Wawel Royal Castle
No visit to Kraków is complete without enjoying a visit to the top of the 150-million-year-old limestone rock known as Wawel Hill, the imposing location for Krakow’s own Wawel Royal Castle.
From 1138, when Krakow became Poland’s capital, Wawel would grow to become the country’s most important residence. It housed three dynasties of kings who all contributed to expanding the modest building of Romanesque architecture, into an impressive Gothic residence.
In 1499, parts of the building were damaged in a fire, and it wasn’t until 5 years later that King Alexander Jagiello commissioned the renovation of the castle by numerous foreign architects to its present Renaissance style.
Wawel, however, lost some of its long-standing importance when Poland’s capital became Warsaw.
From the 1796 until the early 1900s, the castle was used as barracks by the Austrian army, Poland having been divided amongst its stronger neighbors during the war, before it was finally restored and transformed into a residence museum in 1930.
They say the third time’s a charm, and nowhere is this truer than with Wawel Cathedral. Having been destroyed twice before, the cathedral acted as a burial site and coronation room.
It is an architectural wonder.
Wawel castle holds five permanent exhibitions:
- The State Rooms and The Royal Private Apartments exhibitions show the décor of the royal interiors of the 16th and 17th centuries.
- The Crown Treasury and Armory houses royal jewelry, armor and weapons.
- “Lost Wawel” hosts a display of objects from the excavation of Wawel Hill.
- Also on dislpay is Oriental Art mixed with Turkish, Persian, Japanese and Chinese carpets, banners and ceramics, to name but a few.
The castle holds an array of seasonal exhibitions throughout the year, which your guide can tell you about. You can also ask them about Leonardo’s famous painting of Duke Ludovico Storza’s mistress, Lady with the Ermine, also exhibited in Wawel Castle.
Wawel Royal Castle Info
Address: Wawel 5, 31-001, Kraków
Map ref: 50.054253, 19.935412
Site opening hours: Mon-Sun 6AM until dusk.
See here for exhibitions opening hours.
Costs: Each exhibition ranges between 8-25PLN, with the longest estimated visit time around 50 minutes. Your trip will be made much longer by enjoying the grounds, and the views its high posture gives of the Wisła river, and a fire breathing dragon!
You cannot buy a ticket that encompasses multiple exhibitions.
Children under 7 are admitted free of charge.