Krakow’s biggest castle has luxurious royal apartments, Renaissance paintings, the coronation sword of Polish kings and an underground cave system.
Wawel Castle is rich in medieval royal history. On display are former bedchambers and staterooms, Flemish tapestries, paintings by Rubens and collections of armour and royal jewellery. Relax in the Royal Gardens, visit the cave where it is said a dragon once lived or explore the past in an exhibit on archeological findings.
It is believed that a castle has been on the site of Wawel Hill since the 14th century. However, the current building is predominantly the work of King Sigismind I, who reigned in the 16th century. His vision was to create a fashionable, Renaissance-style palace and in order to do so he employed the best builders, sculptors and artisans in Europe. Situated on a hill high above the Vistula River, Wawel Castle is one of the most iconic sights in Krakow.
Begin exploring the castle in the Treasury where you can see the sword used to swear in Polish kings and an impressive collection of armour and royal jewellery. Walk up to the king’s apartments on the top floor where there are more royal ornaments. View artworks by Renaissance painters such as Rubens, admire furniture from the 16th century and look at portraits of royalty who used to live there. Climb to the top of the Hen’s Foot Tower and admire the views of Krakow.
Learn more about the castle’s past in the Lost Wawel exhibit and browse artefacts that date back to the 10th century. Inside Wawel Cathedral are the elaborate tombs of the kings who once ruled. Step into the cave known as the Dragon’s Den and walk through the tunnels beneath the castle. Look for the large bronze dragon that breathes fire at intervals throughout the day and marks the entrance to the cave.
Wawel Castle is open daily. Opening hours vary so check the official website for the most up-to-date information. Visitor numbers are limited in summer and during public holidays. It is best to arrive early to guarantee admission. The castle is a 10-minute walk from Krakow’s main square. All areas, such as the Dragon’s Den and the Treasury, have separate admission costs.