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The secrets of Krakow’s Mounds

Krakow mounds, also known as “kopiec” in Polish, are iconic landmarks dotting the picturesque landscape of Krakow.

6 minutes
Mound Kraków
Kościuszko Mound.

The Krakow Mounds are the most enigmatic landmarks in the city. Mythical burial grounds and monuments to national heroes, each of the five (yes, five) mounds tells a compelling story.

Mysterious and picturesque, visitors drawn to them are rewarded with a unique perspective on local and national heritage, invigorating walks, and exceptional views.

History of the Krakow Mounds

The Krakow Mounds are a mix of ancient structures and modern monuments. The oldest may stretch back to pre-Christian Celtic civilizations, while several are modern constructions built to honor Polish icons.

Aside from their rare form and enduring role as cultural landmarks, they share only a few historical similarities. During the Grand Duchy of Krakow (1846-1918), the Krakow Mounds were united as linked fortifications.

Today, the fortifications are mostly gone. Yet the Krakow mounds remain an eclectic series of landmarks and monuments, up there with the most curious attractions in Krakow. To help you decide if one is enough, here’s a snapshot of each Krakow Mound.

Krakus Mound

The oldest of the Krakow Mounds sits atop Lasota Hill and commemorates King Krakus, slayer of the mythical dragon of Wawel Castle, who founded a city in his name. No monument in Krakow is older.

The legend is one part of the story. The 16 m (52 ft) wooden structure covered with soil may have been built by pre-Christian Celts. Although recovered artifacts dating to the 7th century suggest it was a later construction.

Astronomical tool or the final resting place of the fabled King Krakus, the complete backstory is yet to be unearthed. One certainty: the views over Krakow are sublime.

Krakus Mound: Podgórze district (3.4 km/2.1 mi from Rynek Główny)

Krakus Mound Kraków
Krakus Mound.

Wanda Mound

Wanda Mound, another ancient tumulus, is reputedly the resting place of Princess Wanda. As King Krakus’s daughter, Wanda brought further mystique to Krakow’s founding legend.

The 14-meter (46 ft) mound may not draw visitors like the other Krakow mounds, partly due to its distance from the city center. But the idyllic green space is agreeable for sun-dappled picnics and a peaceful escape from more popular things to do in Krakow.

Wanda Mound: Nowa Huta district (11 km/6.8 mi from Rynek Główny)

Kościuszko Mound

The Kościuszko mound, completed in 1823, was built to commemorate Tadeusz Kościuszko. A military adventurer and all-around Polish military hero remembered for his exploits in Poland and alongside the American Revolutionary Army.

Unique among Krakow Mounds, a fortified citadel encircles the mound, a lasting legacy of the Grand Duchy of Krakow. Go for the panoramic views sweeping over the city, and stay to learn more about a national icon.

Kościuszko Mound: Zwierzyniec district (3.7 km/2.3 mi from Rynek Główny)

Piłsudski’s Mound

Erected in honor of Józef Piłsudski, father of the Second Polish Republic, Piłsudski’s Mound stands at 35 meters (115 ft) and is the tallest of the Krakow Mounds.

Also known as the Independence or Freedom Mound, the symbolic structure was finished in 1937 and contains soil from every battlefield that Polish troops fought in during World War I. 

Nestled in the Wolski forest, Piłsudski’s Mound sits at the end of a trail linking Kościuszko Mound. Nature lovers and view-seekers will relish the horizon-bound views across the forest canopy.   

Piłsudski’s Mound: Las Wolski Forest (7.7 km/4.3 mi from Rynek Główny)

John Paul II Mound

The newest member of the Krakow Mounds was raised in honor of Pope John Paul II, born nearby in Wadowice.

Opened in 1997 and a mere 7 meters (23 ft) high, this diminutive addition to the landscape is cold-shouldered by many travel guides, who only have eyes for the original lineup. But it’s not entirely unloved, continuing a custom at the heart of local folklore.

John Paul II Mound: Zakrzówek district (2.8 km/1.7 mi from Rynek Główny)

Seasonal highlights on the Krakow Mounds

The Krakow Mounds are more than just cultural landmarks. In addition to vistas and folk stories, there are times when they come to life and are the place to be.

  • New Year’s Eve – Krakus Mound explodes with energy at New Year, with crowds reveling in stellar views of the city fireworks. 
  • Rękawka Festival – Krakus Mound pays tribute to its pagan heritage and the man himself, King Krakus, with a medieval festival on the first Tuesday after Easter Sunday.
  • Three Mounds Run – If your running shoes travel with you, this annual 13 km run (between Krakus Mound and the Kościuszko and Piłsudski Mounds is for you (September or October).
  • Sunsets & Sunrises – Piłsudski’s Mound and Krakus Mound are magical vantage points for sunsets over Krakow.