History of Wawel
The first settlers in Wawel Hill date back to the Paleolithic period. Thousands of years later, during the eleventh century, the Polish monarchs built a Gothic-style Royal Castle on the hilltop. Throughout the centuries, the castle was reformed and its design was transformed into a Renaissance style structure.
When the capital was moved to Warsaw in 1596, the Royal Castle was abandoned and looted by the Prussian army. The edifice was then occupied by the Austrians, who built city walls around the castle and transformed its interior, fortifying it. During the Second World War, the Palace was resided in by the Governor-General Hans Frank.
After so many vicissitudes, the Castle was rebuilt and is currently one of the most popular tourist attractions in Kraków.
Wawel Royal Castle is extremely big and has numerous points of interest. These are some of the most important:
- Wawel Cathedral: Considered the country’s spiritual hub, Wawel Cathedral is an important symbol of the history of Poland.
- John Paul II Cathedral Museum: Inaugurated in 1978 by Karol Wojtyla, the museum houses numerous religious artefacts and valuable royal insignias.
- Dragon’s Den: According to a famous Polish legend, this cave is where the Wawel Dragon lived. The grotto is 270 meters long, going all the way to the banks of Vistula river, where a sculpture of the Dragon stands.
- Royal Palace: The Polish monarchs’ first residency, Wawel Royal Castle was founded during the eleventh century and is currently one of the most famous buildings in Poland.
The Royal Palace is divided into various living spaces, which are accessed independently:
- Lost Wawel: This exhibit is located in the Castle’s basement and shows how the hill and its buildings have evolved throughout the past one thousand years. It showcases objects from the Middle Ages and some remains of the Gothic style castle.
- State Rooms: The castle's main exhibition. It preserves valuable paintings, sixteenth century Italian furniture, beautiful tapestries, stucco ceilings and other original elements.
- Royal Private Apartments: The former apartments for court members and guest rooms are located on the first floor and can only be visited accompanied by an English-speaking guide.
- Crown Treasury and Armory: This exhibition houses dazzling jewelry, precious stones, armory and other significant historic objects, such as the Szczerbiec coronation sword.
- Oriental Art: The items of this exhibition include carpets, tapestries, armory from Turkey, the Crimea, the Caucasus and Iran.
Wawel Royal Castle is one of the top highlights in Kraków and is a definite must-see. The Castle is beautifully preserved and holds various interesting exhibits, even though numerous other historic buildings were demolished to establish a new barrack during the nineteenth century.
The number of visits are limited per day to safeguard the Castle, therefore; all admission tickets have an exact entry hour. In our opinion, the best time to go is just before closing hour.
The various parts of the Castle have different opening hours, but generally Wawel Castle opens: 9:30am - 4pm/5pm.
State Rooms: Between 16zł (US$4.2) and 20zł (US$5.2) (depending on the season).
Royal Apartments: Between 21zł (US$5.5) and 25zł (US$6.5).
Crown Treasury and Armoury: Between 16 and 20zł (US$5.2)
Oriental Art: Between 7 and 8zł (US$2.1)
The Lost Wawel: Between 7 and 10zł (US$2.6)
Free admission: Mondays (April - October): 9:30am - 1pm and Sundays (November - March): 10am - 4pm.
Trams: lines 6, 8, 10, 13, 18.