Krakow is one of those cities that genuinely welcomes visitors!
Despite its mass tourism and too many stag parties, the Krakowiaks remain friendly. There is music everywhere and attractive flower stalls create a colourful atmosphere. This Polish city combines the best Europe has to offer. It is hip, sleek and full of history at the same time.
Yes, the aged buildings in Stare Miasto (the old town) are crumbling but it only adds to the air of bohemian chic. This is a top spot for a romantic weekend. Even if you don´t want to visit any of the castles, numerous churches, synagogues, squares and museums there is plenty to do and to see.
But if you do want to see the main attractions, some of the most important sights are listed below.
The Market Square
Located in the heart of the city you will find the large medieval market square. This is one of the principal tourist attractions with grand buildings, a covered market, fountains, statues and street performers.
The Wawel Castle, built in the 14th century as a royal residence, is one of the most historically and culturally important sites in Poland. It consists of a number of buildings situated around the central courtyard. The Castle is now transformed into an important art museum. To visit the museum plan well in advance as tickets tend to get sold out quickly.
Jewish Quarter Kazimierz
Kazimierz is the Jewish quarter of Krakow. It used to be an independent city, separated from Krakow by the Vistula river. For the most part, since its inception in the 14th century, there has been a peaceful coexistence between the Christians and the Jews.
Of course, this all changed during World War II, when the Nazis forced the Jewish inhabitants to relocate to the Krakow ghetto, just across the river. Nowadays, it has recuperated some of its former glory and is one of the most interesting areas in the city. Here you will find many restaurants and boutique hotels, all within walking distance of the market square.
The Krakow Ghetto was a Jewish ghetto created by the Nazis during World War II. The Ghetto was abolished between June 1942 and March 1943, when most of the Jews were deported to concentration camps, the closest being Auschwitz.
This is also the place where you will find Schindler´s factory, indeed the one from the movie. The factory has been turned into a museum devoted to the Nazi occupation during WW2. It is located in the administration building of the former plant, at 4 Lipowa street.
In my opinion, watching the movie “Schindler´s list” probably provides a better understanding of this period and the horrors that were committed during the Nazi regime rather than a visit to the museum. But according to the museum´s website, the visitor will be treated to a display where:
Ingenious exhibitions combine period artifacts, photos and documents with multimedia and set-piece arrangements in an attempt to create a full-immersion experience.
Note there are long queues, it is probably best to buy tickets in advance online.
Planty is a pleasant green area in Kraków, in fact, it is a green belt of thirty smaller gardens surrounding the old town. The park has numerous fountains, monuments, statues and food stalls.
Day trips outside Krakow
Salt mine Wieliczka
The 327 meters deep salt mines lie within the Kraków metropolitan area. The underground labyrinth is over 287 kilometres (178 mi) long. Opened in the middle ages, the mine produced salt until 2007. The mine’s attractions include dozens of statues and two chapels carved out of the rock salt by the miners. The older sculptures have been supplemented with new carvings made by contemporary artists, including a statue of Pope John Paul 2nd, the latter to be found at the entrance of the impressive salt ‘cathedral’.
More than one million people visit the salt mine each year.
Book your trip outside Krakow in advance
Auschwitz and Birkenau
In the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps, more than one million people lost their lives during World War II, mainly during the last two years of the war. The camps can be visited on a day trip from Krakow with some planning. Either buy a ticket online in advance or join one of the many organised day trips from Krakow.
If you are a city tripper, especially if you are visiting with children in tow, pay a visit to Wroclaw and follow the dwarf trail. It is relatively close to Krakow, 3 hours by car.
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