Golubac Fortress lies 5km east of the Serbian town of Golubac, about a 50-minute journey along the main road from the village. It is possible to walk part of the way along a riverside pathway, but the main road is the only option for the rest, although there is a footpath along most of it.
The castle is clearly visible from the town itself but as soon as you start walking it disappears around a headland and only reappears once you are almost upon it. The walk is well worth the effort: Golubac is the perfect fairy-tale castle, wonderfully set off by its location in the rugged landscape at the head of the Đerdap Gorge and undoubtedly one of the most beautiful castles along the river’s length. It marks the beginning of the narrowing of the Danube at the Iron Gates and the western limit of Đerdap National Park; there is a noticeboard to this effect immediately before it. Golubac is also no longer a ruin, having been fully restored in recent years; some might even argue that it has been somewhat overdone.
The main road that used to pass through the fortress site now feeds through a tunnel behind the complex and there is a large car park, visitor centre with ticket office, souvenir shop and café. Separate tickets are sold for different zones of the fortress and do be aware that it closes early outside the summer months, although the green-zone archaeological area in front of the fortress is open later.
There are nine towers in all, each between 20m and 25m high. The castle’s ramparts climb high up the hillside above the main road and the extensive walls are impressively thick, with an average width of 2.8m. The various towers are ranked according to difficulty of access, with the Hat Tower considered the trickiest – it also requires a zone IV entrance ticket, the most expensive category, and a designated guide, as does Tower 7. It is suggested that zones II, III & IV require visitors to be in good physical condition and are not suitable for those who suffer from acrophobia (fear of heights) or ophidiophobia (fear of snakes), so with a bit of luck you might see some interesting wildlife along the way. Do take some time to explore the surrounding archaeological park as well, which holds the excavated remains of a Roman house, an Ottoman period hammam and a medieval lime kiln.
The fortress was built by Hungarians, who called it Galambocz, on the same site as the Roman Castrum Columbarum, probably sometime in the second half of the 13th century, although this is uncertain as the first written record that relates to it is from 1335. Golubac was captured by the Turks in 1391 and changed ownership several times before being finally reclaimed by the Serbs in 1867. On the Romanian side of the river lie the remains of another castle, Laslovar, although this is in a far more ruinous state.