Krakow is a major Polish city that dates back as early as the seventh century. Everything in the city is nearby, so it is easy to walk from attraction to attraction. It is an affordable city for those on a budget, and has an amazing central European vibe! Krakow should be on your ‘Places to Visit’ list if you are visiting Poland! Here are some things to see and do in Krakow.
1. Main Market Square
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This is one of the largest medieval town squares in all of Europe. It is called Rynek Glowny in Polish. Most of the buildings in the square were built before the Charter of the square(1257), so they aren’t aligned. The square is surrounded by many historical townhouse, churches, and alluring buildings. While strolling through, you can admire many of the street artists and performers. It’s a great place to walk through and admire the beauty! This attraction can not be skipped over.
2. Historic Old Town
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The first known record of Krakow was in the seventh century. It served as the capital of Poland from 1038 to 1596. It was established on Wawel hill, where the well-known castle sits. The old town, or Stare Miasto in Polish, is in the heart of Krakow. It is a hub for many museums, art galleries, restaurants, hotels, shops, and theaters. The old town is the most visited place in Krakow for a good reason!
3. Cloth Hall
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The Cloth Hall, known as Sukiennice in Polish, is argued to be the oldest shopping mall in the world. It has been in business in the Main Market Square for over 700 years! Textiles were traded from the beginning. Today, it is used as a museum and also sells souvenirs.
4. Florianska Street
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Florianska street, or Ulica Florianska in Polish, is arguably the most well-known street in Krakow. Its name comes from the Florian gate on the North. Not only is it filled with many lovely shops and restaurants, but the street boasts beautiful buildings, which is the best place to notice the change of architectural style throughout the years. Some building brag a gothic influence, while other’s style ranges from renaissance to Neo Classic. Each building boasts it’s own history!
5. Wawel Royal Castle
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The Wawel Royal Castle is a must while visiting Krakow! It sits in the city center, overlooking the Vistula river. It is now a museum split into five different sections: Crown Treasury & Armoury; State Rooms; Royal Private Apartments; Lost Wawel; and the Exhibition of Royal Art. The Wawel Castle was built in the 11th century, but remodelled during the renaissance in the 16th century. It has remained the same to this day.
6. Wawel Cathedral
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“Here, everything is Poland, every stone and every little thing. Whoever enters it, becomes himself part of Poland , part of its construction. Here we add a measure to this body – and only now, within these walls, are we Poland ourselves.” Stanisław Wyspiański. Wyzwolenie 1902
The Wawel Cathedral, or Katedra Wawelska in Polish, was the coronation site of Polish monarchs. It is a burial ground for most Polish royalty, national heroes, poets, saints, and bishops. It has also sheltered many objects of art, from gothic to modern. Most would argue that it is the most important place in all of Poland! Regardless, the sheer beauty of the cathedral should be enough to draw one to its doors!
7. Church of the Virgin Mary
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After being destroyed in the 13th century, the Church of the Virgin Mary, or Kosciol Mariacki in Polish, was rebuilt in gothic style in 1320. Its towers were later raised throughout time. This is where the hejnal mariacki is played every hour. It is the city’s famous bugle call which stops in mid-melody in honor of the trumpeter who was allegedly shot in the neck while warning the city of Mongol invaders. Tourists are allowed to enter through the side entrance, but not during service.
8. Church of St. Peter and St. Paul
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The church of St. Peter and St. Paul, known as Kościół Św. Piotra i Pawła in Polish, was constructed in the early 1600s. The twelve disciples stand outside of the church are definitely its best feature. The inside has been heavily renovated.
9. Rynek Underground
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While walking in between the cloth hall and St. Mary’s church, you may not realize that you are only a few meters about a museum. Rynek Underground, or Podziemia Rynku in Polish, allows you to experience the city’s entire history- from its first settlers to recent history. Availability is limited to 300 people at a time, so it is best to book in advance! The museum is located on the opposite side of St. Mary’s Basilica!
10. Oskar Schindler’s Factory
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Oskar Schindler’s Factory is a museum that is devoted to Krakow’s wartime experiences under their five-year Nazi occupation during WWII. The museum gives insight to Poles everyday life in the city, family life, Krakow Jews, the resistance movement, underground Polish state, and the Soviet capture of the city.
11. The Barbican
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The Barbican, or Barbakan in Polish, was built in 1498 as a fortified outpost that connected the city walls. The walls are 3 meters thick! It is one of the few remaining fortifications the encircled Krakow and served as a checkpoint for those entering the city. Today, the Barbican serves as a tourist attraction and venue for various exhibitions.
12. Dragon’s Cave
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Dragon’s Cave, or Smocza Jama in Polish, is a cave under Wawel hill. Legend has it was once inhabited by the Wawel dragon. The total length of the cave is 270 meters with a maximum height of ten meters. You can take a tour, which covers 81 meters of the cave. The cave was formed from 12 to 1.6 million years ago.