Krakow is the second largest city, and is rich with a long and complicated history, dating back to the Stone Age. The 10th century saw the construction of the Wawel Castle, and many other Roman churches. Following the Mongol invasion in 1241, much of the city was destroyed. German immigrants later moved into Krakow and founded some of the beginnings of what is the old town and market square.
During the 15th and 16th centuries, the city underwent a period of economic growth and artistic innovation. Renaissance art and architecture eventually came to Krakow, and the incredible Jewish Quarter Synagogue was built during this period as well. The Polish throne reigned until 1572, when it was passed on to King Henry III of France. The foreign rule caused the city to decline, and the Bubonic Plague and a Swedish invasion made things worse.
Napoleon captured Krakow in 1809, and the city became known as Poland’s cultural centre following the Austro-Prussian War. During this time Krakow evolved into a modern city with electric streetcars and running water. Austrian rule ended in Krakow following the First World War, and the city subsequently flourished. In 1939, Hitler invaded Krakow and turned it into an administrative centre for the devastating surrounding concentration camps.
After the war, Krakow was placed under Soviet control. The largest steel mill was created, and city became industrial. It became a world heritage site in 1978.
Get off the couch and get on the next flight to Krakow to spend in this legendary continental city that lies on the banks of the Wisla River that was once Poland’s capital.
Visit the Wawel Castle and other well-known architectural marvels, or soak in the history of the kings, artists, and other scientific geniuses that used to congregate here. Modern-day Krakow is a tourist wonderland for guests hoping to get a glimpse into a city on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
So do not hesitate to spend a nice weekend in Krakow – you will not regret it!
One of the most famous castles in all of Europe, the Wawel Royal Castle was the site for the crowning of all the grand Polish kings. The castle has over 1000 years of history, including historical artefacts from Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Classicist, and Modern styles. Many notable poets, saints, and Krakow bishops along with other national legends are also buried in this location.
As the host of much of Poland’s diverse artwork, this museum contains contemporary paintings by many of the central European country’s most renowned modern artists. Visitors can start by seeing artwork from the 1890s and then continue on towards most unique types of decorative art, historical tapestries, and clothing. Check the museum’s schedule for its ever-changing temporary exhibitions.
This theatre building was brand new in 1893, and modelled after the grand Paris Opera. The building has a style that evokes a gothic hospital combined with the look of a church cathedral that makes it a truly unique playhouse. During the 20th century, this theatre was the only place for citizens to see some of the era’s most important plays and playwrights. One such legend of the theatre is the painter and poet Stanislaw Wyspianski, who used this theatre for his incredible modernization of the stage design.
The neighbourhood of Kazimierz has been the Jewish sector of Krakow since King Jan I Olbracht relocated much of the Jewish community there in 1495. For three centuries, this quarter became a centre for the Jewish Diaspora within all of Europe. Eventually, the town became a self-governed safe haven for refugees who fled distinct locations from all over Europe. The area has narrow streets with museums, exhibits, and a Synagogue from the 15th century. Today, the district has become popular due to a resurgence of cafes and bars.
The best of the best when it comes to luxury and comfortable lodging, the Sheraton Hotel is a five-star lodging located near the Wawel Castle and the Wisla River. With its close proximity to many of the best historical city monuments, its beautiful glass roofed atrium and a 24-hour fitness facility, the Sheraton makes for a great stay. Rooms include all of the now-standard amenities, like high-speed Internet and a satellite TV.
Another great and relaxing destination is the Novotel Kraków Centrum hotel, located in the centre of the city. The hotel is on the opposite side of the Wisla River from the Wawel Castle and just a walk away from Old Town. Take advantage of complementary Wi-Fi Internet, a brassiere restaurant with great Polish dishes, a swimming pool, and a spa and massage centre.
For those travellers who are on a budget, a great lodging destination for the entire family is Logos hotel. The central location of this modern and well designed hotel makes is a desirable place for those looking for a quiet and relaxed destination. The hotel is located near the Old Town centre and Plantry Park, and the main market square’s close proximity makes it easy to go to drink a beer or coffee. Rooms are simple with bathrooms and amenities in good condition.
For a legendary hotel located near the market square, check out Palac Bonerowski hotel. This hotel’s atmosphere is captivating with ritzy, luxurious architecture in the oldest and most beautiful neighbourhood in the city, and rooms have elegant style and grace with expensive furnishings and services.
To prepare for your trip, check out other hotels in Krakow.
Most of the exciting and interesting monuments in Krakow are just a short ride or walking distance away from the city’s centre. The historical area has pedestrian maps for a casual stroll; the Old Town and Kazimierz districts have horse cabs; and electric carts to shuttle visitors around. The city even has tours in double-decker buses.
Krakow does not have an underground metro system, but it does have a well-developed public transportation system with trams, bus lines run by both public and private sectors, and commuter trains that allow travellers to go to and from the suburbs. One-way bus tickets cost about €.50 and can be purchased in ticket machines or at bus and tramway stops. The municipal bus tickets do not work on minibus services, and the €.50 fare is paid directly to the bus driver.
Taxicabs are in abundance and of relatively low price in Krakow. Visitors should not expect to spend more than €30 for a cab ride in the city limits. There are at least 15 or more reliable taxi centres. Note that communication with cab companies by telephone can be difficult because very few may speak English.
Krakow car hire is also a practical option. Despite being a relatively large city, Krakow fortunately does not suffer from too much congestion and finding a parking place is easier than in other similar European cities.
Criminal assaults are reportedly on the rise, do not walk alone at night or in poorly-lit areas. Do not walk around with prominent jewellery or other flashy objects that might draw attention. Also, do not leave any personal belongings unattended. In bars, do not accept drinks or food offered by strangers.
Make photocopies of all travel documents, including passports and plane tickets, in the case that the originals are lost or stolen. Keep the originals locked in a hotel safe with some cash. Also it is a good idea to have a mobile phone with some emergency numbers just in case.
Road conditions are poor throughout the country, so be careful if driving. Public transportation is recommended. The possession and consumption of drug is illegal and punished in court of law.
Home to a variety of different ethnic groups, Poland boasts some of the world’s best traditional Jewish cuisine, which tourists can taste at the well-loved Ariel (Szeroka 17). Located in the Kazimierz district, this restaurant has been a popular spot for the Klezmer cultural renaissance. Some great Klezmer groups entertain visitors as they try plates of dumplings and Herring with sour cream, or maybe even stuffed goose.
For great traditional Polish flavours, tourists should head to Kawaleria Szarza Smaku (ul. Golebia 4). Next door to the main market square, this restaurant has the atmosphere of an old country estate. The restaurant has a bar, dining room, and large banquet hall surrounded by hanging sabres, tapestries, and beautiful candlelit chandeliers. Great plates include the Pierogi, pork tender, and oszczypek cheese.
For a more casual, café-like dining experience, head over to the Café Wierzynek (ul Rynek Glówny 15). Just on the other side of the Restaurant Wierzynek, this casual eatery has a cosy atmosphere and healthy bites. The menu includes salads, grilled meats, soups, and fish. Desserts also include low-fat homemade traditional ice cream and a variety of different teas and coffees.
Europejska (Rynek Glówny 35) is a great destination for those who are seeking an upscale dining experience and diverse European cuisine. The restaurant is located in the old-fashioned Rynek building in the market square, and its bar has an English feel. Guests will take pleasure in the cosy and relaxed atmosphere, and summertime visitors can enjoy the outside tables on the Rynek that look at Mary´s Church and Sukiennice. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served daily.
Visitors can escape the city life by visiting one of the most antique salt mines in all of Europe. The mine has a unique historic importance that has earned it a spot of the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list. The tour goes down 64 to 134 metres underground with galleries of sculptures on distinct levels. The entire walkway is 2.4 kilometres and connects 20 chambers. The walk is not too difficult, and the tour ends at a souvenir and snack shop.
The Berlin Wall fell, but remnants of communism in Krakow are still alive and well. This tour takes visitors to many of the Soviet artefacts that still exist around the city. The Nowas Huta has most of the historical monuments that Stalin donated. Ironically, this district soon turned into a centre for resistance against the Communist government. The tour gives visitors a ride in authentic Trabant autos up to the districts centrepiece steel mill. A deluxe tour includes a documentary and visit to a typical communist apartment building.
Guests can spend a day visiting some old mountain cottages atop Mount Gubalówka. Located at the base of the Tatra Mountains, Zakopane is the best place to be during the winter months. As a winter sports haven, a good amount of snowfall and steep inclines make for great skiing in the winter and great hiking in the summer. The tour visits the town of cute and folksy town of Krupówki. The boutiques, cafes, and restaurants provide the perfect spot for lunch before the last stop in the small, forested village of Chocholów.
Ojcow is one of Poland’s smaller national parks, and is located just 15 minutes by car from the centre of Krakow. The jewels of the national park are its incredible natural limestone rock formations. The most famous is the 25-metre tall Hercules Bludgeon. The park also has many different caves, and the scenic Pradnik river valley passes through the core.
No vaccinations are required to travel to Krakow. Water is not drinkable throughout the entire country. Reliable bottled water brands are Zdroj, and Narelle, and disinfection is recommended in more rural areas.
The health infrastructure also varies around the country. Krakow has some very good facilities, while outlying hospitals in rural provinces may be insufficient. Before leaving on the trip ask about a European Health Insurance Card. In the case of emergency, dial 999. Good health clinics are Wojewodzki Szpital Specjalistyczny (12) 647 6666, Krakowskie Pogotowie Ratunkowe (12) 42 22 999, and Szpital Mswia (12) 61 51 610.