Małopolska, owing to its natural beauty as well as to the wealth of its cultural heritage and perfect spa values, is one of the most frequently visited regions in Poland. Each year millions of domestic
and foreign tourists come here to admire UNESCO historic sites in Krakow, the Wieliczka salt mine, architectural and landscape park complex Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, Auschwitz-Birkenau museum,
the wooden churches in Debno, Sekowa, Binarowa i Lipnica Murowana; the castles in Krakow (Wawel), Pieskowa Skala, Niepołomice and Nowy Wisnicz. The wonderful landscapes intermingle
with numerous top architectural historical sites. The Małopolska Voivodeship is a destination of religious tourism with is connected with the person of pope John Paul II, especially Wadowice, Stary Sacz and Krakow.
Legend has it that the name “Ojców” came to be thanks to King Cashimir the Great.
Ojców – ruins of the Gothic fortress
The castle, built on his order, was supposed to be named “father by the rock”, referring to the events from the life of his father Władysław Łokietek, who was supposed to have hidden in the Prądnik Valley during his fights for Kraków with the Czech king. There is a grain of truth in the legend: the construction of the stone castle on the spot of a former fortified settlement was ordered by King Casimir the Great. It was one of the most important fortresses on Polish Jurrasic Highland. The starosta of Ojców had his seat here, and the castle was inhabited until the end of the 18th century (the last Polish king Stanisław August Poniatowski was a guest here as late as in 1787), but the building fell into ruin following the partition of Poland. Fragments of walls and of one of the towers survived until today, as did the gate tower that houses a small museum chamber.
Different size castles, ruins of medieval fortresses and aristocratic residences from the era of Renaissance and Baroque can be found at every turn in Małopolska. Built on high hills and visible from afar, they constitute one of the most characteristic features of the region’s landscape.
Pieskowa Skała - the Renaissance residence
The most wonderful view of the Pieskowa Skała castle stretches from the Prądnik Valley. In the oreground, you can see a limestone outlier known as the Mace of Hercules.The fortified building was erected by order of King Casimir the Great already in the 14th century. It gained its enaissance character more than 200 years later thanks to its owners, the Szafraniec family. They followed the verified example of Wawel. Architects brought from Italy raised the arcaded courtyard, while the clock tower was given a helmet similar to that from the towers of the Royal Castle. Next to the castle, the masters from Italy erected an architectonic gem: the arcaded loggia. Later they designed an Italian garden located on the terrace above the precipice. Today, the castle houses a museum presenting style changes in European art and Poland’s biggest gallery of English painting.
Niepołomice - the Renaissance residence
King Casimir the Great, last Polish ruler from the Piast dynasty ordered to build his Gothic residence near the Niepołomice Forest. Today, at the location of the Gothic Niepołomice Royal Castle visitors can admire a beautiful Renaissance building. This edifice, erected on a square plan, was built during the reign of King Sigismund II Augustus. The design of the Niepołomice residence was based on the architecture of Wawel. The castle is entered through a still-existing.
Renaissance portal, while the courtyard is surrounded by two storeys of arcaded cloisters. The castle is presently home to the Niepołomice Museum containing hunting trophies and an exhibition in the castle’s chapel. The other part of the building is an elegant hotel and conference centre.
Sucha Beskidzka - the residence which merit the name of “the Small Wawel”.
Few castles in Poland deserve the name of “the small Wawel” as much as the aristocratic residence in Sucha Beskidzka. The arcaded cloisters of two out of three wings of the castle yard are characterised by their lightness and elegance worthy of a royal residence. The castle in Sucha was built by Kasper Castiglione, who took the Polish surname Suski after his residence. In 1554, the goldsmith from Florence built a Renaissance manor, which today is part of the southern wing. Thanks to the subsequent owners (the Komorowski family), the manor was transformed into an impressive residence with an arcaded courtyard at the beginning of the XVII century. Despite numerous subsequent reconstructions, the Suski Castle retained its beautiful Renaissance appearance. Some rooms are open to visitors, as they are home to the Municipal Museum, while the castle also houses a community centre and a hotel with a restaurant.
Korzkiew - the knight's fortress
The fortress was erected in the 14th century by Jan of Syrokomla. The Gothic castle was extended in the 16th century in Renaissance style. In the following centuries, it was used as a hunting residence by the Jordan family. Deserted at the end of the 18th century, it started to fall into ruin. Today, a stone fortress stands here, reverently reconstructed on the basis of ancient drawings.The reconstructed castle houses a stylish hotel. Medieval tournaments and court dance shows are frequently organized on the courtyard, while the meadow by the castle hosts theatrical performances.
Rabsztyn - ruins of the knight's castle
The castle’s history is a mystery. It is believed that the fortified tower on the top of the rock was erected by Silesian Prince Henry I the Bearded in the first half of the 13th century. Rabsztyn was made famous by Cossack Hawryło Hołubka, the commander of the castle’s defence. His soldiers, together with the coal miners from Olkusz, defeated the troops that were marching towards Kraków to support Archduke Maximilian I of Habsburg, who besieged the capital of the kingdom. At the beginning of the 17th century, Mikołaj Wolski conducted major Renaissance style extension work. Unfortunately, the Swedish invasion in 1657 left the fortress devastated. Work aimed at protecting the ruins has been going on for the last couple of years. A wooden bridge was constructed over the moat and the gate tower was reconstructed. Every year at the beginning July, a medieval tournament is held at the foot of the castle.
Rudno - Tęczyn Castle
The construction of the fortress was initiated in the middle of the 14th century by Andrzej Tęczyński. The surrounding walls with towers created an oval plan, while the entrance led through a tremendous, square-shaped gate tower. This tower, topped by a hip roof, is the best preserved part of the castle Around 1570, the medieval fortress was transformed into a Renaissance residence with arcaded cloisters in the courtyard and walls featuring decorative attics. At the beginning of the 17th century, the castle’s fortifications were extended, creating a powerful fortress with an impressive barbican that survives until today. The result was one of the biggest castles in Małopolska. After the fire of 1768, the abandoned castle fell into ruin. Today its walls are in danger of collapsing and are hence not open to visitors. They can only be admired from the outside.
Kluczwoda – ruins of the knight’s castle
These are the remains of ruins of a 14th century knight’s castle; one of the Eagle’s Nests, called so on account of its stunning location. The castle’s history is difficult to reconstruct. The nearby village of Biały Kościół, mentioned for the first time in 1325, belonged to the powerful Syrokomla family at that time, so the castle must have been built by them. It is not known exactly when it was deserted, but it happened already in the 14th century.
Wygielzów - Lipowiec Castle
Although only the tower can be seen from a distance, there are walls of a magnificent 18th century Episcopal castle hiding among the trees. At that time,bishops from Kraków erected a fortress, which they owned until the partition of Poland. Although the building has been ruined since the beginning of the 19th century, the walls have been protected and adapted for visitors. New stairs lead to the tower itself. You can also see the empty interiors, partially filled with rubble, as well as a small exhibition in reconstructed rooms on the first floor of the castle. It features old pictures and graphics of the castle and a small collection of various items found in the ruins. Two interesting events take place in Lipowiec every August: a Knights and Archers Tournament and the Reunion of Hags and Witches towards.
Dobczyce – ruins of the royal castle
The ruins of the royal castle can be found on a hill towering over the Dobczyce lake. Unlike any other strongholds, the castle was not destroyed by fire or during a war, but instead devastated by treasure searchers! A pot full of coins was accidentally discovered there in the middle of the 18th century. According to a legend, the castle dates back to the time when a warrior of Mieszko I of Poland named Dobek was to build a castle by the Raba river. The town of Dobczyce soon developed in the castle’s neighbourhood. However, it is almost certain that the castle was built in the first half of the 13th century and reconstructed in Renaissance style some three hundred years later.
Nowy Wisnicz - Magnate's Castle, the wonderful palazzo in fortezza
The history of the castle dates back to the 15th century, while its great Renaissance expansion took place in the middle of the 16th century on the initiative of Piotr Kmita, a supporter of Queen Bona. It was then, when a characteristic wide roof appeared on Bona’s tower, and the queen is believed to have ridden a donkey on it! In the middle of the 17th century, Stanisław Lubomirski surrounded the building with bastion fortifications, creating a type of residence called palazzo in fortezza. Renovation work is presently underway, but some parts of the interior are open to visitors. During your visit, you can see some interesting scale models of Małopolska’s most famous castles.
Debno – defensive residence
This late-Gothic knight’s residence was built in the years 1470–1480 with funds from castellan Jakub Dębiński. The brick walls, richly decorated with stone ornaments (window frames, beautiful bay window trusses and impressive portals), create four wings surrounding a small internal courtyard. Step inside to see an interesting exposition of historic furniture, paintings, weapons, etc.
Wytrzyszczka - Tropszyn Castle
The first stronghold was built here at the turn of the 13th and 14th century by knights Zbrosław and Gniewomir from Tropie. The castle was later rebuilt several times, but at the beginning of the 17th century it was abandoned and quickly fell into ruin. Legend has it that it is there, in the tunnels and dungeons under Tropsztyn, where the Inca treasure was hidden in the 18th century, after being brought from the castle in Niedzica.The castle is open to visitors only during summer holidays. You can explore the tower, the dungeons and the chambers, as well as see a film documentary about the searches for the legendary Inca treasure.
Czchow - castle ruins and the defensive tower
A magnificent oval tower rises from the top of the Baszta hill above the charming town and the picturesque Dunajec valley. A wide view of the valley, the river, the dam and the Czchowskie lake stretches from its top.This cylindrical tower with several-metre thick walls was built at the end of the 13th century to control an important trade route along the Dunajec river. The last few years brought the reconstruction of a fragment of the walls and a small house of a guard, which presently houses a small archaeological exhibition, including a scale model of the complete castle.
Niedzica - Dunajec Castle
Dunajec Castle in Niedzica is one of the most marvellous buildings of its kind in Poland.What undoubtedly is a treasure of architecture is the castle itself. Its oldest part is the devastated, 14th century Gothic upper castle, built at the former location of a wooden ground fortress of Kokosz Berzeviczy. This part of the edifice occupies the very top of the rocky hill over Dunajec. In the 15th century, the then owner of Niedzica, Emeryk Zapolya from the famous Hungarian family, added the middle castle. For some time at the beginning of the following century, Niedzica belonged to Hieronim Łaski . However, the biggest extension took place at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries. The ruler of Niedzica, Jerzy Horvath, extended the stronghold in Renaissance style. A new yard with cloisters was surrounded by a wall with half-round towers crowned with a stylish attic. Subsequent owners (Giovanell, Horvath and Salomon families, the last of which lived in the castle until 1943) did not introduce any significant changes. The castle was rebuilt after it had been plundered at the end of World War II.
Czorsztyn – ruins of the Wronin Castle
The Wronin Castle situated by the Czorsztyn Lake in the Pieniny Mountains. The stone fortress was built in the 14th century on the spot where the old ones once stood. It guarded the border with Hungary and the Dunajec river crossing. Today the castle has a form of a permanent ruin, while some roomes were reconstructed and host a small historic and archaeological exhibition.
Melsztyn – ruins of the knight’s castle
The tremendous square tower looming over the crown of trees high above the Dunajec valley is the best preserved relic of the castle in Melsztyn near Zakliczyn. The ruins can be accessed by climbing a steep path or by driving uphill from the other side. In 1347, Spycimir Leliwita – a castellan of Kraków – had this fortress built on the hill over the Dunajec river. The castle is now a protected ruin.
Website in english about Malopolska - www.visitmalopolska.pl.