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History envelops the Wawel

Every Polish person knows the legend of the Wawel dragon. Long before Krakow existed, there was a dragon that lived in a cave under the Wawel hill. It terrorised the population until King Krak promised his daughter’s hand in marriage to the man who killed the dragon. Shoemaker Skuba fed the monster a sheep filled with sulphur and now it is safe to visit the Dragon cave once again.

The story of ‘Smok Wawelski’ is the most famous Polish folk tale. The cave where the animal supposedly lived is now a major tourist destination. The Wawel, a fortified hill in the heart of Krakow, offers 2 more top attractions that have played a major role in Polish history: the royal castle that dates back to the days when Krakow, and not Warsaw, was the capital of Poland; and the adjacent cathedral that for centuries hosted coronations, weddings and funerals. Step back in time with a visit to the Wawel.

Cathedral and castle on Wawel hill
Cathedral and castle on Wawel hill


Royal castle full of art

Krakow’s artistic royal castle

The first royal residence on Wawel hill was built in the 11th century, but this castle dates back to the 16th century. In those days Krakau was the economic and political capital of affluent Poland and King Sigismund I the Old (1467-1548) could afford to commission the construction of a monumental Renaissance palace. Designed according to the latest fashion by Italian architects, the palace boasts 71 rooms. Arrive early as the number of visitors is limited.

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Wawel Castle, Wawel 5, Krakow,

Krakow cathedral

Since the 14th century, Polish kings have been crowned and buried in the Krakow cathedral. The cathedral is also the final resting place of statesmen such as Józef Piłsudski and Władysław Sikorski, and famous Polish poets Adam Mickiewicz and Juliusz Słowacki. A visit to these tombs and the royal crypt is a tour of Polish history - from the Medieval kings to the founding fathers of the republic. Karol Józef Wojtyła, later known as Pope John Paul II, was ordained here as bishop in 1958.

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The 3 towers of the Krakow cathedral

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Wawel cathedral, Wawel 3, Krakow,
The décor of the most famous Polish legend

Deep into the Dragon cave

The cave that, according to legend, was once home to the dragon that terrorised Krakow, is now open to visitors. However, the dragon cave is more than just the décor of the most famous Polish folk tale: via the cave you can make an adventurous descent from Wawel hill to the river. Walk down 130 steps and then continue another 70 metres through the humid cave to the exit. By the river you will find a bronze sculpture of the Wawel dragon, created by sculptor Bronislaw Chromy. At set times the bronze dragon spews fire: children in particular love this fascinating attraction.

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Dragon cave, Wawel 5, Krakow,

Photo credits

  • The décor of the most famous Polish legend: Flickr: Andrew Kisliakov