Gołuchów’s castle began life around 1560 as a small fortified mansion with octagonal towers at its corners, built by the Leszczyński family. Some 50 years later it was enlarged and reshaped into a palatial residence in the late Renaissance style. Abandoned at the end of the 17th century, it gradually fell into ruins until the Działyński family, the owners of Kórnik castle, bought it in 1856. It was completely rebuilt between 1872 and 1885, when it acquired its French appearance.
The castle’s stylistic mutation was essentially the brainchild of Izabela Czartoryska, daughter of Prince Adam Czartoryski and wife of Jan Działyński. She commissioned the French architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc to reinvent the residence; under his supervision many architectural bits and pieces were brought from abroad, mainly from France and Italy, and incorporated into the building.
Having acquired large numbers of works of art, Izabela crammed them into her new palace, which became one of the largest private museums in Europe. During WWII the Nazis stole the art, but the building itself survived relatively undamaged. Part of the collection was recovered and is now once more on display in its rightful home.
On exhibition inside the building is a wealth of furniture, paintings, sculptures, weapons, tapestries, rugs and the like. One of the highlights is a collection of Greek vases from the 5th century BC. You enter the castle through a decorative 17th-century doorway, which leads into a graceful arcaded courtyard. Admission is strictly limited, with tours running for a set number of visitors every half-hour.