Krakow’s historic center has survived a succession of wars and occupying powers with its architectural beauty intact. Today the old city’s cobblestone streets, majestic cathedrals, and imposing castle on a hill bear testament to its richness in history, culture, and legends.
Once the capital of Poland, Krakow was home to the country’s first ruler, who occupied the castle on Wawel Hill overlooking Krakow’s market square and the Vistula river. Legend has it that in its early days, the city was plagued by a dragon who devoured livestock and maidens, until the beast was defeated by—according to different versions of the story—either the king’s sons, the king himself, or a clever shoemaker’s apprentice. Visitors can explore the cave allegedly inhabited by the monster, as well as a statue of the dragon erected in 1972, which periodically belches real fire.
A visit to Wawel Castle and its adjacent cathedral is an essential part of any tour of Krakow, where visitors can see the traditional burial place of Poland’s monarchs, whose ornate sarcophagi are still on display. Those with an interest in the paranormal can stop by a spot in the castle’s courtyard believed to hold a “chakra stone,” one of the world’s centers of spiritual energy.