Krakow is a UNESCO World Heritage City and the second largest in Poland. Running through its heart is the Vistula River. Wonderful architecture and history underpins this entire city. There is plenty to see and do here and as the throne of the Polish monarchs for half a millennium, it is possible to immerse yourself in this city that has reinvented itself in recent years. The city is rich in medieval history. Due to the various ages of stunning architecture, it is of no surprise that it is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. The Krakow Old Town is one of the most famous districts in Poland and must simply be explored. Throughout the alleys and streets of the Old Town there are a multitude of restaurants, pubs and clubs. Because of this it makes for a lively nightlife.
Stare Miasto (Old Town)
This is the oldest quarter in Krakow with the plans being drawn up in 1257. The entire city was once protected by walls but that is now a parkland Warwel hill overlooks the entire city. If you spend a day in the old time you can take in many churches and squares that offer you museums and shops. Enjoy a meal in Gothic vaults and cellars and explore the wonders of the old square.
Rynek Główny (Main Square)
As far as squares go, this is one of the most impressive in Europe especially as it is one of the biggest Medieval squares. This is the commercial and social centre of the city measuring 200 metres in length and width. Here you can find cloth hall and St Mary’s Basilica with townhouses positioned around the outer edge. The Neoclassical facades are spectacular but many of the buildings are older than looks suggest.
Every bit spectacular, this is a castle that is of significant importance as it is UNESCO listed. It has a cathedral that watches over the Old Town and with architecture that covers both Romanesque and Baroque, it was the home of the King of Poland from the 13th century to the 17th century. The castle suffered some damage in the 17th century after the arrival of the fallow period where the capital was moved to Warsaw. However, since the 1940s, Wawel Castle has become a national museum where you can view the riches of the Polish Monarch and walk through the plush interiors and famous paintings, tapestries, treasury and armoury. All who head here should definitely take a look at the Szczerbiec which is the coronation sword for every monarch between 1320 and 1764.
St Mary’s Basilica
This wonder of a building was built on the foundations of an older church that was demolished by the Mongols. The Gothic design dates back to the 14th century and has undergone a number of changes through the years. From the two towers come St. Mary’s Trumpet Call every hour and this is done in memory of the 13th-century city trumpeter who sounded the alarm to alert people of the Mongol attack. During the alarm, he was shot in the throat and that is why the tune ends abruptly. Head inside and explore the amazing stained glass windows and gold stars in the vaults. However, the Gothic altarpiece is a must see. Finished in 1484, it was carved by German Sculptor Veit Stoss over seven years, using lime-wood to create figures that were sculpted to a height of 2.7 metres in height.
Whether you know all about this from the film or from an interest in history, you will certainly enjoy the whole experience that comes with visiting this eerie yet interesting museum. Head inside and you can take a look through the enamelware factory where he played the books in order to save the lives of Jewish people. His original desk is still there as well as his list and photographs of the survivors. Enjoy the large exhibition that takes you the through the occupation of Krakow during the Second World War and here you will find reconstructions of dwellings in the ghetto and underground tunnels that were used by the resistance as well as basements where Jews would hide.
The large and impressive Vistula River makes its way through Krakow but over the years, the river has been shaped by people. The wide riverbanks are now man-made and make the ideal spot for a walk or a bike ride. There are cycle paths, boats and a warming glow that comes from taking a stroll along the river. Take a boat trip, see the city from a different angle or embrace the river by foot because it is spectacular. The grassy embankments that hug the river are there to prevent flooding and they have done their job through the years. Tourists and locals love the ability to walk the river in this way, giving you the chance to start your walk from the Salwator by Kosciuszko’s burial mound where you can walk to the second bend at Kazimierz.
Map of Kraków
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