Wawel Castle lifts ‘no-selfie’ rule in move to become more ‘Instagram-friendly’ - but still no sticks allowed
Kraków’s Wawel Castle has begun the new year with a new approach by lifting a long-term photography ban and letting visitors take photos inside the castle’s interiors.
From January 7, visitors will be able to take souvenir photos of the museum’s treasures and even take selfies to share on social media, which was previously forbidden.
Some restrictions will still apply including flash photography, the use of tripods and selfie-sticks, which the museum says may be dangerous in places where a large number of people are gathered.
The lifting of the ban is the first major decision by new castle director Andrzej Betlej, who took over on January 1 from Professor Jan Ostrowski, who retired after 30 years at the helm.
“It's about making Wawel Castle a friendly and open place for visitors, so that as many people as possible come here and feel good about it,” the new director said.
He added that while Wawel Castle is a place that speaks about the identity of Poles and that its traditions must be preserved, it must also be a modern museum.
The director pointed out tourists cannot use flash and selfie-sticks, but that modern technologies let people take good photographs and short films without them.
Wawel Castle in Kraków was one of the few museums in Poland where it was still forbidden to take pictures unless permission had been gained previously.
The castle justified its ban saying that it was necessary to preserve the artwork on display and organise the flow of tourist traffic.
A number of years ago, bans on photography were commonplace in Polish museums which visitors could sometimes get around by paying a small fee.
However, in 2010, disgruntled tourists took a small museum in Września, Wielkopolska, to court claiming that the restrictions were unlawful.
The consumer rights court found in favour of the tourists and overnight ‘No Photography’ signs were taken down in museums across the country.
Wawel Castle authorities initially also eased its restrictions. For about ten weeks, photos could be taken inside the castle without flash. However, the ban was quickly reintroduced as the castle said that visitors did not turn off their flashes and it did not make sense to tell them to do so after the fact.
The castle also justified the ban on the grounds that photography disrupted tourist traffic and the “health & safety of workers” and protecting how images of the museum’s collections can be used.
The ban was all the more baffling because more famous museums, which have collections much more valuable than those of Wawel Castle, such as the Louvre, the British Museum and the Vatican Museums, allow visitors to take pictures.
The lifting of the ban is bound to please those looking for the most Instagrammable sites on weekend city-breaks to Kraków.
Top of the list on Wawel hill will be the vast two-mast Turkish tent, one of the largest of its kind in the world, which was seized on 12 September 1683, when the army of King John III Sobieski defeated the Turkish army of Grand Vizier Mustafa Pascha that was besieging Vienna under the command.
Close behind will be the Senators’ Hall, which is filled with the famous Jagiellonian tapestries ordered by King Zygmunt August to decorate the Wawel interiors, the largest ever order of tapestries by a single monarch.
Other attractions that will get tourists reaching for their shutters are in plentiful supply. Szczerbiec, the coronation sword that was used in crowning ceremonies of most Polish monarchs from 1320 to 1764 and the only surviving item of the medieval Polish crown jewels, can be seen in the castle’s treasury.
Meanwhile, among the castle’s most valuable paintings are a portrait of Władysław IV by Rubens and Christ Blessing the Children by 16th-century dauber Lucas Cranach.