Krakow is laden with innumerable legends, it is a legend itself. History is everywhere, and the most appropriate epithet for this city is atmospheric. When you get to Krakow, it’s easy to sense what they mean when they speak with a whiff of an ineffable atmosphere. Those who have been in the city, it is advised not to resort to the services of guides, and explore the sights of Krakow on their own. It is difficult to get lost here, and nothing will distract from the dialogue with the city. After all, Krakow does not reveal its secrets to everyone at once.
Top 8 Sights of Krakow
Once in Krakow, you will quickly realize that the main places of the city are concentrated around the Old Town. Its territory is not large, but here you can see a lot of unusual beauty of monuments. The historic center of Krakow is located on a hill called Wawel Hill. Here are the two main attractions of Krakow – the Wawel Castle and the Cathedral. The so-called Royal Road, the ceremonial route of the Polish kings, leads to the hill.
The ancestors of today’s Poles, a tribe of Vislians, inhabited the Wawel Hill long before the city arose here. The castle became the residence of Polish monarchs in the first half of the 11th century, and the legitimate capital in the 14th century. Later the kings of the Jagiellonian dynasty resided here, under which Krakow reached an unprecedented peak of prosperity.
The must-see places in Krakow are:
- The old town with the castle and the cathedral;
- Market Square and the Mariinsky Church and Town Hall overlooking it;
- Numerous museums and churches;
- It is necessary to visit the territory of the Jagiellonian University, the Palace of the Bishops;
- The town of Wieliczka with its salt mines is one of the recommended places to visit near Krakow.
Of course, the lock. How could a city like this be without an enchanted castle? And this one is quite enchanted and very ancient. And, as in every self-respecting castle, there is a ghost here.
Unlike other European castles, Wawel is not home to some White Lady, but to the ghost of Wolverine. According to legend, this ghostly monster first appeared on the night of the birth of the first prince of the Jagiellonian dynasty, Jagailo. This prince was told an extraordinary destiny by a witch. The ghost of the wolverine appeared in the castle courtyard and made his own order, mauling many poultry. Having had his fun, he disappeared, and the prince who was born was given the title of King Wolverine, which was later passed down through the male line.
One of the most mysterious and attractive sights of Wawel Castle is the Wolverine Tower. Legends say that the Vislians set up a temple on the site where the tower now stands, and made blood sacrifices, often human sacrifices. The ground here is saturated with blood, and the energy is appropriate.
It is now a museum, open to the public daily. Also Wawel Castle is the official residence of the Polish president.
Palace of Bishops
The bishops’ palace is almost in the center of the city. This building dates back to the 14th century. Now it attracts attention because one of the famous natives of Poland, Karol Wojtyla, better known as Pope John Paul II, lived here for a long time. In the courtyard of the bishops’ palace there is now a monument in which John Paul II is depicted with his hands in the air. There is a museum in the building, where you can see the works of art, presented to the famous Pole.
Do you want to see the place where the foundations of trade in Europe began? You go to the Market Square. This largest medieval square in Europe dates back to 1257. Her outline has not changed since then. The appearance of the buildings surrounding it has changed, but the market square itself has remained the largest marketplace in Europe for centuries. Since 1387 Poland was a member of the Hanseatic League, so the trade was lively.
The market square is the center of Krakow, and its size allows it to hold mass festivities and celebratory parades. On the Market Square there are numerous city events: concerts, Cracow Christmas manger, New Year’s Eve celebrations. Here the famous Krakow Lajkonik, a folkloric character dressed as a Tatar rider, ends his procession through the city with a dance. It is from here that tourists bring the most photos.
In the center of the square there are trading rows called Sukkenice. On the first floor there are many souvenir shops, where you can buy a variety of products with the symbols of Krakow. On the second floor is a museum of Polish painting. Nearby is the City Hall building. It once housed the city treasury, and now houses exhibitions of the Krakow Historical Museum. Some of them are located in the vast dungeons of the Town Hall with an area of almost 6,000 square meters.
Along the perimeter of the square are buildings built at different times and in different architectural styles. Almost all of them now have cafes and restaurants that put tables outside in the warm season. In them you can spend a pleasant time, enjoying at the same time wonderful views and Polish cuisine.
The Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the most beautiful attraction not only in Krakow, but also in the whole of Poland. The facade of the Gothic cathedral faces Market Square, and immediately attracts the attention of the two different heights of the towers. About the construction of these towers, of course, there are also legends. The spire of the taller tower looks 82 meters into the sky and is surrounded by eight smaller towers. The lower tower rises to a height of 69 meters and serves as a bell tower.
Poland throughout most of its history has been in a permanent state of war or internecine strife, so the towers of the Cathedral of St. Mary’s served as watchtowers.
At the time of the invasion of present-day Poland by the Tatar-Mongolian army, a young guard was on duty in the watchtower. He was to survey his surroundings and blow his trumpet when he noticed the enemy approaching. Seeing that the Tatar-Mongols were approaching the city, the young trumpeter began to sound the alarm, but did not have time to play it to the end. An arrow pierced his throat, and the tune was cut short.
To commemorate this story, the same melody is heard once an hour from the watchtower of the Mariánské Lázně church, which ends on that very note. It is performed on the four sides of the world, starting from the south. The melody “heynal” is one of the many symbols of Krakow.
Krakow Cathedrals and Churches
The city has a large number of Catholic churches. The most beautiful of them must be seen. One of the most attractive is the Gothic Church of the Holy Trinity or the Dominican Church. The temple was originally wooden, then it was erected in stone, but it burned down. The modern look of the church acquired in the second half of the 19th century. Here is the tomb of St. Jacek.
St. Andrew’s Church does not attract attention at all: there is no point in describing the building externally, as it looks unimpressive and shabby. Built in the early 11th century, the church served as a citadel for a long time, which explains its appearance. Inside, however, you can feel the stark contrast between form and content. The church is decorated very opulently and richly.
On the territory of the Wawel Castle is the Church of St. Stanislaus and Wenceslas. This temple is also called the Cathedral of Wawel. It was built on the site of two churches, which is why its name mentions two saints who have nothing in common with each other. Here is the tomb of Polish monarchs. It is also where the brightest representatives of the Polish people found their last resting place: Adam Mickiewicz, Tadeusz Kościuszko, and Juliusz Słowacki.
When you come here, it feels like you’ve been transported to another city. Life in Krakow’s Jewish quarter is very different from that in the rest of the city. The architecture, religion, and culture are different here. Many buildings in Kazimierz are historical monuments, so they cannot be rebuilt. The owners do their best to restore them, but still most of the buildings look rather unattractive. There are seven old pre-war synagogues preserved here. It was in this Cracow neighborhood that Spielberg filmed his Schindler’s List.
Wieliczka is half an hour from Krakow. If you are in the city for more than a day, it is worth visiting one of the most interesting sights in the vicinity.
In the 13th century there were discovered deposits of rock salt, and then began the development of the salt mines. Salt was extremely valuable in those days, sometimes even replacing official currency. Salt mining was one of the pillars of Poland’s economy at that time. Now the mine does not operate as intended, but invites everyone to get acquainted with the life of miners and the old methods of salt mining. The mine was developed gradually, and now has seven levels to a depth of almost 330 meters.
Tourists can visit only the top three, going down to a depth of 135 meters. The tour lasts two hours, so you should dress warmer. The temperature underground is at about 15 degrees all year round. On the tourist route there are many installations that tell the story of life and work of the miners. Many times along the way you will come across icons, there is even a chapel in the mine. This is easily explained when you remember that the work of miners has always been life-threatening, and they had only God to rely on.
You can see a real salt lake in the mine. There are also therapeutic salt caves and created on their basis sanatorium for the treatment of respiratory tract. Wieliczka salt mines live a busy life: there are exhibitions and concerts, there is a restaurant with a banquet hall. Krakow schoolchildren like to hold their graduation parties in this hall.
Despite the medieval atmosphere of the old city, Krakow offers tourists quite modern entertainment. The city has one of the largest in Eastern Europe and the largest in Poland water park. Here everyone will find entertainment to his liking: children, adults and families with children. The water park offers three huge swimming pools, many slides of varying degrees of difficulty, climbing walls, a sports ground where you can learn the basics of water polo and volleyball in the water. Provided a large children’s playground, where you can let the child, if it is old enough for their own entertainment.
Adults are not left without fun: there is a bar with drinks and snacks, a range of wellness hydro-procedures, saunas, beauty salon, restaurant, specialized store, where you can buy any accessories for swimming and water sports.
What you can see in Krakow in 1 day
The area of Krakow is not large, so the main attractions can be seen in one day, using a map or guidebook. The first thing to do is to visit the Old Town. It is surrounded by Planta Park, laid out on the site of the old city wall.
You can go around the most interesting places on a special sightseeing bus. It will take you to the Old Town with the Wawel Castle and Cathedral, the Jewish district Kazimierz and the Schindler factory.
In the Old Town you can see, and must see, the Marian Church, the building of the oldest in Poland Jagiellonian University, the Czartoryski Museum, which houses one of the main treasures of Poland, the work of the great Leonardo – “Lady with an ermine”.
Public transport in Krakow
Finding yourself in an unfamiliar city, you wonder how to get around the city and how much it costs. Krakow is a small city and there is no subway. The main means of transportation are buses and streetcars. Their network of routes envelops the entire city, so you can get to wherever you need to go. You can buy tickets at the bus stop or directly on the bus or streetcar.
Krakow sightseeing video
The city was founded more than a thousand years ago, over the years around this event has accumulated many legends. The most popular of them tells the story of a dragon terrorizing the locals and defeated by the mythical King Krak, after whom the city is named. This legend is sure to tell you the local residents or guide, and in confirmation of this will show the symbol of the city – the Wawel dragon. The monster, by the way, is quite fire-breathing: every hour a flame bursts from its mouth.