Belarusian castles, though not numerous, are a tourist must-see. How can one see the main ones considering that they are located at a distance from each other and, most importantly rather far away from Minsk?
Well, nothing is impossible! All you will need is a car, a map and a good company.
Here’s a ready-made route tested by Travelling.by – FOUR castles in ONE day!
- Route: Minsk – Kosava – Ruzhany – Nesvizh – Mir – Minsk
- Castles: Kosava Castle – Palace complex of Sapiehas in Ruzhany – Nesvizh castle of Radziwills – Mir castle
- Other sights on the way: museum-estate of Tadeusz Kosciuszko in Kosava, Holy Trinity church in Kosava, Holy Trinity church in Ruzhany
- Departure from Minsk: 8:30
- Return to Minsk: 23:00
- Total distance: 575 km
Kosava is the smallest town in Belarus, so you will not find neither railway nor highway in it. It is a typical western Belarusian town with unhurried life, cozy houses and friendly locals ready to show you the majestic castle and the surroundings.
The XIX century Kosava castle was dramatically ruined during WWII, but it used to be really beautiful. The castle had 12 towers which symbolized 12 months of the year and a unique system of internal corridors and windows which allowed the sun’s rays to get into all corners of the building.
According to the legend, the castle was diving in luxury. They say the central room had a glass floor that was covering an aquarium with exotic fish. The water for the aquarium was constantly heated by a central system in the basement.
Another legend says the owners of the castle had a lion as a pet to prevent servants from stealing. At night the wild beast walked freely around the house, guarding the dreams of its hosts.
By the way, Kosava castle was the first building in Belarus to use central heating.
Unfortunately, you cannot get inside the castle now as the construction works are underway till 2018.
But you can wander around, enjoying the views and drop in at the museum-estate of Tadeusz Kosciuszko located just across the road from the castle.
The museum is open from 10.00 to 18.00 (last entrance 5 p.m.), except Monday and Tuesday. The entrance fee is 0.75Br (~$0.4)
One more attraction that merits a visit is the Holy Trinity Church, built in 1877. The place is famous as the church where Tadeusz Kosciuszko was baptized in 1746.
Today, pilgrims from all over the world come here to worship the miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary. It is believed the icon helps in healing infertility, heart disease and other diseases.
- How to get: along M1/E30 motorway, then turn to P44. The distance between Kossovo and Minsk is about 235 km. If you leave the capital at 8:30, you should be in Kossovo at about 11:30. You can also get to Ivatsevichi by train, and then change to a bus.
The next point of the route is Ruzhany Palace – only 23 km away (about 15 minutes by car). You will find the XVII Ruzhany Palace easily – it appears near the road just as you enter Ruzhany town.
The building looks very impressive even in ruins, and is often called the “Belarusian Versailles” because it was built in the same style as the famous French palace. Just imagine: in the old days, the castle boasted a theater and its own company of 60 actors and 40 musicians.
According to the legend, there is a secret underground passage from the Ruzhany Castle to Kosava. The basements of the Ruzhany Palace go four floors down. Unfortunately, they are inundated with earth now, but they will be restored in future.
Locals believe that there are chests with gold hidden in the cellars of the castle. In early 1900s a local boy went down to find the treasure, but got lost and now, locals say, a child’s cry can be heard near the palace at night.
Currently two outhouses and the entrance gates have been restored.
Four exposition halls and one showroom are open to visitors from 9:00 to 18:00 (closed for lunch from 13:00 to 14:00) on all days, except Monday and Tuesday.
The entry fee is 2.5Br (~$1.3).
If you leave Ruzhany at 15:30, you’ll get to Nesvizh at about 17:30. Which has a big advantage – at this hour on a workday the place has very few visitors.
However, you’ll not be able to get inside: the working hours of the castle are from 9:30 to 18:30 with the last entrance at 17:00.
NB: Entrance to the castle is free every 1st Monday of every month.
The 16th castle, probably the most famous castle of Belarus, once belonged to the Radziwills, the most powerful nobles of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
Nesvizh castle had long been considered one of the most powerful fortifications in the Belarusian lands, due to the artillery and a large garrison.
The most famous ghost of Belarus also lives here. The spirit of Barbara Radziwill (“Chornaya Panna”) appears in the corridors after midnight.
Another legend says that the untold treasures were stored in the castle, but they had not been found yet. May be you will come to try your luck in finding them!
- How to get: If you travel by car, the easiest way to get there from Minsk is by using M1 (E30) highway. In total, you will have to drive 112 km. If you prefer to travel by train, then get off at Gorodea station and take a suburban bus or taxi to Nesvizh.
This place needs no introduction – it is the famous landmark in Belarus!
The exact time of the castle’s construction is unknown, but most historians believe that it was built in 1520s.
In the course of history, the castle witnessed frequent changes of owners and was gradually turning into romantic ruins.
During WWII, a ghetto was located in the building. After the war, it became home to local residents.
Like the castle in Nesvizh, Mir Castle closes rather early – at 18:00 (ticket office open till 17:20).
But a visit in the evening has a charm of its own. The building is amazing in the rays of the setting sun!
Don’t forget to walk in the castle’s park and take a picture with a stone resembling the head of a ram on the south side of the castle. It is believed that if the stone falls, Mir Castle will collapse to the ground and no one will be able to restore it.
Leaving Mir Castle at 21:00, you’ll be in Minsk by 23:00.
- How to get: 2, Krasnoarmeyskaya str., Mir. If you travel by bus from the Central Bus Station in Minsk, take a bus to Korelichi, Novogrudok, Dyatlovo, Lida (via Novogrudok).
Of course, such a tour will not give you the pleasure to explore every place thorougly. But it is just enough to get a glimpse of the country’s great castles and heroic past and and make plans for your next trip!