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Of all the places I’ve visited in my 10 years of travel, Poland is one of the countries that have surprised me the most. As I’ve already mentioned in my 7 reasons to visit Poland post, I spent six years living on and off in Poland. So I got to explore the country quite thoroughly which I’m very happy about because I truly believe Poland is one of the most underrated countries in Europe.
The UK and maybe Germany, in particular, have become synonymous with impressive castles. I mean, we’ve all seen the dreamy shots of Schloss Neuschwanstein in winter on Instagram and the majestic Highclere Castle on Downton Abbey. Right? But did you know that Poland boasts over 300 castles and palaces!? I sure didn’t!
In Poland, you’ll find everything from pink fairytale castles to stunning royal palaces and medieval ruins. So as the castle-obsessed person I am, I just had to share my favorite Polish castles and I also asked three fellow female travel bloggers to share theirs.
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1. Moszna Castle
Moszna Castle, located in southern Poland between Katowice and Wrocław, looks like something out of a fairytale. Although the name Moszna translates to something like “scrotum” (according to my Polish friend), I promise there’s nothing hairy about this place. Its sheer size and elegance are genuinely captivating, so it comes as no surprise that it is considered one of the most magnificent castles in the world.
Inside the castle turned hotel there are a staggering 365 rooms while the most striking feature outside has to be the 99 towers and spires. Moszna Castle covers an area of around 7,000 sq. meters and is bursting with character due to the many legends and mysteries that surround it.
Locals believe that initially, the structure was not, in fact, a castle but a monastery run by the Order of The Knights Templar. While there are countless stories and secrets regarding the history of Moszna Castle, it wasn’t until investigations were carried out that a bunch of ancient cellars was found below what is now the gardens. Which only reinforces the possibility of a Templar connection.
From the available records, we can see that the first family registered as owners of the grounds was the Skall family back in 1679. The history of the castle following the first known owners is long and detailed. Of course, originally it was nowhere near as grand as what we see today but over the years, and the exchange in ownership the castle grew into the towering beauty that we see today. Like that of Czocha Castle, Moszna Castle was also ransacked by soldiers of the Red Army after WWII who left only the structure behind.
Obviously, you don’t have to be a guest to visit the castle, but as glamorous as it looks, a hotel room here is actually very reasonably priced. Moszna Castle is open all year round with prices ranging between $20 – $30.
Related post: 2 days in Gdansk, Poland: A first timer’s guide
2. Gołuchów Castle
Goluchow Castle, a captivating structure that sits pretty near the Trzemna River, was built in the late 16th century by a family known as the Leszcynski’s. Several centuries later the castle was transformed by Izabela of the Czartoryskis into the French Renaissance style. Izabela had the famous French architect Maurice August Ouradou work on the plans with the assistance of Zygmunt Gorgolewski from Poland. The outcome of their work was inspired by that of the renowned Loire Chateaux mixed with some Italian style. Even some of the sculptures that remain there now were brought in from France and Italy.
Open to the public since 1962 the building contains a wealth of exhibits both original and new. Goluchow Castle has many rooms to be explored including the gothic room, the ancient room, and the Polish room just to name a few. The exhibition areas hold ancient cases that date back to the 3rd and 7th centuries along with historical paintings of the Polish royal family. As for furnishings many that are found in the castle are the original pieces as are the crafted doors and fireplaces.
The grounds surrounding Goluchow Castle is a beautifully landscaped park where you can sit down and take in the gorgeous sights. Goluchow Castle is open every day except for Mondays and the hours of visitation are between 10 am and 4 pm with Sundays remaining open until 6 pm. If you would like to spend the night, the grand Dom Pracy Twórczej Hotel, located only a short three-minute walk from the castle, could be a great option.
3. Warsaw Royal Castle – by The Travelling Stomach
The Royal Castle, nestled in the city center, is one of Warsaw’s most famous and iconic attractions, enticing the city’s visitors with its grand, striking brick-red facade. Sadly, the original palace was destroyed by the Germans during the Second World War, but its replacement, eventually reconstructed in the late 20th Century, has proven to be one of the city’s most splendid views.
The castle is open to visitors every day, with the exception of Mondays, with tickets costing between 10-20 zł. However, if you are in the city on a Wednesday, take full advantage of the one day of free entry! Whilst there, you can arrange for a personal guided tour at an additional fee, or pick up an audio guide for your visit, costing between 12-17 zł per person.
During your visit, take in the beautiful period furniture and art masterpieces that decorate the palace today. One highlight is the castle’s Great Apartment, with its magnificent Great Assembly Hall. Here you can wonder at the beautifully restored decor, including its golden columns and intricately detailed designs.
The huge fresco you will find on the ceiling, titled “The Disentanglement of Chaos”, is a mighty sight with kings and angels soaring above you and is one of the centerpieces of the room. Throughout you will be wowed by the palace’s designs and is definitely not one to miss during your visit to Poland’s capital!
4. Niedzica Castle
Situated on a hill overlooking the mouth of the Dunajec River, is Niedzica Castle. It was initially built by a Hungarian man by the name of Kokos of Brezovica sometime between 1320 and 1326. Due to its location Niedzica Castle is also referred to as Dunajec Castle, so for the sake of clarity, both names refer to the same castle.
Like many castles and famous old structures, Niedzica Castle has changed hands many times since it was first constructed and because of this, it has undergone a lot of renovation. In 1963 the castle opened up as a museum which is how it remains today. Not all of the building remains erected or ‘safe for entrance,’ but there is still plenty to see when visiting.
The upper and middle section of the castle remains as do the dungeons. Heading toward the museum you can see stored artifacts and bits of the original interior of the castle. Along with this are ancient rifles, prints, engravings, clocks in their original condition, pistols, old documents, and much more.
Another castle another legend and the one behind this one is heart-wrenching. It’s believed that an Inca princess was killed in the Niedzica Castle after which her ghost remained to roam the grounds trying to tell her son where the lost Inca treasure could be found.
In order to visit Niedzica Castle, you would need to join a tour departing from Zakopane or Krakow unless you have your own transportation. From October to April the castle opens from 9 am until 5 pm and from May through to September it remains open until 7 pm.
5. Malbork Castle – Our Life, Our Travel
Malbork Castle, or in its official name the Castle of the Teutonic Order, is a perfect day trip from Gdansk. It is the largest castle in the world and also one of the World Heritage Sites of Poland. You can reach it by car in less than an hour, or take a short train ride from Gdansk to Malbork.
The Teutonic Knights built the castle during the 13th century, and it was functioning as a fortress. The ownership of the castle changes several times during the centuries. Among others, it served as one of the residencies of the Polish Royals, then for 2 centuries, it belonged to Germany. It was given back to Poland after World War 2. After extended renovation, nowadays it hosts several exhibitions.
The castle is huge, and well-worth exploring not only the interior but outside as well. The Blessed Virgin Mary Church and the statues of the knight are one of the most spectacular parts.
Popular castle tours
6. Pieskowa Skała Castle – The Trail of the Eagle’s Nests
The Trail of the Eagle’s Nests is a chain of 25 medieval castles and ruins between Częstochowa and Kraków. It was named the “Eagle’s Nests” because most of the castles are located on large hills and limestone cliffs. The castles date mostly to the second half of the 14th century when King Casimir “the Great” ruled Poland. He ordered the construction of the castles not only for military purposes but also to protect merchants who traveled along the busy trade route running from Lviv through Kraków to Wrocław.
Set on a cliff overlooking the lush Prądnik River valley, Pieskowa Skała Castle is a spectacular sight. Since its humble beginnings as a defensive stronghold in the 14th century, the castle has been expanded and modernized with the changing trends by several different owners over the years. Today it stands as one of the most pristine examples of Renaissance residential architecture in the country. It is also by far the best-preserved castle on The Trail of the Eagle’s Nests.
Pieskowa Skała is open to visitors every day except Mondays and the entrance fee is only 10zł / $2.6. The castle boasts a large courtyard, a clocktower, restaurant and a perfectly manicured garden. It also houses a collection of art and artifacts from the Royal Castle Museum in Kraków. The best view of Pieskowa Skała is from the valley below the castle, where you’ll also find a very interesting looking rock called “Hercules’ Club”.
7. Lublin Castle – by Backpack Adventures
Few people visit Lublin in the eastern part of Poland, even though it is a beautiful city with several things to do. One of them is Lublin Castle which is one of the oldest and best-preserved castles in Poland.
Lublin is an ancient city situated between Vilnius and Krakow. It has always attracted rich merchants and traders from the area and this wealth is reflected in the Lublin castle. The castle was built in the 14th century by king Casimir the great. In its glory days, the castle was serving royal families and was at the center of life in Lublin.
Wars in the seventeenth century put an end to the castle’s good times and gave it a dark purpose. Under Russian rule, the castle became a prison and later the Nazi’s used it as a detention center for political prisoners and Jews.
After the second world war, Poland decided to preserve its heritage and the castle was renovated. In 1957 it opened its doors to the public as the Lublin Museum. The castle, which is open every day from 10 am to 6 pm, is well worth a visit even if you do not enter the museum. The castle is on a hill and the courtyard is free to enter. From there you have a beautiful view of Lublin.
8. Książ Castle
Książ Castle, also known as the Pearl of Lower Silesia, lies within Książ Landscape Park, a protected area in western Poland close to the Czech border. It is my favorite castle in Poland and I bet you can see why!
In its first centuries, the castle changed hands often and was destroyed during a fire and numerous wars. In 1941 the castle was seized by the Nazis who were planning on turning it into a residence for Hitler. Soon after the construction of a bunker 50 meters beneath the castle began, but the complex was never finished.
A couple of years ago the area drew worldwide attention when two explorers announced they had located a secret tunnel that supposedly was hiding a train loaded whit Nazi gold and treasures. Although no gold has been found yet, the stunning area which looks like something out of a fairytale is well worth a visit.
Today there are several hotels and restaurants on the property, with Hotel Książ being the largest and the closest to the castle. It’s the perfect location for a weekend getaway or a stop on your Polish road trip.
The photo above is shot from a viewpoint just up the road from the castle itself. You’ll find it by searching for Punkt Widokowy na Zamek Książ on Google Maps.
9. Nowy Wisnicz Castle
Dating back to the 14th century, Nowy Wisnicz Castle is constructed in the classical four-sided, central courtyard form. The founders were the noble family, the Kmitas. Later on, the castle made its way to the Lubomirskis which made it home to the Lubomirski Princess. This group was no set of average folk, they were in fact, one of the most powerful tribes in Europe, partly due to the fact that Stanislaw Lubomirski was the biggest landowner on the continent. As the family’s generations continued and the castle remained in their possession, they actually lost their glorious castle at one point but managed to gain ownership again once communism had fallen in 1991.
Nowy Wisnicz Castle’s new life as a museum means that the family no longer lives here, but their legacy is detailed in the museum. One of the rooms in the castle has been completely restored so you can see firsthand, what one of their rooms would have looked like.
If you’re staying in Kraków, Nowy Wisnicz is a perfect half-day trip as the castle is located only an hour’s bus ride away from the city center. The museum is open daily, except for Mondays, until 4 pm and there’s also a restaurant on site.
10. Wilanow Palace
While technically not a castle, Wilanow Palace is just too gorgeous to be left out of this list. The very start of what would turn out to be a mesmerizing Palace began in the April of 1677 when King John Sobieski III took ownership of the village. At first, the King built a simple typical Polish house with the intention of eventually transforming it.
Over the years until 1696, the structure had been expanded and redeveloped into a recognizable noble house. Naturally, as time went by the ownership of Wilanow Palace transferred and eventually ended up in the hands of Stanislaw Kostka Potocki. It was during his ownership that in 1805 the Wilanow Palace opened its doors as a museum, one of the first in Poland.
Situated in the Wilanow District in Warsaw the Palace is definitely worth a visit. There are two main sections of the Palace, the first floor and the main floor. The Royal apartments, event rooms, and socializing chambers, the King’s library, and the Chapel are found on the main floor. The exhibition and museum part of the Palace is located on the first floor where you can view the Gallery of the Polish Portrait among other invaluable pieces.
The Palace opens from 9.30am every morning and closes at 6 pm in the evening except for Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday where it closes at 4 pm.
Related post: 7 reasons why you should visit Poland right now!
11. Czocha Castle
In the quaint town of Czocha in southwestern Poland, lies the defensive castle of Czocha. The castle, that sits on Gneiss Rock over Lake Leśnia, was first constructed in the 13th century. Wenceslaus I of Bohemia was the one who ordered the castle to be built, taking about a century to be completed.
Over the years the castle was passed on to noble families, princes, and Kings until 1909 when it was purchased by cigar manufacturer, Ernst Gutschow. After WWII Czocha Castle was broken into multiple times by thieves and Red Army soldiers. Any form of valuable items, paintings, and furniture was taken, leaving the castle more or less bare.
Since then Czocha Castle has housed Greek refugees in the 1940s and 50s and had returned to the Polish as a military vacation resort. Finally, Czocha Castle opened up as a hotel and conference center in 1996 and has actually been featured in several films including Beyond Sherwood Forest and Spellbinder. Guided tours of Czocha Castle run every hour and takes only 45-60 minutes. Those who aren’t staying at Czocha Castle as a guest can still enjoy the experience of the castle’s grounds, feast on traditional Polish cuisine, and grab a slice of cake and a coffee at the tea room.
12. Wawel Royal Castle
And last but not least, no list would be complete without the mighty Royal Castle of my dear Kraków. Wawel Castle gained its name from the limestone hill in the center of the city known as Wawel. Architects believe that this castle is the best example of pre-romanesque architecture. As Wawel was the seat of Polish rulers, we can date the first one back to the 11th century around the time of the rule of Mieszko II and Boleslav the Brave.
Nowadays the Wawel Royal Castle is a museum with five sections the Royal Private Apartments, State Rooms, Lost Wawel and the Exhibition of Oriental Art, and the Crown Treasury & Armoury. Each section requires a different ticket. Upon visiting the castle, there are several guided options ranging from $26 to $58. Three of the most visited areas include the State Rooms, the Royal Private Apartments, and the Treasury & Armoury but everyone can enjoy the castle grounds for free.
The opening hours vary depending on the time of year with March and October opening from 9am-6pm, and the summer months closing slightly later.