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|The Palaces and Castles of Central Europe|
Zamek: The red brick Malbork Castle once served as the residence of the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order and was one of the most powerful strongholds in medieval Europe; see the museum’s beautiful amber collection. Locator: 30 mi. south of Gdansk
Ksiaz: With 415 rooms, Ksiaz Castle is the largest in Silesia. It was built in the 13th century, and enlarged and remodeled into the 20th century. The interior showpiece is the Maximillian Hall, the castle’s largest room and faithfully restored to its 18th century grandeur. Locator: 50 mi. southwest of Wroclaw; 15 mi. from the Czech border
Gniew: Gniew Castle was the seat of the Polish Prefects in the 16th century. It overlooks the River Vistula, south of Gdansk. Locator: 40 mi. from Gdansk
Niedzica: The Niedzica Castle, also known as Dunajec Castle, was built in the 14th century in the present Carpathian Mountains area of the Polish-Slovakian border. Perched high on a hill above the Dunajec River, it is considered the best mountain castle in the country. Locator: 60 mi. south of Krakow; at Slovak border
Lancut: Located in eastern Poland, the aristocratic Lancut Palace, built in the 16th century, is just plain grandiose. More than 40 richly furnished, art-filled rooms are open to the public, as are the extensive gardens and a Carriage Museum with 50 vehicles housed in the coach house. Locator: 110 mi. east of Krakow; 50 mi. from Slovak border
Spisske Podhradie (East Slovakia): Located just outside town, the spectacular Spis Castle sits ridge-top and is one of the largest fortified castle ruins (partially reconstructed) in Central Europe; in summer it hosts medieval festivals which consist mainly of concerts and mock battles. This is a Unesco-designated monument, whose adjacent sites of Zehra, Spisska, Kapitula and Spisske Podhradie are also of interest. Locator: 10 miles east of Levoca
Bojnice (Central Slovakia) The Bojnice Chateau is the most visited castle in Slovakia; highlights include the Golden Hall with its gilded ceiling and a small cave system below the courtyard, and exhibits include furniture, painting, weapons, glass and porcelain in lavishly decorated rooms. Locator: 40 mi. south of Zilina
Oravsky Podzamok (Central Slovakia): Overlooking the village, the Orava Castle is hard to miss, for its pointed towers rise Disneyland style from a narrow blade of rock. Its rooms are full of weapons, paintings, tapestries and period furniture, and highlights include the Rococo Chapel and the Citadel. Locator: 19 mi. north of Ruzomberok
Visegrad: Sited at the most spectacular turn of the Danube Bend, the 15th century Visegrad Royal Palace once had 350 rooms, unrivaled in size or splendor. From its Court of Honor to its Gothic arcades, most of today’s palace is restored or reproduced. The original fountains stream wine on holidays, and sculptures are preserved in the Solomon Tower. Locator: 20 mi. north of Budapest
Godollo: Rivaling Esterhazy Palace in size and splendor in the 18th century, the Royal Grassalkovich Mansion remains the largest Baroque manor house in the country. Once a summer retreat for Emperor Franz Joseph and his beloved Queen Erzsebet (Sissy), this is now a pleasant venue for the Palace Concerts and Chamber Music Festival held in late June-early July, October and December. Locator: 18 miles northeast of Budapest
Koszeg: The 14th century Jurisics Castle, fortified with four towers, is located in one of Hungary’s most architecturally appealing towns. Visitors enter the city through the Hero’s Gate, built for the 400th anniversary of Ottoman siege, and the arms of the siege are on view in the Fortress Museum. Locator: 28 miles south of Sopron, bordering Austria
Vienna: Schoenbrunn Palace. Reached from the center of Vienna by the U4 subway, the huge, 1,441-room palace was the summer home of the Habsburg family, and 40 rooms are now open to the public, including the impressive Hall of Mirrors where the six-year-old Mozart played for Maria Theresia. Spectacular gardens surround the Palace.
Salzburg: Located four miles outside the city, the 17th century Hellbrunn Palace was built in the spirit of the great Italian villas of the Veneto as a summer residence for Archbishop Markus Sittikus. Surrounded by gardens and its famous trick-fountains, the Palace’s most interesting interior spaces are the decorative banquet hall and the domed music room.
Innsbruck: Archduke Ferdinand II built Ambras Castle as a Renaissance palace in the 16th century; for his special collections, he added a private museum, which now includes rooms full of armor.
Vienna: Once the Imperial winter residence of the Habsburgs, the 2,600-room Imperial Palace sits city-center on 47 acres; its maze of buildings range in architectural style from Gothic to 18th century Rococo in the city center. Its dazzling treasury of religious and coronation regalia is one of the highlights of any visit in Vienna. The famous Spanish Riding School, open to visitors attending rehearsals or performances of the Lipizzaner stallions, is part of the city-size Imperial complex.
The Czech Republic
Cesky Krumlov Castle: Perched high above the Vltava River, the castle’s 300 rooms spread over 40 buildings, connected by courtyards and passageways. Started in the 13th century and rebuilt in the 16th, this is the second largest Czech castle, after Prague’s. It is also the site of the important International Music Festival, held in July/August. Locator: 105 mi. from Prague
Pernstejn: Built over seven centuries, this Gothic-cum-Renaissance stronghold is one of the most valuable historical monuments in the country. Spaces in the inner castle are connected by a system of twisting passages and spiral staircases, and 16th century astrological signs remain inscribed on the walls. Locator: 110 miles southeast of Prague; 27 mi. from Brno
Becov nad Teplou: The Gothic-cum-Renaissance stronghold dominates this West Bohemia town, whose architectural mix also includes a Renaissance palace and Baroque chateau. Its greatest rarity, however, is the Romanesque reliquary of St. Maur, a rare example of medieval craftsmanship, worked in jewels and gold. Locator: 93 mi. from Prague; 15 mi. from Karlovy Vary
Kromeriz: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the town is dominated by an early Baroque palace, former seat of the archbishops of Olomouc; its large park and unique flower garden is the best example of Baroque landscaping in the Republic. The castle’s distinguished picture gallery includes works by Tizian, Cranach, Breughel and van Dyck. Locator: 40 mi. from Brno
Litomysl: Located in the birthplace of Czech composer Bedrich Smetana, the Litomysl Castle is considered the most beautiful chateau in East Bohemia. Honored by UNESCO and built in the 16th century, the castle’s restoration over the centuries has preserved the Renaissance period, sgraffiti plaster exterior; within is an 18th century theater. Locator: 100 mi. east of Prague
Füssen: On outskirts of town in a magnificent location, the “Mad Prince” Ludwig II built Neuschwanstein, a Disney-like Bavarian castle with a riot of turrets with a fantasy interior. Locator: 80 mi. southwest of Munich; 60 mi. from Innsbruck
Potsdam: Potsdam is known for its royal gardens and palaces, particularly Castle Sanssouci, with its elaborate rooms in Rococo style. Another royal stop is the Schlosshotel Cecilienhof, the former residence of Crown Prince Hohenzoller; Churchill, Truman and Stalin met here to sign the Potsdam Treaty. Locator: 16 miles southwest of Berlin
Königstein: The Königstein Fortress is actually a walled town built atop a flat mountain, a day’s excursion from Dresden. For the most special experience, walk the perimeter of the castle walls. Locator: 20 mi. south of Dresden; 80 mi. from Prague
Chiemsee: Located in the Bavarian Alps, this beautiful lake setting is home to the fantastic Herrenchiemsee Palace, begun (and never completed) by Ludwig II in the 19th century. Only the center of the palace was finished, yet it is one of the grandest of Ludwig’s architectural creations. Designed to copy Versailles, the palace’s most splendid room is the Great Hall of Mirrors. Locator: 53 mi. from Munich; 40 mi. from Salzburg, accessible by lake steamer.
Würzburg: Along the "Romantic Road" the Episcopal princes’ Residenz is an 18th century architectural gem, one of the finest and most unusual Baroque palaces in Europe. Locator: 70 mi. east of Frankfurt
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