Royal Castle, Warsaw
The Royal Castle is probably the best known landmark of Warsaw. From the outside it is a simple, huge five-wing early Baroque structure with a tall clock-tower. It's painted in unique colour but... looks somewhat strange down (not up) the Castle Square and adjacent to more beautiful, decorative tenement houses. Well, it's very rare in Europe example of early Baroque with decently decorated exterior but tremendous interior which is a must see!
For unknown reasons it's called a castle instead of palace. There are no defensive bastions, towers, no moats and other defensive stractures typical for every castle. Probably the first wooden structure on this place (seat of Masovian dukes) built in 14th century looked more castle-like.
The castle had become a constant seat of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth's Sejm in 1573. The term "Sejm" referred to the entire three-chamber parliament, comprising the lower house (Chamber of Deputies; Polish: Izba Poselska), the upper house (Senate; Polish: Senat) and the King. In 1918 Poland regained independence after over 100 years of being divided and ruled by Russia (Warsaw), Austria (Krakow) and Germany (Gdansk) and the castle became the residence of the President of the Republic of Poland. During World War II the Royal Castle was blown up by the Nazis as well as 85 % of the buildings of the city. It took several decades to restore the castle from ruins and make it look exactly like the original. The works completed in 1988. Now the luxurious castle is a pride of Warsaw.
Fondest memory: The Royal Castle represents a lot of fascinating history of both Poland and Lithuania, Russia, Sweden, Prussia, and Germany as well. Nowadays it hosts a museum where carefully recreated interiors of that time are represented and the impressive art collection is treasured. There are 3 options od self-guided tours for an individual visitor:
1. Route 1 (10 zl; about 1 hour) - The Court Rooms, The Houses of Parliament and The Apartment of Crown Prince Stanislaw.
2. Route 2 (18 zl about 1 and half hour) - The Great Apartment and The King's Apartment.
3. Pernament exhibitions (8 zl, about 1 and half hour) - 12 various exhibitions.
Add usually very interesting temporary exhibitions, soon the Gardens and the Royal Library (temporarily closed).
I didn't visit everything in one day. It would be too much for me. For the first time visitor I recommend to join the most impressive Route 2 first. For a foreign visitor not familiar with Poland's and Central Europe's history I recommend to think over hiring a guide (add 70 zl = 18.4 euros for each tour). Well, there are explanations displayed in English in each castle room but they not always show historical background. Keep in mind that on Sunday admission is free but no guides are available.
Favorite thing: It is situated in the Castle Square. The most important parts of the interiors are the king's agartments on the 1st floor, which are visited by guided tour, in Polish. A guide in English, German or French will cost an extra $14 per group. Other exhibits require separate tickets. Sunday is a free-entry day for all the exhibitions (no guide service).
Favorite thing: Go to plaz Zamkowy (the Castle Square) and visit the Royal Castle (before you go, check Opening Hours in the Internet www.zamek-krolewski.art.pl but expect some delay; the server is a little bit slow.