The world’s first World Heritage Site


Krakow is one of the most historic and amazing cities in Poland. It is home to some of the best medieval architecture in Europe. The old town is like an open-air museum – with its ramparts, a massive and richly decorated cathedral, plenty of nostalgic horse and carriage rides, some of Europe’s best architecture and much more. One of the crown jewels of the city is Wawel Royal Castle – the world’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Krakow is perhaps the best (or one of the best) places to visit in Poland. Not only is it very stunning architecturally and historically, but it is also the gateway to the historic salt mines (definitely worth seeing) and the dark destination of Auschwitz (prepare yourself mentally before visiting this heavy site).

Wawel Royal Castle – The Oldest World Heritage Site in the World

Wawel Royal Castle was built during the reign of King Casimir III the Great. Today it is one of the largest castles in Poland and has structures from different eras. The architecture seen here includes the medieval, renaissance and baroque periods.

  • First: It was the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites
  • Built: By King Casimir III the Great
  • Or: Krakow Old Town, Poland
  • Declared: It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1978

Wawel Royal Castle is of deep historical significance for Poland. In fact, the Wawel Royal Castle and the surrounding Wawel Hill are considered the most culturally and historically significant site in the country.

Royal residence: this is where Polish kings were crowned, lived and were buried

It is located on the Vistula (the same river on which Warsaw is located downstream).

Related: 10 Reasons Why Poland Is The Most Underrated Country In The World

Wawel Cathedral

Within the Wawel Royal Castle complex is Wawel Cathedral. It is spectacularly decorated and full of chapels and tombs of Polish monarchs. It is here that the powerful Polish monarchs were crowned and buried.

  • Coronation: Former Polish kings were crowned at Wawel Cathedral
  • Fallen down : The royal tombs are in the cathedral

The cathedral bells are of an added note. One can climb through the wooden rafters into the bell tower and see and even touch the old multi-ton bells. You will have to bend down and twist while going up the old passage through massive support beams to access these bells. It is a tradition in Poland to make a wish by touching the bells.

  • Point: Follow the Polish tradition and make a wish by touching the bells

Some of the oldest stone buildings in the complex date back to 970 AD and offer some of the earliest examples of Gothic and Romanesque architecture in Poland. The current castle complex seen today was mainly built from the 14th century onwards over the next few hundred years.

Related: Yes You Can Travel To Poland On A Budget, But Here’s What You’ll Want To Prioritize

Getting to Wawel Royal Castle

Krakow’s main attraction is the old city center and the Wawel Royal Castle. Look for accommodation options in the city center and explore the surrounding area on foot. Wawel Royal Castle is adjacent to Krakow’s Old Town, so there’s no need to take transportation to get there. It is likely to be a 5 to 20 minute walk from its accommodation in the center.

  • Getting There : Walk to the old town

There are different entrance tickets for different parts of the castle complex. A ticket to the Cathedral, Tombs and Bell Tower costs 22 Polish zlotys or around $5.00.

  • Admission: 22 Polish zlotys or $5.00 (different tickets for the gardens and the castle itself)

Their up-to-date information on opening hours and special dates can be seen at their official website. To really bring the magic of the castle’s history to life, consider taking a guided tour.

Where to stay

If one is backpacking and looking for hostel accommodation with a great atmosphere, stay at Greg and Tom Hostel. It is one of the first hostels in Krakow and one of the most awarded in Poland by In Krakow, they operate three branches of hostels that one can book according to one’s mood preferences. They are:

  • Home Greg and Tom
  • Greg and Tom Party Hostel
  • Greg and Tom Beer House

They have a selection of dorms and private rooms and all of their branches are in great locations. They also offer pub crawls every night and bookings include breakfast and a great dinner.

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