The 12th-century Swabian Castle (Castello Normanno-Svevo), with its fortified ramparts and vaulted halls, is one of top sights in Bari and a refreshing break from the port city’s Romanesque churches and art collections. Climb the Hohenstaufen tower and Aragon walls for sweeping views of the city and sea.
The Swabian Castle was built on the Adriatic seafront in 1132 by Norman conquerors to keep the citizens of Bari in check. Damaged later during a skirmish with Sicily, the fortress was rebuilt and extended in 1233 by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II; its thick walls and moat were added during the 16th century when the castle became a private residence. During its long life, this waterfront castle has been owned by several Italian noble families and used as a prison and army barracks. Today, the tranquil courtyard and halls house the Gipsoteca, a museum of sculptural fragments in plaster from important monuments in Bari Vecchia, the city’s historic center.
One of the top attractions in Bari, Swabian Castle is included in most walking or bike tours of the historic center, along with the Basilica of St. Nicholas, the Cathedral of St. Sabino, and Piazza Mercantile.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Much of the Swabian Castle is outdoors, so wear a hat and sunscreen.
- The castle and museum are accessible to wheelchairs and strollers.
- A visit to the castle is fun for kids, and there is a large grassy courtyard.
- Views over the city and sea from the castle are among the best in Bari, so bring your camera.
How to Get There
The Swabian Castle is located on Piazza Federico II di Svevia, adjacent the city’s historic center and an easy walk from the train station and from other important sights and attractions.
When to Get There
Southern Italian cities can get uncomfortably hot in the summer, and Bari is no exception. Plan your visit to Swabian Castle for first thing in the morning or during the late afternoon if you are traveling between June and September. The castle is closed on Mondays.
The Gipsoteca in Bari’s Swabian Castle
Inside the castle, three large vaulted halls house Bari’s Gipsoteca, a museum that collects sculptural fragments, plaster casts of architectural motifs, and decorations made of marble and stone. The sculptures and fragments come from some of the most important churches and palaces in the region, tracing architectural styles from ancient times through the 18th century.