The Royal Castle on the Wawel Hill is a symbol of national and cultural identity of Polish people, a symbol of the power of state ruled by great royal dynasties. It especially reminds the Cracovians that Cracow was capital of Poland for centuries. Kings, eminent politicians, artists, poets and political leaders are buried there.
There is something magical about Wawel. It is also a piece of history, as you can find here a variety of styles superimposed layer upon layer, beginning from the early Romanesque Rotunda of St. Felix and Adauctus, through the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque, to the latest additions by successive occupants in the modern era. The Wawel courtyard assumes its magnificent shape due to the creative work of Francisco of Florence. Today you will find here groups of people who lean against one of the walls as if they wanted to prevent it from falling down. It isn't so - this wall is thought to radiate the special healing force of the chakhram, a magical stone set in the rock on which the castle was built. The chakhram is believed not only to protect the hill itself, but also the whole Cracow against evil.
During the Second World War Wawel was the seat of the occupation authorities of the Government General and residence of Hans Frank. Today, after the large-scale repairs and conservation work, the castle is in its best shape for years.
The most precious treasures of Polish history and culture are placed in the Royal Chambers and stately rooms, including a unique collection of Flemish tapestries called Arrasy, made in Brussels on the order of King Sigismund Augustus, which is one of the largest collections of this kind in the world. Other precious collections are also located in Wawel - the collection of Oriental Art was brought here as a trophy after the Polish knights defeated the Turkish Empire in the battle of Vienna.
Worth a look is also the exhibition 'Lost Wawel', that draws back the curtain on Cracow's earliest days.
By all means worth visiting is also the Wawel Cathedral, in which vaults there are the crypts containing the tombs of kings, national poets and great men of State. Fourteen Polish kings, their wives and children lie here. The tombs of the Piast, the oldest ones, are in the crypts and under the Cathedral floor. Later tombs of the Jagiellonian dynasty are in the form of metal coffins put straight into the vaults, like the tombs of elected kings. A visit in the Cathedral is like a walk among Poland's history. It was also here, in St. Leonard's Crypt, where John Paul II celebrated his first mass after he had assumed the ordination.
On the Cathedral's tower is the massive 'Sigismund' Bell, which peals only to commemorate events of the greatest importance to the country and the city. The last time when all Cracovians could hear the Sigismund's ringing was on 30 March 2005, announcing the the death of the Pope John Paul II.
The Renaissance Royal Castle, along with the Gothic cathedral, these are the most often visited museums in Poland.
According to legend, once upon a time a dangerous dragon lived in a cave at the foot of Wawel. A romantic story is related to it, for which Cracow is famous.