Kraków travel guide
Kraków is one of the biggest tourist destinations in Poland. Everyone comes here for the beautiful medieval architecture, castles and good food! This city is beautiful, clean, inexpensive, and is filled with so many attractions. If you’re planning on visiting this historic city, here are some ideas to help you hit the ground running without missing out on the best that Krakow has to offer.
1. Start with visiting the Market Square
This is the oldest district in Kraków. This medieval old town is one of the finest in Europe. This area is the heart of the tourist epicenter with its beautiful historical streets, huge square and youthful restaurants and bars. There are several sights worth pointing out:
St. Mary's Basilica
It's probably the most famous Gothic Church in Poland. Built in the 14th century, its foundations date back to the early 13th century. You can listen to a trumpet signal that is played every hour from the top of the Basilica.
The Cloth Hall
It’s the Renaissance monument of commerce and The iconic glory-piece at the centre of Kraków’s market square. The world's oldest shopping mall has been in business in the middle of Krakow's Main Square since the mid-13th century. Nowadays it’ the best place to buy souvenirs from Krakow.
Eros Bound Sculpture
The big head sculpture is something every tourist remembers from Krakow. What exactly does this sculpture represent? This is the head of Eros , the greek god of love and desire. And why does he have a band over his eyes? Maybe because love is blind!? Fun fact! You can find the same sculpture made by the same polish artist Igor Mitoraj here in the United States. It’s located in Citygarden Sculpture Park in St. Louis, Missouri
Get to Old Town before 9am if you want to take beautiful photos without the crowds.
2. Head over to Wawel Royal Castle
After the market square you must make a stop at Wawel Hill to visit the castle and the cathedral! For centuries the Wawel Castle was a residence of the kings of Poland and the symbol of Polish statehood, now it’s one of the country’s premier art museums. From the tower’s vantage point, you’ll have an incredible view over the historic city of Krakow. As an added bonus, there’s a statue of the famous dragon just below the castle along the river that breathes fire by text message command, or every 5 minutes!
3. Walk the riverside
The Wawel castel stands by the Wistula river. The riverside is just gorgeous! It’s a good way to spend a slow afternoon walking and people-watching. Or you can simply sit or lie down on the grass and relax reading a book or practicing yoga. First stop would be the Wawel Dragon statue that I previously mentioned. No trip to Kraków is complete without visiting this dragon! It’s a symbol of the city! There’s a very famous legend about that dragon . It used to live in a den under the Wawel Castle during the reign of King Krakus. The dragon used to eat very unhealthy food – cows for dinner and young girls for dessert. All people of Kraków were worried about the dragon's diet, but it was only the young shoemaker, who came up with an idea on how to break the dragon's habit. Dratewka (that was his name) put a lamb stuffed with sulphur inside the Dragon's den. The dragon ate the lamb and became so thirsty that he drank half of the Vistula River . The dragon drank so much that he finally exploded! Their was great joy throughout Kraków. Dratewka married the king’s daughter and they lived happily ever after.
4. Stop by the Jewish district
The Jewish district called Kazimierz is definitly worth exploring next. Once the home of one of the largest Jewish populations in Europe due to relative religious tolerance throughout much of the city’s history, Kazimierz is an interesting neighborhood to visit. There are many synagogues and museums, which still stand as testimony to the tragedy of the Jewish community during the Second World War in Poland. Beyond these museums and vestiges to past residents, the neighborhood of Kazimierz is now a booming cultural center in Krakow with great cafes, restaurants, bars, and vintage shops.
5. View the panorama of Kraków from the Kościuszko Mound
Kościuszko Mound is a unique destination on the tourism map of Kraków. From its summit stretches the most beautiful view of the surroundings. You can spot the most characteristic places in the old city – Wawel Castle or Main Square and with good visibility even the Tatra Mountains!
The Mound is also a place where you can learn about the history of the Polish road to freedom, see memorials to outstanding Poles, and also a historic 19th century fort. For military architecture buffs, a visit to the Mound is also an opportunity to visit a unique citadel fort with defensive functions. The Kościuszko Fort surrounding the Mound is one of the oldest surviving elements of the Kraków Fortress.
6. Wieliczka Salt Mine
The most beautiful salt mine is situated just 7 miles outside of Kraków. You can make your way there independently and then take a tour when you get there. It’s way cheaper then a fully guided tour from Krakow itself. This mine is a UNESCO world heritage site and it’s 719 years old. There are over 100 miles of tunnels all over this massive mine. The Tourist Route of the mine last around 2 hours and involves almost 800 steps to climb. It gives you a unique opportunity to experience the special microclimate and history of these subterranean chambers, lakes and chapels.
7. Chill at Zakrzówek
In the past it was a limestone quarry where Pope John Paul II, as a young man, used to work during the second world war to avoid forced labour in Germany. Currently it’s a beautiful lagoon just beyond the city centre. It was was created in 1990 when the quarry was flooded. Zakrzówek is an oasis of turquoise waters and cliffs where locals come on summer days to sunbathe and barbecue. Swimming here has been banned because of safety issues, but there’s a scuba diving school at the site available. Definitely worth the visit, the view won’t dissapoint you.
Where to stay
Definitely my favorite hotel in the city is The Vienna House Easy Cracow. The location is perfect- just a short 15 minute walk from the city center. The staff is extremely friendly and the rooms are cozy with very comfortable beds. Plus the hotel restaurant serves tasty local food. More info about the hotel in my previous blog post.
Basic Information for Visiting Kraków
Currency – the Polish złoty
Language – The official language is Polish. In the popular tourists spots most people speak basic English.
Safety – Kraków is considered a very safe city to navigate both during the day and at night.
I can’t deny Kraków is one truly amazing place! No visit to Europe would be complete without a visit to this city. Knowing all the important information it’s time for you to book you trip there and enjoy!!!!!