Fascinating Poland and Its Amazing Castles

Written by  Maxine Albert

EUROPE PolandPoland is having a moment. With increasing chicness appeal, recently added nonstop flights to Warsaw and Krakow on LOT Airlines from New York, Newark, Chicago and Los Angeles
(www.lot.com), plus the locale’s great value for your money, more visitors are flocking to this ‘in’ destination. Medieval towns, remarkable museums, a blossoming art scene, trendy haunts, exceptional cuisine and world-class spas are some of the superb amenities Poland offers visitors.
The country’s fascinating historical heritage is reflected in its amazing castles with their unique architectural styles and stories. With over a hundred sprinkled across Poland - ranging from ruins with historic significance, preserved gems to meticulously restored wonders and royal residences - they are all impressive. Many of these magnificent structures contain museums and have venues for cultural events; some have been converted into luxury hotels with outstanding restaurants. Here are some of my favorites:

The Wawel Royal Castle in Krakow
Perched on a hilltop, Wawel Royal Castle is a symbol of Poland’s national pride. The stunning Romanesque, Renaissance and Gothic architecture dates from the 14th century when Krakow was the royal capital and the castle was the residence of Polish Kings. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, the magnificent castle serves as a museum with five separate sections. These include the not-to-be-missed grand staterooms, royal apartments and Crown Treasury containing the crown jewels. Also noteworthy: the stupendous interior of the Cathedral. A leisurely stroll around the courtyards and gardens will surely delight.

The Royal Castle in Warsaw
The Royal Castle was the residence of Polish royalty between the 16th and the 18th centuries after the court was relocated to Warsaw from Krakow. The Royal Castle was completely destroyed by the German army during World War II and remarkably reconstructed in the 1980s. The handsome tangerine castle is home to a sterling collection of portraits of the Polish kings and also 23 stunning 18th-century paintings of Warsaw commissioned by Poland’s last King, S. A. Poniatowski.

Castles in the Southwest
The Ksiaz Castle in Walbrzych: Poland’s third largest castle called the pearl of Upper Silesia, is located within Ksiaz Landscape Park, 5 miles north of Walbrzych, and dates back to the 13th century. The magnificent grey and pink castle became even more popular after the recent news that a Nazi Gold train has been located near or under the Castle. Winston Churchill and Russian Czar Nicholas I Romanov are among the many famous guests who stayed here. Today, the historic castle offers guided tours around its interiors. Additionally, it is home to three hotels, and restaurants, so you can stay and dine surrounded by centuries-old art and architecture.
Czocha Castle: If you’re a hardcore Harry Potter fan, you will love Czocha Castle. Known as the Polish Hogwarts, it’s been the site of live-action wizard role playing games, and is nicknamed, “The College of Wizardry.” Built in the 13th century as a defensive castle, then ransacked during World War II, the castle has been splendidly refurbished. Today, it is home to an elegant hotel, restaurant and museum.

Castles in Western Poland
Goluchow Castle: Located in a picturesque park on the river Trzemna, about 65 miles southeast of Poznan, the Goluchow Castle, erected in the mid-16th century, is famous for its exquisite Renaissance architecture and well-preserved, gorgeous interiors. Princess Izabela Czartoryska who resided here, dedicated the entire site to her dazzling art collection, still on view today.

Castles in Northern Poland
The Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork: The Gothic castle in Malbork, built between 1274 and 1457 by the knights of the Teutonic Order, who received the land as a gift from a Polish-Masovian duke is one of the biggest European medieval castles. Once serving as a fortress, its location 45 miles southeast of Gdansk on a peninsula between two rivers made it a fantastic spot for defense.
Kwidzyn Castle: The Gothic Kwidzyn Castle, 25 miles south of Malbork Castle, is an example of Teutonic architecture. Built in the 14th century, it served as the residence for Pomesanians, a Prussian clan. Its unusual design includes underground medieval crypts that you can visit, and a bridge connecting to the castle that serves as a sewer tower. You’ll also find a remarkable museum and a cathedral.

Castles of Southern Poland
Moszna Castle: About 25 miles south of Opole, the eye catching 17th-century Moszna Castle, surrounded by a magnificent garden filled with colorful flowers and plants and originally done in Baroque style, added both a Gothic and Renaissance wing. Its 99 spires resemble magical places featured in fairytales, Disney films and Harry Potter. In addition to housing a museum, restaurant and luxe hotel, it also hosts summer camps. Adding to the loveliness, the castle is surrounded by a majestic garden that showcases vibrant flowers and plants.
Wisnicz Castle: This beautiful residential castle and fortress perched high atop a hill and surrounded by lush greenery, is located in the charming town of Nowy Wisnicz, about 30 miles south east of Krakow. Wisnicz Castle is the largest preserved Baroque fortified residence in Poland, receiving its current Renaissance-inspired facade during the reign of Piotr Kmita. The main attraction: each of the four towers at the corners of the residence with their own unique shape, render the appearance of a completely different structure from every angle.
Ogrodzieniec Castle: Nestled in the Polish Jurassic Highland, northwest of Krakow, Ogrodzieniec Castle dates from the fourteenth and fifteenth century. Today you can tour the surreal and spooky looking ruins, so atmospheric - they are used in many movies and music videos.
Niedzica Castle: This former fortress and residence, located 70 miles south east of Krakow and constructed in the 14th century, is set atop an ancient hill above the scenic Dunajec River. Today, visitors to picturesque Niedzica Castle can dress in traditional period costumes and dine on an authentic medieval feast, even using old-fashioned wooden utensils. Jousting competitions and medieval dancing often accompany these feasts, designed to offer a glimpse into Poland’s past. And they are great fun!
For more information about Poland’s castles, visit www.poland.travel/en/castles-palaces-2 or www.poland.travel

Developed by Interwave Concepts, Inc.