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Exhibitions

The collections of the Wawel Royal Castle are presented in several permanent exhibi­tions that evoke the way the royal residence would have looked in the 16th and 17th centuries. Instead of paying a flat admission fee, visitors can pick and choose the exhibitions they would like to see.

From spring to early autumn, visitors can also descend into the Dragon’s Den, climb to the top of the Sandomierska Tower, and take a guided outdoor tour to learn how the castle was built and defended.

The castle also mounts special temporary exhibitions and presentations of single art works.

Permanent exhibitions

State Rooms

The exhibition encompasses the largest and most magnificent rooms in the former royal residence. Perhaps the most intriguing is the Deputies’ Hall (also known as the Envoys’ Hall) with its remarkable coffered ceiling decorated with woodcarvings of human heads. Visitors tour Renaissance and Baroque rooms ending with the castle’s largest room, the Senators’ Hall, where the senate met with the king and where grand balls were held. Objects on view include the renowned tapestry collection of King Sigismund II Augustus, royal portraits, Italian and Dutch Old Master paintings, and Italian Renaissance furniture.

 
Envoys Hall (also called the Deputies Hall or Heads Hall), 2nd floor, State Rooms
exhibition. Photo A. Stankiewicz.

 
Senators Hall, 2nd floor, State Rooms exhibition. Photo A. Stankiewicz.

Royal Private Apartments

These rooms were once reserved for the personal use of monarchs and their families, courtiers, and guests. Several are decorated with Renaissance furnishings and notable
Italian paintings from the Lanckoroński Collection. Three retain their original Renais-
sance larch wood ceilings, while two also boast original colorful painted friezes. Two rooms in the north wing of the castle are dedicated to exhibiting objects from the Saxon Wettin dynasty, including a collection of Meissen porcelain and silver table settings; two more are furnished in the Neoclassical style.

Bed Chamber, 1st floor, Royal Private Apartments exhibition. Photo A. Stankiewicz.


Column Hall, 1st floor, Royal Private Apartments exhibition. Photo A. Stankiewicz.

Crown Treasury and Armoury

The exhibition occupies the Gothic and Renaissance rooms that once housed the Polish coronation insignia and the jewels of the Polish-Lithuanian Com­monwealth. Today, they house priceless objects from the original Crown Treasury, such as the Szczerbiec coronation sword, heirlooms of Polish monarchs that have survived wars and pil­lages, and splendid gold and silver objects created by Western European and Polish goldsmiths. Diverse weapons, armor, and parade saddles and horse trappings from the Middle Ages to the 18th century are on view in the Armoury.

Arms and Armour, Crown Treasury and Armoury exhibition.  Photo A. Stankiewicz.

Oriental Art

Six galleries present carpets, banners and wall hang­ings, Persian and Turkish arms, and Japanese and Chinese ceramics. The exhibition centers on a group of trophies taken in battle and other objects associated with King John III Sobieski and the Relief of Vienna in 1683.

Oriental Art exhibition. Photo A. Stankiewicz.

The Lost Wawel

The exhibition weaves through the remains of the early 10th-century Rotunda of SS. Felix and Adauctus (also called the Rotunda of the Blessed Virgin Mary), 16th-century royal kitchens, 17th-century royal stables, and 18th-century coach house. Numerous objects unearthed in archaeological digs are on display. Architectural developments are presented on illus­trated panels, a model of the 18th-century Wawel, and a virtual reconstruction of buildings from the early-Romanesque and Romanesque periods. Renaissance stone sculptures and stonework are presented in the Lapidarium.

Lapidarium, Lost Wawel exhibition. Photo D. Błażewski.

Seasonal attractions (April-October)

Dragon’s Den
The Dragon’s Den is a cave that formed some 12 million years ago in the western slope of the hill. It is also home to one of Krakow’s best-known legendary residents—the Wawel Dragon. The route follows 81 m of the cave’s total 270 m of corridors. Visitors tour the cave and exit onto the Vistula Boulevards. Near the cave’s exit is Bronisław Chromy’s 1972 statue of the dragon that actually “breathes” fire.

Sandomierska Tower
One of the Wawel Castle’s two artillery towers, it was built in about 1460 during the reign of Casimir IV Jagiellon. The tower was adapted to accommodate firearms and artillery, but also housed guards’ lodgings. In peacetime, it functioned as a prison for persons of high social standing. Indeed, confine­ment in the higher stories—that is “in the tower”— was regarded as “honorable punishment” and was reserved for the nobility. A climb to the top of the tower is rewarded with sweeping views of Krakow and the surrounding countryside.





 

Wawel Architecture and Gardens
guided outdoor tour
For centuries the Wawel Hill, with its towering castle and cathedral, was the seat of political and ecclesiastical power in Poland. Over the course of nearly one thousand years, the architectural and garden landscape of the hill changed; buildings were erected, remodeled, knocked down and replaced. Today, the castle and cathedral constitute a harmonious monument complex, for the most part restored to its Renaissance grandeur. The reopened gardens complete the picture. 
 
The new guided walking tour gives visitors an opportunity to learn about the magnificent architecture and to explore secluded areas, such as the sunlit royal gardens on the eastern side of the hill. The tour begins in the Lost Wawel exhibition next to a model of the Wawel as it looked in the 18th century, continues to the Arcaded Courtyard of the castle, to the gardens, and then to the Báthory Courtyard. The tour ends with a visit to the Sandomierska Tower, which offers great views of Krakow and the surrounding countryside. 
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Photo. D. Błażewski

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