The Royal Palace has been designed by the architects Giovanni Trevano, Giacomo Rodondo and Matteo Castelli, and the construction work lasted from 1598 until 1619.
The castle has a pentagonal shape, consists of two floors and is representative for the early Baroque architectural style. But in time, the original castle underwent a series of modifications, work meant to enlarge the edifice. Thus, in a first renovation project, the Grand Court, the Little Court and the Grodzka Tower had been added.
Throughout time there were two wings added. During the reign of Augustus III Wettin, a wing was constructed on the Vistula shore. The wing was named after its founder, “The Wettin Wing,” and was decorated with beautiful works of art by the sculptor Jan Jerzy Plerch.
Other modifications were conducted in the time of Stanislaus Augustus Poniatowski (the last monarch of the first Republic of Poland): the Royal Library, which was constructed after the sketches of Domenico Merlini, and the Cooper-Roof Palace. The second wing was added in the later part of the 18th century, and was called the Baciarellowka, after the painter Marcello Bacciarelli.
The Royal Palace also comprised a special room, used by the deputies of the state, but this disappeared in 1775, when Poland, as a country, disappeared from the face of the earth due to the third territorial division made between Prussia, Austria and Russia.
This room was initially used as the Town Hall, but later on it was transformed into the residence of Jozef Poniatowski, a hero of the Napoleonic Wars, and his uncle, the last king of Poland, Stanislaus Augustus Poniatowski. In 1988, the Palace was included in the Royal Castle ensemble. An important historical event which took place here and is worth remembering is the drafting of the First Constitution of Poland – which occured on March 3rd, 1791.
The palace disposes of a beautiful terrace with splendid arches created after the drawings of Jakub Kubicki. Tourists have to go out on this terrace as it offers an impressive look over the royal gardens.
The Castle has not remained untouched by warfare. Thus, in 1932, the German army burnt down the edifice, while a complete destruction of the Royal Palace occurred in 1944 (WWII). But the palace was reconstructed between 1971-1988, and with the occasion, the edifice had received works of art which belonged to King Stanislaus Augustus Poniatowski (among which there were two Rembrandt paintings).
At present, tourists can admire the palace as it was constructed in the 18th century, the façade facing the Vistula River still bearing the traces of the Rococo architectural style. The interior furnishing is pretty much the original one, despite the destruction which occurred in 1944, when the palace was blown-up by Germans. The reason for this is that several clerks which worked at the National Museum had managed to put to safe keeping a large part of the furniture.
The Royal Palace had managed to be “resurrected” due to some photographs taken prior to the destruction, as well as to some paintings created by Canaletto in which the palace was accurately represented. In fact, because of this, the most renowned room located downstairs bears the name of the painter.
The Grand Hallway, or the Ball Room, has a ceiling which is sustained by 17 golden columns and which is wonderfully adorned with pictures representing various mythological scenes. Some of the most impressive rooms within the palace are the Senate Room and the Marble Room, both adorned with priceless objects of decoration.
The Royal Palace is truly imposing: the façade, which is made out of bricks, extends over 90 meters in length, there is a square tower located in each end, and the Sigismund Tower, which measures 60 m in height, is constructed right in the middle of the edifice. There is one theory according to which this later tower has been ispired by the Smolensk Tower, in Russia.
The palace is now considered a museum and it functions under the Ministry of Culture. As it is a historical and national monument, the castle has been registered as part of the UNESCO patrimony since 1980.
Visiting hours (these depend widely on the period of the year in which you visit the palace, but the minimum opening hours are):
Tuesday-Saturday: 10:00 – 16:00;
Sunday: 11:00 – 16:00;