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Wawel Royal Castle - HOME

Wawel Royal Castle
State Art Collection

31-001 Kraków, Wawel 5

(+48 12) 422-51-55, 422-61-21

Tourist Information:
(+48 12) 422 51 55
ext. 219

Reservations and Guide Service:
(+48 12)
422 16 97

Press contact:
(+48 12) 422 51 55
ext. 380, 341


Dragon's Den
 open daily: April - October
 April 23-27, 2018 10:00am – 5:00pm
ticket window open till 4.45
 May 31 - June 3, 2018 10:00am – 7:00pm
ticket window open till 6.45
 May, June
10:00am – 6:00pm
ticket window open till 5.45
 July, August 10:00am – 7:00pm
ticket window open till 6.45
 September, October 10:00am – 5:00pm
ticket window open till 4.45
 closed: November-March  
 tickets 3 PLN, can be purchased at the ticket offices and at the entrance (ticket machine)
Note on access: The Dragon’s Den is not handicapped accessible. You enter the cave by climbing down a narrow, steep, spiral staircase (135 steps descending 70 feet).
One-way visiting route only - exit on the Vistula bank

The Dragon’s Den, a legendary cave in the western slope of Wawel Hill, is surely among great curiosities of Wawel. The oldest version of a legend about the dragon of Wawel, related to the mythic beginning of Cracow, can be found in the Chronicle of Master Vincent called Kadlubek (from the turn of the 13th century):
In the tunnels of a certain rock there lived an immensely dreadful monster, whom some used to call the whole-eater. Every week his voracity called for a fixed number of cattle. If the settlers had not supplied the cattle (as sacrificial beasts) they would be punished by losing the equivalent number of human heads. Grakch [Cracus] could not tolerate the shame of this [...] and he secretly called his sons, told them of his intention and presented a solution [...] To which they answered: [...] ‘It is you who has the power to give orders, and we are here to obey’. Having experienced many, and generally futile, skirmishes, they were forced to use deception. In the place of the cattle they put cattle’s skins stuffed with ignited sulphur. And when the whole-eater swallowed it with great appetite, he suffocated from the outburst of an internal fire. Immediately after this, the younger brother attacked and killed the older, his partner in victory and in the kingdom, treating him not as a companion but as a competitor. He lied that it was the monster who was guilty of the killing, and his father happily accepted him as a winner. Thus the younger Cracus succeeded his father, benefiting from his crime! But he was tainted with fratricide longer than he was awarded with power. Soon after, the deceit came to light, and as punishment for his deed, he was banished forever[...] And it was indeed on the rock of the whole-eater that the famous city was soon established, named Cracovia from Cracus’ name, to commemorate him forever. The funeral ceremony finished only when the city was completed. Some named it Cracow because of the crowing of the crows, who flew in attracted by the carcass of the monster.

Jan Dlugosz changed this version of the legend by writing that it was King Cracus himself who killed the dragon. At the end of the 16th century Joachim Bielski introduced the character of a sly cobbler Skuba to the legend, and this is the most popular version nowadays.

A visit to the Dragon’s Lair begins at the foot of the Thieves’ Tower by going down a staircase in a brick tower (a former Austrian well). The cave is 270 metres long, of which 81 metres are open to the public.
The first and the lowest northern ‘A’ chamber was filled with water until the 19th century and the water was used to supply Wawel’s buildings.
A short, narrow passage leads to the main middle ‘B’ chamber which is the largest; 25m long and up to 10m high. This chamber is divided, by a simultaneous narrowing and heightening, into two parts which create the most picturesque part of the interior. In its highest point it is covered with a bricked dome from 1830 which closes the vault opening. It was through this opening that in 1829 a historian Ambroży Grabowski entered the cave and was the first to describe its appearance. Through his efforts the Dragon’s Lair opened to visitors in 1843-1846.
On the left, behind a wooden post, a tunnel which was dug in 1974, protected by a grating and leading to a side sequence of corridors, can be found. The narrow and muddy corridors, 160 metres in length, with five little lakes inhabited by a rare crustacean studniczek tatrzański (‘Tatra’s welldweller’), are closed to visitors. The other, higher part of the middle chamber was used, in the 17th and the 18th centuries, for storage and as a banquet room by a tavern located in front of the entrance over Vistula river.
The southern and the last ’C’ chamber is 11m long, 5.8m wide and 4m high. A stone vault is supported by a set of brick pillars. This section is decorated by rock projections, chimneys and karstic fissures. This is where the main room of the tavern was.
We exit the Cave through a pointed arch portal and a vestibule. On the Vistula Boulevard visitors stand in front of a sculpture of the Wawel Dragon created by Bronisław Chromy in 1972.
After 1918, when Poland regained its independence, the Dragon’s Lair was prepared for visitors by prof. Adolf Szyszko-Bohusz.
From 1966 to 1976 thorough preservation and conservation work was conducted, and in 2002 the interior lighting system was modernized.
Sandomierska Tower
 open daily: April - September
10:00am – 5:00pm
ticket window open till 4.45
 May 31 - June 3, 2018 10:00am – 7:00pm
ticket window open till 6.45
 May, June
10:00am – 6:00pm
ticket window open till 5.45
 July, August 10:00am – 7:00pm
ticket window open till 6.45
10:00am – 5:00pm
ticket window open till 4.45
 October - only fine weather weekends 10:00am – 5:00pm
ticket window open till 4.45
 closed: November-March
 tickets 4 PLN, can be purchased at the ticket offices and at the entrance (ticket machine)
Note on access: touring the tower requires climbing 137 steps
For your safety, please watch your step and do not lean over the banisters.
Children under age 12 must be accompanied by an adult.

One of the Wawel Castle’s two artillery towers – nicknamed “fire towers” – it was built around 1460 during the reign of Casimir IV Jagiellon. The tower was raised to strengthen the defences of the royal residence against attack from the most vulnerable, southern, side as the adjacent suburb of Stradom did not possess fortifications of its own.
The tower was adapted to accommodate firearms and artillery. Certain architectural elements, such as an ornamental entrance portal, glazed windows, and a large chimney shaft that would have been connected to a tile stove found in the third floor chamber point to its former function as lodgings. The room may have served either as guards’ quarters or as a prison for persons of high social standing. 
In peacetime, towers such as this one were often used as prisons. Indeed, confinement in the higher stories – that is “in the tower” – was regarded as “honourable punishment” and was reserved for the nobility. Common criminals were held in dungeons; one such dungeon survives in another of Wawel’s towers –the aptly named Thieves’ Tower.

Views of Cracow and the surrounding area.

photo Anna Stankiewicz

Wawel Architecture and Gardens
guided outdoor tour

open: April – September, weather permitting

daily 11:00am-4:30pm, last entry 3:00 pm
timed tours with guide in Polish or English, group size: max. 30
Tour begins in the Lost Wawel exhibition (the exhibition is not included in the tour)
visiting time - approx. 1.5 hours
closed: October-April
admission (per person): normal 18 PLN, reduced 10 PLN
No free admission day.
Tickets may be purchased at the Castle Ticket Offices or by reservation through the Reservation Office: +48.12.422.1697; e-mail: bot@wawel.org.pl
The ticket is valid to Sandomierska Tower.
Due to the nature of the tour and gardens, it may be difficult for people with movement disabilities (steps between the terraces).
Touring the tower requires climbing 137 steps. Children under age 12 must be accompanied by an adult.
For centuries the Wawel Hill, with its towering castle and cathedral, was the seat of political and ecclesiastical power in Poland. Over the course of nearly one thousand years, the architectural and garden landscape of the hill changed; buildings were erected, remodeled, knocked down and replaced. Today, the castle and cathedral constitute a harmonious monument complex, for the most part restored to its Renaissance grandeur. The reopened gardens complete the picture.

The guided walking tour gives visitors an opportunity to learn about the magnificent architecture and to explore secluded areas, such as the sunlit royal gardens on the eastern side of the hill. The tour begins in the "Lost Wawel" exhibition next to a model of the Wawel as it looked in the 18th century, continues to the Arcaded Courtyard of the castle, and then to the gardens. From the lower terrace of the royal gardens the tour continues around the perimeter of the castle: up the narrow stone steps next to the Hen’s Foot Tower, past the tower built by King Sigimund III Vasa, onto the ramparts and along the north elevation of the castle. From this spot visitors can take in the magnificent panorama of Cracow’s old town. The tour then leads back to the Arcaded Courtyard through the so-called Tatar Passage and on to the Báthory Courtyard. The tour ends with a visit to the Sandomierska Tower, which offers great views of Krakow and the surrounding countryside.

Tour Description
The tour begins in the Lost Wawel exhibition. Using an architectural model of the Wawel Hill as it appeared in the 18th century as a starting point, the guide will introduce tour participants to the history, development, and transformations of the elements that make up the complex: the castle, the cathedral, other churches, residential buildings, and fortifications.

The architecture of the cathedral and the foundations of buildings that are no longer extant will be discussed in the outer courtyard. Next the tour continues to the splendid Italianate Arcaded Courtyard built in the first half of the 16th century.
A visit to the Renaissance royal pleasure gardens is next. The historical existence of terraced gardens on the eastern slope of the hill from about 1540, known from written sources, was also confirmed by the discovery of stone steps, brick garden walks, and other elements of garden architecture during an archeological excavations. The Swedish invasion of 1655 put an end to the cultivation of the Wawel gardens. The present gardens have been developed to reflect the Renaissance gardens of the period around 1540. The reconstruction of Renaissance gardens dating from the first half of the 1500s is a rarity in Europe; gardens from the latter half of the century are more frequent. The Wawel gardens are the only reconstructed Renaissance gardens in Poland.

The upper terrace of the gardens was reconstructed based on the uncovered relics, historical and archival sources, and consultations with experts including paleobotanists. It opened to the public in 2003 but closed again several years later. Subsequent excavations on the lower terrace revealed more relics of garden architecture (on view in the Lost Wawel exhibition) and the foundations of a 16th-century summerhouse. From 2004 to 2007, the architectural elements were preserved or, where possible, restored; from 2012 to 2015 the gardens were planted and developed.

Relics excavated on the upper terrace made it possible to reconstruct the brick walks and wooden beds. Raised beds were installed based on the mention of “boxes” in the Wawel gardens in archival sources. The remaining area of the terrace holds a small “meadow” with a bench and trellis. The box beds hold a variety of herbs and flowers including thyme, sage, mint, catnip, lavender, hyssop, iris, lilies, and even wild strawberries.
The southern end of the lower terrace was designed around the excavated relics of a summerhouse. Boxwood-edged parterres hold a variety of flowers and herbs punctuated by potted topiaries. The central section of the lower terrace is devoted to ornamental boxwood knot garden which evokes forms developed in the Renaissance. The northern end of the terrace holds a small apple orchard. Among the varied and numerous plants on this terrace are different varieties of roses, honeysuckle, peonies, chrysanthemums, snapdragons, and herbs such as thyme, lavender, verbena, basil, and oregano.

While not an exact reconstruction, the gardens of the lower terrace, along with the wooden garden architecture such as arbors, summerhouses, and fences, are based on historical and iconographic period sources. The gardens, like the castle, integrate medieval and Renaissance features.

The gardens also include two small, rose-bordered vineyards. The broad walkway (a military road built in the 19th century) is lined with oleanders and olive trees in terracotta flowerpots.

The curator of the gardens has endeavored to present as many varieties cultivated in the 15th and 16th centuries as possible.
The tour ends with a visit to the Sandomierska Tower, one of the castle’s two defensive towers (“fire towers”), it was built in 1460 to fortify the royal residence from the south, the side most vulnerable to attack.
Visitors tour the tower individually (without guide) upon presenting tour ticket.