Warsaw Royal Castle

Warsaw, Poland

The history of the Royal Castle goes back to the 14th century when the Great Tower was erected. In the 16th and 17th centuries during the reign of Sigismund III Vasa, the Castle underwent large-scale expansion and was transformed into a five-winged edifice with an inner courtyard. It was a royal residence, the place where parliamentary deliberations were held and the administrative and cultural centre of the country.

Destroyed in the mid-17th century during the Swedish Wars, it gradually regained its former magnificence during the reign of the Saxon-Wettin dynasty.

In the second half of the 18th century, artists in the employ of Stanislaus Augustus (Jan Christian Kamsetzer, Marcello Bacciarelli, Domenico Merlini) reconstructed the interiors of the chambers, comprising the Great Apartment and the King's Apartment.

During the period of the partitions of Poland (in the 19th century) the major part of the collections of the last Polish king ended up in Russia. After Poland regained its independence, some of the works of art were reinstated to their rightful place in the Castle.

In September 1939 the Castle was bombed by the Germans; however museologists, under the leadership of Professor Stanisław Lorentz, managed to salvage some elements of the interiors and also some of the works of art.

In September 1944 the Castle was blown up by the Germany army.

In the years 1945-1970, the Communist authorities delayed making a decision on whether to rebuild the Castle. The decision to do so was taken in 1971. Funds for the rebuilding of the Castle which took until 1980 were provided thanks to the dedication of the community.

In 1984 the reconstructed interiors were opened to the general public.

Since 1995 work has been undertaken on the conservation of the Kubicki Arcades and the reconstruction of the gardens. Once these works are completed, and the Tin-Roofed Palace refurbished, the rebuilding of the Royal Castle complex will have been finalized.

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Address

plac Zamkowy 4, Warsaw, Poland
See all sites in Warsaw

Details

Founded: 14th century
Category: Castles and fortifications in Poland

Rating

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

DHRUGEN BHATT (10 months ago)
Good historical place to visit it once. You will find local guides in and around the place. Depending on your interest you can take local city tour. Entire city of Warsaw has lot of history about WWII. Enjoy and Have a safe tour.
Muhammad Mahfuzur Rahman (10 months ago)
One of the must visit site of Warsaw. A reconstructed royal palace which was ruined by Nazi during the WW II. It is now a museum. It has spectacular collections of beautiful paintings, mostly from royal collections. These include two original oil colours of master painter Rembrandt, and many landscapes of famous Italian painter Bernardo Canaletto.
Cristina Maria (10 months ago)
A bit on the expensive side but very nice overall if you like art and paintings. The castle is beautifully kept and very easy to get to since it's in the centre of the Old Town. Parking spaces are nearby and it's surrounded by nice coffee shops and restaurants. The coffee shop that's right next to the ticket booth is great too. Would definitely recommend if you're in Warsaw.
Aaron Lemke (11 months ago)
Definitely visit if you're in the area! The history is stomach churning, but very educational. They have multi lingual tours.
Azra Ćulov (11 months ago)
I would recommend everyone booking a tour to this castle. The tour is quite long for a castle, the workers there are nice and they all speak English pretty well. You can leave your stuff for free at the cloak room. But most important of all, it is very beautiful and you will learn some new things about the history of Warsaw.
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Wawel Castle

Wawel Hill – a Jurassic limestone rock, a dominant feature in the landscape of Kraków, have provided a safe haven for people who have settled here since the Paleolithic Age. It is supposed that the Slav people started living on Wawel hill as early as the 7th century. Early medieval legends tell stories about a dreadful dragon that lived in a cave on Wawel Hill, about his slayer Krakus, and about the latter’s daughter Wanda, who drowned herself in the Vistula rather than marry a German knight. Towards the end of the first millennium A.D Wawel began to play the role of the centre of political power.In the 9th century it became the principal fortified castrum of the Vislane tribe. The first historical ruler of Poland, Miesco I (c.965-992) of the Piast dynasty as well as his successors: Boleslas the Brave (992-1025) and Miesco II (1025-1034) chose Wawel Hill as one of their residences.

At that time Wawel became one of the main Polish centres of Christianity. The first early Romanesque and Romanesque sacral buildings were raised here, including a stone cathedral that was erected after the bishopric of Kraków was established in the year 1000.

During the reign of Casimir the Restorer (1034-1058) Wawel became a significant political and administrative centre for the Polish State. Casimir’s son, Boleslas the Bold (1058-1079) began the construction of a second Romanesque cathedral, which was finished by Boleslas the Wrymouth (1102-1138). In his last will of 1138, this prince divided Poland into districts, and provided that Kraków was to be the residence of the senior prince. In 1291 the city of Kraków along with Wawel Hill temporarily fell under the Czech rule, and Wenceslas II from the Premysl dynasty was crowned King of Poland in Wawel cathedral.

In 1306 the Duke of Kuyavia Ladislas the Short (1306-1333) entered Wawel and was crowned King of Poland in the Cathedral in 1320. It was the first historically recorded coronation of a Polish ruler on Wawel Hill. Around that time, at the initiative of Ladislas the Short, the construction of the third Gothic cathedral began, the castle was expanded and the old wooden and earthen fortifications were replaced by brick ones. The tomb of Ladislas the Short in the cathedral started a royal necropolis of Polish kings in Krakow.The last descendant of the Piast dynasty, Casimir the Great (1333-1370) brought Wawel to a state of unprecedented splendour. In 1364 the expanded gothic castle witnessed the marriage of Casimir’s granddaughter Elizabeth to Charles IV accompanied by a famous convention of kings and princes, subsequently entertained by a rich burgher Wierzynek. The accession to the throne in 1385 of Jadwiga from the Hungarian dynasty of Andegavens, and her marriage to a Lithuanian prince Ladislas Jagiello (1386-1434) started another era of prosperity for Wawel. The royal court employed local and western European artists and also Rus painters. During the reign of Casimir Jagiellon (1447-1492) the silhouette of the hill was enriched by three high brick towers: the Thieves’ Tower, the Sandomierz Tower and the Senatorial Tower. The first humanists in Poland and tutors to the king’s sons: historian Jan Długosz and an Italian by the name Filippo Buonacorsi (also known as Callimachus) worked there at that time.

The Italian Renaissance arrived at Wawel in the early 16th century. King Alexander (1501-1506) and his brother Sigismund I the Old (1506-1548) commissioned the construction of a new palace in place of the Gothic residence, with an impressive large courtyard with arcaded galleries which was completed about 1540. Sigismund’s patronage also left an indelible impression in the cathedral, where a family chapel was erected, known today as Sigismund’s Chapel - the work of Bartolomeo of Berrecci Florence, and through various foundations, one of which was that of a large bell, called the Sigismund to commemorate the king. Close artistic and cultural relations with Italy were strengthened in 1518 by the king’s marriage to Bona Sforza. Alongside Italian artists, German architects, wood workers, painters and metal smiths worked for the king. The last descendant of the Jagiellonian dynasty, Sigismund II Augustus (1548-1572), enriched the castle’s interiors with a magnificent collection of tapestries woven in Brussels. In the “Golden Age” of Polish culture Wawel became one of the main centres of humanism in Europe.

The reign of Sigismund III Waza (1587-1632) also made a strong impression on the history of Wawel. After a fire in the castle in 1595 the king rebuilt the burned wing of the building in the early Baroque style. The relocation of the royal court to Warsaw was the cause of a slow but nevertheless steady deterioration in the castle’s condition. The monarchs visited Kraków only occasionally. Restoration of the castle was undertaken during the reign of John III Sobieski, the Wettins and Stanislas Augustus to counteract neglect.

After Poland had lost its independence in 1795, the troops of partitioning nations, Russia, Prussia and Austria, subsequently occupied Wawel which finally passed into the hands of the Austrians. The new owners converted the castle and some of the secular buildings into a military hospital, and demolished some others, including churches. After the period of the Free City of Kraków (1815-1846) Wawel was once more annexed by Austria and turned into a citadel dominating the city. By the resolution passed by the Seym of Galicia in 1880, the castle was presented as a residence to the Emperor of Austria Franz Josef I. The Austrian troops left the hill between 1905-1911. At the turn of the 20th century a thorough restoration of the cathedral was conducted, and shortly afterwards a process of restoration of the royal castle began which lasted several decades.

When Poland regained its independence in 1918, the castle served as an official residence of the Head of State, and as a museum of historic interiors. During the Nazi occupation the castle was the residence of the German governor general, Hans Frank. Polish people managed to remove the most valuable objects, including the tapestries and the “Szczerbiec” coronation sword to Canada, from where they returned as late as 1959-1961. At present, the main curators of Wawel are Wawel Royal Castle – State Art Collection and the Metropolitan Basilica Board on Wawel Hill.