Wawel - Spiritual Home of the Nation

As you head south through the Old Town the streets begin to taper until you arrive at the foot of Wawel Hill, seat of the Royal Castle and Cathedral. Wawel lies on a small hill above the Vistula and it was here that the earliest settlements in the city began, some fifty thousand years ago.

Wawel is less a quarter than it is a rambling complex of historic buildings. Few ordinary citizens live here, and the most distinguished residents, the Kings of Poland, passed on many centuries ago. Yet the phantoms of these monarchs are ever-present, wandering about with furrowed brows, and shaking their fists at the great what-ifs of their country's history.

Architecturally, Wawel is something of a hodge-podge, with all kinds of shapes and styles jostling for attention. This might come as no surprise when you think that people have been living here since around 3000BC in the Neolithic period, and have lived and built on the hill successively ever since. However, whatever cohesion the Wawel lacks aesthetically it more than makes up for in terms of soul. For this is the spiritual home of the nation. And if one was to take England as a point of comparison, one might consider Wawel as a kind of Westminster Abbey and Camelot rolled into one. It is steeped in myth, yet with all the added poignancy of a nation that has had to endure more than its fair share of trials. And despite the apparent muddle of bits, Wawel has a charm that can exert a powerful hold. Its very lack of classical harmony becomes one of its endearing features. And besides, there are some real jewels here, among them the exquisite cathedral chapels, the renaissance courtyard and the State Rooms themselves. You can also climb up the old bell-tower or burrow down into the Dragon's Lair. All in all there is a wealth of things to do, not only for those dignified elderly folk, but for children too.

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georgine from United States Reply Mar 12th, 2014

i didnt think it was that spectacular. i mean the grounds were eh, nice abut castle was not that pretty. Probaly wont go there again.

Renata from Canada Reply Apr 24th, 2013

just came back from Poland, Krakow, the whole family had a blast especially my 7 year old daughter, everthing fascinate her about the castle. We will definitely go back there. Loved it.

Krakover Gustavo from Argentina Reply Jan 8th, 2013

Me han comentado que mis antepasados son de la ciudad de Krakow. Quisiera que se conozca mas esta historia en español. Thank !

Denis from Canada Reply Jan 14th, 2011

Love everything about Krakow, from the Hill to the old town. Will be back in 2012 for the Euro...

Iris from United Kingdom Reply Aug 24th, 2010

Heading to Krakow on Thursday... anyone know how to book an English Tour of the Royal Apartments at Wawel in advance please?? I've heard there's only one a day and books up in advance. Ta!

from United Kingdom Reply May 26th, 2010

Could you please work on your translation? It's horrible!

karen hull from United Kingdom Reply Dec 6th, 2009

going for a break on boxing day cant wait staying in the centre of krakow

Alan Rogers from United Kingdom Reply Jul 31st, 2009

We spent a good few hours pottering around the castle complex. Highlights for us were the courtyard (no so much the interiors), and the Holy Cross chapel

Amy Jennings from United Kingdom Reply Jun 30th, 2009

Thev dragon's den is ace!!!!!!!!!

Alessandro Bargellini from Italy Reply Mar 20th, 2009

I'm just come back from Cracow. Very nice city and Wawel... it's a beautiful place almost like the Prague Castle. I'm sure i'll return to visit it again

Natalie Konopka from United States Reply Feb 24th, 2009

It's AWESOME my mom was born in Krakow Poland!! GO THERE NOW ITS COOL

John Rozwadowski from New Zealand Reply Feb 15th, 2009

Great !! I was fortunate recently to be able to visit Wawel Castle with my two daughters and two grand children. A place which I visited frequently with my grandfather during 1945 just before leaving Poland. I was able to return after 63 years to show my foreign born children and grandchildren where I came from. Your website makes it easier for us all to review our experiences.

Andrew Brak from Australia Reply Feb 17th, 2008

Wawel is the jewel in the crown of magnificent Krakow, can't wait for another visit there.

Joseph Kozlowski Jr. from United States Reply Nov 9th, 2007

Thank you for this page and all the others. I was first in Krakow in 1975 and haven't been there since 1977, but your reviews and descriptions make me want to return now. Thank You again.

Topfer from Norway Reply Jul 29th, 2007

Beautiful castle, and the Cathedral is a "must". Don't excpect any good sevice or food at the restaurant, though. We waited 50 minutes for our food, and when it finally arriwed (after complaining two times) it was not what we ordered! The food was bad and expensive, not representative of Crakow at all! The souvenirs are not overpriced, and the Wawel heads are a marvel!

margerita from United States Reply May 9th, 2007

amazing place, very spirytual, inspiring

Judd B. Fink from United States Reply Mar 6th, 2007

I have been to Wawel Castle and Kracow. My wife and I consider this to be one of the most interesting, hospitable,and wonderful places we have ever been to. I would love to return to Krakow to explore and spend more time.