It’s hard to believe that there used to be more than a hundred castles and even more palaces and estates in Belarus. Only a few dozens of them have survived, mostly in ruins. But sometimes these ruins attract more attention and stir one’s imagination deeper than any other modern piece of architecture.
Ready to discover the secrets hidden behind age-old walls? Then let’s begin our trip around Belarus castles!
If you have a look at the geographical location of the castles and estates in Belarus, you will immediately notice that Grodno Region is the richest one in those architectural attractions.
The region’s capital is lucky enough to have two castles – the Old one and the New one, the only preserved royal castles on the territory of Belarus.
The 10-11th century Old Castle used to be the seat of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania and Poland. In the 14th century it became one of the main residencies of Duke Vitaut, who rebuilt a wooden fortress into a stone castle with five towers. This building supplemented with Stephen Bathory’s Renaissance changes is largely preserved until now.
As you come closer to the Old Castle and notice building bustle, don’t get frustrated – the ongoing restoration works put no limitations on existing expositions. The restoration of the castle started in September 2017, and will include three stages.
The first one – the renowation of the gate, gallery and tower – is to be finished by 2020. The second stage deals with the restoration of the palace and the third one with that of the walls at the Nemanriver and courtyard.
The New Castle actually isn’t new at all, as it was built in the 18th century. This was the place where Polish King and Grand Duke of Lithuania Stanislaw August Poniatowski signed the act of renunciation.
Nowadays both castles host the exposition of the Grodno Historical and Archaeological Museum.
Castles are open Tue-Sun from 10.00 am to 6.00 pm.
Admission Old Castle– 4.20 BYN/2 USD/1.80 EUR*. Admission New Castle – 3 BYN/1.43 USD/1.27 EUR (*here and below prices in rubles, euro and dollars as of April 2019 – note BelarusFeed).
Mir Castle is the celebrity of the region and the country on the whole because it was the first architectural monument in Belarus included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The Radziwills were the most famous owners of this residence, which now have turned into a multifunctional place of interest. Mir Castle is not just a museum – they have a hotel inside the ancient walls, a restaurant with Belarusian cuisine, and even a sauna.
One has to be brave enough to spend a night in this place as locals believe that the castle is full of ghosts. The legend runs that there used to be an orchard instead of the lake near the castle, but it had been mercilessly cut out by the last owners. The trees were in blossom and people believed in curse for destroying them.
They say a witch, whose son had died during the works, cast a spell on the lake – she told the Prince that people would be drowning in the lake until the number of victims was equal to the number of cut-down trees. It’s terrifying but people, mostly young men, have been drowning in the lake since then. So if you are under 40, you’d better stay away from this lake.
Mir Castle is open daily 10.00 am – 6.00 pm, from May 1 till September 1 the castle closes at 7.00 pm.
Admission from 1 May is 14 BYN/6.67 USD/5.93 EUR.
Lida Castle was built in 1323 by order of Duke Hiedzimin. It has two towers and was mainly used for defense. The castle was severely damaged during the Great Northern War (1700-1721). After the restoration it has become the center for knight festivals and tournaments.
One of the main open-airs Lidbeer takes place here annually. During this event you can enjoy good music and find more about local brewing traditions.
Tue-Sun 10.00 am – 7.00 pm.
Admission 9 BYN/4.29 USD/3.81 EUR.
Lubcha Castle was founded in the 16th century by Kishka family and later belonged to the Radziwills as well. In the layout the castle resembles a rectangle with four towers, of which only two survived. The Castle in Lubcha is the only one in Belarus that is being restored by volunteers solely on the money of a charitable foundation. Probably, in the near future the castle towers will open for visitors. In the meantime, the complex can be viewed only from outside.
Besides the castles that are open or being restored, Grodno Region has three castles that stand ruined, awaiting to be revived. These are Kreva, Navahrudak, and Halshany.
The early 14th century Kreva Castle was the first fully stone castle in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania built by Hiedzimin, and played a crucial role in the history of Belarus and Europe.
It was there where Keistut, a claimant to the Grand Duke’s throne, was killed on the orders of his nephew Grand Duke Jagiello in 1382. Keistut’s son Vitaut, the future ruler of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, managed to escape dressed as a maid. In 1385, the Krevo Union – the union of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Poland under the rule of Jagiello – was established in the castle
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The castles in Krevo, Lida and Navahrudak constituted a line of defense against the invasions of Teutonic knights, the so-called “Stone Belt”. Nowadays,only ruined tower of Navahrudak castle stands on a hill.
Halshany Castle was built in the early 17th century by Sapeha family.
Quite often it is associated with the historical detective “Chorny Zamak Alshansky” by the Belarusian classic Uladzimir Karatkevich. You may hear a lot of mysterious stories about white ladies and black monks living in the castle, but as soon as you see the ruined condition of the castle you will understand that neither ladies, nor monks have a place to dwell.
Nowadays, the annual festival “Halshany Castle” is held here in May.
One of the most famous estates in Grodno region is Zalesse.
It belonged to Mikhail Kleofas Oginski, a diplomat and politician, who was also a talented composer. In the 19th century this place was called the “Northern Athens”, as it was in Zalesse that famous poets, painters, musicians gathered for social events. It is believed that Michal Kleofas Oginski, who was forced to leave his Motherland after the uprising of Tadeusz Kosciuszko, created his world famous Polonaise “Farewell to the Homeland” in this estate.
In 2014 the place opened for visitors and since then fascinating balls and evenings have been organized here.
Tue-Sun 9.00 am 6.00 pm.
Admission 4 BYN/1.90 USD/1.65 EUR.
Drutski-Lubetski Palace (19th century) in Shchuchyn has been restored, although the interiors are not preserved. Nowadays the building houses an educational establishment and a city museum branch, whose employees are eager to tell about the family that once possessed the estate.
Three wonderful estates in Grodno region were bought by private owners and now are under reconstruction – the Palace of the Sviatopolk-Chetvertinskies in Zheludok, and country seats in Kraski and Zhemyslavl. The first one is so impressive that it became the place where the Belarusian horror film Massacre was filmed in 2010. The palace is open for the visitors daily from 10.00 am till 5.00 pm, admission fee is 4 BYN/1.90 USD/1.65 EUR. The two others, unfortunately, can’t be visited but you can have a fascinating stroll around them.
Brest Region is the next destination on our way to discovering unknown Belarus.
Here we can find one of the oldest landmarks of the country – the Tower of Kamenets, also known as the White Tower. Despite its name the tower isn’t white at all. The “white” part of the name caught on because of the tower’s proximity to Belovezhskaya Pushcha forest (“belyy” means white in Belarusian). Nowadays the 700-years-old donjon houses a branch of the Brest Regional Museum.
Wed-Sun 9.15 am – 5.15 pm
Admission – 2.83 BYN/1,35 USD/1,20 EUR
Two palaces in Brest Region deserve special attention. The one is the 18th century neoclassical Ruzhany Palace, which belonged to Sapeha family as well as Halshany Castle, and was the main seat of the princes.
The palace was famous for its deep, multi-tiered cellars, where weapons, important documents and treasures, archives of the family, and a collection of rare expensive wines and other alcoholic beverages were kept. At present the restored ornate gate and entry building house a museum.
Wed-Sun 9.00 am – 1.00 pm, 2.00 pm – 6.00 pm.
Admission 3 BYN/1.43 USD/1.27 EUR.
It’s believed that Ruzhany palace was connected with another one located in Kossovo by a huge underground passage (by the way, they say the same thing about Mir and Nesvizh castles). The neo-gothic palace in Kossovo was originally founded by Puslouski family but later the Sapehas were one of the owners.
Even now, the building is really amazing in its beauty. It has 12 towers, one for each month of the year. Legend says that a lion was the palace’s keeper, and the owners let the animal free at night in order to guard their dreams. The “musical” staircase with tubular bones of animals was another landmark of Kossovo. When a lady, coming upstairs, touched the wall with her dress there emerged a unique sound, which welcomed a guest and notified the owners about visitors.
Wed-Sun 10.00 am – 5.00 pm.
Admission 3 BYN/1.43 USD/1.27 EUR.
The estate of Tadeusz Kosciuszko, a well-known military and political figure in Belarus and the USA, is also located in Kossovo.
Wed-Sun 10.00 am – 5.00 pm.
Admission 2 BYN/0.95 USD/0.85 EUR.
If you are looking for rich museum collections then museum-estate Pruzhansky Palatsyk and the estate of Niamtsevich family is what you need. The first one is the only revived Belarusian estate in modern style dating back to the 19th century.
The country seat of Niamtsevich family appeared in the village of Skoki in the middle of the 18th century. The most famous owner Julian Niamtsevich was a writer and publicist, and a leading advocate for the 3 May 1791 Constitution of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
Another museum is located inside the former palace of Mateush Butrymavich, an outstanding political figure of the late 18th century. The building combines traits of Baroque and Classicism and maybe you would be lucky enough to find the stone laid in the foundation by the last king of the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth Stanislaw August Poniatowski.
Brest region is rich in abandoned estates full of strength and impressiveness. Gloomy Gremiacha, red brick Flerianovo, neoclassical Yastrembl all well deserve a visit. Don’t forget about the unique Reytan’s wooden estate in Grushevka. These places won’t leave you indifferent.
The landmark of Minsk Region is Nesvizh Castle, the companion of Mir Castle in the UNESCO list. It was founded by Radziwill family in the late 16th century. Nesvizh castle is one of the most romantic places in Belarus due to the picturesque park and breathtaking beauty of the palace itself.
And, as any respectable castle, it has its own ghost. Black Lady Barbara Radziwill was poisoned by her mother-in-law, insidious Bona Sforza in 1551. What is more, it was in Nesvizh that the twelve golden statues of Saint Apostles were hidden during the Napoleonic war in 1812. All attempts to find them were unsuccessful.
So be attentive when wandering around the park – what if you notice something similar to the mysterious entrance to the legendary vault?
You’d be surprised to learn that the capital of Belarus has a castle as well. And you’d be even more surprised when you learn its modern function. Pishchalauski Castle, built in the 19th century, is a functioning prison.
Doesn’t this remind you of anything? This place is sometimes called the Belarusian Bastille, and yes, you can call it Minsk Tower (but wouldn’t probably want to go there).
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Don’t like scary places? Ok, then visit the 18-19th centuries Loshitsa estate, considered to be a metropolitan natural oasis. The museum offers guided excursions and holds exhibitions every month.
Wed-Sun 10.00 am – 7.00 pm.
Admission 8 BYN/3.81 USD/3.40 EUR.
While most family estates in Belarus were not spared by time, some were fully revived and now attract thousands of tourists every year. For example, the first Belarusian park-museum of interactive history Sula with a mansion museum of Lensky family. Here you can spend a day full of joy and interesting activities , starting from horseback and trap riding finishing with helicopter tour.
A few more places in Minsk region may be pleasing to your eye – Chapsky family palace in Priluki and their estate in Stankovo. The first one has been restored and houses the Institute of Plant Protection,the second offers its treasury to be discovered.
In the city of Snov you can find one of the longest buildings in classical style – the estate of the Rdultovskies. It’s length is 140 meters. Perhaps one day this palace as well as Manyushka-Vankovich Palace in Smilovichi will be revived. Still, their condition is much better than the one of Tyshkevich family estate standing half ruined in Vialoye.
Visiting the Palace of the Rumyantsevs and the Paskeviches is a must if you are in Gomel. In the 18th century Russian Empress Catherine the Great granted Gomel province to Count Peter Rumyantsev and allocated funds from the treasury for the construction of the palace.
Later in 1834 the palace was bought by a famous Russian general Paskevich. Nowadays you can see restored interiors of official halls, and enjoy numerous exhibitions held in the palace.
Tue-Fri 11.00 am – 7.00 pm, Sat-Sun 10.00 am – 6.00 pm.
Admission 12 BYN/5.72 USD/5.10 EUR.
Khalchansky Palace, which today is a branch of the Gomel Regional Museum, once rivaled the Rumyantsev-Paskevich Palace in its greatness. The estate of Gatousky family in Krasny Bereg is perfectly preserved and has a museum inside. This is the only Belarusian manor with elements of a rare Arabian style called Alhambra, or Moorish. Looks like a fairytale castle!
Daily 8.00 am – 5.00 pm.
Admission 4 BYN/1.90 USD/1.70 EUR.
In case you are looking for something more ancient, visit Turov Castle or, more correctly, what is left of it. You can visit an archeological complex located where the castle of the 13th century used to stand.
Mogilev Region can’t boast of an abundance of ancient buildings. Nevertheless, here you can find two wonderful estates, which look perfect and merit a visit.
The Bulgaks’ Palace situated in Zhilichi is amazing in its grandeur. A rich landowner started the construction of his family seat in classical style in the early 19th century. Later the palace was frequently referred to as Zhilichy Versaille.
It’s unbelievable but it has gone through numerous wars that swept through Belarus without a single shell hitting it.
Another restored estate of Classicism is in Krichev. These lands were given to Prince Potemkin by Catherine The Great and in the late 18th century he started the construction of the palace, which today houses a registry office and a museum.
The only more or less preserved castle in Mogilev region is Bykhov Castle of the Khadkeviches and the Sapegas built in the 16-17th centuries. It was severely damaged during wars but even ruined, it looks incredibly impressive.
Another neglected object is Tolstoy family estate in Grudinovka.
We have come to the last but not least destination on our list, Vitebsk Region.
The castle White Kovel in the village Smalyany was erected in the Renaissance style and it was the only white one on the Belarusian lands. The word “Kovel” in the name of the castle refers to a city in modern Ukraine where the family used to have a seat before purchasing Smalyany in the 17th century.
The building was severely damaged during the Great Northern War in 1708, completely destroyed in the middle of the 19th century. Nowadays, only the ruins of one tower and the foundation have been preserved.
If you think that the list of mansions and castles of Belarus is over on this, you are deeply mistaken. Didn’t expect it?
Sometimes, trying to visit all these sites seems like grasping the immensity, but you won’t regret for sure. It’s like an addiction – the more you see, the more you get enchanted and interested in other Belarusian castles and estates waiting for you.