Wawel 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.

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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.

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.

Wawel Castle

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.

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