A tourist trip to Krakow begins with the Royal Castle (Zamek Królewski na Wawelu). Wawel Castle is as important to Poland as the Moscow Kremlin is to Russia. But the Kremlin remains the main symbol of statehood, and the Royal Castle on Wawel lost this status after the transfer of the capital from Krakow to Warsaw.
History of Wawel Castle, Krakow
The history of Wawel begins in the X century. The castle at this time became a symbol of both political and spiritual power. For quite a long time, starting from the XI century and ending with the XVII, the Wawel Castle had the status of the main residence of local rulers, since the capital of Poland at that time was located in Krakow.
The best time for the royal palace came in the XIV century, during the reign of Casimir the Great, and then the Jagiellonian dynasty. Later, after the conclusion of a historic agreement between Poland and Lithuania, the Wawel complex became territorially located on the very border of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, as a result of which its position began to deteriorate.
The importance of another Polish city – Warsaw, located in the geographical center of the country – on the contrary, to grow. At the same time, a large fire occurred in Wawel, after which it decided to move the capital. In 1609, during the reign of Sigismund III, Warsaw actually finally became the capital of the state, and officially this status assigned to the city in 1795. In the same year, the Wawel Castle became the property of Austria.
Many vicissitudes have experienced this complex over the centuries of its existence. For example, after the invasion of Napoleon in 1815, Krakow defeated and became a separate free city, not belonging to any country. In 1846, the Austrians again settled in these places, who built barracks for their military here. In 1905, the Polish government bought the lands and territory of Wawel and returned them to its historical property. After that, the castle began to be restored, and in 1930 it again acquired the status of a state residence for special occasions, and part of the Wawel territory became a museum. In wartime, the Wawel Castle was the headquarters of the German general.
How to get to the Wawel Castle in Krakow
The Wawel Architectural Complex can be reached on foot from Kraków’s train or bus station. To do this, you need to go to the left along lubicz, Pijarska or Flopianska street, then through the underground passage there will be an exit directly to the city walls. After passing along the walls, the road will lead to the Market Square and Grodska Street. At the very end of this street on the right side is the Wawel Castle. You can also use the taxi services in Krakow: Radio Taxi Mega, Eco Taxi Krakow, Radio Taxi 919 and many others.
You can get to the Wawel Castle by public transport, for this you need to take trams 1, 3, 6, 8 and 18 to get off at the Wawel stop – this is the closest stop to the complex. If you go a little further, you can go by trams 10, 19, 22 and 40. Buses 128 and 184, their stop will be called Stradomska. A little further afield is the Jubilat stop of tram 2 and buses 103, 114, 124, 144, 164, 169, 173, 179, 194, 279, 289, 409 and 424.
On the territory of the castle there are 2 expositions: permanent and seasonal. The permanent exhibition is open throughout the year, but opening hours depend on the season (summer and winter). The seasonal exposition of the Wawel Castle in Krakow can be visited only in the summer season. The summer season begins on May 1 and lasts until October 31. The winter season of Wawel Castle in Krakow begins on October 1 and ends on April 30.
The permanent exhibition includes several excursion routes, such as the Executive Royal Chambers, the Private Royal Apartments, the Hetman Vault and the Armory, the Wawel In Action and the Art of the East. The opening hours of each of the expositions differ according to seasons.
Seasonal exhibitions include the following routes: Dragon Pit, Sandomierska Tower and Castle Buildings and Gardens. You can visit the seasonal exhibition only from May 1 to October 31. In the winter season from November 1 to April 30, the seasonal exposition of the Wawel Castle in Krakow is closed to the public.
In May-June, you can visit the seasonal exposition of the Wawel Castle from 10 am to 6 pm.
In July-August, the seasonal exposition is open from 10:00 to 19:00.
In September-October, you can visit the seasonal exhibition from 10 am to 5 pm.
And from November to April, as already noted, the seasonal exposition is closed.
So, as for tickets, their cost depends on the chosen exposition, route and season. Thus, the cost of seasonal exposure ranges from 3PLN to 18PLN:
Dragon Pit – 3PLN
Sandomierska Tower – 4PLN
Castle Buildings and Gardens – 18PLN/10PLN
The cost of tickets to visit the permanent exhibition ranges from 8PLN to 25PLN in the summer season, and from 7PLN to 21PLN in the winter season:
Executive Royal Chambers – 18PLN/11PLN
Private Royal Apartments – 25PLN/19PLN
Hetman Vault & Armory – 18PLN/11PLN
Wawel In Action – 10PLN/7PLN
Oriental Art – 8PLN/5PLN
Executive Royal Chambers – 16PLN/9PLN
Private Royal Apartments – 21PLN/16PLN
Hetman Vault & Armory – 16PLN/9PLN
Wawel In Action – 8PLN/5PLN
Oriental Art – 7PLN/4PLN
How to get to the Wawel Castle in Krakow
Finding the castle is very simple, you just need to get any convenient transport to the old town, and then follow the signs. Wawel is located in the heart of the cultural capital of Poland.
If you need to clarify the work schedule at a certain time or find out any other information, you can visit the official website:
Inside the castle
The Wawel Royal Castle includes many architectural historical sights. The most famous and visited of them are: the castle itself, the cathedral, and the castle fortifications. Entrance to the territory of the complex itself is free, but each exhibition has a separate entrance fee (there is no single ticket for all exhibitions).
- Cathedral House
- Royal Castle
- Royal cuisine
- Rotunda of the Blessed Virgin Mary
- Cathedral of Saints Stanislaus and Wenceslas
- Church of St. Gereon
- St. Michael’s Church
- St. George’s Church
- Sigismund Chapel
- Office building
- Gate of Bartolomeo Berrecci
- Seminary building
- Bastion of Władysław IV
- Bernardine Gate
- Vasov Gate
- Armorial gates
- Villainous Tower
- Panenskaya Tower
- Sandomierz Tower
- Senate Tower
- Tenchin Tower
- Gentry Tower
- State Art Collection
- Wawel Dragon
- Wawel Chakra
- Court of Stefan Batory
- Royal Gardens
- The Unpreserved Wawel
- Monument to Tadeusz Kościuszko
At the entrance to the complex there is a main gate, to which an old cobbled path leads. To the left of the entrance is a wall on which the names of people and the names of companies (as well as the year and amount) that at one time donated a certain amount for the restoration of Wawel are engraved. Immediately behind the entrance you can see a monument to Tadeusz Kościuszko – a famous Polish hero who led a popular uprising in 1794. During World War II, the statue was destroyed, but then restored and put in its original place.
At the entrance to the Wawel Castle through the armorial gate on Kanonić Street on the left will be the Cathedral in honor of Saints Stanislaus and Wenceslas. It is easy to recognize him by the real bones of a mammoth hanging right above the doors, which, according to legends, bring happiness and good luck. The building of the cathedral was erected in the XI-XII century, in which the Polish rulers were crowned at one time, and it also served as a tomb for them in the future. Until our time, a small part of the tower of the Silver Bells and the crypts of St. Leonard remains from the old cathedral, in which the remains of Józef Piłsudski are buried. The cathedral acquired its modern Gothic appearance in the XIV century. Inside, its central position is occupied by the Altar of the Fatherland, and nearby there are sarcophagi made of stone and the tomb of Casimir Jagielon. The tower of the cathedral houses the Sigismund Bell, which is one of the largest bells in the country. At the most remote north-eastern end of Wawel is a beautiful old medieval tower, which, due to its secluded and impregnable, all the time of its existence served as the personal apartments of local rulers, and therefore called it “Chicken’s Foot”. If you go a little further, then on the right side of the gate you can visit the Cathedral Museum.
In the courtyard of the architectural complex of the Wawel Castle on the right there is a huge lawn, on which the ruins of ancient castle buildings are located. Of the buildings that have survived to our time, you can see the palatium of the XI century, which was the residence of the princes, stone fortifications, a small castle in the Romanesque style built in the XII century, rebuilt in the XIV century into a large Gothic castle. On the left there is another exhibition “The Lost Wawel” (which, among other things, includes the oldest of all the surviving buildings in the city – the rotunda of the Blessed Virgin Mary), and directly – a small cafe where you can relax from walking around the castle. To the left of the café, if you walk along the road winding between the brick building and the tower, you can get to the entrance to the dragon cave. According to legends, a ferocious dragon lived here, taking the most beautiful representatives of the city. He was defeated only by the clever son of King Krak, who founded the eponymous city of Krakow.
Further, after the old arch, there is the central royal court. On its right side there are three floors of royal chambers and royal rooms, in the chambers of which the main value are large canvases depicting historical events and antique furniture, and in the main hall there is a ceiling decorated with carved “Wawel heads”. On the left side you can visit the armory (with a collection of Polish and European weapons of the XV-XVIII centuries, as well as many ancient swords and armor) and the treasury, as well as an interesting exhibition called “Art of the East”.
On the central square of the complex there is also the chapel of Sigismund, inside of which are the tombs of polish rulers: Sigismund the Old and Sigismund Augustus. Nearby rises the chapel of the Jagiellonians of the XVI century with the tomb of Anna Jagiellonka. To the left of it is a chapel of 1676 with the burials of the Vasa dynasty.