Guide to Krakow’s Wawel Castle – Visitor Information and Reviews

Welcome, dear reader, to this exciting journey we’re about to embark on. Destination? The iconic Wawel Castle in Krakow. It’s a rich tapestry of stunning architecture, timeless art, and deep cultural heritage, all rolled into one. I can tell that you’re just as excited as I am to explore this place.

Originally, I planned to include the Wawel Castle in a day trip around Krakow, but I realized this majestic castle deserves its own article. I want to give you all the necessary details so you can decide for yourself if this is a place you’d want to see or not.

Now, let me say this – if you find yourself in Krakow during the summer on a Monday or in winter on a Sunday, you’re in luck. On these days, you can visit this castle for free. But don’t worry if you’re visiting on a different day. As I am convinced, there’s plenty to enjoy, and not all attractions are free, but there are some too.

The Path to Wawel and The Royal Castle’s Blueprint

Wawel Castle in Kraków

When it comes to reaching Wawel Castle, you’ve got a few options. Most likely, you’ll end up walking from Grodzka Street to Wawel, unless you decide to visit Grocka first and then proceed to Kanoniczna.

↳ Make sure to read my guide to the most amazing places to stay in Kraków:
How to Find Best Place to Stay in Krakow Old Town – Your Guide

No matter which route you choose, the distance remains pretty much the same. From the Main Market Square, it’s about a 15-minute walk covering around a kilometer. We, for instance, entered from the side of the Bernardyńska Gate. We soaked in the breathtaking view of the Vistula River and even spotted the famous Wawel Dragon.

Our entry point was next to the main hospital building, which now houses the tourist information center, group services, and a ticket booth. If you’re wondering why a hospital would be here in the first place, here’s a quick history lesson – this structure was established by the Austrians in the 19th century as a hospital for wounded officers. It was built on the remnants of the castle’s original defensive walls. In the 20th century, it was repurposed as presidential apartments. Today, the Wawel Castle serves as a conference and exhibition center.

As you walk in, you’ll notice a miniature model of the Royal Castle on the right. Trust me, it’s worth checking out! It features descriptions in Polish, English, and even a version for the visually impaired. It offers a concise history of the castle and indicates where the church once stood, the exact location of the rotunda, and even a small cemetery.

Venturing ahead, you have two options: step into the courtyard of the Royal Palace to admire the beautiful arcades and informative boards detailing the castle’s history, or head to the ticket booth first if you’re running short on time. Either way, your adventure at the Wawel Castle is bound to be an unforgettable one.

The Wawel Castle from Inside

Here is a table with historical data about Wawel Castle:

Built13th and 14th centuries
Oldest fragments11th century
Architectural style(s)Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Early Baroque
Age1000 years old
BuildersFrancesco della Lore, Bartolommeo Berecci
SignificanceMost historically and culturally significant site in Poland
ImportanceHome to Poland’s most important monarchs and served as a royal residence and the site where the country’s rulers governed Poland for five centuries (1038-1596)
ExhibitionsPermanent exhibitions recreate the appearance of the royal residence in the Renaissance and Baroque eras
ExcavationsOngoing excavations and discoveries in the Lost Wawel exhibition
ArtifactsVast collection of royal and military items on display
Oriental artLargest collection of Ottoman tents in Europe

Tickets to Wawel Castle

Let’s chat about how you can get your hands on a ticket to this historical Krakow’s wonderland. There are two ways to do it: online or at the ticket offices. But let me tell you, based on my experience, going online is the way to go. The reason? It’s pretwty straightforward.

At the castle, ticket offices only sell same-day tickets, and these are limited. Given the massive queues that usually snake around the cash registers, you might end up walking away empty-handed. And trust me, no one wants that.

Insider's tip: Online tickets can be bought a week in advance on the official Wawel website. It's a smoother, easier process.

Here are the ticket office hours:

  • Cash Desks 1–3 at the Promotion and Information Center
  • Monday: 9:00–12:20
  • Tuesday-Sunday: 9:00–16:20
  • Ticket Office No. 4 at Brama Herbowa
  • Open from April to October
  • Monday: 9:00-12:15
  • Tuesday-Sunday: 9:00-16:15

How Much Will This Adventure Cost?

Now, let’s talk about ticket prices. Each exhibit requires a separate ticket, which means you’ll have to purchase a different ticket for each one. Here’s the rundown:

  • Representative Royal Chambers: Normal ticket price is 30 PLN and the reduced ticket price is 20 PLN.
  • Treasury and Armory: Currently closed until June 29.
  • Eastern art. Turkish tents: Normal ticket price is 20 PLN, and the reduced price is 15 PLN.
  • Wawel Cathedral: Tickets are sold at the box office located at the Cathedral, with normal tickets priced at 22 PLN and reduced tickets at 15 PLN.

Once you’ve got your tickets, simply wait your turn at each entrance.

I think it’s worth mentioning that due to the precious exhibits housed within the castle, there’s a limit to the number of people who can visit in a day. This is perfectly understandable as the goal is to preserve these treasures for as long as possible. But keep in mind, it may be a bit of a hassle for you as a visitor, especially during peak times like 3:00 PM in July.

Private Royal Apartments

If you’ve ever wondered how royalty lived, you’re in luck. One of the exhibitions at Wawel Castle is the Private Royal Apartments. This is where you get to see the private side of royal life up close. But before we dive in, here’s some handy info:

  • During the winter season (which runs from Tuesday to Saturday), the apartments are open between 09:30 and 16:00. They’re closed on Mondays and Sundays. The ticket will set you back by 21 PLN.
  • In the summer season, you can visit from Monday to Friday between 09:30 to 17:00, and on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 to 17:00. A normal ticket is priced at 25 PLN.

What’s more, in both seasons, the price of the ticket includes a guide. And let me tell you, these guides know their stuff. You have a choice of guides who speak either Polish or English.

Private rooms in th Castle

So what exactly will you see inside these exclusive apartments?

  • The private rooms of the king
  • The rooms of the courtiers
  • The rooms for royal guests

The rooms meant for guests are a sight to behold with their Renaissance-era ceilings, Gothic-Renaissance portals, and Renaissance-era furniture. Plus, there are the tapestries – such an amazing sight!

Here’s a list of what you’ll see when you visit the Royal Private Apartments:

  • Guest chambers
  • A room in Kurza Stopka
  • Bedroom of Sigismund the Old
  • Columned hall
  • Mirowska room

I must say, the columned hall was the most intriguing for me. It perfectly encapsulates the classicist style of its time. While it’s equally ornately decorated like the other rooms, it’s tastefully done. Its walls are adorned with portraits instead of tapestries, which give the room a sense of spaciousness. And the ceiling, let me tell you, it’s a sight for sore eyes. I know some might find the coffered ceilings overwhelming, but this one, it’s just right.

Representative Royal Chambers

Before you start packing your bags, here’s some key info you need to know about visiting the Representative Royal Chambers. Let’s start with the most important bits:

  • If you’re planning to visit during winter (from November 2 to March 31), the exhibition is open from Tuesday to Friday, from 09:30 to 16:00. On Saturdays and Sundays, the doors open from 10:00 to 16:00. Keep in mind, this exhibition is closed on Mondays.
  • As for the summer season (from April 1 until the last day of October), you can get in from Tuesday to Friday between 09:00 to 17:00, and on Saturdays and Sundays between 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Again, it’s closed on Mondays.

Remember, the last entry is an hour before closing time. So, be punctual, you don’t want to be left outside!

You get to explore halls and chambers used for grand court events and state affairs such as parliamentary sessions, audiences, balls, receptions, and council meetings. It’s like stepping back in time! The Representative Royal Chambers are located on the second floor of Wawel Royal Castle. You’ll also find chambers on the ground floor where you can appreciate the preserved Renaissance architecture, especially the wooden ceilings.

On the second floor, located in the northern and eastern wings (I’m pretty sure about the directions), you’ll discover rooms with a rich history. Although a large part of the Renaissance architecture was destroyed by fires, invaders, and the effects of war, a good amount of wall friezes has survived. Also, intact are tapestries featuring biblical themes, the coats of arms of Poland and Lithuania (remember, these tapestries are like carpets hanging on the walls), original paintings, Italian furniture, and many portraits of rulers.

Carpets hanging on the walls in Wawel Castle

Inside the Representative Royal Chambers

During your visit, you will see:

  • Apartment of a court official (ground floor)
  • Tournament hall (2nd floor)
  • The room under the Planets (2nd floor)
  • Parliamentary hall (2nd floor)
  • Senator’s hall (2nd floor)
  • The room under the Birds (2nd floor)
  • The Royal Chapel (2nd floor)
  • Hall under the Eagle (2nd floor)

I won’t go into too much detail about each room. It’s smething you have to see for yourself! Each room radiates grandeur. It’s clear that Poland was not behind any other country in terms of splendor.

Beautiful frescoes, Renaissance and Italian paintings, intricately decorated stoves and marble fireplaces, Baroque furniture, and tapestries are just some of the historical treasures you can find here.

Among the various rooms, the Deputies’ Hall stood out for me. This is where the parliamentary sessions were held. The coffered ceiling is covered in heads! Now, there are only 30 left, down from 190 originally. It’s wild to imagine sitting there with these heads looking down on you!

I also liked the Senator’s Room, the largest room in the entire Palace. This room was used for balls, receptions, and state ceremonies. With its lavish layout, it’s hard to believe that the tables were bending under the weight of food and drinks. The room also features a tapestry with the theme of a flood. It’s a sort of irony, showing the turn of human life (as in, look what awaits you when you’re wicked) against the backdrop of balls and celebrations known for their excess.

Crown Treasury and Armory

Krakow’s Wawel Castle Treasury

Moving on, let’s explore the Crown Treasury and Armory. I can tell you right now that you’d love this place if you’re a fan of royal insignia and ancient armaments. But remember, the schedule changes with the season. During winter, it’s closed on Mondays and Sundays. From Tuesday to Saturday, the exhibition is available from 09:30 to 16:00. In the summer, it opens on Mondays from 09:30 to 13:00 for free visits.

What can you expect to see? Well, you need to know that the Crown Treasury once housed the most valuable treasures of the kingdom. Though many of these precious items have sadly disappeared over time, some extraordinary artifacts have remained, like the Szczerbiec—the royal sword.

Szczerbiec – The Royal Sword

In addition, you can visit the following sections:

  1. Jadwiga and Jagiełło Hall
  2. Casimir the Great Hall
  3. A room in the Zygmunt III tower
  4. A room with parade weapons
  5. Armories
  6. Cellars
Wawel Castle Armories collection

Delving into the Lost Wawel

As we venture further, we discover an intriguing exhibit named „Wawel Lost„. Here, you’ll find collections of stone sculptures and architectural remnants that once graced the Wawel. From buildings still standing to those long gone, there’s so much history in every piece. And, let me say, the Rotunda of St. Felix and Adaukt is a sight to behold.

If you want to visit, keep in mind that the winter hours are from 09:30 to 16:00 from Tuesday to Saturday, and from 10:00 to 16:00 on Saturdays and Sundays. During summer, the exhibit opens its doors for free on Mondays between 09:30 and 13:00.

The Art of the East

The Art of the East in Wawel Castle – Turkish Tent

Last, but certainly not least, we have the Eastern Art exhibition. Now, I think it’s worth noting that I haven’t personally visited this part, but I’ve heard it provides a glimpse into the artistic preferences of our Polish rulers.

Eastern Armory

Just remember that during winter, the exhibition can only be visited twice a day—at 11:00 and 14:00—from Tuesday to Saturday. The summer schedule is a bit more flexible, opening from Tuesday to Friday from 09:30 to 17:00 and on weekends from 10:00 to 17:00.

The Wawel Cathedral

The Wawel Cathedral

On your journey through Wawel, you’ll undoubtedly be drawn to the Wawel Cathedral. I can tell you that this place is really something else. The exterior is an architectural marvel with styles ranging from Romanesque to modernist. As you walk in, you’ll be greeted by an impressive sight—the baroque tomb of St. Stanislaus, with his bones at the very center. This place is sometimes referred to as the Altar of the Fatherland.

What’s more, I am convinced that you’ll appreciate the chapels, including the Baroque Vasa Chapel, the Renaissance Sigismund Chapel, and the Świętokrzyska Chapel. And let’s not forget—you can visit the cathedral for free, but if you want to explore the crypts or the tower with the Zygmunt Bell, a small fee applies. Check their website for more details.

Chapel in the Castle designed by Italian artist

Royal Necropolises in Wawel Castle

Next up, we have the Royal Necropolises. I think this is a place every Pole should visit at least once, for historical reasons if nothing else. It houses the tombs of Polish rulers, Krakow bishops, and distinguished Poles. Nested beneath the Wawel Cathedral, the first crypt was constructed under the Sigismund Chapel.

For an 11 zloty ticket, you gain access to the crypt and the Sigismund Tower. But there’s more—there are multiple crypts to explore:

  1. Crypt of Saint Leonard
  2. Crypt of the family of Władysław IV
  3. Crypt of Sigismund the Old
  4. Crypt of Stefan Batory
  5. Sigismund’s Crypt
  6. Vasa Crypt
  7. Crypt under the Tower of Silver Bells

Now, I won’t go into detail about who’s buried where—the names of the crypts give you a good clue. Still, it’s worth mentioning the last crypt, which houses the sarcophagus of the Presidential couple who tragicaly died in a plane crash. This has been the cause of many disputes.

Zygmunt’s Bell in Kraków

Click Play to see the footage recorded on top of the tower (Bell).

Last but not least, there’s the famous Zygmunt’s Bell in the Zygmunt Tower. This is no ordinary bell—it weighs a whopping 9650 kilograms! When it rings, and it only does so about 30 times a year, it takes 8 to 12 men to make it happen.

There’s a legend that the bell’s heart can fulfill wishes, so many have tried to touch it, but only with their left hand. Nowadays, the heart of the bell has been replaced. Does it still hold its magical power? That’s a question you might have to ask those who touch it now.

So, whether it’s for the architectural grandeur, the solemn crypts, or the enchanting bell, the Wawel Cathedral is an adventure waiting to happen. Don’t wait too long—history beckons!

Interesting Facts About Wawel Royal Castle

Here are some captivating facts about Wawel Royal Castle:

  • 19 Royal Burials: Can you believe there are 19 royal burials in the crypts of the Wawel Cathedral?
  • 228 m above sea level: Guess what? The castle is perched atop Wawel Hill at this height. That’s quite an elevation, isn’t it?
  • UNESCO Recognition: Back in 1978, Wawel Hill, Old Town, and the Kazimierz district were given the nod as UNESCO World Heritage sites. That’s something worth bragging about, for sure.
  • Wincenty Kadłubek: This was the guy who first documented the legend of the Wawel dragon. But, the plot twists when the dragon-slaying brothers end up in a deadly feud!
  • The Great Fire of 1702: A disaster that lasted a week, caused by Swedish invaders, and it nearly destroyed the entire castle. Quite a tragic tale, isn’t it?
  • Sigismund I and Bona Sforza’s Wedding: Imagine having your wedding as one of the biggest events in a castle’s history!
  • Silenced Wawel Head: Once upon a time, a head dared to challenge King Sigismund Augustus’s sentence, only to end up with a sealed mouth. Spooky, huh?
  • Zygmunt Bell: Hold on, did I mention it weighs a whopping 12,600 kg, accessories and all? The bell itself tips the scale at 9650 kg!
  • Sandomierz Tower: This tower’s dark history involves the beheading of six Krakow councilors, all stemming from a feud over an unsatisfactory suit of armor.
  • Wawelska Cave: Once a shelter for vagabonds and beggars, this cave was walled up by King Sigismund II Augustus. What it became later might shock you—a seedy inn and brothel!
  • Wawel Tapestries: Out of approximately 170 original tapestries, 138 remain today. They were saved during a massive evacuation operation in 1939.
  • The Curse of Wawel: As chilling as it sounds, this curse allegedly claimed the lives of 15 people who worked on the renovation of King Kazimierz Jagiellończyk’s tomb. Rumor has it, it was caused by a deadly fungus growing in the crypt.

Craving for more adventures? There are plenty of other attractions in Krakow waiting for you! So, if you’re up for it, you can always head over to our website for more details.

Wawel Royal Castle – Visit ot Not?

Let me say, I’d struggle to choose a favorite amongst all the exhibits at the Wawel Royal Castle. It’s not that there’s an overwhelming abundance, but none of the exhibitions particularly dazzle me. Sure, the exhibits and rooms are beautiful, but I tend to find only one item of interest in each. You might want to consider carefully if it’s worth it. If you’re convinced it is, why not take advantage of the free admission day?

I believe, you would have a better experience visiting during the winter season. I’ve been there in both summer and winter. In the summer, it is simply bustling with tourists, groups, and everyone is scurrying around. I can tell, the crowd can sometimes negatively impact your experience.

I am convinced that it’s essential to know what you’re looking at when you visit a museum. You might wonder, what’s the point of admiring something if you have no clue what it is? I love the Renaissance era and enjoy explaining to others what a particular item represents.

My Castle Experience

During a recent visit to Krakow with a friend who’s not of Polish origin, we decided to skip the sightseeing. He confessed that he lacked knowledge about our nation’s history and had little interest in historical exhibits. However, he showed some interest in the armory.

Speaking of the armory, I didn’t find it too impressive. Mostly because I am faced with glass shelves filled with exhibits that I couldn’t identify. However, if you’re a fan of armory, it might be a fascinating spot given the number of exhibits.

A Mixed Bag Of Opinions On Different Exhibits

The crypt of the dead didn’t excite me much either. Though I was eager to see the necropolises in the Church on the Rock, the crypt wasn’t as appealing. But, I believe that this place is worth a visit at least once for its historical value.

I must say, Wawel Royal Castle and its exhibitions should be of more interest to Polish tourists. Yet, I’ve seen a lot of foreign tourists there. I can’t quite put my finger on whether they are genuinely fascinated by our nation’s history or simply find the pricing reasonable.

So, here’s my advice. Pay a visit to Wawel Hill and decide for yourself. If you ask me, I’d say the lost Wawel is most interesting, as there’s always the possibility of discovering something new. Despite the mixed opinions about the sarcophagus of the presidential couple, I’d also recommend the graves under the Wawel Cathedral.

Personally, Eastern Art didn’t leave much of an impression on me, and I liked the Royal Treasury and Armory the least. But, to each their own, right? Lastly, do check the website of the Wawel Castle for updated information and free admission dates. It’s an opportunity that you should seize, if you can.