Attractions in Krakow
Krakow has a variety of attractions and sights to offer its visitors. The itinerary here gives you an overview of the best attractions to visit during your visit.
- See DigoPaul for dictionary definitions of Krakow, Poland. Includes geographical map and city sightseeing photos.
Church of St. Mary (Kosciol Mariacki)
This church has its roots from the 1220s, and today’s edition that took shape in the late 1300s is a blissful blend of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque style. The church has two towers of 69 and 81 meters respectively, and every hour of Krakow’s distinctive signal is played from the latter tower.
The main entrance is occasionally closed to tourists, but then a side entrance can be used for a small payment in entrance fee.
Marketplace (Rynek Glowny)
The city’s self-evident heart is the 200 x 200 meter marketplace, which has largely retained its original appearance since it was built in the 1250s. In the summertime, people relax here at one of the many outdoor restaurants. The square is surrounded by buildings with medieval or neoclassical facades, and cozy cobblestone streets.
Clothing stores (Sukiennice)
This 108-meter-long building in the middle of the Old Town marketplace has been named the world’s oldest shopping center. Over 700 years ago, two rows of sales stalls were built where the textile trade took place, and it was later developed into a beautiful Gothic building.
Today, Polish souvenirs are sold to tourists on the ground floor, while Krakow’s National Museum has an exhibition of paintings by Polish artists from the 19th century on the second floor. Café Noworolski on the east side of the building has been in operation since 1910.
National Museum (Gmach Glówny)
Krakow’s national museums have small branches all over the city center, but the main building is located in the district of Zwierzyniec just outside the city center. The permanent exhibitions here mainly represent Polish art after 1890, but still have interesting temporary exhibitions.
Entrance fee approx. 20 kroner, free Sundays. The museum is open on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 pm. 10:00 to 1530, and closes at. 1800 on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Museum of Jewish History & Culture
In the Jewish quarter of Kazimierz is the Old Synagogue, the oldest Jewish-religious building in Poland, from ca. 1480. The synagogue was destroyed by fire in 1557 and rebuilt in Renaissance style. During World War II it was used as a warehouse by the Nazis. Today, the building houses a Jewish museum with an informative exhibition of objects and images related to Jewish culture and history.
It has to pay entrance fees, though not the large amount, and the museum is open Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 2pm. 0900 to 1600, Fridays from 1 p.m. 1000 to 1700.
South of the Old Town is Krakow’s old royal palace, with roots dating back a thousand years. Today’s Renaissance look dates from around the year 1525. The palace area is open to the public from 8 p.m. 0600 to 2000 in the summer months from April to September, and closes at. 1700 in winter.
The museum areas open at 0930 and closes at. 1500 or 1600, some departments stay closed on Mondays. A limited number of tickets are placed daily, and the price is between NOK 15 and 35 per museum department.
The kings’ cathedral near the castle has its present form from around the year 1350. In the crypts below the church you can see the sarcophagi of the country’s kings, national poets, saints and bishops of Krakow. The cathedral houses eighteen smaller chapels full of art treasures, and from the top of the Sigismundt Tower you can see both the 2 meter high and 11 ton heavy bell from 1520, called Zygmunt, and a panoramic view of Krakow and Vistula.
Entrance fee approx. 25 kroner, open daily from 10 am 0900 to 1500. Sundays from 4 p.m. 1230 to 1600.
Poland’s oldest university is a collection of Gothic buildings with arcades around a courtyard and a 16th-century well in the middle. The professors lived on the second floor, and on the ground floor taught students like Copernicus and the coming Pope John Paul II.
The University Museum houses, among other things, Chopin’s piano and the world’s oldest globe from 1510, where a distorted America has actually arrived. The museum is open from 10am. 1000 to 1500 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and closes at 1 p.m. 1800 on Tuesday and Thursday and 7 p.m. 1400 on Saturdays.
Wieliczka salt mines
Half a mile southeast of Krakow lies this quaint tourist attraction, consisting of nearly 300 kilometers of mines all the way down to a depth of 325 meters. Below you will find over 2000 rooms, halls and chapels, with embellishments and sculptures carved into salt stone.
The masterpiece is St. King’s Chapel, also known as the Salt Cathedral, with altarpiece, frescoes, religious statues and chandeliers, all made of salt and located 100 meters underground.
The salt mines are listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Contact eg. www.krakow-tours.pl for a three-hour tour that includes transport and English-language guide to approx. 270 kroner.
The Jewish quarter
The old Jewish district in the Kazimierz district was home to around 60,000 Jews before World War II.
90% of them were exterminated during the war, and today only a few hundred Jews live here. Amazingly, all seven synagogue wars survived.
The district has become a tourist attraction after parts of Spielberg’s film “Schindler’s List” were recorded here, but the buildings are generally quite dilapidated, and the synagogues are simple and modest compared to the grand medieval buildings of the Old Town.
This museum was created as early as 1796, but the collection was located in Paris in the period 1830-1870, and was stolen by the Nazis and brought to Germany during World War II. Most of it is now back in place, but it still lacks 800 works of art, including a painting by Rafael. The Czartoryski Museum’s eye stone is, of course, Leonardo DaVinci’s women’s portrait “Woman with Hermione” from 1482, but also sizes that Rembrandt is represented here.
The museum also has a large collection of weapons, and antiques from ancient Egypt, Greece and the Roman Empire. Entrance a few ten kroner, open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am. 1000 to 1530, and to 1 p.m. 1800 on Fridays.
One of the practicalities of Krakow is that the city center is so compact that it is very easy to get around on your own. Almost all the attractions are within a 15-minute walk of the marketplace, as are most hotels. Of course, you can choose to bring a guide for the day, or perhaps do the sightseeing from one of the elegant horseback roses? Otherwise, the City Sightseeing Tour has a minibus for around NOK 270.
Day 1 in Krakow
Start your day with a hearty breakfast at the hotel, as Krakow invites to a lot of walking. We start our tour of Krakow to the south of the Old Town, where the Royal Castle and the Wawel Cathedral look down on the city and the river from a large limestone cliff. The entrance is on the east side. There are a limited number of tickets to the museum departments, and the box office puts out only ten tickets for sale every ten minutes. Therefore, it pays to be out early if you want to bring everything with you. And here you can easily spend half the day.
Wawel Castle has five different museum sections, including the Private Royal Living Areas, Crown Jewels, Arsenal of Arms and Oriental Art. In addition, during the summer months you can visit the Dragon Cave in the mountains below the castle, where, according to legend, lived an angry and fire-breathing dragon.
Right next to the castle is the Wawel Cathedral, the kings own cathedral where they were baptized, married, crowned and buried. In the crypt under the cathedral, most kings are still in their sarcophagi, in the company of several of Poland’s greatest poets, saints and bishops. This may have limited interest in Norwegians who may not know the name of a single Polish king or poet, but it is an important and devout place for the Poles.
Well out of the castle area you now head north up Grodzka, a cozy and busy pedestrian street. Note Watch out for the horseback. Grodzka has many small shops and eateries where you can have a quick lunch. Turn left into Dominikanski and visit the magnificent 12th-century Franciscan Church before continuing north up Bracka.
At the end of Bracka you reach Krakow’s vibrant heart, the large marketplace with all its beautiful medieval facades, street artists and photographic tourists. Here you will also see the St. Mary’s Church, the Gothic clothing hall and the Town Hall tower. Soak in the impressions and stroll peacefully around the entire square, and walk through both the church and the dressing hall, where you will find a hundred-meter-long passage with small stalls on each side. These sell typical Polish souvenirs such as amber jewelry, t-shirts, crystal items, wooden dolls and not least vodka.
If you feel ready for more shopping, continue up Florianska, the pedestrian street behind St. Mary’s Church. Here are many of Krakow’s more modern shops, with well-known chains and shopping centers. You will also pass the Apothecary Museum and the house where Jan Matejko lived for much of his life. Jan Matejko was Poland’s foremost national historical painter.
At the end of Florianska you reach the Florian Gate, the only one of the gates in the original city wall that encircles the Old Town that still exists. Facing the lies the impressive Barbican, a stone fortress that would defend the Florian Gate from the other side of the moat, which has now been transformed into a park (Plantyparken). Afterwards, you are probably ready to relax in the hotel and / or a pub for a while before it is time to think about tonight’s dinner.
On the south side of the marketplace you will find Krakow’s perhaps most famous restaurant, Wierzynek, which has been here since 1364. The site’s Wierzynek’s interior preserves the traditional history to the best of its ability, with old paintings, crystal chandeliers and candelabras. The main courses cost from 110 kroner, and this is quality and service that you must have paid triple in Norway. Here it is worthwhile to book in advance.
The restaurant also has a jazz club in the basement, which mostly plays most traditional jazz. Should you prefer a slightly more youthful and pop / rock character, walk out of Wierzynek and a few meters to the left. Down a staircase in a backyard, Crazy Bar is located in an old brick basement with several small rooms and passages.
Make a flight coup now!
Day 2 in Krakow
Today we leave Krakow in the morning and head for the small town of Oswiecim, 60 kilometers west of Krakow. Anyone who knows their history gets goosebumps by the city’s German name, Auschwitz. Here was Europe’s largest extermination camp during World War II, where the Nazis killed over one and a half million people.
It is quite possible to take a train or bus to Oswiecim for around twenty kroner and go to Auschwitz, where there is free entrance, but it is recommended to bring a guide who can tell a little about the background of the camp. Several operators in Krakow also offer half-day tours with transport and English-language guide.
What most people call Auschwitz are actually two camps a few kilometers apart. Auschwitz 1 with its well-known Arbeit Macht Frei sign looks almost like a normal 50s residential building with its two-storey brick walls with well-maintained footpaths in between. But it’s not until you start reading the signs and visiting rooms filled with hundreds of thousands of children’s shoes, glasses, suitcases with names and addresses or tons of hair. And you see the double electric barbed wire fences, watchtowers, hangers and crematorium ovens. You can also visit the hair-raising Building 11, where Nazi doctors conducted grotesque medical experiments on prisoners.
The other camp, Birkenau, was thirty times larger and considerably more primitive. Unlike Auschwitz, which was actually a prison for political prisoners, it was built specifically to get mechanical efficiency in the executions of large gas chambers and crematoria. Here, the infamous trains of Jews from all over Europe arrived, and those who were not sent straight to death on arrival lived in miserable wooden barracks until hard work and malnutrition also ended them.
Back in Krakow in the afternoon, today’s impressions may just have made you want to sit in your hotel room and be silent and sad. But if you have the time and feel for it, it is definitely recommended to take a trip to the wonderful salt mines in Wieliczka one and a half miles southeast of Krakow. Here are miles of underground times with incredible chapels, with embellishments, altarpieces, religious statues and frescoes, all carved into salt. The salt mines are listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.