Książ Castle

Castle in Książ

With 415 rooms, this castle is the largest in Silesia, majestically perched on a steep hill amid lush woods at Książ. It was built in the late 13th century by the Silesian Piast Duke Bolko I, acquired by the aristocratic von Hoberg (later Hochberg) family in 1509, and continuously enlarged and remodelled until well into the 20th century. It’s thus an amalgam of styles from Romanesque onwards; the central portion, with three massive arcades, is the oldest.

The eastern part (to the right) is an 18th-century baroque addition, while the western segment was built between 1908 and 1923 in a neo-Renaissance style.

During WWII, under Hitler’s direct orders, the German authorities confiscated the castle and began construction of a mysterious underground complex beneath the building and surrounding areas. The Soviet military then used it as a barracks until 1946, after which it was pretty much abandoned for a decade and started falling into ruin.

Luckily, restoration work began in 1974, and the lavish interiors can now be visited. Approaching the castle from the car park, you pass through a large decorative free-standing gateway and get your first view of the castle, standing at end of a beautifully landscaped garden.

Thankfully, this is one Polish stately home that you can visit without having to accompany a Polish-language tour or wear shower caps over your shoes. As an individual visitor, you follow a prescribed (and rather convoluted) route through the castle, seeing a selection of rooms. The showpiece is Maximilian Hall, built in the first half of the 18th century. It’s the largest room in the castle and completely restored to its original lavish form, including the ceiling (1733) painted with mythological scenes. The identical fireplaces on either side of the room are sublime.

Along with the main rooms, including ‘themed’ salons (baroque, Chinese, white etc) on the 1st floor, you’ll encounter various temporary exhibits and galleries en route, sometimes with objets d'art for sale. There’s also an exhibition on the various dukes up to the castle’s last owners, Prince Hans Heinrich XV and his wife Princess Daisy, who was born in Wales.

There are several restaurants and cafes dotted about the complex, including a grill and beer garden with leafy views on a terrace within the castle itself.