Dragon’s Den (Smocza Jama)
The Dragon’s Den is a cave situated beneath Wawel Castle on the hill above Krakow. Creep along dimly lit passageways surrounded on all sides by eerie shapes of craggy limestone formations. You will soon see why this cave has inspired many legends since its discovery in the 16th century.
The cave was formed more than 25 million years ago, but it wasn’t known to man until the 16th century. Since then it has served as a storehouse, a brothel and a place of residence. It is most well-known for the legend of the Wawel Dragon, a fearsome beast that once lived here. The story says that he was killed by a lowly cobbler, who tricked the dragon into eating a lamb stuffed with sulfur. The cobbler was granted the hand of the king’s daughter. He built his castle, around which the city of Krakow grew.
The cave is more than 820 feet (250 meters) long, but for safety reasons the public access is only 262 feet (80 meters). Descend into the cave by climbing down the 135 steps within the old brick well known as Thieves’ Tower. The well dates back to the 1830s and leads to the first of three chambers that make up the Dragon’s Den.
Follow the passageway into the second and largest of the chambers and look up to see the domed brick ceiling that was built when the cave was used as a storehouse. The dim light and flickering shadows cast by the sculpture-like shapes of the limestone formations create an eerie atmosphere. The last chamber contains rock projections and old brick chimneys.
Back above ground, don’t miss the large bronze statue of the dragon. Every few minutes the beast lets out a large breath of fire, to the delight of onlookers.
The Dragon’s Den is located within the grounds of Wawel Castle just south of central Krakow, within walking distance of the Old Town. It is open daily from April through November. There is a small charge for entry. Purchase your ticket from a machine at the entrance to the cave.