Krakow is Poland's second largest city and the most visited tourist city in the country. You don't go here to queue for hours at world-famous sights and hyped restaurants. There are no such must-haves in Krakow at all. Instead, Krakow invites you to a visit to a beautiful and proud medieval city, with lots of everyday life, charming neighborhoods, fantastic cafes and affordable restaurants.
How much time do you need to see all the sights? We were here for a long weekend (Thurs-Sun) during the fall, which gave us time to see most of what the city had to offer without stress. Do you also want to visit Auschwitz and the salt mine in Wieliczka, which is outside Krakow? Expect a full-day excursion each for these.
1. Market Square (Rynek Glówny)
The heart of the old town in Krakow is Europe's largest square and Krakow's biggest attraction - The market square. The square is lined with restaurants, cafes and outdoor seating and it's pure pleasure to stroll around here and watch people in the sunshine. Stroll a few laps around the old town hall tower, admire the many statues and finish with a coffee with pralines at the chocolate maker Wedel's cafe. And you - don't forget to dodge the pigeons - they can be incredibly close.
2. Wawel Castle and Cathedral
One of Poland's most important historical sites is Wawel hill with Wawel Castle and Wawel Cathedral. During the hundreds of years when Krakow was the capital of Poland, this was the royal residence and the imposing castle watched over the city from its hill. Even after the capital was moved to Warsaw, this continued to be the site of all royal coronations and funerals. In Wawel Cathedral's crypt, today not only royalty lie in their sarcophagi, but also President Lech Kaczyński, who died in a tragic plane crash in 2010. Don't miss a visit inside the castle! Although the old furniture is no longer there, the halls are still magnificent.
3. The park Planty (Planty krakowskie)
Around the entire old town is the well-kept park Planty. Very popular among both tourists and Krakow residents and a nice oasis in the big city. Feel free to have a lunch Bunkier cafe, which is like a cool little oasis on the road around the wall.
4. Skansen (Barbican Krakowski )
Just north of the old town is a round redoubt (Barbican) from the end of the 15th century. The building is practically a round castle with pinnacles and towers, but the three-meter-thick walls hint at its original military protection function.
5. St. Florian's city gate and Florianska Street
"The royal road" was the road that royalty rode into the city to attend coronations or funerals. The road went through the old city gate St. Florian and along the street Florian, today one of the finest shopping streets in Krakow. During the 13th century there were eight city gates and a long ring wall with a moat around the entire old city, but the wall fell into disrepair and in the 19th century it was therefore decided to demolish it. Here at St. Florian's city gate, however, part of the wall has been preserved.
6. Sukiennice – The Fabric Hall
In the middle of Marknadstorget stands the old textile hall Hall and spreads an aura of renaissance, flair and perhaps even a sense of Venice. Along the outer walls are restaurants and craft shops, and in an open passage through the house you will find a cozy market with everything from amber products and icons to hand-painted chess sets and bags.
Main Market 1 / 3
7. Mary's Cathedral (Bazylika Mariacka)
The Gothic St. Mary's Cathedral (St Mary's Cathedral) from the 13th century is located at Marknadstorget in the middle of the old town. The cathedral has a rather unique appearance, with two large church towers of completely different designs. Although the church looks quite ordinary on the outside in its brown brick, the inside is a real gem. Who doesn't like a starry ceiling painted in cobalt blue and church walls with colorful flowers, angels and frills? If you want to visit the church, you need to make sure not to visit during services (especially on weekends), then no tourists are allowed inside.
Plac Mariacki 5
8. Jewish Quarter (Kazimierz)
South of the old town and bounded by the river Vistula, lies the old Jewish quarter Kazimierz. Once a well-kept neighborhood with a prosperous Jewish population, but which was completely abandoned during the Second World War when the city's Jews were forcibly deported to certain death in ghettos and concentration camps. After the terrible tragedy, the district has been left abandoned and in disrepair. It wasn't until the 1990s that the neighborhood slowly began to be restored again, and today there are plenty of trendy cafes, restaurants and art galleries here. Don't miss the old synagogue that was destroyed by the Nazis during the war, but has been carefully rebuilt on the same site as the original synagogue.
9. Oskar Schindler's Factory
If you don't have time to visit the Auschwitz concentration camp just outside Krakow, a visit is another Oskar Schindler's enamel factory (Fabryka Emalia Oskara Schindlera) a must. Here in the factory, the German Oskar Schindler employed Jews as labor during the Second World War, in order to save them from the concentration camps. The museum not only tells the story of Schindler's factory, but also about how the Polish people were treated under the Nazis. Although this museum is nowhere near as unpleasant as Auschwitz, there are many images in the museum that may be found scary by children, so I would not recommend the museum for children under 10.
10. Rynek Underground (Podziemia Rynku)
Under the textile hall in the middle of Marknadstorget, is the museum Rynek Underground. A relatively new museum, with very interactive exhibits and nice lighting. Here in the museum, you are transported back in time, to the medieval Krakow that was unearthed when the square was renovated in the early 2000s. Although it is a modern museum, there are of course also classic museum objects such as old coins, clothes and skulls.
Rynek Główny 1
11. Krakow's street art
Krakow's streets are filled with cracked facades and broken windows, but where you least expect it, interesting street art appears. I found most of the delicious works of art in Kazimierz, but there are interesting paintings in every quarter. One of the most famous paintings in Krakow is the picture of Gene Kelly singing "Singing in the rain" on Bozego Ciala, but also the lovely painting on Ulica Nowa became one of my favorites.
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We stayed at really nice Stradonia Serviced Apartments when we were in Krakow last…November 12