Krakow is such a city that you could explore it for months and still be discovering beautiful nooks and sceneries. The thing is, Krakow is a city which history dates back even to 8th century. Historical relics and occurrences of different architecture and art styles as they developed through the centuries here are plentiful. What is also relevant, Krakow is well-preserved and well-maintained. Though several times some parts of the city were destroyed by military attacks or fires, most of the survived the worst destructions, and the rest was efficiently renovated and rebuilt. This makes Krakow itself a unique remnant of culture and history.
Though often we are limited in time. If you plan on visiting Krakow for a weekend or just for a short time, there is a proposition of what you should see so you do not miss the most important and famous places.
Free tour Krakow – perfect idea to start
The heart of Krakow is its city centre, or the Old Town. Visitors should take a walk around the main square and the streets around to experience Cracovian festive atmosphere of leisure. Krakow, though it is not a small city, has always been a hub of bohemia, culture and art. Here among the historical relics and monuments poets, artists and merchants have been meeting for centuries. Beautiful historic architecture and surroundings make you feel as if you suddenly happened to be in the fairy tale and help you to slow town and just enjoy the moment. On the main square you can contemplate the most recognisable Cracovian relics. One of them is Gothic St. Mary’s Basilica. Its distinctive feature is having two towers of different heights.
The other one is a cloth hall placed at the centre – Sukiennice – which has been serving as a trade place for centuries. Nowadays in Sukiennice local products and souvenirs can be bought. Also, at the Old Town there are numerous museums. One of the newest and most famous ones is Kraow Historical Museum – Old Market underground, which is situated directly under Sukiennice and shows the medieval history of Krakow and Poland. Also, in Sukiennice there is the exhibition of 19th century polish art, including paintings by Jan Matejko, Witkacy and Podkowiński. Among the walking distance form the main square there is Wawel Hill situated in the south.
On the Wawel Hill there is a complex of historical buildings places, including the Wawel Castle which used to be the residence of the Polish kings and the Wawel Cathedral which served as a place for coronations as well as a royal necropolis. Wawel Castle nowadays functions as a museum where the visitors can see kings’ chambers, art gallery and different historic relics. Also, there is a beautiful panoramic view on Vistula river from the Wawel Hill and at the foot of the hill there is the Dragon sculpture that memorialises the famous Cracovian legend. At the city centre you can also find numerous cafes and restaurants. A lot of the cafes here have typical Cracovian design – darkened, partly or completely underground, with scrappy or vintage furniture and shabby walls.
Walking tour Krakow, places you can’t miss
The other important and definitely worth seeing area in Krakow is Kazimierz district. Kazimierz used to be an independent city until it was incorporated to Krakow in the 19th century. Because of the resettlement of the Jews for the political and economic reasons at the end of the 15th century, Kazimierz has become an important centre of Jewish tradition and culture. It is famous for the collection of Jewish sacred architecture which includes numerous synagogues in different architecture styles as Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance, Historicism and Modern. The Old Synagogue at Szeroka street 24 is even a rare example of Polish Fortress synagogue which was built for a defensive purpose. Serving as historical relics there are also Old Jewish cemetery and New Jewish cemetery (both inactive and open for visitors). Apart from bearing an exceptional historical value, Kazimierz is an important modern centre of art and culture. The growing number of festivals takes place here. Also, Kazimierz is an aggregation of fine art galleries and various boutiques with antiques and authorial handicrafts.
What is more, there is a great variety of venues one could visit, concerning various interior styles, prices discrepancy and purpose. A lot of them are open till the early morning hours. Close to Kazimierz there is Schindler’s Factory at Lipowa street 4. It used to be a metal item factory during WWII, directed by German businessman Oscar Schindler, who saved the lives of over 1100 Jews who worked at his factory. Nowadays the factory functions as a museum displaying the deeds of Schindler and the lifestyle of Jews and other Cracovian citizens during the German Nazi occupation between the years 1939-1945. The exhibition is interactive and allows the visitors to experience the atmosphere of Krakow during the war time. If you have some time left the nearby situated Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow (known as MOCAK) is also worth visiting.
Krakow tour guide and more – places that are worth visiting
Now that you have seen the most significant and beautiful parts of Krakow, the last day is left for choosing your activities ad maybe visiting some significant places that are situated not exactly in Krakow.
Wieliczka Salt Mines tour from Krakow
Wieliczka Salt Mines situated close to Krakow is one of the oldest salt mines in the world. The salt mine is open for visitors. It consists of the labyrinth of passages with numerous chambers full of salt monuments and reliefs that are connected to the Polish history. Also, there are underground salt lakes and the microclimate created by the amount of minerals in the air is good for upper airways. The passages open for visitors reach 135 metres underground.
Auschwitz tour from Krakow
The remnants of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp built here by German Nazi occupants during the WWII are now open for visitors. The museum functions as a memorial for the victims and as a reminder of the tragedy.
For both these destinations you can purchase the whole-day tours with transfer or visit them single- handedly. You can go to Wieliczka by public transport or by buses from the bus station. You can get there in 10 to 30 minutes. Oświęcim, where Auschwitz-Birkenau is situated, is a little bit farther from Krakow.
The trip here takes from 1 h 30 min up to 2 h. You can go there by bus or by train (train station “Oświęcim”).
See also: Where is Auschwitz