My trip to Krakow was motivated by the famous tapestry collection of King Sigismund II Augustus on display in the State Rooms as well as the historical interiors, royal portraits, Italian Renaissance furniture, Italian and Dutch paintings of the 14th to 17th century of this part of the castle.
From the original 350 tapestries commissioned by the King at best Brussels weavers "lissiers" 137 survived of which about 30 are shown in the Royal Chambers. There are three types of subjects: biblical scenes, landscapes with animals called "verdures" and smaller ones showing arms and grotesques .
I must say that my visit was a bit of a disappointment. The largest tapestries with biblical scenes have somewhat faded colors but the "verdures" are beautiful. I especially admired a "verdure" made not in Brussels but in Oudenaerde .
Irritating was the fact that our guide was pushed by some head supervisor of the museum to make it short. It was Friday afternoon and the supervisors wanted to take their week-end ! Those who participated to the visit will remember that women with a red jacket telling our guide "only 5 minutes left" .
Furthermore no photos are allowed inside the castle and I found nowhere an illustrated catalogue of the tapestries. So if you want to admire medieval tapestries better go to the Cluny museum in Paris where you can take all your time and make all photos you want .
The Royal Chambers were the only negative part of my visit of Krakow and my deception was amply compensated by the many marvels of art I saw in the many churches of Krakow .
Price: normal 18 Pln, reduced 11 Pln (in winter 16 & 9 Pln).
Tickets are issued for definite entrance hours.
The photo of the Brussel's tapestry is from another castle.
For a Belgian its sounds funny that the tapestries made in Brussels are called "Arrases".
Arras is a city from the north of France and there is, to my best knowledge, no tapestry made in Arras to be seen at the Wawel castle!
Actually Arras was in the 15th c. a town with a textile industry specializing in fine wool tapestries which were sold to decorate palaces and castles all over Europe. So that the term "Arras" is still used to name tapestries of that period even made elsewhere. Very few original Arras tapestries still exist because at the French revolution many of them were burnt to recover the silver and gold wires often woven into them.
In the 16th c., when the tapestries of the Wawel castle were commissioned (1553-1571) by King Sigismund II August, towns like Brussels, Oudenaerde, Tournai and others from the present Belgium had become the leading centers of tapestry manufacturing so that most of the tapestries shown at the castle are from Brussels or more generally from Flanders.
The tapestries from Brussels often show on the lower border the letter B B meaning Brussel-Brabant.
Sometimes the name of the weaver "lissier" is added. But that is not always the case.
Tracing the true origin of tapestries of that period is not easy. There were four actors: the customer usually choosing the subjects, a merchant established in one of the tapestry manufacturing towns, a painter preparing the colored sketch called "carton" and finally the weavers "lissiers". Several were working on one tapestry. It has been calculated that one "lissier" would weave about 1 square meter in one month! In Brussels alone 15.000 persons were active in that field of decorative art.
As photos are not allowed inside the castle I'm showing here a photo found on the internet.
Wawel is certainly the most important and most popular destination in Krakow and perhaps all of Poland. It has become the very symbol of Poland and its history and detailed descriptions can be found in all travel guides. My advice is to read your guides carefully with particular attention to days and hours of operation of the different parts of the complex. Not all sections are open on the same schedule. Also, the facility is vast, so try to decide ahead of time what you are most interest in. I'm not really one for spending a lot of time inside looking at displays in museum like settings but here the grounds and architecture are spectacular.
So, the next day we have started our tour through Krakow from the Wawel Castle. And here it is...
Wawel - seat of the Royal Castle and Cathedral - lies on a small hill above the Vistula river and it was here that the earliest settlements in the city began, some fifty thousand years ago.
Architecturally, Wawel is something huge and wonderful and really captures your attention. You have no doubts about its great history. It's like the spiritual home of the nation.
And there are some real jewels, like the exquisite cathedral chapels, the renaissance courtyard and the State Rooms themselves. You can also climb up the old bell-tower or burrow down into the Dragon’s Lair. All in all there is a wealth of things to do, not only for those dignified elderly folk, but for children too.
Ever since I was small, my name has been "Wawel" - given to me by my sister! It's my baby name and my adult name is NORMAN... Then I saw a picture of Wawel castle when I was about 9 years old and dreamed of visiting the castle with the same name! And I did!
"Wawel" is an architectural complex erected over many centuries atop a limestone outcrop on the left bank of the Vistula River in Kraków, Poland, at an altitude of 228 metres above the sea level. Also known as Zamek wawelski, the castle served as a royal residence and the site where the country's rulers governed Poland for five centuries from 1038 until 1596. A very important site indeed for the Polish!
Wawel hill has the form of a horst that originated in the Miocene epoch (23-5 million years ago), made up of Jurassic limestone dating back to the Oxfordian age (161-155 million years ago). The limestone is strongly karsted and abounds in caves and this could explain why the hill was originally called "wawel", meaning ravine in Polish.
The Royal Castle on Wawel Hill probably went through many manifestations between 1038, when Krakow was established as the Polish capital, to 1504, when construction began of the current Renaissance building. It has certainly seen many changes since then. It has seen the royal court moved from Krakow to Warsaw which became the country's capital. It has been used as an army barracks and occupied by foreign powers. But it has survived and is now a wonderful museum.
Entrance to the various parts of the castle i.e. the State Rooms, Royal Apartments etc.. is from the very attractive Italianate courtyard. Three tiers of balconies/colonnades lift your eyes up the building to the decoration below the roof. The effect is really beautiful.
Sadly when we visited in March the State Rooms were closed. However, we were able to tour some of the Royal Apartments, which included rooms used by the kings and visiting dignitaries. There is a small collection of furniture from different periods, including a painted dowry chest, and a collection of religious art and staturary. Some of the rooms retain their original painted ceilings and two have walls covered in coloured leather. There are also examples of the wonderful Zygmunt Tapestries (see separate tip)
Entrance to the Royal Apartments with a – very informative guided tour – was 12pln (about 1.72sterling)
We were also able to visit the Royal Armoury, which holds an interesting collection of weapons, armour – including some very impressive winged suits of armour –saddles and cannons. Entrance fee 10pln (about 1.43 sterling)
As the view outside was really great and magnificent, I decided to have a short walk around. And just around a corner I've noticed something really mysterious. It was too dark to have a better look, but I knew it was something really beautiful. I've made a photo with my camera. Getting closer wasn't successful, as the guard went out and said that it's not allowed to walk there.
What is prohibited it attracts you more, right?:-) Hehehe... We decided to come back here again in the daylight and to see what kind of beauty was hidden from us that evening.
One of the many reasons to climb up to Wawel Castle -this is a beautiful example of a Rennaisance style coutyard. It was built to reflect the glory of Sigmund the Elder in the 16th Century and fragments of frescoes are still visible on the walls. The courtyard is said to be the home of a mysterious stone which can endow man with superhuman powers.
And don't forget to look up to the roof. You'll see interesting little dragons which let the rain drop from the roof.
The Wawel Castle used to be the residence of Polish monarchs from the 11th to the early 17th century.
After Krakow lost its capital status to Warsaw, the castle was occupied by foreign powers during several wars. The Castle offers a mixture of architectural styles and is home of a large arcaded inner courtyard.
The Wawel Castle is situated on top of the Wawel Hill, which is a 50 m high rock on the edge of the Old Town.
I am not sure whether I should be adding this as a tip because I never did get to veiw any of the castles state rooms, royal private apartments or crown treasury as they have a daily limit on the entry into these rooms so perhaps this should serve as a reminder that if you do wish to see the castle arrive early.
I am told that you should allow at least 3 hours for a visit & to avoid weekends as it is swaped with tourists. The castle sits on top a hill & is a commanding site in Krakow.
The castle was the residence of Polish monarchs since the 11th to the early 17th century. The building was enlarged and rebuilt various time, but what you see there today dates mostly from the early 16th century.
Inside the castle there are many rooms to visit. I was there with a VT group and a tourist guide. We visited the second floor. On this floor and I suppose in other floors too there are lots of Belgian tapestries representing biblical scenes, animals and other things.
I was very impressed by the Ambassadors' Hall because this has a roof with 30 wooden heads. They were 194 long ago.
Unfortunately it is not allowed to take any pictures inside the castle, so I only took a couple of shots of its beautiful and huge courtyard.
After we checked into our hostel we began exploring Krakow by visiting Wawel Castle, one of the most popular sights in Poland.
The Castle lies on a hill southwest of the old town. Within its walls are the royal palaces, home to the Polish monarchy for over 500 years, and the cathedral, containing many of Poland's treasures such as the Zygmunt Bell as well as the tombs of many monarchs, poets and writers.
There are also a couple of ruined churches within the grounds and some lovely courtyards, most notably the Italian style castle courtyard near the palaces.
It's free to walk around the castle complex though you must pay to enter the palaces and the parts of the cathedral.