomkő Nature Trail (T) you will reach the pond of Megyer Hill. In 2011, it was chosen as the greatest natural beauty of Hungary in an online survey. It is a disused millstone pit filled with rainwater. The high rocks make a breath-taking combination with glittering water. Neighbouring villages of Hercegkút, Vajdácska and Makkoshotyka are a short walk/drive away. The latter one is the nearest point and stamping location of the National Blue Trail. The nearby town of Sátoraljaújhely is accessible by frequent bus and train service. Rent a kayak or a canoe to discover River Bodrog but if you wish to hike head to Zemplén Mountains.