The Island Castle in Trakai, Lithuania (with Map & Photos)

The Trakai Island Castle (Trakų salos pilis) has become one of the most visited places in Lithuania. Historical symbol of the Middle Ages of the Duchy of Lithuania, the photogenic silhouette and postcard that Trakai Castle offers with the waters of Galvė and Lukos lakes around it, has made a master advertisement for tourism to come here.

Trakai Island Castle Lithuania
Trakai Island Castle Lithuania

Tourists are often content with a quick visit to the Island Castle, and taking pictures of his figure from afar, but both the interior of the fortress and the surroundings of Trakai deserve to be seen with a pause, enjoying a natural setting of great beauty.

History of Trakai Castle


Like a good castle worth its salt, legends surround Trakai. They say that Birute, the wife of the Duke of Trakai and Samogitia, was unhappy because of the scarce water that was near the medieval city of Old Trakai (Senieji Trakai, which is 3km from the lake), very different from the immensity of the Baltic Sea of Palanga, his hometown. To please her, the duke had the castle built on one of the lake's islands, transferring his residence and court to the new "city of lakes." Thus Trakai became the capital of the Duchy of Lithuania between 1316 and 1321, at which time it moved to Kernavė.

Trakai Island Castle Lithuania
Trakai Island Castle Lithuania

In 1382 Duke Kęstutis was assassinated and shortly after in 1391 the castle was destroyed by the Teutonic knights. In 1409 his son Vytautas the Great (who was born in the castle) granted the power to build a church in Trakai by expanding the castle. In 1410, the Battle of Žalgiris took place, where the alliance of the Lithuanian and Polish armies against the Teutons was sealed, and after the victory the territory was pacified, which in turn meant the loss of strategic and military sense of the castle  For centuries it was the palatial residence of the dikes and even a prison for rebellious nobles, and in the seventeenth century new conflicts with the principality of Moscovia (Moscow) left Trakai in ruin.

Although there were some recovery actions in the early 20th century (paralyzed by the First World War and the Russian Revolution), it was not until the 1950s that Trakai Island Castle was restored. In 1962 a collection was opened with the Trakai History Museum inside. For Lithuanians, Trakai was an icon of the Duchy of Lithuania and for this reason the Soviet government did not want to feed Lithuanian national nationalism, which is why the restoration works were slow and were not completed until independence.

Trakai Island Castle Lithuania
Trakai Island Castle Lithuania

Trakai Castle Postcards


Trakai is nestled in the area of ​​numerous lakes. On which the castle is located is Lake Galvė, made up of small islands, one of which serves as a natural raft for the key site in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. It was Duke Gediminas who ordered it to be built in the middle of the 14th century to be the center of an enormous power that would grow with its most illustrious occupant, Vytautas the Great. Gothic and brick in style, quite reminiscent of Malbork (in northern Poland), it is characterized as the only European castle built on an island in the middle of a lake. If we observe Trakai town we realize that there is more water than streets, so it is not surprising that behind the walls there is no better barrier than that offered by nature itself.

Trakai Island Castle Lithuania
Trakai Island Castle Lithuania

There is a small pier with bars, restaurants and shops that is located behind the most privileged viewpoint in the entire Island Castle. From that place are born the best photos that occupy guides, magazines and websites that talk about trips to Lithuania. It is precisely there where those wonderful postcards of Trakai Island Castle are born that make travelers not want to miss it for the world. That day the sky clouded over, cleared completely and was covered again, allowing to observe in a different way the reflection of the castle in the leaden color of the waters of the Galvė.

Strolling on a summery day with street marching bands, couples holding hands, and swans stretching their graceful necks, I walked the edges of the lake to freeze the castle at different angles. Two wooden walkways served to hold the fortress more tightly and prevent it from moving in time with the lake's waters. The different cylindrical towers, and others more rectilinear, with their unmistakable roofs, were orange the horizon even more if possible. The contrast of the closed clouds and the color of the castle visually paired to perfection.

Trakai Island Castle Map