A visit to the Renaissance royal pleasure gardens is next. The historical existence of terraced gardens on the eastern slope of the hill from about 1540, known from written sources, was also confirmed by the discovery of stone steps, brick garden walks, and other elements of garden architecture during an archeological excavations. The Swedish invasion of 1655 put an end to the cultivation of the Wawel gardens. The present gardens have been developed to reflect the Renaissance gardens of the period around 1540. The reconstruction of Renaissance gardens dating from the first half of the 1500s is a rarity in Europe; gardens from the latter half of the century are more frequent. The Wawel gardens are the only reconstructed Renaissance gardens in Poland.
The upper terrace of the gardens was reconstructed based on the uncovered relics, historical and archival sources, and consultations with experts including paleobotanists. It opened to the public in 2003 but closed again several years later. Subsequent excavations on the lower terrace revealed more relics of garden architecture (on view in the Lost Wawel exhibition) and the foundations of a 16th-century summerhouse. From 2004 to 2007, the architectural elements were preserved or, where possible, restored; from 2012 to 2015 the gardens were planted and developed.
Relics excavated on the upper terrace made it possible to reconstruct the brick walks and wooden beds. Raised beds were installed based on the mention of “boxes” in the Wawel gardens in archival sources. The remaining area of the terrace holds a small “meadow” with a bench and trellis. The box beds hold a variety of herbs and flowers including thyme, sage, mint, catnip, lavender, hyssop, iris, lilies, and even wild strawberries.
The southern end of the lower terrace was designed around the excavated relics of a summerhouse. Boxwood-edged parterres hold a variety of flowers and herbs punctuated by potted topiaries. The central section of the lower terrace is devoted to ornamental boxwood knot garden which evokes forms developed in the Renaissance. The northern end of the terrace holds a small apple orchard. Among the varied and numerous plants on this terrace are different varieties of roses, honeysuckle, peonies, chrysanthemums, snapdragons, and herbs such as thyme, lavender, verbena, basil, and oregano.
While not an exact reconstruction, the gardens of the lower terrace, along with the wooden garden architecture such as arbors, summerhouses, and fences, are based on historical and iconographic period sources. The gardens, like the castle, integrate medieval and Renaissance features.
The gardens also include two small, rose-bordered vineyards. The broad walkway (a military road built in the 19th century) is lined with oleanders and olive trees in terracotta flowerpots.
The curator of the gardens has endeavored to present as many varieties cultivated in the 15th and 16th centuries as possible.