The Krakow Cathedral is located on the Wawel hill, within the immense walled area of the Castle. Access to this area is free, but access to the Cathedral and to the Castle is on payment.
The Cathedral is the church where all the kings of Poland were crowned from 1320 until 1795, when Poland ceased to be a kingdom. After their death, they were all buried in this church, which is now considered as the most sacred memorial of Poland.
The visit is carried out following a designated route that touches all the points of interest in the church. In principle it is forbidden to take photographs, but it seems that this prohibition is not enforced. The visit requires about one hour and allows the visitor to get a very interesting insight into the history of Poland, since synthetic information is posted near each sepulchre about the life and the deeds of the king (or queen) lying there; the visit is also a source of emotions, considering that part of that history was written in this place and that the men who wrote it now rest in front of the visitor.
The visiting route starts in the immense choir, which surprisingly monopolizes the entire nave and also incorporates the high altar, leaving to the use of the faithful only the side aisles. This peculiar arrangement shows that the church was to be a place for the carrying out of rites and ceremonies reserved for the clergy and the court, for which the presence of the faithful was irrelevant, if not superfluous: in other words, it was a church for the elite. In the choir are to be admired the carved wood panels that ornate the stalls, as well as the high altar.
After the choir, the visiting route goes to the bell-tower, where it is possible to see the ancient bell called Sigismund – after king Sigismund the 1st who commissioned it in 1520. The bell weighs 12.7 tons and is regarded as one of the national symbols of Poland. The ascent to the bell tower requires you to climb a steep staircase.
After the bell-tower, the visiting route follows the side aisles of the church and passes behind the main altar, places where there are the tombs of the most ancient kings and queens. Many of these tombs are adorned with splendid funeral monuments sculpted in marble. A brief summary of the life and deeds of the king (queen) lying there is posted near the various monuments, both in Polish and English. Particularly remarkable are the two chapels located at both sides of the main entrance of the church, for their architecture and for the monuments they contain; they are reached near the end of the visiting route.
After visiting the church, you descend into the crypt, where the sepulchres of the less ancient kings are located, together with those of other members of their families and those of a few men who played an important role in the history of Poland (eg. the national hero Kościuszko). The sepulchres in the crypt are not embellished by monuments.
After the church it is possible to visit the Diocesan Museum, located just in front of the Cathedral. It is a minuscule museum of four rooms, which exhibits rich liturgical vestments and objects used in religious functions. One of the four rooms is fully dedicated to the late Pope John Paul II (Karol Woytiła), who was Archbishop of Krakow for 14 years and is greatly beloved in Poland. Taking photos is not allowed. I found this museum of modest interest; moreover it is not accessible to people with disabilities, due to the presence of a long and steep access staircase.
The Cathedral can be reached on foot, climbing a slightly uphill road about 500 meters long; it is an easy walk, but it can be uncomfortable when the weather is inclement or on a hot summer day. The Cathedral is open from 9:00 to 16:00 (winter schedule) or to 17:00 (summer schedule), except on Sunday and other public holidays, when it opens at 12:30. Admission is 22 Zloty (about 5 €), with reduction to 15 Zloty for seniors: the ticket office is near the entrance of the Cathedral. A relaxed visit can take one hour.