9 Aleja 3 Maja, Krakow, Poland
12 430 30 17
Wawel Hill Krakow Reviews
Important because of it's history, but in my opinion, overrated Jul 15, 2008
Wawel has a very important role to play in Polish history. You'll find here for example the royal castle and the treasury. Many Polish kings were also crowned here. The complex has been build and rebuild throughout time. If I'm correct the first structure dates back to the 11th century. So I won't deny the importance of this place, and the historical value. Especially for Polish people, this is an important place as many milestone events in history took place here. But that's enough for the history. If you want to know more about that, Wikipedia can tell you all about it.
So what did I think of this place? Well as I said I wasn't impressed. Yes I know the buildings I'm looking at are old and valuable. I know the artwork is probably exquisite. But does it make me feel amazed? No it doesn't.
As I wrote in my blog, maybe I am just to spoiled with castles and churches. I've seen so many of them already, maybe in the end they all start to look like each other. It isn't like it is the first time I've seen treasuries or medieval armors. I know what they look like. I know about the tapestries on the walls. They were made in Belgium, of course I have seen these before. This kind of architecture and furniture is all around Europe, you'll find it everywhere. Sure each place has it's own specialties, but in the end the story is the same. What you'll see in Wawel is precious, it really is. And especially when you haven't seen much if this kind of architecture, I'm sure you'll be impressed by it. But to me it just didn't bring anything new, and neither did it to my parents.
Let's get a little more to the point. When you buy a ticket to the Wawel hill you'll do it in two turns. The ticket offices at the entrances sell tickets for all concerned the castles and exhibitions. This means the state rooms, the royal private apartments, the crown treasury and armory, the dragon's den, the lost Wawel exhibition, the oriental art exhibition, and all temporary exhibitions. For most of these area's there are UNESCO quota on the number of visitors that can enter each day. So if you go here to late, you might not be able to get a ticket.
The ticket to the cathedral, the bell tower and the tombs is purchased in another ticket office opposite to the cathedral. Here there are no quota, so there is no hurry.
We bought tickets to the state rooms (15 PLN), the royal private apartments (20 PLN), the treasury and armory (15 PLN) and the lost Wawel exhibition (7 PLN). Then later also the ticket to the cathedral, bells and tombs (5 PLN). All prises and detailed information can be found on the official Wawel website: http://www.wawel.krakow.pl/en/
At the ticket office, you will get hours of entrance per place you want to visit. This is the hour you must start your tour there, no matter if this tour is an individual or a guided one. Times are though well measured. We found that we always had enough time to see everything, though never had to wait really long before we could enter the next building.
Our tour started with the Wawel Exhibition. If I may make a recommendation to those who have seen a lot of archaeological medieval sites before and aren't especially into this field, don't go here. The exhibition is a rather small one, and apart from some artwork that is though very nice, there isn't much to see.
Next on the list were the state rooms, an individual visit, but we followed the French guide that walked in front of us and so did get some insider information. I think it would have been better if this visit happened in a guided tour for everyone. All this furniture is priceless crafts work but if you don't get the details about it, or the juicy stories, it gets boring pretty fast. It is nice to stroll around the rooms but as I've said before, to me these were nothing new and so I would have never payed 15 PLN for it if I knew this in advance.
Third stop were the crown treasury and armory. Same here. If you haven't seen much like this before you should really visit. There is a fine collection of golden objects, weapons and military clothing. Some of the artwork really was outstanding. Especially the jewelery amazed me. But ones more, I do know what a harness and a canon look like. There were some amazingly decorated weapons in the exhibition but still, it couldn't really impress me.
What I liked most of all Wawel were the Royal private apartments. This was a guided tour so that might be part of the reason. I like to get all these background information and I like the opportunity to ask questions. The group was pretty small and the guide spoke very well English. She gave interesting insides and specific information for almost every piece of furniture in the building, always stretching that indeed "the clocks still work today" :) If there is one thing I don't regret about Wawel, it is visiting this apartments. So in my opinion, if there is one place you should pay for, make it this one. The renaissance square in front of the royal buildings is equally beautiful.
Finally, the Cathedral (5 PLN) was a bad ender of the tour. Even from the outside this doesn't look nice. You might know I am quite a symmetry freak. Well if you are too, than this building is your worst nightmare. There is simply nothing about it that keeps the balance. It is a complete mix of all kinds of bits and parts, materials, hights and forms. Not exactly my perfect kind of architecture, that is.
The inside is boasted with things to see, but what it lacks is atmosphere. When you enter here, you don't feel that humbleness or magical touch. It is not only crowded, it is also as unorganized as its outside. There is no open space, no air, no mystery hanging around.
The back of your entrance ticket will show you the way to walk around, yet it is in Polish only. Taking the route you'll pass all kinds of graves and altars which are no doubt very well crafted and valuable. But they just aren't beautiful. Then you'll go up to the bell tower and forgive me, but I don't know what is so special about that.
Than last but not least, there are the tombs. How many graves do you think there can be underneath a cathedral? Well, many. And this is not like what I'm used to. Most churches with tombs I know have the gravestones paved in the floor like a tile. Here the coffins just stand all around. Big ones and small ones, even babies ones. I found it a bit creepy. But for us, this wasn't so spectacular either as we don't know that much details about the Polish history and most of the people buried here were unknown to me. But some of the other visitors literally bowed in awe at some of the tombs, so this place is obviously pretty sacred for the Polish.
This has turned to a monster of a review so I'll keep the conclusion rather short. If I'd have to do Wawel again, I would visit the site from the outside, walk around the buildings, the garden, have a look over the Vistula river and then visit the Royal Private apartments. I wouldn't pay for anything else. In my opinion this site is a bit overrated, what probably caused too high expectations that couldn't be answered. That's what I think about it. Please feel free to disagree.
Part of the Poland 2008 travel blog
Part of the list UNESCO World Inheritance
1 / 1 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
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Jul 25, 2007
Just 500meters from the Old Town Square in Krakow can you find Wawel Hill. There is several things to do here including, but some of the highlights are:
Its free to wander around inside the complex, but the atractions cost money (10PLN and up)
Armory and Treasury
First. There is only a limited tickets for every attraction so if you are unlucky there sold out for some attractions by 11AM. So be here early if you want to take the entire tour.
Wawel Cathedral is nice and huge , but its not allowed to take pictures inside the Cathedral. You can also climb the Bell Tower, but watch your head if you are anything over 150cm. The Bell Tower features the largest bell in Poland with a weight of around 11.000kg.
The Castle is a like most castles. Nice, shiny, big rooms, high ceilings.
Part of the Europe 2007 travel blog
1 / 1 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
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