Krakow is one of the most romantic cities in Europe. Though it’s located in the “Lesser” region, it’s no slouch: Krakow is the only Polish city that wasn’t decimated during World War II, and its Gothic architecture puts the city center on the list of World Heritage Sites. While it is the second largest city in Poland, Krakow retains a small-city feel, with plenty of small, winding streets and tucked away restaurants serving traditional Polish cuisine.
In the city center, visitors will find plenty of museums and historical sights. And two of Europe’s most unforgettable historic sights are only a short train ride away. The climate is temperate, and the best time to visit is between May and September. In 2000, the city was named the ‘European Capital of Culture’ by the European Union. It has yet to make a complete switch from the zloty to the euro, but either currency can be used. In general, Krakow is a good value for United States travelers.
Krakow Tourist Card
The two or three day card Krakow Tourist Card entitles the holder to:
• free Admission to more than 40 of the most important tourist attractions of Kraków. Tourist attractions list below.
• free public transport Show map
• point-to-point travel between Kraków City and Wieliczka Salt Mine (Bus no 304) Show
• the cheapest transport from Kraków City – Kraków Airport – on buses no 208, 292 and night bus no 902 Show
Main Historical Sights of Krakow
Main Market Square
Truly massive in size with an 800-year history to match, Main Market Square (Rynek Glowny) is the heart of Krakow. Grab a drink at one of the adjacent cafes and watch as the horse-drawn carriages clomp through clouds of pigeons. The prominent Sukiennice building (Cloth Hall) , now a division of the National Museum, is located in the middle of the square. And, as in the days of old, that’s where the markets are found today. However, most of the stalls feature tacky souvenirs.
The Basilica of St. Mary
With its two colossal towers overlooking the Main Market Square, St. Mary’s Basilica immediately claims its place as Poland’s most famous cathedral. The interior reveals just how truly ornate Polish churches can be.
– Travel Tip: Listen carefully: A trumpeter plays every hour, on the hour, from the top of the taller of the two towers.
Overlooking the Vistula River, the castle and its grounds are a great place to stroll on a beautiful day. Secret passages, the Royal Chambers period artworks, and the stunning courtyard, make it well worth a visit.
Located on the same hill as Wawel Castle, the Wawel Cathedral is the final resting place for Polish Kings and national heroes; their sarcophagi (stone coffins) can be viewed inside.
Don’t miss Sigismund’s Chapel, built by Rennaissance architect Bartolommeo Berrecci, or the hike to the top of the bell tower where the massive Zygmunt Bell resides (just don’t visit when its ringing).
Wieliczka Salt Mine
Over 900 years old, this place is absolutely huge. Highlights include an immaculate underground cathedral cleaved from the rock, underground lakes, statues of Copernicus and Jozef Pilsudski, and ancient statues carved by the miners themselves. Located within the Krakow Metropolitan Area, the mine can easily be reached by city bus. You can read my first-hand account of the mine. -Travel Tip: The weather is always the same in the mine, making it a good option on a rainyday.
The National Art Museum
The premier place to learn about Poland’s art, Krakow’s National Art Museum divides its galleries in locations throughout the city. The most important locations are the Main Building and the Czartoryski Museum and Library. The Main Building features over 500 of Poland modern artists, while the Czartoryski collection contains many military trophies and weaponry as well as Leonardo da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine as well as artworks from ancient civilizations.
Day-trip from Krakow
Auschwitz Concentration Camp
The largest of the Nazi’s concentration camps, Auschwitz is a memorial that is open and free to the public. I recommend reading my article, Visiting the Sacred Death Camps of Nazi Germany, to learn more. I highly recommend taking the tour, which costs 24 euro.
Travel Tip From The Krakow Municipality:
“Due to cases of abuse of client unawareness we wish to warn tourists as well as inhabitants of Krakow against dishonest transportation service providers. This is to inform that there are two forms of transportation services in Krakow, i.e. TAXI and PRZEWÓZ OSÓB (people transport). TAXI service providers are required to place their price lists on their cars’ side windows as well as inside the car. Price lists must display individual rates which shall not exceed maximum prices established by the City Council of Krakow. Taximeters are required to be installed in all taxicabs and the total fee for each ride is to be indicated only by taximeters.
Besides displaying their price lists in a visible place, carriers providing services as PRZEWÓZ OSÓB (people transport) are required to inform their clients of the fee for transport to their destination before starting a ride. Providers of this type of transportation services can freely estimate their transport rates, as maximum rate regulations concerning TAXI service providers are not applied to them.”
Written by Mattie Bamman for EuropeUpClose.com