There are two major tourist attractions (by our definition) around Walbrzych: the big castle Ksiaz with gardens and palmerie and a mining and technology museum. We had decided to do them both in one day so we had to get up early and try to be at the castle at 10am when it opened. We missed that target by half an hour but were still early enough to beat the main horde. There some tunnels under the castle which can only be accessed by guided tour but the castle and grounds are free to see individually with an audio guide. After learning that guided tours are only available in Polish and the accessible part of the tunnels was only about 100m we changed the plan and decided against it. Entrance fee for the castle, mausoleum and the palmerie is 34zl (zloty) per person (about 8€). The stables cost extra.
The audio guide consisted of a Polish tourism app with the Ksiaz expansion pack. Head phones are provided with the ticket. It is not quite clear how the app works but as you follow the numbers and arrows around the castle there are 9 stations for audio commentary. As you approach the station the track should (!) start on its own. This didn’t always work but we walked up and down the room to trigger it. It seems to work via bluetooth so make sure your phone has plenty of battery and you have free data (to download the app; the wifi didn’t work for us).
Ksiaz castle is very impressive and vast. It was originally built as a military fortress in the 13. century but generations of owners (notably the von Hochberg family) transformed it into a representative palace. The last alteration took place 1909 – 1923. Unfortunately only small parts of the lavish interior still remains (a mere glimpse according to old photos shown in the exhibition). Blame lies with Nazi Germany and the Soviets. The former drastically changed the castle by ripping out balconies, wall and ceiling decoration and furniture and adding a lift and lots of concrete. They are also responsible for the tunnels. All this work was carried out by inmates of the nearby concentration (or labour) camp Gross-Rosen as part of ‘Operation Riese’. They added an apartment to accommodate Adolf Hitler to use it as head quarter and use the tunnels as arms factory. Begun in 1943, the progress of war put an end to their operations. The soviets (and looters) robbed the castle of what was left and abandoned it until the 1980s when restoration works began (they are still ongoing in some parts of the grounds). We spent roughly 3 hours there which was not enough to see the mausoleum or the palmerie (which is about 20min walk away) as we went to the museum instead.
The mining museum is housed in the buildings of mine Julia on the south side of Walbrych. We were the fourth car in the carpark on this Sunday afternoon so had the museum almost to ourselves. The entrance fee is 29 Zloty per adult which includes a Polish tour and an audio guide for non-polish visitors. Four out of seven mine buildings are part of the museum; two are other exhibitions and one seems unrestored. The tour followed the typical daily routine of a miner and the path of the coal and was well explained even though the English commentary was always shorter than the story of the guide. Rooms along the route showed working, communication, measuring and rescue equipment and explained some aspects of the miners social life. At the end we even went underground into a training and two upper transportation drifts.
Overall we spent roughly one and a half hour there and really enjoyed our time there. We can definitely recommend both activities but think it is better to do them on two separate days; especially if you want to make the most of Kciasz which can certainly take a day to explore.