Lower Silesia is a region of vasts forests, snowy peaks, picturesque villages and historic towns in southwestern Poland, bordering Germany and the Czech Republic. Power over the region exchanged hands many times through its history; from the medieval Kingdom of Poland to the Kingdom of Bohemia, the Habsburg Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia – each constructed imposing castles and fortresses that still stand till this day. Throughout the centuries, Lower Silesia became well-known as a holiday destination for many of Europe’s richest families and monarchies. The verdant landscapes, virgin forests and mineral springs acted as a magnet, and these families spent many of their holidays here in custom-built palaces.
These days, Lower Silesia boasts one of the highest concentrations of palaces and castles in Europe. On my recent trip there, I was amazed by the sheer number of them. Many of them have been converted into luxury hotels, restaurants, spas or museums, making Lower Silesia the perfect destination for a castle/palace-themed holiday!
The castles and palaces of Lower Silesia
There are so many castles and palaces spread out across the region, from the Silesian Lowlands to the Karkonosze mountains, though there is a significant concentration around the town of Jelenia Góra in the Jelenia Góra valley. One of the most intriguing castles I visited was the Ksiaz Castle (or Schloss Fürstenstein). The castle sits atop an impressive cliff and is surrounded by lush forests. In its heyday, the castle was host to some of Europe’s richest families before falling into the hands of the Nazis and later the Red Army.
Another castle that cannot be missed is the imposing 13th century Czocha Castle. The castle’s history is absolutely fascinating; it was the scene of many sieges and it changed hands many times. Its role during the Second World War and the Cold War is especially intriguing!
These days, visitors can stay at the castle – the rooms are large, modern and decorated with all sorts of regalia and armoury. My room featured axes and spears on the walls and a full suit of armour! You might even bump into the ‘White Lady’ who purportedly roams the halls at night – I’m glad I didn’t bump into her but the castle is spooky at night, or maybe it was just my imagination! Haha! A tour of the castle reveals its many intriguing secrets such as hidden passages and bookcases that open to reveal tunnels and staircases. The surrounding woodlands are perfect for long walks whilst the nearby lake is a favourite watersports and picnic spot for locals.
One other castle that I absolutely loved was the beautiful Lomnica Palace. Situated near Jelenia Góra, the palace can trace its history back to the Middle Ages. The von Küster family owned the palace from the mid-19th century right up till World War II when the palace was seized by the Polish State. It was only after the fall of the Iron Curtain that the family received the opportunity to repurchase the palace.
Today, the palace and its estate house a wonderful hotel, restaurants, a museum and farm which are popular with visitors and locals alike. The palace is a great base from which to explore the lovely town of Jelenia Góra and the lush valley, with its many castles and palaces, idyllic villages, walking trails and historic monuments. The valley and surrounding mountains are popular for activities including paragliding, mountain-biking, hiking and skiing.
Other palaces in Lower Silesia that have been turned into gorgeous hotels include Brunow Palace, Paulinum Palace (the Paulinum also has a renowned spa and restaurant), the romantic Staniszow Palace, and the Jugowice Palace.
Despite the region’s great array of attractions, scenic beauty and comfortable accommodations, Lower Silesia remains relatively off-the-beaten-path. If you’re planning to visit Lower Silesia, the best place to start is Wroclaw (Breslau) which has a modern airport and train station. I suggest spending a few days in this lovely university town before heading west/southwest to Jelenia Góra where you can easily spend a week or more exploring the beautiful town and nearby historic spas, parks, palaces and castles.