The main exhibition of the castle’s interiors includes several rooms on the ground floor and guest apartments on the second floor. The three rooms on the ground floor, which served as the suite of the Governors of Cracow, have retained their Renaissance wooden ceilings. Their stone portals were reconstructed in the inter-war period. The Envoys’ Stairway which connects the ground level with the private royal apartments on the first floor and the rooms on the second floor boasts original Renaissance portals.
The second floor of the eastern and northern wings houses guest apartments. Their original ceilings were damaged by fire in 1702 and again during the Austrian occupation in the early 19th century. Large fragments of original wall friezes are preserved in the three rooms located to the south of the Envoys’ Stairs (missing fragments were reconstructed before the Second World War). The Envoys’ Room boasts an astonishing ceiling with woodcarvings of 30 human heads. Tapestries commissioned by Sigismund Augustus are the most valuable treasure of the Renaissance rooms, and the only art object preserved from the original interior decoration. Woven in Brussels in the third quarter of the 16th century, they depict biblical and grotesque scenes, and the coats of arms of Poland and Lithuania. There are also valuable paintings, Italian furniture, predominantly from 16th century Tuscany, and Polish royal portraits.
After a fire in 1595 Sigismund III Vasa commissioned the restoration of the interiors in the northern wing of the castle, which was carried out by the architect Giovanni Trevano and the painter Tomasso Dolabella. Only the Senatorial Room, the largest in the Castle and at present decorated with tapestries, was untouched by the fire. In other interiors among the objects that survived are marble portals and a magnificent early Roman Baroque fireplace, as well as stucco ceilings, such as those in the royal chapel. The present reproduction Baroque ceilings, from the inter-war period, are filled with plafonds by then noted Polish painters-colourists of the time, and the walls are covered with 18th century cordovan tapestries. The Dutch Study in Sigismund III’s Tower houses paintings of the Dutch school. Portraits of Polish kings and members of the royal families, as well as paintings of historic moments in Poland’s past, are the dominant feature in this section of the castle.
The exit from this exhibition is through a second reception stairway, the Senatorial.