Poland is no land devoid of castles. From early fortresses of the Piast period to late Renaissance era nobility residences, here and there you can find castles scattered over the polish countryside with a good frequency.
One of the most famous ones is Ogrodzieniec Castle. Situated somewhere north of the Krakow-Katowice area, is not on the easiest path for tourists, which probably haven’t heard of it and thus ignored it. Shamefully as it is dramatically perched at the top of an outcrop of white rock in the middle of a green and open area, making it noticeable from far away and donating the visitors with long views all around.
It is a thoroughly enjoyable and worth visiting place, not considering that it is still not crowded usually. So first things first, how do you reach Ogrodzieniec Castle?
Reaching Ogrodzieniec Castle
The official site for Ogrodzieniec gives barely any useful information about the castle. I researched on my own and found out two possible ways to get to the castle.
The easiest is by renting a car. Ogrodzieniec Castle is 60km north-west of Krakow, 50km north-east of Katowice and 63km south from Czestochowa. Basically, in the middle of 3 main cities but not very close to any. With a car you can take a 2 lanes/1 lane roads till right under the castle from any of these major cities. The actual town hosting the castle is called Podzamce, basically a fraction of the main town. Roads to it are in good state, always paved, and there shouldn’t be any issue following the indication to Podzamce (just follow for Ogrodzieniec if you don’t find the exact name).
The second option is by bus and/or train. There’s no train station near the castle, the closest one is at Zawiercie, 11km to the north-east. A train is available from Czestochowa, direct, or with (many) changes from Katowice and Krakow. It can take from 1 up to many hours to reach Zawiercie, so it’s far from a pleasurable journey. From Zawiercie, you need a bus to the castle. There are a handful of companies doing the route, with various levels of comfort and punctuality.
Visiting Ogrodzieniec Castle
The visit is pretty straightforward. There’s an easy, numeric, path to follow throughout the castle, with arrows and a map every few rooms. The only difficulty is in climbing up to the entrance of the castle: you’ll have to follow an uphill path of a few hundreds meters, most of it not paved. Bring good shoes.
The castle itself requires only a few difficult climbing of narrow stairwells, both wooden, metal and stone ones. The castle having been ravaged by the Swedish invasion of Poland in late 17th century has most of its remains in ruin and various paths have been built for the tourists’ comfort and to reach some rooms. There’s not much inside each room to see, furnitures and decorations have been lost or moved since many years and the castle itself had a military role for most of its history.
As of today, summer 2019, there are restoration works going on at the castle and some rooms cannot be accessed. It’s less than 15% of the total so still very much worth going anyway. The souvenir shop inside the castle is also closed, as the restaurant inside the inner courtyard.
Still there are plenty of great views to be had from the walls and towers, you can see how exactly the soldiers defended the castle from the windows. In the courtyard there are often shows, also at night, about medieval history, customs and arts. More often you can play a few medieval games.
An unmissable part of the visit is the small tower right outside the castle, called the torture tower. Here prisoners were held and tortured in ancient times and you can still see many instruments of the torture, not least an Iron Maiden, a stock and a stump where the prisoners were decapitated. It’s a gloom experience obviously, feel free to skip it altogether if it’s not your thing. I found it fascinating and and integral part of the visit of the castle.
Even more optional it’s another fort, made of wood, around 1km away from the main Ogrodzieniec Castle but to be accessed with a supplementary ticket to be bought at the castle’s entrance. It is a much smaller, and open, fort than the main castle. I didn’t go there myself but if you want, and are up for a long trek, you can ask for information at the ticket shop and they will give you a map to reach it.
Eat and stay around the castle
For those planning to stay longer, there are very few options to spend a night at Ogrodzieniec or Podzamce. The classiest one by far is Poziom 511, a design hotel right behind the castle. Otherwise you will have to choose from some rooms rented by locals or agroturism’s structures. Prices are much lower and so the standards. It is a very polish and relaxing town, it can be worth to have a night there to visit in more comfort the castle and relax in a delightful polish countryside zone.
Eating is also limited: other than the restaurant inside Ogrodzieniec Castle, you have 3-4 small Karczma (“inn”) at the beginning of the path to the castle and another handful of fast food joints more uphill. That’s about it. If you are looking for a proper restaurant experience, again the hotel Poziom 511’s restaurant is your only choice (albeit a very pricey one).
Wherever you decide to stay, Ogrodzieniec Castle is not the only attraction of the area. There is a whole route of castles uniting Czestochowa down till Krakow, among which Bobolice’s, Olsztyn’s, Smoleń’s and a few others. Especially if you have a car, choosing as a base Ogrodzieniec as it is right in the middle of the route will allow you many days of exploration of the nearby castles. Hiking around them is also a great option, with many rocks that can be also climbed for views all around.
Slowly I’m planning to explore more of the area and possibly all of it but if you have only one place to go, make it Ogrodzieniec Castle.