Castles and Palaces

Warsaw Royal Castle

Zamek WarszawakiSet on a plateau overlooking the River Vistula, Warsaw's Royal Castle was built in the 14th century as a wooden fortress for the Dukes of Mazovia. It became a royal residence when King Zygmunt III made plans to move the Polish capital to Warsaw from Krakow in 1569.

The castle then remained the seat of the monarchy and the Sejm (Polish parliament) for almost 250 years. In 1918, the castle became the official residence of the Polish president but was completely destroyed by the Nazis during World War II. The building that visitors enter today is thus a remarkable reconstruction, carried out in the 1970s, with only a few parts of the interior salvaged from the ruins. Neo-Baroque rooms are filled with museum pieces, including period furniture, porcelain, tapestries, and Oriental rugs.

The castle, built of brick is 90 m long and faces the Castle Square. At each end of the façade stands a square tower with a bulbous spire. The Sigismund’s Tower is located in the centre of the main façade, flanked on both sides by the castle. According to some theories this immense tower (60 m high) is inspired by the towers of Smolensk.

Many official visits and state meetings are held in the Royal Castle, too. Over 500 000 people visit the Royal Castle every year. This monument was so dutifully recreated, that its new facade garnered the privilege of being included on the UNESCO list.

The paintings, sculpture and decorative arts preserved nowadays inside the Castle are those that decorated its interiors at the time of King Stanislaw August Poniatowski, were the property of the National Holdings of Art in 1922-39, were acquired through gifts and bequests. Some exhibits are deposited copies and reconstructions, while others have been contributed by the Ciechanowiecki Foundation and the Teresa Sahakian Foundation.

Paintings include views of Warsaw by B. Bellotto, portraits and historical scenes by M. Bacciarelli, portraits of Polish kings and distinguished individuals and of European rulers, allegorical and genre paintings by B. Strobel, T. Kunze-Konicz, F. Smuglewicz, J. B. Piersch, L. de Silvestre, G. B. Lampi, A. Kauffmann and others. Graphics include engravings, drawings, albums and globes featuring portraits, ancient, religious and court scenes, views of architecture, works by T. Treter, W. Hondius, J. Falck and G. B. and F. Piranesi.

Opening hours: Closed 1st January, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday, 1st and 3rd May, Corpus Christi; open Mondays and Sundays, 11am-6pm (April 15 - September 30); Tuesdays - Saturdays 11am-6pm.

Łazienki Palace

zamek lazienkiOriginally a bathhouse for powerful aristocrat Stanisław Herakliusz Lubomirski, built on an islet in the middle of a lake by Tylman van Gameren. It was completely remodelled by Domenico Merlini between 1764 and 1795 to fulfil Stanisław August Poniatowski's need for a private residence where he could relax.The palace is built on an artificial island that divides the lake into two parts, a smaller northern lake and a bigger southern lake; it is connected by two Ionic colonnaded bridges to the rest of the park.

The façades are unified by an entablature carried by a giant Corinthian order of pilasters that links its two floors and is crowned by a balustrade that bears statues of mythological figures. The north façade is relieved by a central pedimented portico. On the south front a deep central recess lies behind a screen of the Corinthian order carried across its front.

On the ground floor of the palace is the Bacchus Room decorated with 17th century Dutch blue tiles and a paintind from Jacob Jordaens' workshop depicting Silenus and Bacchantes. The extensive gardens feature various outhouses built on the palace grounds - a hunting lodge, a theater, pavilions, sculptures, and monuments are just a few of the sites of interest that visitors to Lazienki Palace will encounter.

The palace is open from 9:30 until 3:15 p.m.

Palac Belwederski w Warszawie

Pałac BelwederskiA palace in Warsaw, a few kilometers south of the Royal Castle. The present building is the latest of several that have stood on the site since 1660. Belweder once belonged to Poland's last king, Stanisław August Poniatowski, who used it as a porcelain-manufacturing plant. From 1818 it was the residence of Russian Grand Duke Constantine, who fled it at the beginning of the November 1830 Uprising.

After the re-establishment of Poland's independence following World War I, it was (with a hiatus, 1922-26) the residence of Marshal Józef Piłsudski, Chief of State (1918–22) and later (1926-35) dictator of Poland, who died there in 1935.

During World War II, the building was extensively remodeled for Hans Frank, Governor-General of the German-occupied "General Government" of Poland.

In 1945-52 it was the residence of Bolesław Bierut, and later of the president of the Council of State. From 1989 to July 1994, it was the official residence of Poland's president, but proved too small for that purpose. Currently Belweder is used by the President and the Government for ceremonial purposes, while the President resides at the "Governor's Palace" in the city center. It also serves as an official residence for heads of state on official visits to Poland and other important guests.

The palace is open from 9:00 till 4:00 p.m during weekdays and from 10:00 till 4:00 p.m on weekends.

Kornik Castle

On the old property, previously connected with the name of the ancient noble Górka family, obtained through the heritage in 19 century by an aristocrat Ksawery Działyński, a neo-gothic, small, romantic castle has been built by his son Tytus. Today the Kórnik castle houses the museum of interiors, a collection of armaments as well as known in Poland and abroad library. The castle’s park (called Arboretum) is an attraction on its own, with the great collection of rhododendrons and azaleas.

Arboretum is organized in a free English style with open spaces of lawns, quiet meadows, interesting trees, and bushes. It is now one of the richest parks in number of species – around 3500 with the biggest in Poland collection of rhododendrons and azaleas. Some of the big, old trees growing here date parks beginning in the 17 century so many trees have now almost 200 years. In the years 1960-1970, the park has been extended further east and behind the Kórnickie Lake.

Hours: Tuesday till Sunday 9.00 - 17.30, the park closes at 17.00. Closed: Monday and all holidays.

Rogalin Palace

Built in the 17-18th centuries, Rogalin palace began as a Baroque structure. Over the centuries, its style has been adapted to suit the times. The Rogalin Palace is part of the National Museum of Poznan, and has been awarded a grant in order to restore and preserve it and its treasures. The Rogalin Palace is surrounded by park grounds.

The palace is open from Monday to Saturday from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.

Rydzyna Castle

RydzynThe castle in Rydzyna was built at the beginning of 15th century by Jan of Czernina. At the end of the 17th century Italian architects Joseph Simon Bellotti and Pompeo Ferrari erected the present Baroque castle on its ancient foundations. The first owners of the castle were the Leszczyński family.

Together with a park and surrounding areas, it was one of the most splendid palaces in Great Poland. From 1704-1709 it was the residence of Polish king Stanisław Leszczyński. In 1709, during the Great Northern War, the castle was partly burnt by the tsar's soldiers. However, wall-paintings and stucco works in the representative rooms, made by Italian artists, were not destroyed completely.

During the German occupation, 1939-1945, a "Hitlerjugend" school was placed in the castle. At the end of January 1945 the Castle in Rydzyna was burnt. The severely damaged Castle awaited a new owner until 1970, when was taken over by The Association of Polish Mechanical Engineers (S.I.M.P.) and rebuilt according to documents and photographs from before World War II. The work was completed in 1989. In 1994 the castle was awarded by the prestigious international organization Europa Nostra in recognition of the excellence of the restoration work. Original equipment and furnishing from the Castle were lost before World War I.

The main Baroque rooms were completely restored to their original grandeur according to the historic documentation. In the castle collections there are: old furniture, historical drawings, remembrances of the Sułkowski family, nature collections e.g.: tropical butterflies, hunting trophies. In the library one can find documentation connected with the previous owners of the Castle, The Sulkowski Grammar School and The Association of Polish Mechanical Engineers.

The palace is open from Monday to Saturday from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.

Ksiaz Castles

ksiazA castle in Silesia, Poland near the town of Wałbrzych. The Kiasz Castle is located on a steep rock by the side of the Pelcznica River. It is Poland’s third largest castle. The gothic structure was originally made for fortification, by Prince of Swinica and Jawor Bolko I. When the Hochberg family, one of the richest families in Prussia, got possession of the castle in the 17th century, it was converted into a luxurious palace by Ernest Maksymilian Hochberg.

The original fortification was destroyed in the year 1263 by Ottokar II of Bohemia. Bolko I, Duke of Świdnica and Jawor built a new castle between 1288 and 1292. Duke Bolko II of Świdnica died in 1368 without having children with his wife Agnes von Habsburg. After her death in the year 1392 king Wenzel IV of Bohemia obtained the castle. In 1401 Janko z Chociemic obtained the castle. The Bohemian Hussites occupied the castle between 1428-1429. In the year 1464 Birka z Nasiedla obtained the castle from the Bohemian crown. He sold it to Hans von Schellendorf.

This second castle was destroyed 1482 by Georg von Stein. In the year 1509 Konrad I von Hoberg (from 1714: Hochberg) obtained the castle hill. The Hochberg family owned the castle until 1941. The castle was occupied by the Red army in 1945. Most artifacts were lost or destroyed.

The Ksiaz Castle was often called ‘The Lower Silesian Versailles’ because of its 400 chambers and over 200 fireplaces. The castle also has lovely terraced gardens, which are an added tourist attraction. On the premises of the Ksiaz castle complex, you will also find the Ksiaz State Stallion Stud. This, at one time used to be the stables and carriage house of the castle. Today it is one of the finest indoor riding stables in Europe. International driving and dressage competitions and horse auctions are held here regularly.