Krakow, the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland, is a very special city. Locals say that the name Krakow came from a ruler named Krakus who built the city above a cave that was home to a ravenous dragon. However, Krakow is more than legends, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978 due to its almost 6,000 historic sites and 2 million artworks and it is the only city in Europe that escaped World War II undamaged. It is a city that offers attractions for all kinds of tourists. There are events and festivals throughout the year, including the International Sea Songs Festival, the International Soup Festival, the Great Dragon Parade, Summer Jazz Festival, the Pierogi (Dumplings) Festival, and many others. Pack your bags and join the 7.3 million people that visit Krakow every year. Here are our Top 6 Things To Do In Krakow.
Wieliczka Salt Mines
Deep underground, just 20 min drive from Krakow, lies something remarkable. For centuries, miners have extracted salt there but left behind things quite startling and unique. It is the most unusual salt mine in the world and the only salt mine in the world preserved in such pristine condition.
Known as Kazimierz in Polish, this is perhaps the most significant Jewish Quarter in the world. From the 14th Century until the Holocaust, The Kazimierz neighborhood was home to a thriving Jewish community. It was ultimately wiped out and left deserted After WWII. But the oldest synagogue still remains, dating back to 1638, it houses a media presentation of the life and history of Polish Jews. Nowadays the Jewish quarter has largely become a student hangout. There are a few museums, a traditional milk bar, a range of boutiques, and numerous outdoor restaurants. Locals recommend it for the food that can be eaten there. According to locals, the Jewish Quarter has some of the best, and least expensive, food in Krakow. Dont forget to go to Plac Nowy, the living, beating heart of Kazimierz with flea markets and antique bazaars. Krakow’s hip and trendy crowd also tend to hang out at the venues located on this square – here you can spend an entire evening hopping between cafés and bars. We totally recommend you to do the Jewish Krakow Free Walking Tour though.
Rynek Glowny (Main Square)
The Rynek Glowny (Main Square) is the heart of Old Town Krakow and Europe’s biggest market square. It is arguably one of the world’s most beautiful plazas in the world, boasts a plethora of landmarks and myriad restaurants, clubs, and cafes, surrounded by gorgeous pastel yellow and peach buildings, including the 13th-century Gothic Town Hall Tower. In 2013 Lonely planet voted Krakow square the best market square in the world.
St. Mary’s Basilica
St. Mary’s Basilica is located in Old Town Square and is almost 700 years old. It is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Kraków and it’s famous for the wooden altarpiece that was hand carved. St. Mary’s Basilica is home to the illustrious Gothic altarpiece carved by Veit Stoss, a German sculptor. Consider climbing up one of St. Mary’s two towers for a panoramic view of the city.
Auschwitz Birkenau is perhaps the world’s most famous concentration camp and the site of the gravest mass murder in the history of humanity. It remains a memorial that can serve everyone as a mirror of the human soul and a prism for looking deep within ourselves. Go and see the barracks where prisoners were kept and the gas chambers where they were sent to die, learn the terrible history of the death camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau and go the Birkenau camp to see where more than 125,000 prisoners of war were incarcerated.
Wawel Castle is the home of Polish Monarchs from the 11th to the 17th centuries. When Warsaw took the capital status from Krakow, foreign powers occupied and stayed in the castle. Several wars saw several different foreign residents. Because of this, there is a mixture of architectural styles in the castle, as well as a large courtyard.
Just So You Know…
- Krakow used to be the capital of Poland from 1038 to 1596.
- The University of Krakow is the second oldest university in central Europe, founded in 1364 by King Casimir II the Great.
- The city of Krakow has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978. Within Krakow are about 6,000 historic sites and 2 million art works, it was one of the few cities that escaped the carnage during the wars.
- Krakow is also known as Cracow, Krakov, Krakko, Krokuva, Krakau, Cracovia, Cracovie, Kpakob, Krakiv, and Kroke.
- Krakow is a city with the largest number of students in Poland with more than 200,000 students.
- Go and see the Big Head sculpture, located behind the Sukiennice at Rynek. It is really weird and it’s something every tourist remember.
- Cross the modern Kładka Bernatka bridge – Spanning across the Wisla river, The Kladka Bernatka footbridge connects Kazimierz to Podgórz. It provides easy access to what used to be the border of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It’s a pleasant way to get to Old Podgórze, leading directly across to a small enclave of restaurants and bars.
Get Some Culture:
- MOCAK – Ultra-modern, 3-story art museum displaying contemporary multimedia works.
- Muzeum Archeologiczne -The Archeology Museum is home to the world’s only Slavonic god that has ever been unearthed, the 8-foot-tall stone idol of four-faced Swiatowit found in the Zbruc riverbed in 1848. Yet it’s just the best known artifact among the museum’s many unique exhibits, often truly spectacular, that offer a glimpse of mysterious ancient peoples once commanding the eastern half of Europe.
- Manggha – A museum of Japanese Art and Technology, created on the initiative of Andrzej Wajda and opened in 1994.
- Sukiennice Museum – Contains Poland’s largest collection of 19th century paintings.