Perched atop a fortified hill beside the Vistula River, Wawel Castle is a sprawling edifice that was home to Polish kings. Considered the Camelot of Poland, the castle oozes mythical and romantic energy, and houses historical treasures not to be missed on your Krakow holidays.
Wawel Castle was once a small Romanesque building called “the palladium”, and was slowly transformed into a Renaissance palace by the distinguished Polish rulers who dwelled there -- Ladislas the Short, his son Casimir the Great, King Alexander Jagiello, and his brother King Sigismund I the Old. Today it is one of the most famous landmarks in Poland.
Among the attractions of the Royal Castle are the private apartments on the first floor, with their Gothic and Renaissance portals designed by the architect Maestro Benedict. Northern European and Italian art abound here, depicting various themes.
State rooms on the second floor feature ancient Polish collections and furnishings. Thirty woodcarvings of human heads adorn the ceiling of the Envoy’s Room, while the original tapestries ordered by Sigismund Augustus can still be found in the Renaissance Rooms. Other rooms worth exploring in this part of the castle are the Governor’s Parlour, where the governor welcomed his guests; Tournament Hall, with wall friezes by Hans Durer and Antoni of Wroclaw portraying tournament scenes; and the Royal Chapel, which was built for Sigismund III Vasa during the 17th century.
War equipment and insignia of royal power such as crowns and sceptres are found in the Crown Treasury and Armoury, a delight to weapon enthusiasts and jewel lovers alike. On display here is the legendary Szczerbiec Sword used in coronations during the 13th century.
History buffs will love the Lost Wawel, an exhibition of archaeological discoveries and architectural ruins at Wawel Hill. The Renaissance royal kitchens, Gothic castle remains, and the Rotunda of the Blessed Virgin Mary are among the notable pieces here.
The legendary cave in Wawel Hill called the Dragon’s Den was once thought to be the home of a dreadful monster. It is a 270-metre long cave with three narrow chambers that are open to the public.
Wawel Castle can be explored by visitors from April to September (6 am to 8 pm) and October to March (6 am to 5 pm). Admission is free on Mondays, from April 1 to October 31, and Sundays, from November 1 to March 31.