Category: Castles & Palaces

Category: Castles & Palaces

Riese Complex

The Riese Complex was a Nazi Germany construction project from 1943 to 1945 consisting of seven top-secret underground structures located in the Owl Mountains and Książ Castle in Lower Silesia.

The actual purpose of the project remains unclear and Riese remains one of World War II’s greatest mysteries mainly due to a lack of documentation. Some historians suggest that the structures were planned as a network of underground factories and the tunnels below Książ Castle were to house an HQ element, perhaps an addition to Hitler’s collection of reinforced command centres.

Two things are certain, the size of the project was immense and none of the constructions were finished. Only a few tunnels were reinforced with concrete. Project Riese was abandoned at the initial stage of construction and only 9 km (25,000 m2, 100,000 m3) of tunnels were dug out.

A massive network of roads, narrow gauge railways and bridges were constructed to connect excavation sites with the nearby railway stations. In total, some 90,000 cubic metres of tunnels were carved into the mountains, the work involved to do this was strenuous and involved cutting down thousands of trees, building dams, digging reservoirs and drainage ditches, blasting rocks with explosives and reinforcing caverns with concrete and steel.

Seven major access points were constructed to separate tunnel systems at Walim-Rzeczka, Włodarz, Jugowice, Soboń, Sokolec, Osówka and Książ Castle.

To build these giant structures, the Nazis used prisoners of war, prisoners from concentration camps and forced labourers. Many of these workers lost their lives due to disease, malnutrition, exhaustion & dangerous underground works.

Initially, concentration camp prisoners were not used; however a typhus epidemic occurred amongst the workforce in December 1943 significantly slowing down production. Hitler handed over supervision of construction to Organisation Todt, headed by Albert Speer, Hitler’s chief architect and engineer and around 13,000 prisoners of the camps were put to work, many conscripted from Auschwitz concentration camp.

Interestingly, Albert Speer himself stated that the Riese Project involved some 213,000 cubic metres of tunnels. Today, less than 100,000 are accounted for, suggesting that there are many tunnels and parts of the project still to be discovered. This is technically supported by the existence of narrow-gauge railways and plumbing that appear to lead nowhere, witness accounts also support this account.

113,000 cubic metres of undiscovered tunnels and a lack of documentation as to the purpose of the project has led to numerous conspiracy theories over the years. The favourite is that the tunnels were constructed to hide confiscated Nazi treasure including the famous Amber Room which disappeared from Saint Petersburg and missing gold and art from multiple locations around Europe. An area outside Wałbrzych was the focus of a story about a buried ‘Nazi gold train’ in August 2015 and today, the areas still attracts treasure hunters in search of their fortunes.

Tours & Experiences

Private Round Trip to Project Riese Including Tickets

Lazienki Palace

Lazienki Palace is located in the beautiful Łazienki Park in Warsaw. This is the biggest and most popular park in the city and it provides visitors with many things to explore. During a walk around the 76 hectares park, you’ll see the Art Nouveau Chopin monument, a classicist amphitheatre, summer houses, pavilions, cafes & restaurants, lakes, the English garden, an Old Orangery, palaces and much more. There’s so much to see that it is possible to spend the full day in the park.

Lazienki Palace is a lovely neoclassical building originally built in the 17th century and is the former residence of King Stanisław August Poniatowski who was a great patron of the arts.

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 colonnaded bridges to the rest of the park. The location of the palace has provided the building with its unofficial name, The Palace on the Lake.

Inside the palace, you’ll find sumptuous interiors, some 140 paintings and works of art from the king's collection and an ornate ballroom.

The palace was very nearly destroyed by the retreating Germans during the final stages of WWII, they went as far as to drill holes in the structure in preparation for demolition; however the plan was never carried out.

One of the best times to visit the palace and park is from spring to late autumn when the gardens are at their best. In addition to the flora and fauna, you’ll also see peacocks, squirrels, swans and ducks.

Summer visitors should not miss out on one of the famous Chopin concerts; which take place from May to September every Sunday at 12 noon and 4pm at the Chopin monument.

Skip-the-line Lazienki Palace private tour with cruise and transport – Relax in private transportation from your accommodation in Warsaw to Lazienki Palace, visit the Palace on the Water using your skip-the-line ticket. Inside you will explore many richly ornamented chambers, such as the Solomon Room, Bathing Room or the King’s Bedroom with your private guide. Take a gondola cruise through water canals in the park surrounding Łazienki Palace. Finally, see the Belweder Palace – former residence of Polish presidents – and learn its history before returning to your accommodation.

Bedzin Castle

Bedzin Castle is located in Bedzin in southern Poland and dates back to the 14th century. Originally the site was home to an early medieval wooden hill fort; which was then transformed into a stone castle. Early documentation attributes the building of the stone fortification to King Casimir the Great and the construction of the stone castle was an important factor in securing the Polish-Czech border and trade routes into Poland.

Bedzin Castle was partially destroyed during the Swedish invasions of 1655 and was rebuilt in 1855 with the castle’s last major restoration taking place in 1956. The castle is now home to the Zagłębie Museum.

The castle was ordered to be demolished in 1825 when a piece of the stone structure fell off and crushed a person; however before demolition started, the castle was declared a monument and was saved.

The museum has several collections: one of armament, from medieval to World War II times; the second dedicated to the history of the Będzin Castle; the third to the castles of the other nearby castles founded by Casimir the Great (Eagle Nests Trail or Szlak Orlich Gniazd) and the final one, to the military history of the Będzin region.

The town of Bedzin has a dark history linked to WWII. It was once a vibrant Jewish community. According to the Polish census of 1921, the town’s Jewish population consisted of 17,298 people, or 62.1 percent of its total population however this was devastated in 1939 by the Nazi SS who destroyed the synagogue and sent 10,000 Jewish residents to Auschwitz to be exterminated.

On January 27, 1945, the town was captured by the Red Army. Subsequently, the castle was rebuilt.

Today, the renovated and partially rebuilt castle is one of the most impressive medieval structures in southern Poland.

Read reviews about Bedzin Castle.

Visit the official website for further information.

Royal Castle Warsaw

Royal Castle Warsaw is an exceptional copy of the original red-brick castle; which was destroyed by the Germans in WWII. The very first version of the castle was actually a wooden stronghold dating back to the 14th century built for the dukes of Mazovia and since then it has been the residence of Polish kings in addition to being the home of the president and also the seat of parliament.

Back in the 17th century Royal Castle Warsaw was one of the most splendid royal palaces in Europe and today; it is filled with authentic furniture from that period and many original works of art.

Reconstruction of the castle did not start until 1971 and took 13 years to complete at immense cost with the majority of the funds having been donated from exiled Poles. During the reconstruction, bricks and rubble from the original structure were used.

The highlights of the tour are the Great Apartments; which includes the Great Assembly Hall and lavishly decorated Throne Room and the King’s Apartments.

Within the King’s Apartments is the Canaletto Room where you will find 22 paintings by Bernardo Bellotto, an Italian urban landscape painter who was known in Poland as Canaletto. This room also houses the Lanckoroński Collection; which includes two portraits painted by Rembrandt.

The King’s Apartments are adorned with many paintings depicting famous Polish events which hang alongside maps depicting a golden time when Poland stretched from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.

During the tour, you will also visit the chapel with an urn containing the heart of Tadeusz Kościuszko, a Polish hero.

As is the case with many castles in Poland, there is a ghost story. In this case we have a White Lady who appears from time to time in some of the castle halls. Legend states that her appearance is linked to imminent danger.

The French Baroque Royal Gardens are delightful and can be found at the rear of the castle near the river.

Private Warsaw highlights tour in Old and New Town with Royal Castle ticket

Explore the history of Warsaw on this historical private guided tour of Old and New Town. Visit some of the most famous landmarks in the city, including the Royal Castle, the Holy Cross Church and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. You will get also some tips about the local food, drinks, and souvenirs.

Learn the facts and legends of the capital city Warsaw on a private walking tour of the highlights and main attractions. Only a few people know that Warsaw was the most important city for the economy of Poland in the modern era and we truly believe that it’s one of the most unique places on earth.

Admire the Nicolaus Copernicus Monument and the Holy Cross Church, before you continue to the University of Warsaw. Enjoy a slightly longer stop at Pilsudski Square, previously Victory Square, where you can take the time to reflect upon the unique Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Discover the charm of Warsaw Old Town, destroyed during the war but rebuilt in the beautiful Baroque style of architecture. Follow your friendly expert guide to nice Main Market Square, go through the Castle Square finally reach great Royal Castle, where the Polish monarchs lived from 1596 to 1795.

Finally, enter the Royal Castle and admire the gorgeous apartments of former kings. It’s the best way to compare how times have changed through the capital of Poland from late Medieval Times to nowadays, as a center of economics, science, business and developments – book tickets.

Lancut Castle

Lancut Castle is a grand fortress and residence with castle interiors considered to be the most beautiful in Poland. Now a museum, Lancut is accessible by guided tour or with personal audio guides.

Initially, the building was a 15th century fortified manor house. It was converted into its present form in 1641 by Prince Stanisław Lubomirski and over the years, the building has been remodelled with added neoclassical, rococo and neo-baroque elements.

The highlights of the tour include the 17th century Grand Hall, the Great Vestibule, the Zodiac Room, the rococo Corner Room and the Renaissance style Eastern Corridor. Also worth exploring is the English style garden; which surrounds the palace complex.

Some of the rooms in Lancut Castle date back to the 17th century and some were created in the 18th century. Many interiors were arranged later on at the turn of the 19th and the 20th century. Today, some of these interiors are used to showcase works of art from the Lancut collections and from other museums in addition to superb collections of furniture, porcelain, silver, glass, fabrics, musical instruments and books.

Lancut Castle was once owned by Alfred Potocki who was one of the richest men in pre-WWII Poland. During his tenancy, Alfred accumulated a very large collection of art works including paintings and horse-drawn carriages among many other items of worth. Shortly before the arrival of the Red Army in July 1944, he successfully moved the most valuable items within the castle to Liechtenstein to keep them from being destroyed or looted.

As part of the tour you will also be shown the Coach House; which is located 300m south of the castle. Among other interesting exhibits, the Coach House contains a priceless collection of horse-drawn carriages once owned by Alfred Potocki; which were built by some of the most famous carriage makers in Europe.

Tour – Eastern Castles and Przemyśl City.

Krasiczyn Castle

Krasiczyn Castle is more of a palace come stately home than a castle and is beautifully photogenic, the kind of place where young girls dream of marrying their Prince Charming. Whitewashed walls, turrets and an arcaded courtyard all help to give Krasiczyn that Cinderella feeling, cue the scene with the glass slipper but lets leave out the ugly sisters!

On a serious note, Krasiczyn is is one of the most precious Renaissance historic monuments in Poland, built between 1592 and 1618 for the extremely well-to-do Krasicki family. It is located in southeastern Poland within the Subcarpathian Voivodeship.

The designer definitely did not suffer from OCD because the shape of the structure resembles an irregular quadrangle; which is quite enlightening considering the strict adherence to building practice and right angles at the time.

The towers of Krasiczyn Castle were interestingly named after God, the Pope, the King and Nobility, with the King Tower being the favourite of potential Princesses, this is the one with a conical roof and little turrets (where’s Rapunzel?). Any Knights in shining armour wishing to rescue the sleeping princess, the God Tower (topped with a dome) is home to a chapel, take note!

Over the years, the castle has been owned by several noble Polish families and has been visited by many Polish kings. One of most precious elements of the complex is the chapel, located in the Divine Tower, which has been compared to the Sigismund’s Chapel in Krakow’s Wawel Cathedral.

Krasiczyn was used as an Army barracks during WWII and it suffered from vandalism and looting but was renovated back to its former glory after the collapse of Communist system.

In 2000, Krasiczyn was added to the association of hotels and restaurants located in historic buildings. The rooms are located in different parts of the castle complex.

The hotel offers en suite rooms with satellite TV & free WiFi. Guests are provided with free private parking, a large garden with a designated BBQ area, a cafe and amenities such as bicycle rental. The Castle Restaurant serves Polish and International dishes.

Check hotel room availability

Tour – Eastern Castles and Przemyśl City.

Krzyztopor Castle

Krzyztopor Castle is located in the tiny village of Ujazd, 35km from the town of Sandomierz. The castle is in ruins today but still attracts many visitors who are free to explore the grounds, ascend the turrets and ponder its remarkable, yet bizarre history.

The castle was commissioned in the 17th century by Krzysztof Ossoliński, an eccentric magnate with a fantastical imagination and it took 13 years to build (1631 to 1644). The construction was supervised and designed by Lorenzo Muretto, an Italian architect who was one of the few people around during this time who could create Ossolinski’s dream.

Krzyztopor Castle was indeed a work of fantasy, with immense stone walls; which were 600 metres long. It was designed to embody a calendar. It had four towers to represent the four seasons, twelve large halls to symbolise the twelve months of the year, fifty two rooms for the fifty two weeks and three hundred and sixty six windows to represent the days of the year (one only to be used during a leap year).

When construction of the castle was complete, it was known as an unconquerable fortress due to its modern fortifications and location.

Supposedly, the ball room within the castle had an aquarium in place of the ceiling and some of the cellars were used as stables for the owner’s 370 white stallions.

There are also rumours about the cellars being adorned with black marble and mirrors, underfloor heating and a 15 km underground tunnel covered in sugar.

Ossolinski was unfortunately unable to enjoy his version of Neverland because he died from a heart attack just one year after its completion leaving the estate to his son, a captain in the Polish Hussars, who now supposedly haunts the ruins of the castle at night wearing his armour.

The castle was turned into the headquarters of Swedish invaders in 1655 who left the once magnificent structure destroyed and looted and was eventually abandoned in 1770 when the owners at the time were unable to maintain it and the structure fell into ruin.

Today, the castle is rumoured to be haunted not only by the Polish Hussars captain and son of Krzysztof Ossoliński; but also a White Lady and her little white dog who continue to appear on the castle walls together on certain nights.

Visit the official Krzyztopor Castle website.

Ksiaz Castle

The incredibly beautiful and photogenic Ksiaz Castle was built in the late 13th century following the destruction of an earlier stronghold. Over the years the castle has been the home to many noble families including the Silesian Duke Bolko 1 (who built it) and the mighty House of Hochberg. The castle is situated in thick woodlands adding to its majesty and is at the heart of a rumour of a lost Nazi gold train believed to be buried in the vicinity of the castle.

During World War II, Ksiaz Castle was taken over by the occupying German forces and following Hitler’s direct orders, a system of tunnels was constructed underneath the castle and surrounding areas. The construction was one of seven underground structures all developed under the code name Project Riese.

The function of the tunnels underneath Ksiaz Castle remains unclear mainly due to a lack of documentation; however it is likely that they were going to be part of the Führer’s Headquarters network.

The construction of the tunnels within Project Riese was carried out by forced labourers, POWs and prisoners of concentration camps with many losing their lives due to disease and malnutrition.

In 2018, a 1.5km section of the tunnels was opened to the public as a tourist attraction and a 45 minute tour is available.

In true form, the Nazi occupiers deliberately destroyed many of the historic chambers within the castle and after the war, Ksiaz Castle was used as a barracks by the Red Army for a while before becoming largely abandoned. Thankfully, renovation work was undertaken in 1952 to restore the castle back to its former grandeur.

Since the 13th century, Ksiaz Castle has been remodeled numerous times and today you can see a variety of styles within its architecture including Romanesque, baroque and neo-Renaissance.

Visitors today can explore and admire numerous chambers, terraces and the surrounding gardens. The showpiece of the tour is Maximilian Hall with its painted ceiling depicting mythological scenes.

Wroclaw to Project Riese and Ksiaz Castle Private Tour.

See information about other underground attractions in Poland.

Malbork Castle

Malbork Castle in the north of Poland is the largest castle in the world measured by land area and was designated a World Heritage Site in December 1997 by UNESCO. Located on the east bank of the River Nogat, this Gothic brick-built fortress once belonged to the Teutonic Order and it served as their headquarters for almost 150 years.

Originally a fortress named Marienburg, the Teutonic Knights began this incredible construction in the 13th century and the structure took shape in various stages. Initially, the construction consisted of a formidable central bastion called the High Castle. The Middle Castle and Lower Castle followed and finally, the complex was encircled by three rings of defensive walls strengthened with towers and dungeons.

The Teutonic Knights were a German Catholic religious order of crusaders with considerable military power; however Malbork was seized by the Polish Army in 1457 during the Thirteen Years’ War at a time when the strength and influence of the Order had started to diminish.

Over the years, Malbork Castle has been home to many different occupiers including the Prussians who turned the castle into a barracks and in the process, dismantled parts of the complex with no military significance and also caused major damage to the interior decoration. The castle sustained further damage during WWII.

Despite all of this and thanks largely to intervention and restoration, the castle today looks like it did 600 years ago and almost the entire complex has been preserved. Restoration and conservation work was carried out in the 19th and early 20th centuries and also at the end of WWII with many forgotten medieval art and craft techniques being rediscovered.

Visitors to Malbork Castle can take advantage of an audio guide that utilises GPS with a set route; which if followed ensures that everything that is worth seeing is seen. There is also amenities at the ticket office such as toilets, refreshments and lockers.

During your visit, you’ll see the Middle Castle courtyard, the Grand Masters’ Palace with its 450 m2 Great Refectory, the Amber Museum, St Anne’s Chapel (where 12 Grand Masters were buried), High Castle, the gdaniska (the Knights’ loo), St Mary’s Church and a multitude of other delights such as drawbridges & Gothic doorways.

The best way to explore the castle is with a tour guide. The Malbork Castle regular tour from Gdansk is highly recommended. 

See a virtual tour of Malbork Castle.

Wawel Royal Castle

Wawel Royal Castle and the limestone Wawel Hill are extremely important historical and cultural sites containing one of the most important collection of buildings in Poland. Wawel was once the seat of Polish rulers, the residence of kings and the focal point of many Polish historical events. The hill is a symbol of the Polish nation and has witnessed some of the greatest moments in Polish history. Many Polish kings have been laid to rest below Wawel Cathedral.

Located south of the old town and next to the Vistula River, Wawel Hill showcases an incredible assortment of architectural delights including Renaissance, Gothic and Romanesque designs. Wawel Royal Castle and the Cathedral are must-see attractions and a walk around the castle courtyards and open spaces are highly recommended.

Today, Wawel Royal Castle is home to a superb art museum; which is well-known throughout Europe and the World because of its collection of Italian Renaissance paintings, the Sigismund II Augustus tapestry collection, sculptures, ceramics, period furniture and textiles among others.

The museum consists of five individual and separate sections: Crown Treasury and Armoury, State Rooms, Royal Private Apartments, Lost Wawel and the Exhibition of Oriental Art.

Pre-COVID, Wawel Royal Castle’s National Art Collection was visited by over one million visitors every year with two million people visiting Wawel Hill.

Wawel Hill has a long history; which can be traced back to the year 1000 when the first cathedral on Wawel Hill was built. Since then, Wawel has experienced many different timelines ranging from its Golden era from the 14th to the 16th centuries to the start of its decline as a centre of importance in 1609; when the then King moved his court to Warsaw.

Wawel Royal Castle was the cultural and political heart of Poland during the 16th century and today, it stands as a potent symbol and reminder of the Polish national identity. Visitors to Wawel Royal Castle today will see a 16th century Renaissance palace; however before this, it was a formidable Gothic castle; which was burned down in 1499

Over the years, the castle has been repeatedly sacked and vandalised. Extensive restoration work has been carried out since and many of the castle’s external structures and interior decorations have been recovered.

One of the best ways to explore the treasures of Wawel Royal Hill is to take a guided tour. With your local guide providing a fascinating snapshot of its history, and that of the surrounding area, you'll admire Krakow's number one tourist attraction from the outside and get a glimpse of royal life in 14th-century Poland – see further information.