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Wawel Dragon – How to Visit Krakow’s Dragon Statue & Den!

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If you’re visiting Krakow in Poland you’ve most likely got the Royal Wawel Castle on your list of places to visit.

But, have you heard of the Wawel Dragon? A ferocious winged beast who used to terrorise the city of King Krakus? 

Ever since I was a kid, I have had an obsession with dragons. 

From the tales of Sleeping Beauty, King Arthur, The Hobbit, Game of Thrones, The Witcher and recently my obsession with the Romantasy series of Fourth Wing. 

Dragons and Wyverns have always had a really special place in my heart. I mean, even my home country’s flag has the Welsh dragon on it. 

So, when I found out that Krakow had a Dragon’s Den you could visit and a dragon statue that could breathe fire on demand?! I was there in a heartbeat! 

Beyond being a popular tourist attraction, the legend of the Wawel Dragon is ingrained in Polish culture. It’s a symbol of Krakow and how the city got its name!

Here is a complete guide on the Wawel Dragon legend and how to visit the dragon’s den and dragon statue. You’ll even get to spot some dragon bones too!

Wawel Dragon Krakow
The Wawel Dragon statue breathes fire!

What is the Wawel Dragon legend?

There are many different tales about the Wawel Dragon known as Smok Wawelski, but the most popular version goes like this…

Once upon a time during the reign of King Krakus, a terrifying beast lived in a cave on the slopes of Wawel Hill under the royal castle.

The dragon used to terrify the local residents by destroying their houses and a certain number of sacrifices were required each month to the dragon to placate its wrath.

In a bid to defeat the dragon once and for all, King Krakus offered his daughter Princess Wanda’s hand to any man who could defeat the beast.

Wawel Dragon Legend

Many knights tried and failed to slay the dragon with brawn, so a cobbler named Skuba decided to outsmart the dragon with brains instead. 

He left a sheep filled with sulphur in the dragon’s den. The dragon ate the sheep but started to grow really thirsty and was burning up inside. 

He drank so much water from the Vistula River that he exploded! So, Skuba got to wed the princess. 

There are other versions of the tale that say the Wawel Dragon was actually defeated by King Krakus.

After Krakus slayed the dragon and saved the Vistulan tribes from the monster, he united the land and became their king.

Krakus was then known as the city’s legendary founder and that’s how Krakow got its name. 

Wawel Dragon Statue
Wawel Dragon Statue

A symbol of Krakow

Today, this legend is so popular in Krakow that the Wewel Dragon is now a symbol of the city! 

It’s ingrained in Polish culture and there have been many movies, books and awards created with this ferocious serpent in mind.

You can find souvenirs of the Wawel Dragon everywhere in the city and there are also some very popular tourist attractions in Krakow related to the legend. 

You can pay to enter the legendary Dragon’s Den on Wawel Hill, see some dragon bones at the Wawel Castle and watch a fire-breathing dragon statue by the river!

Wawel Dragon's Den
Wawel Dragon’s Den

How to visit the Wawel Dragon statue in Krakow 

The most popular of these attractions is the Wawel Dragon statue you can find beside the River Vistula!

It was created by sculptor Bronisław Chromy in 1969 and found its current home in 1972.

The statue is located at the bottom of Wawel Castle outside the exit to the Dragon’s Den and it’s well worth stopping by.

The statue is made of bronze and is placed on a large limestone boulder. It’s also absolutely massive at 6 metres tall (20 ft).

It has six heads and the most impressive part is that the dragon statue breathes fire every couple of minutes.

Wawel Dragon Statue

I would recommend sticking around the statue for a while to take in the atmosphere as it draws in a big crowd. 

I spent ages just watching the dragon breathing fire, taking photos and soaking in vibes. There are some benches to take a seat and a few stands selling snacks and souvenirs too. 

If you’re visiting with kids, they will love this statue. There was a constant stream of them climbing the rock for photos.  

The Wawel Dragon is open 24 hours a day and is completely free to visit. During the middle of the night, the dragon still breathes fire but not as often as during daylight hours.

Wawel Dragon Statue Krakow

Does the Wawel Dragon still breathe fire?

Yes, the Wawel Dragon breathes fire every couple of minutes throughout the day! You won’t have to wait long for a show.

I honestly couldn’t believe it when I read that online at first. I’ve seen some eternal flames before but not a fire-breathing dragon. 

You used to be able to request the dragon to breathe fire by SMS text message but this is no longer possible as the poor dragon couldn’t keep up with the demand. 

If you wanted some great photos of the dragon breathing fire without lots of people, I would arrive here in the early morning. Even at 10 pm, there were plenty of people still at the statue!

I was determined to take a photo of me and the dragon whilst it was breathing fire and an early morning start meant I could take one easily. 

I did have to stand there for a solid minute but, luckily, there was no one else around. It was worth it though as I got to capture one of my favourite photos from my trip to Poland. 

Wawel Dragon Statue

Wawel Dragon’s Den

Another great attraction in Krakow you can visit relating to the Wawel Dragon is the Dragon’s Den.

This cave in Wawel Hill is supposedly where the dragon used to live during the reign of King Krakus.

The limestone den was formed over 12 million years ago and in medieval times it was a famous tavern and brothel.

You have to enter the den from Wawel Castle itself and you need a ticket to enter the cave.

Wawel Dragon's Den
Wawel Dragon’s Den

You can buy this ticket separately and the cost is only 9 PLN which is around £1.70 or $2. You can buy your ticket online or at the self-service machines in the castle.

Before you head down the steps of the Sandomierska Tower, you can take in the amazing views of the city and river from above.

You’ll then descend a huge spiral staircase into the underbelly of the castle and enter the Dragon’s lair.

Wawel Dragon's Den
Vistula River
Dragon's Den staircase

It’s a relatively small but pretty cave that has a couple of curious caverns and doesn’t take long to visit. 

But, it certainly has an evocative atmosphere due to the legend and soundscapes they play for visitors. You could just imagine finding a dragon with a treasure hoard here. 

I loved the lighting too, it looked like the dragon’s flames were going to smoke you through the holes! It reminded me of the Damsel movie on Netflix. 

Wawel Dragon's Den
Uh-oh…

After your visit, you’ll exit the cave and see the dragon statue right in front of you. So, you may want to save the Dragon’s Den until last on your castle visit. 

The Dragon’s Den is also open longer than the other attractions at the castle. It opens from 10 am but closing times vary. In the summer months, it’s usually open until 6.30 / 7 pm. 

Important: you can only visit the Dragon’s Den from April to October.

Wawel Dragon's Den

Dragon Bones at Wawel Cathedral

Did you know that you can also see the Wawel Dragon bones on a visit to the castle? 

You’ll find them bound together and hanging by a chain above the main entrance of Wawel Cathedral.

According to local legend, these are the real bones of the dragon and they are said to have magical powers.

Of course, non-believers will say that these bones are more likely from a fossilised whale, woolly mammoth, or dinosaur from centuries past. 

Whatever you choose to believe, they have been here for centuries and draw in many interested tourists who want to experience more of the legend. 

Wawel Cathedral
Wawel Cathedral
Wawel Dragon Bones
Are these the real Wawel Dragon bones?

Wawel Cathedral is the burial place of many Polish royals and has some fabulous artwork as well. It’s well worth visiting if you have time. 

Don’t hope to see King Krakus’ crypt here though, this legendary founder’s resting place can be found at Krakus Mound (more on this below).

You do have to pay to go inside Wawel Cathedral and photography is forbidden. It’s not included in a Wawel Castle visit as they are separate attractions. There’s a ticket kiosk opposite the entrance.

However, you can just as easily see the dragon bones hanging above the door for free from the entrance gate!

Wawel Cathedral
Can you spot the dragon drain?

How long do you need to visit the Wawel Dragon?

I would say that you need around an hour to see the Wawel Dragon at the castle. 

Once you’ve finished your tour of the royal apartments and courtyard, you can take a snap of the dragon bones outside of Wawel Cathedral.

Make your way over to the Sandomierska Tower and head down into the Dragon’s Den to see where the beast used to live. This will take around 20-30 minutes as it’s a small cave.

After you leave the Dragon’s Den you’ll arrive at the Wawel Dragon Statue which is just outside of the exit on the banks of the Vistula River.

The dragon breathes fire every couple of minutes, so you won’t have to wait long to watch the show! But, I would stick around a while to soak in the atmosphere.

You can then take a walk around the Vistula River to get some panoramic views of Wawel Castle from the water or enjoy a scenic boat ride. 

Wawel Dragon's Den
Wawel Dragon’s Den

Is Wawel Dragon worth visiting?

Yes, the Wawel Dragon is well worth visiting on a trip to Krakow. It’s a symbol of the city and part of the culture. 

If you’re a fan of dragons, history or fantasy, you will fall in love with this fire-breathing dragon.

Even if you’re not really into dragons or the legend at all, I still think it’s awesome that they have a fire-breathing statue.

It’s open 24/7, goes off every few minutes and is completely free. So, you really have nothing to lose. 

Don’t skip a visit to the Wawel Dragon in Krakow. You won’t regret feeling a part of this magical legend. 

Wawel Dragon Krakow

Wawel Dragon facts 

  • The Wawel Dragon has not one but six heads. If you look closely at the statue the ‘arms’ all have dragon heads on them! Only one breathes fire though. 
  • You can find the Wawel Dragon’s bones hanging outside of Wawel Cathedral 
  • The first written reference of the tale dates back to the 13th century by Wincenty Kadłubek but the most popular is from the Polish Chronicle of Marcin Bielski, published in 1597.
Wawel Dragon Krakow
  • You used to be able to request the dragon statue to fire on demand by SMS text message. This is no longer possible due to it being too popular. 
  • There is a Great Dragon Weekend in May/June where you can see a dragon parade on the Vistula River with fireworks!
  • Andrzej Sapkowski wrote a short story called The Bounds of Reason in The Witcher: Sword of Destiny inspired by the Wawel Dragon. In the story, Geralt and Jennifer are on the hunt for the golden dragon Villentretenmerth and this was featured in the recent Netflix series too.  
Wawel Castle

Other things to do in Wawel Castle 

After you’ve finished hunting dragons in Krakow, I would recommend spending some time in the royal Wawel Castle.

In medieval times, Krakow was the capital of Poland and Wawel Castle was the legendary seat of King Krakus and many Polish Royals after that.

Wawel Castle Krakow

You can visit a lot of Wawel Castle for free by simply wandering around the grounds. The most impressive part is the Castle Courtyard which is free to roam. 

There are some cafés dotted around and lots of beautiful buildings to see. Plus, the views from the fortress are outstanding.

Wawel Castle Courtyard
Wawel Castle Courtyard
Wawel Castle Courtyard

You can pay for individual attractions in Wawel Castle like the royal apartments, staterooms, treasury, armoury and royal gardens.

I don’t know why but I was quite underwhelmed by the Royal Apartments in the Wawel Castle I exhibit.

I much preferred visiting the elaborate staterooms in Wawel Castle II as one of the rooms had the famous heads on the ceiling. 

These are 30 carved medieval heads from all walks of life and they are original from the 16th century. I loved the woman with her mouth covered for speaking out against the king! A true hero. 

Wawel Castle II Staterooms
Senators’ Hall in Wawel Castle II
Wawel Castle Heads
The famous carved ‘Heads of Wawel’

If you want to do everything at the castle you can buy a ‘Wawel for enthusiasts tickets’ which gets you an all-access pass at a discount. Be warned you need a full day so the last time slot is around 10.30 am.

I would recommend booking tickets in advance as there is a capacity limit at the castle and time slots do tend to sell out! 

One place I wouldn’t skip is the royal gardens which are really beautiful. If you visit in spring/summer you can see a gorgeous display of flowers and roses.

Wawel Royal Gardens
Roses at the Royal Gardens
Wawel Royal Garden Roses

Visit Krakus Mound

If you want to follow in the footsteps of this famous legend, then it’s worth heading over to Krakus Mound.

This mound is thought to be the final resting place of King Krak. After he died, the people loved him so much that they raised this mound in his honour. 

There is a legend that every villager filled their sleeves with earth to place on top of their beloved king’s body and this is how the mound was formed. 

It’s very popular with locals and it’s almost like a mini pilgrimage you can take in the city.

The mound is located a little out of the centre but it’s free to visit and well worth a stop if you have the time! 

The mound is steep but the reward for the climb is the fabulous view you get of Krakow Old Town and Wawel Castle from the top.

They have a festival every Easter at the base of the mound to honour Krakus called ‘Rekawa’ meaning ‘Sleeves’ referring to the legend. 

The entire base of the mound turns into a medieval settlement with reenactments and events. 

Krakus Mound
Krakus Mound

My top tips for visiting the Wawel Dragon

  • Visit early if you want to get an empty photo of the Wawel dragon statue. It’s so busy throughout the day and evening.
  • Visit the Dragon’s Den at opening time or just before the last entry/closing time for a quieter experience. It’s great to wrap up a visit to the castle as you’ll be led to the Vistula River.
  • There are some great Wawel Dragon souvenirs in the shops located inside the castle. They sell dragon toys, miniature versions of the statues, amber magnets etc. 
  • Buy any tickets to Wawel Castle in advance as there is a capacity limit and slots can sell out, especially during weekends and summer months. You can buy a Dragon’s Den ticket separately. 
Wawel Dragon Statue

Where to eat near Wawel Castle 

If you’re looking for a great place to eat near the Wawel Dragon Statue, I would recommend heading to Pod Wawelem Kompania Kuflowa.

It is a touristy place but they sell really good food and beer at cheap prices. I even got to listen to some live ‘gipsy’ music on my visit!

Be prepared to queue for a table as it is a very popular place to visit in the evenings. You can’t make reservations in advance but it’s worth the wait.

Pod Wawelem Kompania Kuflowa
Pod Wawelem Kompania Kuflowa

If you wanted to eat somewhere more traditional with a medieval ‘knights, princesses and dragons’ vibe, I would head over to Wilczy dół or Wolf Pit Tavern in the old town.

This is a ‘The Witcher’ inspired restaurant that serves up medieval fare with a fantasy theme. The servers are all dressed up with pointed ears and swords on their backs. 

You can dine on meat from the grill surrounded by heraldic flags and armour whilst listening to medieval tunes.

I loved their cocktails as they were given to you as a potion to create! Plus, you can try archery or buy some wares from their shoppe

They use their own ducats currency if you want to get involved and this gives you a slight discount. But, euros work just fine or you can use your ‘magic card’ for payments. 

Again, you can’t make reservations but you don’t have to wait long. Honestly, this place was so cool and was one of my favourite restaurants in Krakow!

Wolf Pit Tavern Krakow
Wolf Pit Tavern

Wawel Dragon FAQs

What does Wawel mean in Polish? It translates as dry or elevated ground surrounded by swamps.

Who killed the Wawel Dragon? No knight could conquer the dragon but a young boy named Skuba outsmarted the Dragon by stuffing a ram full of sulphur. Some say it was the city’s legendary founder of King Krakus.

How old is the Wawel Dragon? The dragon is as old as time itself but the Wewel Dragon Statue was created in 1969 by the artist Bronisław Chromy. It was unveiled in its current home on the river in 1972. 

Read more of my Poland travel guides

The most Instagrammable places in Warsaw

St Anne’s Church Tower in Warsaw

A day trip to Wilanow Palace 

Afternoon Tea at Hotel Bristol 

Warsaw Travel Guide

Save the Wawel Dragon Krakow for later! 

How to visit the Wawel Dragon in Krakow