Wałbrzych, Poland - September 8, 2020: Beautiful architecture of the Książ Castle in Lower Silesia, Poland.; Shutterstock ID 1828256156; your: Bridget Brown; gl: 65050; netsuite: Online Editorial; full: POI Image Update

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Książ Castle

Top choice in Lower Silesia

This impossibly photogenic castle, the largest in Silesia, commands a thickly wooded prominence in Książ. Following the destruction of an earlier stronghold in 1263, the Silesian Duke Bolko I built a castle here in the late 13th century. That fortress passed to the von Hobergs (later called the Hochbergs) in 1509, and was repeatedly assaulted and remodelled until well into the 20th century. Today you'll see a melange of styles from Romanesque onwards, with the oldest section at its heart.

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. Opened in 2018, the Underground Tourist Route now allows visitors to explore a 1.5km section of the works. An enhanced-entry ticket to the entire castle (adult/concession 47/37zł) entitles you to a 45-minute tour.

Following the war, the Soviet military used Książ as a barracks; from 1946 it was largely abandoned, and started falling into ruin. Luckily, restoration work began in 1974, and the lavish interiors can now be visited.

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.

Approaching the castle from the car park, you'll pass through a large decorative free-standing gateway for your first view of the edifice, standing at the end of a beautifully landscaped garden.