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.
The Governor’s Room (Ground floor)
The parlour, with a Renaissance larch wood ceiling, has retained the formal character of a parlour where the Governor received his guests. The furnishings date from the 16th and 17th centuries and are predominantly representative of northern European schools: Renaissance paintings from the Netherlands and Germany, Baroque tapestries (gobelins), and an Italian table.
The Tournament Hall (2nd floor of the Castle)
In the hall there are wall friezes with tournament scenes painted in the 1630s by Hans Durer (brother of Albrecht Durer) and Antoni of Wrocław. Italian Renaissance paintings include portraits of young males from the Medici family and were painted by Alessandro Allori and Giorgio Vasari. Among the Italian furniture there is a table from the Palmieri Palace at Siena. The impressive 18th century stove comes from the castle at Wiśniowiec in Wołyń.
The Envoys’ Room (2nd floor of the Castle)
Here sessions of the Lower House (Seym) were held in the presence of the king. The ceiling coffer, reconstructed in the first half of the 20th century, shows 30 woodcarvings of human heads created in 1540. The original ceiling - the work of Sebastian Tauerbach’s workshop - consisted of 194 of such sculptures (it was seriously damaged at the beginning of the 19th century). The wall frieze, which dates from the same period as the sculptures, depicting ‘The story of human life’, is an illustration of an ancient Greek text "Tabula Cebetis". The tapestry entitled "God speaking to Noah", from Sigismund Augustus’ collection, was made in the mid 16th century in Brussels based on a pattern by Michiel Coxcie. Renaissance portraits of King Sigismund the Old and of his daughter Anna Jagiello were painted by Marcin Kober. There is also an 18th century stove from the palace in Wiśniowiec.
The Planet Room (2nd floor of the Castle)
The wall frieze (dating from 1929) showing personifications of the Planets is a reminder of 16th century paintings that did not survive. The furnishing in the room comes from Renaissance times. The tapestry entitled "God blessing Noah’s family" (mid 16th C.) comes from Sigismund Augustus’ collection, and was weaved in Brussels. Among the Italian paintings of the Venice and Ferrara schools is "Jove, Mercury and Virtue" painted by the celebrated artist Dossa Dossi (a gift from Karolina Lanckorońska). There is also Italian furniture and a majolica vase on display here.
The Bird Room (2nd floor of the Castle)
It is to be found inside the Gothic tower. Around 1600, following a fire in the castle, it was transformed into the audience hall. It was then that a large fireplace and portals bearing the coats of arms of the Vasa family were designed by Giovanni Trevano, and the plafonds were painted by Tomasso Dolabella. The existing ceiling dates to the first half of the 20th century. Also at that time the walls were decorated with an 18th century cordovan from king Augustus III’s castle at Moritzburg. There are portraits of Sigismund III and of his spouse Constance the Austrian. Among other western European paintings from the 17th century there is "The Allegory of Fortunate Fate" by Frans Francken II, and "Vanitas" by Bartolomeus Spranger. The two stone busts of the Roman emperors Domitian and Nerva, also date from the 17th century. A splendid Dutch cupboard is decorated with scenes of Rome.
The Royal Chapel (2nd floor of the Castle)
The chapel was built around 1602 for Sigismund III Vasa. Its vault has retained its original stucco decoration. The fresco is by Józef Pankiewicz and dates from c 1930. The altar (triptych) features a representation of the Holy Trinity on the central panel and saints on the wings. Poland, Krakow, c.1600. A small painting "Sigismund III" on the Catafalque depicts the King after his death, lying in the castle chapel in Warsaw. The furniture dates from the 17th century.
The Eagle Room (2nd floor of the Castle)
A formal room, where during sessions of the Seym at Wawel, monarchs held a royal law court. The original ceiling with a carved eagle did not survive and was replaced by a new one in the inter-war period. There are portraits of the royals and paintings depicting 17th century historic scenes on the walls. Among these are "The Entry of Jerzy Ossoliński into Rome" and "The Entry of Queen Marie-Louise Gonzaga into Gdańsk", both painted by Bartłomiej Milwitz. The Belgian tapestry (gobelin) "The Death of Decius Mus" was woven to a pattern by Rubens.
The Senator’s Hall (2nd floor of the Castle)
This largest room in the castle was originally designated for sessions of the Senate, important state and court ceremonies, royal weddings, theatre performances and balls. The first royal wedding, that of Sigismund I to Bona Sworza, took place here in 1518. The walls are decorated with large figural tapestries with biblical themes from Sigismund Augustus’ collection. A Classicist armchair has replaced the throne.