Royal Castle of Krakow, Poland

When you have just 24 hours in one city, you have to use every moment to find something new, to explore the main attractions and even more, as more as possible.
So we did that on the first day in Krakow, walked around all the streets of Old Town, felt the spirit of the city that used to be a Capital of Poland long time ago. But Krakow was also a Royal town, that had a great defensive walls and of course, a Royal Castle, which is known as Wawel.
Today we had only first half of the day to use for more discoveries and as on the last day it was already late to come to this part of the city, we’ll do that today, from the early morning.
Wawel Castle is located in the central Krakow, on the south part of the Old Town. It is very easy to find it. Just continue walking by Florianska street, cross the Market Square and walk through Grodzka street. On the end of the street you will meet the walls of the castle complex and here you are. From these walls it’s not seen how huge complex is that. As it was a Royal residence, it included a castle (of course), cathedral, several towers, treasury & armory. Now except all those it hosts some exhibitions. State rooms and Royal private apartments are also open for visitors. For all these rooms of course we had to stay on a long queue, which was getting longer and longer with every minute.
Tickets are being sold separately for each room & exhibition. But be aware, that tickets are issued for specific entrance times. Also they are daily limits for visitors, different for each ticket type, so they may run out before you reach the ticket office. For this it’s always better to make a reservation. Right next to the ticket office there was an electronic table showing number of tickets left for each exhibition. And really, there were some types of tickets, that were running out rapidly. All the information about opening dates and times, as well as the entrance fees can be found here.
We bought tickets to some rooms and exhibitions only, as for the other ones that we’d like to see there was a specific entrance time, which would be already late, as we had a bus to Wroclaw at that time. So, once we bought tickets, entered the from the gates and found a huge Arcaded courtyard and a Castle. From here all starts. On the left side of the main entrance there are a nice gift shop and also a luggage room, where you can deposit your hand luggage & small backpacks before entering any exhibition (as they won’t allow you to enter with any luggage).
The first that we entered were State Rooms. So pity it was not allowed to take pictures inside. Each room was unique with its interior, furniture, carpets, paintings and beauty. But fortunately you may see some of them and also read about each room on the official web page of castle. We couldn’t see the Royal apartments and the cathedral because of time limitation and huge lines of groups waiting for their turn, but we had a chance to climb up by wooden steps to the Sandomierska Tower, which gave us a 360° of fantastic view of the city.
From one side it was a view to the Old Town, with all small and big buildings, churches and towers, colorful roofs. From the other side it was a view to quiet Vistula river with its bridges, modern buildings that were out of the Old Town and red roofs of the castle buildings. On the top of the towers proudly was waving the polish flag. Somewhere far from here was seen the modern part of Krakow, with more tall buildings. But the city from here was seen so quiet and peaceful. If not the wind, it would be great to stay here more, to enjoy the view from the top. But again, we had limited time and still more to see here.
But the view we had after going down the tower wasn’t worse than the one from the top. Beautiful gardens of castle, towers and all other buildings were seen from another view. Some areas were crowded with group of tourists, but here there was almost no one. Feels like a totally different part of the city. But there was a small coffee shop on one of the corners, where all “frozen” people could buy some tea or coffee to heat up on a cold day.
The last place on the Wawel hill we were going to see was the Dragon’s Den. This is a legendary fire breathing statue located near to the home of legendary dragon. The way to the Dragon begins at the foot of the Thieves’ Tower by going down a staircase. There is a 270m long cave, from which only 81m are open to the public. Don’t worry to lost in there, as there is only one way to go. This is a natural cave, part of which was filled with water before to supply Wawel’s buildings.
And how the dragon is connected with the city? Why is its sculpture stands near the castle, by the river Vistula? Well, there are several versions of a legend, that tells the story of this beast. Here is one of them:

In ancient times, the Wawel Dragon terrorised King Krak’s city. The beast required ransoms of cattle (but some sources also insist that it only devoured virgins). 

The Wawel Dragon was a beast which lived in a den under Wawel Hill and terrorized all the inhabitants of King Krak’s town. They had to feed to the monster by giving him offerings of cattle, while other tales speak of that hell-spawn eating nothing but virgins. No knight could vanquish the monster, until a young shoemaker Skuba outsmarted the Dragon. He stuffed a ram’s hide with sulfur and pitch, and put the doctored ram in front of the Dragon’s Den. The monster caught the bait and devoured the ram. Immediately, he felt a bad pain and burning in the throat. To quench his thirst, the Dragon started to drink from the Vistula River. However, as water cannot extinguish burning sulfur, the gases produced by the fires inside him made the beast explode. All the townsfolk revelled in the news and the heroic shoemaker was properly rewarded. 

Nowadays the 6m tall bronze made statue stands near the Vistula river and breaths fire with about 2-5 minutes intervals. This is the most famous dragon statue in Poland, where people come to take pictures with fire breathing dragon.
And here our castle tour ended, but we managed to do even more that was supposed.
In general, 13th century castle, which is one of the largest in Poland, represents a historical site of Poland, that was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. Wawel hill with its Royal residency castle is a must see attraction in Krakow. Whenever you come here, save at least half day from your time (from early morning) to visit Wawel hill and all its rooms and exhibitions. It’s worth it!

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