Ksiaz is literally a fairytale castle come to life - set in the beautiful, idyllic rolling hills and lush forestland of western Poland. It is full of gritty history, rumors of buried Nazi treasure, and a structure that outlasted WWII and an occupation by the Red Army.
The castle's design - much like its history - is patched together with bits from different eras and styles in a massive, towering structure that is one of the most beautiful and compelling places I've ever visited.
The Silesian area is rich with history that is fascinating to explore today - Ksiaz repeatedly changed hands from the original construction which was destroyed by bohemians and rebuilt in 1288, later to be held by Bohemian Hussites, Polish nobility and landowners, and finally (and most famously) Hans Heinrich XVII (The Prince of Pless), and his wife/ex-wife Princess "Daisy".
In 1942, The Prince of Pless became a British Citizen (his wife Mary-Theresa Olivia Cornwallis-West - Princess Daisy - was British) and left Ksiaz - which was then then seized by the Nazis. (An interesting twist - Hans Heinrich, the Prince of Pless who left Ksiaz as the Nazis advanced on Poland, gained Polish citizenship, and died of a heart attack in Paris during WWII. His sons both fought the Nazis - one with the RAF, and one a shooter with the Polish army.)
The castle was rumored to be one of the sites being set up to be Hitler's residence, and as the Red Army advanced towards Ksiaz, untold treasures were hidden in the large underground tunnel network (part of Project Riese - the Nazi army used prisioners from Auschwitz, many whom were worked to death, to build an underground network of seven tunnels under the Owl Mountains near Ksiaz - some which have never been found, and their express purpose was never documented outside of storing treasures and arms.)
Daisy's history is even more fascinating - she was part of British high society, married to the Prince of Pless, whose exploits and magnificent spending became international fodder. Princess Daisy remained in Ksiaz when her ex-husband Hans moved to Paris with his new wife, and was later expelled by the Nazis to take back the astronomical debt she was running. Daisy died in 1943 at a villa in Walbrzych- the town below Ksiaz.
Daisy was buried in the mausoleum at Ksiaz, but her servants moved her resting place numerous times - and nobody is quite sure where she is buried today. Some people even say her spirit still visits the castle - just another fascinating quirk of Ksiaz!
Inside Ksiaz, while many rooms and hallways are unadorned, is absolutely stunning. The intricate flooring, woodwork, and magnificent ceilings are breathtaking.
The self guided tour is a really refreshing option where you can move through the space at your own pace - you can download the WOWPoland app and take it from room to room while learning bits of history about the castle - including an entire program on Princess Daisy.
It would have been helpful to have someone in our group that spoke Polish - the castle can arrange for tours in English (we regretfully had to skip ours due to last minute scheduling chaos courtesy the Lufthansa strike and a car I needed to return to Frankfurt), but there was plenty we understood and lots of signs in English - as well as a few castle employees who spoke English (which outside of the cities in Poland can be a bit trickier with those not in their mid-thirties or younger.)
When visiting, there is nothing better suited than the Hotel Ksiaz - literally in the castle's courtyard.
The Hotel Ksiaz is steps from the castle, and a lovely place to enjoy all of the gorgeous countryside in Walbrzych. The rooms are large and extremely clean - and we loved that they offer rooms with three single beds (which was perfect for our group of three!)
Where to Stay, What to Eat, and What to Do:
Walbrzych is about 2 ½-3 ½ hours drive (primarily on Highways) from Krakow, Dresden, Berlin and Prague - making it easily accessible from Germany, the Czech Republic, or other cities in Poland.
Walbrzych is also easily accessible via train from the cities listed above, averaging under $20. A short walk or bus then required to get to Ksiaz from town.
Where to Stay: Ksiaz hosts an on-site hotel perfect for absorbing Walbrzych’s serene setting in an expansive, trail-rich nature preserve; or just an hour’s drive from the metropolitan but affordable Wroclaw city center.
Hotel Ksiaz -
The two star hotel is set in the Castle’s courtyard, boasting large rooms perfect for sharing. Only 150 meters from Castle Ksiaz, rooms with castle or courtyard/nature preserve views. English speaking staff at the 24 hour hotel desk and Restaurant.
Double rooms start at $60, including breakfast, single and triple rooms also available. Perfect for multi-day tours or the popular night time haunted castle tour.
Sofitel Wroclaw -
Luxury hotel about an hour and a half drive from Walbrzych in the bustling, beautiful city of Wroclaw’s candy-colored old square. Largely English speaking staff, well appointed rooms with plush beds and lots of extras at rates Western tourists love.
King rooms start around $100 per night.
Where to Eat:
Ksiaz has two on-site Resteraunts serving traditional Polish cuisine - the slightly Americanized Ksiazeca Restauracja and Restauracja Brama
Be sure to try Zurek - the uniquely Polish Sour Rye Soup.
What to do:
Take a self-guided tour through the castle, Palm House, and old mine - or use the WOWPoland app (free in the app store) to tour the Castle with a program focused on Princess Daisy and her life at Ksiaz.
Explore the nature preserve - there are more than 12.8 square miles in the Ksiaz Landscape Park with winding trails and peaceful areas perfect to explore and take in Poland’s raw natural beauty.