Wawel Royal Castle Guided Tour

2h
13:10
en
Kanonicza 25 Street
mobile voucher
  • English speaking guide
  • Entrance tickets to Royal State Rooms
  • Visiting Crown Treasury and Armory (In November replaced by "Lost Wawel" exhibition)
  • Combine it with Wawel Cathedral Ticket
  • -10% in November with the code "wawel10"

Short description of the Wawel Castle

The Wawel Castle used to be a home and a fortress of Polish kings while Krakow was the capital of the country. It has been a pride of the nation and a symbol of the regnant.

Wawel Castle is one of the most important, the most beautiful, and the biggest Polish castles. Located on a hill, it is a complex of buildings surrounding a majestic yard.

Rebuilt and renovated many times due to fires, thefts and wars, it encompasses many different architectural styles. This incredible diversion lets us leave modern days behind and enter time machine while discovering the castle and admiring it’s striking beauty.

Today the Wawel Castle is a museum in which you can marvel at the highest class works of art – stunning paintings, beautiful scultpures, sophisticated tapestries and many more.

Fun fact – up until recently Da Vinci’s Lady with an ermine was there for a few years – today you can see it in Krakow’s National Museum (which, by the way, is also worth visiting!).

The castle also houses an important art conservation centre.

There is so much to see there!

Itinerary

Meet our Representative
Please arrive at the meeting point a few minutes earlier - better to be safe than sorry! Our representative will carry the Discover Cracow sign and you will not miss them for sure. Show them your voucher and they will check for your name on the list.
A walk up the hill
Our representative will walk you up the hill, where your group will meet with the Official Wawel Guide and your tour will begin.
Discover the beauty of the Castle
The guide will show you around, explain the history of the Castle and tell you all about Polish Kings and Queens.

Important info

  • Please make sure to show up on time. Being late might prevent you from taking part in the tour
  • Please bear in mind that your voucher cannot be exchanged for a ticket at the ticket booth
  • In order to receive a discount, students must have a valid student ID during the tour, and seniors must present an ID comfirming age over 65.

Did you know...

Some people assign magical properties to the hill – they say that Wawel Chakra is responsible for a flow of unique energy there and they come a long way to visit the area for spiritual reasons. Centre of said energy is supposedly located under one of the oldest parts of the Castle – st. Gereon’s chapel located in the north-west corner of the Wawel’s courtyard.

History of the Wawel Castle

Let’s begin the jorney through centuries…

You will not get bored.

I promise!

First evidence of settlement

First settlements in the area of today’s Krakow are said to reach back to 200,000 BC.

Wawel Hill (high 228 metres above the sea level) – a limestone Jurrassic hill, was a great strategic spot to settle for the tribes – surrounded by the Vistula river from one side and swamps from another, it was more difficult to attack and easier to defend due to the natural conditions. 

The Wawel Hill – Pagans’ Favorite Place in Krakow

At the time, many mounds and kurgans were erected in the area – most presumably due to the early Celtic settlements that adopted Wawel Hill as their central site.

The favourable natural conditions of Lesser Poland (hills, rivers and forests) also attracted the Slavic tribe of Vistulans (likely named after Vistula, largest river of Poland) in the VII-VIII centuries, after the territory had been abandoned due to Hunnic invasions.

It was the Wawel Hill that was chosen to house the mightiest individuals within the tribe. According to an early-medieval legend, the town was established by King Krakus, who was believed to have slayed the Wawel Dragon (the bones of the assumed dragon are displayed at the entry to Wawel Cathedral to this day).

Krakow – the capital of Poland

After Krakow was chosen as the capital of Poland, a stone Romanesque cathedral was erected on Wawel Hill – the most prominent place of the area.

The second building appeared there in the XII century.

The first historical coronation of a Polish ruler was held in Krakow in 1320. 

Throughout his reign, a third cathedral started being built to adopt a Gothic shape. The adjoining castle was being expanded and additionally fortified.

Throughout its history, Wawel served as a residence for monarchs and people of importance, this is why there are 12 unique state rooms.

The golden age of the Wawel Castle

Wawel Castle became the main residence of Polish royalty, with many private rooms designated for them, for a long time to come.

The largest expansion of Gothic and brick-made part of Wawel Castle could happen due to the decisions of Casimir III the Great (1333-1370).

His successors, king Ladislas Jagiello and his wife, Jadviga of Andegavens, invited numerous artists and architects to Wawel Castle – this is when the structure was enriched with the Thieve’s, Sandomierz and Senatorial Towers.

The cathedral (Wawel Cathedral) also has its own towers, with Zygmuntowska tower having 5 bells, of which the largest one weighs 11000 kg.

In the XVI entury, the famous arcaded courtyard of Wawel was constructed, along with the Renaissance castle to replace the Gothic one.

Renovations, renovations…

The Italian architects and artists who were commissioned the works have also contributed to the erection of the massive Sigismund chapel at Wawel Hill.

Up to the reign of Sigismund II Augustus (1548-1572), Wawel Castle would be where the foremost treasures and masterpieces of art, precious tapestries, gobelins, goldsmith’s work and statues were stored.

With Sigismund III Vasa coming to power, there would only be one Baroque wing built to replace a burnt part of the castle. Wawel became a treasury for art of historical significance.

Wawel Castle under the occupation

Later, as the capital was moved to Warsaw and Poland lost its independence, Wawel would serve as a citadel for the Austro-Hungarian army. Certain parts (e.g. churches) were demolished by the new administrators. 

During WW II Wawel has become a private residence of Nazi officials of the General Government established in this part of occupied country.

In the second part of the 20th century, Wawel became restored and started having most of its chambers and buildings open to the public. Its rich interiors, art and military collection, as well as impressive fortifications are real must-sees while visiting Krakow.

Did you know…

You can find a bit of Wawel Castle in the United States?!
A fragment of column from the castle has been incorporated into Tribune Tower in Chicago as a tribute to large Polish minority in Chicago, which is the largest Polish presence outside Poland!

Wawel Castle – today

You may be wondering – what does the castle mean to contemporary Poles and how is it important to them?

  • It is an iconic symbol of Polish history that is also a work of art in itself.
  • It is a great place to spend a chill afternoon overlooking Vistula and the city.
  • It is a cathedral which is an important place of worship for many people.
  • It houses a vast collection of significant, precious objects that help us understand and appreciate our culture.
  • It is a national treasure and pride.

Wawel Castle Tickets

Hopefully you are alredy convinced to visit Wawel Castle.

But you must be wondering how to do so?

There are several options:

  • You can simply go the Wawel Castle Hill and take a walk around without any guide or tickets (it will be a pleasurable walk, but you will not see the most important things – the inside of the Castle!)
  • You can go to the Wawel Hill and buy a ticket for sightseeing there – unfortunately this is the most popular option, and lots (LOTS!) of tourists decide to do so. That’s why the queue to the ticket booth is quite overwhelming.
  • You can prebook your ticket for the Wawel guided tour – you will have to pay in advanced BUT your seat will be secured and you will avoid this awful queue to the ticket booth! You will thank yourself for making that smart decision ahead of time :)

Faq

I cannot find the meeting point/ Discover Cracow Representative.

You can always call our Support Center and our lovely consultants will direct you.

Can I go straight to the Castle and wait for a guide there?

For logistical reasons, we picked one spot (Kanonicza 25 Street) to meet our Customers and walk them to the Castle from there. It is way easier to meet that way.

I missed my tour. Can I use my voucher another day?

Unfortunately, it's not possible. You purchased a ticket for this particular tour and we reserve a seat for you. Rescheduling in case of no-shows is unfortunately not possible.

What are some other must-see places I should visit while in Krakow?

While in Krakow except for Wawel Castle you should definitely see Auschwitz Museum. It's located outside of Krakow and it's a place that everyone should visit at least once to learn about the tragedy of WWII. If you are interested - check out Auschwitz Tour for more information. 

Another definite must-do is a Wieliczka Salt Mine Tour - walking through the labyrinth of underground chambers carved in salt is a truly amazing experience.

Another great place to visit while you are in Krakow is Zakopane. It's only 1,5h drive but walking around the city and admiring the cultural heritage and absolutely awesome views are something that can be the highlight of your Krakow visit. Check out our Zakopane Ticket for more information. 

Where is Wawel Castle located?

Wawel Castle, built upon the Wawel hill, is located in the very heart of Krakow – just by the Vistula river.

How to get to the Wawel Castle?

If you are accommodated in the city centre, there is a solid chance that the castle is within walking distance from you – it takes an approximately 10-15 minute walk from the Main Market Square to get to the castle (via the absolutely gorgeous Grodzka and Kanonicza streets).

When using public transport, you can take a tram and get out at WAWEL stop which is just by the castle. Trams that go there are 6, 8, 10, 13 and 18 (though just to be sure, I highly advise you to check current timetable).

Wawel-castle-map

'Wawel' – what is the meaning?

We can’t be sure today, but there are a few theories – some of them point to the castle’s location (between swamps) and numerous caves in proximity, others suggest a relation to the biblical Tower of Babel, and there are even ones that claim the name could be tied to... lumps on people’s necks linked to thyroid disease caused by low levels of iodine in local water.

As you can see, not a very coherent story… But hey, at least we tried!

When was Wawel Castle built?

The oldest fragments found during archaeological research are dated to the XI century.

The buildings were being rebuilt and new ones were constantly being added so it is impossible to pin down one exact date.

How old is the Wawel Castle?

Today, in the XXI century, we can say that the castle is 1000 years old.

Isn’t that crazy?!

Who built the Wawel Castle?

We don’t know much about the very first builders (or exact first buildings, for that matter), but the kings that were crucial to Wawel’s development and heyday were Władysław I the Elbow-high (reign: 1306-1333) and Casimir III the Great (reign: 1333-1370).