Home to Krakow’s Wawel Castle and Wawel Cathedral, Wawel Hill stands 748 feet (228 meters) above sea level to the south of the city’s Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Overlooking the River Vistula, the hill was settled some 50,000 years ago and was the power base of Poland’s kings for 500 years from the 11th century on.
As Poland’s medieval seat of royalty, Wawel Hill is the country’s spiritual heart. No visit to Krakow is complete without seeing its star attractions: 14th-century Wawel Cathedral, the coronation and burial site of Polish kings; and Wawel Castle, a Romanesque, Renaissance, and baroque complex that was home to three royal dynasties.
Climb the hill to the complex and soak in the views down over Krakow—admission to the main body of the cathedral and castle grounds is free. Once there, you can buy various tickets to stroll around different areas of the castle’s and cathedral’s interior. Alternatively, to explore with a guide’s insight, book one of the many Krakow city tours that include Wawel Hill. Most combine cathedral and castle grounds visits with an overview of the city’s Old Town and Jewish quarter, Kazimierz, and let you add interior castle tours to your explorations.
Things to Know Before You Go
Wawel Hill is a must for first-time visitors to Krakow and those interested in Poland’s past.
While admission to the cathedral is free, there’s a small fee to see its Sigismund Bell, museum, and royal crypts.
Don’t miss the castle’s arcaded courtyard while exploring: It’s a Renaissance gem.
Only parts of the castle grounds are wheelchair-accessible.
How to Get There
Wawel Hill is within easy walking distance of Krakow’s Old Town—just 10 minutes from the Main Market Square (Rynek Glowny) and 20 minutes from the main train station. The closest bus stops are Jubilat and Stradom, and the nearest tram stations are Wawel and Stradom.
When to Get There
Wawel Hill is open daily, year-round. Its gates are open 6am–5pm November–February, 6am–6pm March and October, 6am–7pm April and September, 6am–8pm May and August, and 6am–9pm June and July. The hill can get crowded on summer weekends, so arrive early to enjoy it at its best.
Dragon’s Den at Wawel Hill
Inside Wawel Hill’s seemingly solid-rock slopes is a network of natural caves. Legend has it that these were once home to the murderous, fire-breathing Wawel Dragon. Pay the admission fee to explore the chambers and learn how this mythical monster was slain by a cobbler called Krak, who became king—giving Krakow its name.
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- Wawel Royal Castle (Zamek Wawelski)
- Wawel Cathedral (Katedra Wawelska)
- Archdiocesan Museum (Muzeum Archidiecezjalne w Krakowie)
- Bishop Erazm Ciolek Palace (Polish National Museum in Krakow)
- Krakow Pinball Museum
- Archaeological Museum of Krakow (Muzeum Archeologiczne w Krakowie)
- St. Stanislaus Church (Skalka)
- Tempel Synagogue (Synagoga Tempel)
- Plac Nowy
- Stained Glass Workshop and Museum (Pracownia i Muzeum Witrazu)
- Józef Czapski Pavilion (Pawilon Józefa Czapskiego)
- Krakow Ethnographic Museum (Muzeum Etnograficzne w Krakowie)
- Rynek Glowny (Main Market Square)
- St. Adalbert Church (Kościól Św. Wojciecha)
- Jagiellonian University (Uniwersytet Jagielloński)