Wawel Castle in Krakow remained the center of the Polish state for several centuries. Polish kings lived in a castle and ruled the country while Krakow was its capital. Wawel Cathedral, which is part of the castle, was the place of coronations and burials of monarchs.
Wawel Castle is located on the eponymous Wawel Hill, which rises 228 meters above the Vistula River. Since the 11th century there was a settlement of the Vistula tribe on it, but in the 13th century King Wenceslaus III of the Przemysl dynasty began to build stone fortifications here. At first it looked like a harsh medieval fortress, but over the course of several centuries, the appearance of the Wawel Castle has changed significantly after numerous reconstructions.
Wawel Castle remained the center of the Polish state until 1596. In 1595 there was a strong fire, after which King Sigismund III decided to move the capital of Poland to Warsaw. In Krakow, the Polish kings continued to hold coronation ceremonies, but the political center of the country moved to the new capital.
Nowadays, Wawel Castle is one of the most interesting sights not only in Krakow, but also in the whole of Poland. You can enter the castle through the gates of the Vases. There is a monument to Todeusz Kosciuszko in front of it. Nearby there is a Caponier and a Coat of Arms gate.
The Wawel Cathedral of St. Stanislaus and Wenceslaus towers over the Gates of the Vasa. Most of the cathedral is located on the territory of the castle. To the right of the Vasa Gate, you can visit the Museum of Pope John Paul II. Entering the territory of the Wawel Castle, visitors enter a large square where the foundations of the ancient churches of St. George and St. Michael are visible.
Several fortress towers rise above the square: Tenchinskaya, Gentry, Women`s, and Thieves’. The highest of them is the Sandomierz Tower. On the east side of the square are the main buildings of the Wawel Castle. The building of the Royal Kitchen, built by the Austrians in the 19th century, opens directly onto the square.
To enter the medieval premises of the castle, you need to climb the hill along the road that runs from the Vistula River, past the high Senator`s Tower. There is a gate through which you can enter the inner Royal courtyard of the Wawel Castle. Inside the Castle there is a museum where you can see the palace interiors. The famous collection of tapestries is housed in many halls of the palace.
One of the most interesting halls of the Wawel Castle is the Embassy Hall. It is known for its ceiling. In the squares of the suspended caissons, the heads of the courtiers of the Polish king, carved from wood, are installed. Previously, there were 194 heads here, but almost all of them were burned in a fire in 1595. Only 30 heads have survived to this day.
At the foot of the Wawel Castle on the Vistula embankment there is a small square where a lot of people always walk. There is a Dragon Cave (Smoca Pit), as well as a sculpture of a Fire-breathing Dragon, with whom the legend of the founding of the city of Krakow is associated.