Photo courtesy of Visit Krakow
Wawel HillWawel Hill occupies a special place in Polish history—the seat of kings, it served as a symbol of Polish identity even when the country was erased from the map during partitions. Perched on the limestone hill above the Vistula River, the Wawel Castle and Cathedral are filled with treasures, including a unique collection of Flemish tapestries and several other wonderful artworks and artifacts. Visitors can tour the state rooms and royal private apartments (note that there are a limited number of timed tickets available each day, so it’s best to book in advance) as well as the Crown Treasury and Armory, but the can’t-miss attraction is the cathedral, where royal christenings, weddings, coronations, and burials once took place.
If you dare, climb the steep wooden staircase from the cathedral’s sacristy up to Sigismund’s Tower, where the famous Sigismund Bell (commissioned in 1520 by King Sigismund the Old) still tolls on solemn state and church occasions. When you’ve caught your breath, descend to the crypt below the cathedral, where several Polish kings and national heroes are buried. On your way out, exit Wawel Hill via the Dragon’s Den—the rock cave where it’s believed the fire-breathing dragon Smok once lived.
AFAR Local Expert
over 2 years ago
Wawel Royal Castle and Wawel Hill Complex
Even though the country's monarchy has long been consigned to the history books, Wawel Hill remains the spiritual heart of Poland. The 14th-century castle still stands in Krakow, now as home to one of Poland's most prominent art collections. The adjacent Cathedral of St. Stanislaus and St. Wenceslaus is more than 900 years old and is the resting place of many Polish greats. It was in this church that Karol Wojtyla, later to become Pope John Paul II, was ordained in 1946. The Wawel complex is worthy of hours of exploration; don't miss the lavish State Rooms and Royal Private Apartments.
AFAR Local Expert
over 4 years ago
As a city with almost 1000 years of history, it will come as no surprise that Krakow has more than its share of legends. One of the most enduring is that of the dragon Smok who lives in the caves below Wawel Hill. The story goes that the dragon lived in the 12th century and would terrorize the local people, his only appeasement being a maiden offered to him as a sacrifice once a month. Today Smok lives on in the form of a 1970s metal sculpture on the riverside path below the castle. He even breathes fire occasionally, prompted not by the sight of a maiden, but in response to visitors texting SMOK to the number 7168.
over 6 years ago
Wawel Castle and the Search for our Chakra
My girlfriends and I were traveling through Eastern Europe during our Peace Corps stint and heard that one of the 7 Chakras was in Wawel Castle in Krakow, Poland. We were also told that guides in the castle wouldn't tell us where it would be so we just had to "feel" it out. We spent over a hour, trying to "feel" the energy and touching parts of the walls but could never find it. On one of the best trips I have ever been on, it was one of the most entertaining adventures. The Wawel Castle has fascinating architecture and great stories so we really felt like the whole experience was awesome.
over 6 years ago
It was our first full day in Krakow, and we headed straight to Wawel Castle. Every part of it was gorgeous, and I loved learning about and imagining all the historic events that had happened there.