The Wawel Royal Castle State Art Collection is often considered one of the prizes of historical Krakow, Poland. With architecture, artwork, and permanent exhibitions that are hundreds of years old, The Wawel is a must see for anyone visiting the area.
Start of construction at the Wawel Castle started in the 13th century, at the order of the King at the time, Casimir the Third (The Great). It is still one of the largest castles in Poland, and it is considered the most culturally and historically significant in the entire country. It was officially declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1978. The museum was established on site in 1930. As of 2015, roughly one and a half million visitors stop to see The Wawel Royal Castle and State Art Collection on an annual basis.
The collection at Wawel Castle contains, in addition to traveling and temporary exhibits, a number of permanent collections and viewing areas.
- State Rooms - Take a tour of the individual state rooms at the castle. There is a limit to the amount of daily tickets for this tour that will be sold due to space issues, so book early. This tour includes several ground floor rooms and second floor guest apartments. Make sure to look up and enjoy the beautifully maintained wooden Renaissance ceilings. Much of the state rooms are original or were restored after a fire in 1595. The tour will include The Governor’s Room, The Tournament Hall, The Envoy’s Room, The Planet Room, The Bird Room, The Royal Chapel, The Senator’s Hall, and The Eagle Room.
- Royal Private Apartments - Tours are also available of the Royal Private Apartments, full of stunning Gothic architecture. The apartments also feature more than 60 Gothic paintings on display.
- Crown Treasury and Armoury - Located in the north eastern corner of the Wawel Castle, on the ground floor, the Crown Treasury and Armoury features a variety of different, tour able rooms like The Cashmir’s Great Room, The Jadwiga i Jagiello’s Room, the room located in the Sigismund III Tower, a room filled with different ceremonial weapons, and multiple armory rooms filled with actual, architectural relics of weapons used.
- The Lost Wawel - One of the most recent additions, the Lost Wawel exhibition opened in 1975. It contains a myriad of different architectural finds from the premises and a multimedia presentation describing the history.
- Oriental Art - Located in multiple rooms, the Wawel Castle features many different displays of oriental artwork, like banners, pottery, and rugs.
The hours may vary depending on month and season, so guests are strongly encouraged to check the Wawel’s website prior to scheduling a trip. Each exhibition requires a separate admission fee. Mobile phones and food and drink are not permitted inside. The castle is a historical site and must be treated as such.
The entire ground floor of the castle contains a large visitor center, where guests can book tours, ask questions, and just generally get more information about the many different exhibitions (including any seasonal or temporary exhibits). This is the perfect place to begin any visit to the Wawel Royal Castle and State Art Collection. Maps of the grounds are also available here.
The Wawel offers different seasonal exhibits during different times of the year.
Dragon’s Den, for instance, is open only from April through October. This legendary cave, located on the western edge of the Wawel Hill, harkens back to many different medieval legends about dragons living in the hills (which is where the name comes from). It is tour able, both alone or with a tour group (which is the preferred method of seeing Dragon’s Den).
Open from April through September, another seasonal exhibition is the Sandomierz Tower. One of only three remaining, preserved fire towers, Sandomierz was built in the 1400s to help defend the southern side of the Wawel estate. Guests can climb to the very top, which provides a unique view of the castle grounds.
And, finally, the outdoor grounds and garden are also only open on a seasonal basis. Guests can pick up a map at the visitor center and tour them from April through September as well.
Dining and Shopping
There are no formal dining options available while visiting Wawel Castle, and guests are not allowed to bring in their own food or beverage (in an attempt to preserve the collection). However, the castle does sell souvenirs. By far the most popular of the merchandise available is the Wawel Dragon, which is available in many different forms. Pick up a stuffed animal, t-shirt, or flag.
Wawel Royal Castle State Art Collection, 31-001 Krakow, Phone: +48-1-24-22-51-55 ext. 219,