The Royal Castle at the Wawel Hill. National Collection of Art
Opening hours: Closed Mondays; open Tuesday-Thursday and Saturday, 9:30am-3pm, Friday, 9:30am-4pm, Sunday, 10am-3pm. "The Lost Wawel" Route is closed Tuesdays, open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, 9:30am-3pm, Friday, 9:30am-4pm, Sunday, 10am-3pm. The Dragon's Den is open daily, 10am-5pm, May-October.
The Wawel Castle is Poland's greatest architectural treasure and a priceless national heritage monument. It was here that the Polish kings were crowned and buried. The Castle walls contain remains of pre-Romanesque, Romanesque and Gothic buildings, but its present-day style is that of the Renaissance. This appearance was given to the Castle by king Sigismund I the Old in the years 1507-36. Restored, the Wawel Castle compound consists of the Outer Court with the adjacent Cathedral Assembly, and of the Arcade Court surrounded by the Castle wings. The Castle is guarded by defence fortifications spiked with turrets. In 1978 UNESCO placed the Wawel Castle on its List of the World's Cultural and Natural Heritage. A museum called the National Art Collection - Wawel Division was created in 1930, and the present name was given to it in 1994.
The holdings include some true treasures. A permanent exhibition of the Royal Rooms includes the rooms on the ground floor, the suites on the first floor as well as the Ambassadorial and the Senatorial Halls and the Hall under the Eagle. Visitors can admire the best of the 136 sixteenth century Flemish tapestries, called the Wawel or Sigismund August's arrases from the name of the king who ordered them and the town where they were made. There are also Italian and Flemish paintings dating from the fifteenth through seventeenth century, royal portraits, and a collection of Italian Renaissance furniture. Two second floor rooms feature borders by Hans Duerer, and the coffered ceiling of the Ambassadorial Hall contains 30 of Wawel's 194 famous head sculptures, a decoration which has adorned this representative room since 1540. The Royal Rooms exhibition presents the royal residence as it looked in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Other rooms serve to exhibit the collection of porcelain and Johann Kendler's The Crucifixion, a sculpture reconstructed from minute pieces.
The Gothic wing of the Castle houses the "Royal Treasury and Armoury" Exhibition. The Treasury exhibits include regalia, papal gifts to Poland's rulers, gold, ivory and amber items as well as the Szczerbiec, the famous coronation sword of the Polish kings. The adjacent rooms contain collections of militaria, such as old Polish, West and East European weapons, in particular the precious seventeenth century caparisons and armours of the Polish hussars, the "armoured cavalry" so popular in Poland yet unknown elsewhere in the world. The rooms adjacent to the Treasury and the Armoury house the "Oriental Art" Exhibition. Among its highlights are seventeenth century Turkish tents, standards, saddles, Persian and Turkish weapons as well as Chinese and Japanese ceramics ranging in date from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century.
The impressive "Lost Wawel" Route of architectural archeology takes visitors to see the relics of Wawel's oldest church - the tenth or eleventh century St Mary's rotund church, remains of pre-Romanesque and Gothic walls, of the royal coach house and kitchens as well as the foundations of St Michael's and St George's churches.
Visitors are also encouraged to see the 81m long section of the Dragon's Den, a natural, 270m long cave where, as the legend has it, lived a dragon slaughtered by the clever Cracow cobbler, Skuba.
Zamek Królewski na Wawelu - Państwowe Zbiory Sztuki
ul. Wawel 5
Phone: (+48 12) 422 51 55
Fax: (+48 12) 422 19 50