Saturday, September 14, 2013

Our next round of visitors arrive on Monday, but I think I’ll have to pass on visiting Warsaw’s Royal Castle for the sixth time!

Don’t get me wrong – the castle IS impressive and IS a must-see for any tourist visiting Warsaw.

But the situation is comparable to when I lived in Istanbul; and after taking friends through the Ayasofya for the 10th time, I started waiting for them at a nearby café. Next week, I’ll enjoy drinking my latté and reading a book while my friends tour through the opulent castle without me.
Last weekend, we took our visiting friends from Istanbul through the Royal Castle. A castle has stood here since the Mazovian dukes built a wooden version in the 14th century. Over the years, the castle was home to several Polish kings and the president of pre-WWII Poland as well as the parliament of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, one of the largest countries of 16th and 17th-century Europe.

Of course, like everything else in Warsaw, the castle was destroyed by the Nazis during World War II. If you pay the extra admission to visit the  Rembrandt paintings and royal art collection in the castle, you can see a portion of the original brick wall with drilled holes where the Nazis placed the dynamite.
This photo of the Royal Castle in 1947 greets you in the foyer as you start your tour.
Pretty shocking, isn't it?
Rebuilding of the castle finally began in 1971 – thanks to a long delay by the Communist authorities. In 1984, the castle reopened to the public – just about 30 years ago! Luckily, many of the gorgeous furnishings and paintings are original, which the Poles hid away in the mountains when they realized the city would be destroyed by the war.
The Great Assembly Hall
The Knights' Hall features the Polish Hall of Fame with massive paintings of great events and busts and portraits of important Poles.
The rebuilt castle harks back to its historical Baroque and Classical styles as you can see as wander through the king’s old rooms and the Senator’s Chamber, which is where the first constitution in Europe was adopted and signed in 1791.
The Senator's Chamber - a rare moment without any other tourists in it!
You easily can tour through the castle in a little over an hour by yourself or with your companions. There are signs in English in each room pointing out its importance. If you want a more in-depth history lesson, you can rent an audioguide for a nominal fee.

As you admire the castle’s luxurious furnishings, marble and chandeliers, you can’t help but wonder about all the people that once roamed the halls.
The King's bedroom - Was the king really that short? And where is the Queen's bedroom?
The Green Room
A painting of Warsaw circa late 1700s, I think.
The Old Town walls near the Royal Castle in Warsaw.
This room features paintings of Poland's kings and other Polish monarchs.
Strolling behind the Royal Castle with our friends.
Royal Castle
Plac Zamkowy 4
Warsaw, Poland
Cost: 22 PLN regular tickets, 15 PLN for reduced tickets and 1 PLN for children under 16
Audioguides cost 17 PLN for the regular rate or 12 PLN for the reduced rate.
Admission on Sundays is supposed to be free.
Tel: 22 35 55 338

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Alan said...

. . what a gem! That said, you are right about the need to sit out these attractions after the first ten visits. The up-side to visitors is how we see things in a fresh, new way through their eyes.

Joy said...

@Alan, wise words! :-) Our Turkish friends surprised us with their top 3 things they liked about Warsaw: taking a bike ride, visiting Pawiak Prison (a great small museum tells some of horrors of WWII), and the Old Town area. The bike ride gave our friends a chance to see Warsaw from a different perspective too!