Wawel Royal Castle is one of the most significant places in Poland in terms of history and culture. Throughout the centuries, it has been the seat of Polish kings and the symbol of the state; in the interwar period it became one of the most important Polish museums.
The Castle museum has the style of a historical residence. Exhibitions with high artistic, historical and patriotic value, illustrate Poland’s history and cultural heritage in restored interiors of the palace from its heyday in the Renaissance and the Baroque eras and in the original Gothic rooms of the Crown Treasury.
Objects associated with Polish rulers and their families – portraits, gifts, war trophies, and works of art, created at the behest of kings – are at the core of the collection. Sigismund Augustus’s tapestries, made in Brussels during the years 1550–1560, are the biggest collection of tapestries (138 items preserved) commissioned by one client. This is not only the museum’s most valuable collections, but on eof the most significant of its kind in the worls. A representative set of royal portraits includes works by Marcin Kober, Daniel Schultz Younger, Jan Tricius and Louis de Silvestre.
A collection of 30 woodcarvings of human heads made in Sebastian Tauerbach’s workshop for the Renaissance ceiling of the Envoys’ Room have been preserved from the original interior decoration of the Castle.
An impressive coronation sword can be “named” Szczerbiec, the only existing insignia from the regalia collection kept in the Royal Treasury until 1795, is the pride of the collection of arms and armour.
Among the objects associated with historical figures, the following should also be mentioned: a Hussar half-suit which used to belong to Stanisław Jabłonowski, hetman’s batons, maces, sabres, splendid horse trappings and saddles, banners, tents, some of which constitute trophies won during the Turkish-Polish wars, and during the Vienna campaign of 1683.
A significant collection of Italian paintings, includes works by Simone Martini and Dosso Dossi. The exhibitions are completed by a rich collection of craftwork, e.g. Italian furniture and Renaissance maiolica, Meissen porcelain, silverware and clocks.
The museum houses the following permanent exhibitions:
The State Rooms, The Royal Private Apartments, The Crown Treasury and Armoury, Oriental Art, The Lost Wawel
as well as some seasonal attractions:
The Dragon’s Den (Smocza Jama) and Sandomierska Tower (Baszta Sandomierska) and Wawel Architecture and Gardens (guided tour).
Several temporary exhibitions are organised every year by the museum.
Branches:
The Pieskowa Skała Castle (Zamek Pieskowa Skała), The Manor House in Stryszów (Dwór w Stryszowie).

Wawel Royal Castle, © all rights reserved
 

Photograph by Stanisław Michta (Wawel Royal Castle), © all rights reserved

Wawel 5
31-001 Kraków
Poland

phone 12 4225155
Fax 12 4215177
page museum

Opening hours

State Rooms: April — October
Monday
closed
Tuesday  — Friday
9.30 — 17.00
Saturday  — Sunday
10.00 — 17.00
November — March
Monday
closed
Tuesday  — Saturday
9.30 — 16.00
Sunday
10.00 — 16.00

Ticket Prices

April — October normal 25 PLN reduced 15 PLN November — March normal 20 PLN reduced 12 PLN

Painting “Portrait of Sigismund I the Old”

The Portrait of Sigismund I the Old is one of the very few preserved painted portraits of the ruler. The researchers suppose that it was a prototype of the portrait hanging above the entrance to Sigismund's Chapel, attributed to Andrzej, the painter unknown by his surname.

Tapestry with the Monogram of Sigismund Augustus in Cartouche

This tapestry of a group of monogram grotesques with the initials of King Sigismund II Augustus placed under a crown in a decorative cartouche belongs to a series of seven drapes (door curtains). In four of them, the cartouche is accompanied by satyrs playing instruments while the other three depict nymphs sitting on thrones. The composition is a representative example of ornamentation called Netherlandish grotesque. It was modelled on a print of ca. 1546 by Cornelis Bos, one of the founders and pioneers of this type of decoration. The painted design for the tapestry was modified, but the set of motifs and the general outline remained unchanged.

Tapestry with Satyrs Holding Up a Cartouche with the Monogram of Sigismund Augustus

Two satyrs hold a blue shield with a decorative monogram SA (Sigismundus Augustus) of King Sigismund Augustus. The cartouche is topped with a closed crown. The mythological deities stand in a frame of richly ornamented strips of wood, curved in an arc, against a forest landscape. The deity which can be seen on the left of the shield has a wreath of vine on its head and is girded with a vine with clusters of ripe grapes.

Jagiellonian tapestry “Paradise Bliss” of the “History of the First Parents” series

The Jagiellonian tapestry Paradise Bliss is the first fabric of the History of the First Parents series, commissioned by Sigismund II Augustus and created in Brussels during the years 1550–1560. It depicts events of the beginning of the Biblical Book of Genesis (Gen 2.8.–3.20).

Jagiellonian tapestry “Dragon Fighting with a Panther”

Imaginary animals are not predominant in tapestry presentations but sometimes appear there. Their presence usually has a symbolic meaning. In the tapestry Dragon Fighting with a Panther, this is derived from Physiologus, which is an ancient treatise on animals containing, aside from their description, an allegorical interpretation of animals, plants and minerals. According to it, the panther is loved by all animals, with the exception of the dragon. Such a presentation was interpreted as an allegory of Christ's struggle against Satan. Here, the dragon symbolises the forces of evil, and the panther the forces of good.

Sculpture “Schoolgirl with a Rose Wreath” of the “Wawel Heads” series by Xawery Dunikowski

The sculpture, one of the most interesting female portraits of Dunikowski, was created as part of the plan to restore the lost heads on the ceiling of the Envoys’ Room (also called the Room under the Heads) on the second floor of the eastern wing of Wawel Royal Castle. Originally, there were 194 heads created by Sebastian Tauerbach and his team before 1540. The ceiling was devastated in the early 19th century, when the castle was turned into the barracks of the Austrian army; only 30 heads were saved by Princess Izabella Czartoryska. It was decided in 1924 that the set was to be reconstructed.

Sugar bowl from Aleksander Józef Sułkowski's set

A sugar bowl with a lid, having the form of an oval flattened and buckled vase standing on four volute legs. The lid is topped with a handle in the shape of a cone. The legs are made up of dual scrollwork patterns with female masks in palmette crowns placed between them; their back side is additionally ornamented with raised acanthus leaves. There is a characteristic woven relief around the edge, called Sułkowski's pattern (Sułkowski Ozier).

Order of Virtuti Militari

The medal was made at the request of Stanisław August Poniatowski (1732–1798, date of reign 1764–1795) to honour distinguished officers in the victorious Battle of Zieleńce. In the first statute, the order was named the Order of the Military Cross, and it still remains the highest Polish distinction awarded for military service.

Cross of the Order of the White Eagle

The oldest and the highest Polish distinction – one of the most important decorations in Europe of the 18th century. It was established by Augustus II the Strong and awarded, since around 1705, to those who performed great services for the monarch. The presented version was shaped in 1793, in the form of a Maltese cross enamelled red with white borders, and with a small ball at the end of each point.

Star of the Order of Saint Stanislaus

The order was established by Stanisław August Poniatowski on 7 May 1765. Until the end of the sovereign Republic of Poland, it was not divided into classes, and it was awarded in a uniform shape.

Wheellock pistol

The exhibit is a representative example of a luxurious, richly decorated firearm. An early type of pistol called the puffer, characterised by the presence of a massive ball at the end of the butt.

Painting “Jupiter, Mercury and Virtue (Aurora?)” by Dosso Dossi

The artist took the theme from the dialogue of the gods, placed in Virtus, a work of Leon Battista Alberti. Virtue wants to complain about Fortune and the plight of the humans, but Jupiter does not listen to her, as he does not want to enter into a dispute with Fortune. The painting, which is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and interesting paintings, also in terms of iconography, was painted for Alfonso d'Este, Duke of Ferrara.

A model of Queen Jadwiga's sarcophagus from Wawel Cathedral

A bronze replica of the final piece which was created in November 1900. The piece is a model of Queen Jadwiga’s (died 1399) sarcophagus, which was created for Wawel Cathedral by Antoni Madeyski in Rome in the year 1902.

Vessel in the shape of the Polish Eagle

At present, the tableware of the Polish royal court is known to us almost exclusively from archive materials. The majority of preserved single items or their designs come from Augsburg – the most important centre of the European goldsmithery in the 17th and 18th centuries. Among these items, the most outstanding is the state set of John Casimir Vasa.

Spice bottle

A cylindrical, capped bottle closed with a handle. This bottle is richly decorated with an artistic decorative design of plants and various other figures. The vessel was used in a practical way for storing valuable spices from overseas, but was also prized for its beauty. It was richly decorated by a master coppersmith.

Sculpture of Augustus III

A statue of Frederick Augustus II, the Elector of Saxony, and King of Poland, Augustus III, on horseback. It is an example of cabinet sculpture. Similar portrayals of Louis XIV, Napoleon Bonaparte and Marcus Aurelius, often made in bronze, were popular in the 2nd half of the century.

Sculpture “Young Centaur (Smiling Centaur)”

The Centaur sculpture is a copy of one of two marble sculptures found in Rome in 1736, during excavation works in Hadrian's Villa, but substantially reduced in size. At present, the Furietti Centaurs, named after their discoverer, Giuseppe Alessandro Furietti, can be found in the Capitoline Museums in Rome.

Sculpture “Old Centaur”

The Centaur sculpture is a copy of one of two marble sculptures found in Rome in 1736, during excavation works in Hadrian's Villa, but substantially reduced in size. At present, the Furietti Centaurs, named after their discoverer, Giuseppe Alessandro Furietti, can be found in the Capitoline Museums in Rome.

Mantelpiece clock with a figure of Apollo

An example of a clock in the shape of a figure, a popular style of mantelpiece clock in the 2nd half of the 18th century. It depicts Apollo with a lyre and a laurel wreath on his head, sitting on the top of an obelisk containing the mechanism of an anchor escapement and a mainspring.

Jagiellonian tapestry “The Building of the Tower of Babel” from the “Story of the Tower of Babel” series

In this, one of the three largest tapestries in the collection of King Sigismund II Augustus, we can see the beginning of the story of the construction of the Tower of Babel as described in the Book of Genesis. The scene shows Nimrod, the legendary hunter, and people building a tower “whose top may reach unto heaven” (Genesis 11:1–9) under his leadership. The building under construction is situated in the background, on the right hand side of the textile, whereas on the left side, there can be seen workers erecting the tower. Thanks to the detailed presentation, we can see, among other things, what sixteenth-century stonemasonry tools looked like. On the vast plain, people bustle around carrying blocks of stone and building a scaffolding. God, barely visible to the right of the tower, watches their feverish work. As in the other biblical tapestries, there is no shortage of accurately rendered images of animals, insects and plants. The Latin inscription placed in the upper border reads in translation: “Nimrod, the first powerful ruler in the world, built a huge tower of baked bricks. God confounded the builders’ languages, and the work was never completed.”