Top 10 Places to Visit Krakow
Krakow is the second largest and one of the oldest cities within Poland with its origins dating back to the 7th Century.
Krakow is one of the most popular destinations in Poland and it is easy to see why. Steeped in history and tradition and there are endless amounts of attractions and things to see and do here.
Check out my essential places to see in Krakow below.
1. Wawel Castle
Wawel Castle (as seen in the image above) with its beautiful grounds overlooking the Vistula river on a raised rock outcropping and consists of an enclosed fortification of Palace and Cathedral.
This is one must see sights that should be high on your list of things to do, it is an important Polish landmark and has served as a coronation site and burial grounds for Jewish kings.
The site of the castle on Wawel hill was originally used as a settlement as far back as the 7th century although the castle traces back to the 14th century. Some of the state and public rooms are open to the public which include original interior designs, paintings and furnishings.
2. Market Square
The market square is the central and most busy part of the city and in some ways typical of the European market square however it is a sight to behold and is one of the largest in any of Europe’s medieval cities. It buzzes with excitement, especially in the summer, both day and night.
The square features the 16th century renaissance cloth hall now filled with stalls selling polish products for anyone wishing to pick up an authentic polish souvenir. The square is also home to the 14th century gothic Basilica of the Virgin Mary. The square is also lined with bars, cafes and restaurants, perfect for watching the world go by.
Around an hour outside Krakow lies the site of Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial museum. Arguably the most harrowing and famous concentration camp of World War 2 is preserved and consists of the two parts of the former concentration camp.
Auschwitz-Birkenau was the largest site for the execution of the Jewish people with more than 1,100,000 people lost their lives here. There is a guided tour here which takes approximately 3.5 hours. You will get an insight into the lives of those in the camp although you will never fully comprehend what happened here.
4. Jewish Quarter
In 1495 Jan I Albracht transferred the Jewish people of Krakow to the nearby royal city of Kazimiers. Strolling through the streets of Kazimiers you can still feel the link to its Jewish past with the exhibits such as the Museum of Judaism In the stately building of the Old Synagogue.
However Kazimiers has now become fashionable with cafes and lots of nightlife spots the square being surrounded by bars and cafes oozing with atmosphere. The area has recreated its Jewish past and renewed its reputation embracing modernity as it has drawn in the young, artists and musicians making the former run down area trendy among locals and tourist alike.
5. Barbican of Krakow
A fortified out post once connected to the city walls, and a gate way leading into the old town of Krakow. It is one of the few remaining relics of the complex barrier that once encircled the city. In the midst of the planty gardens which follows the outline of the old city walls which are lovely to walk though and imagine that it was originally surrounded by a moat which once spanned 3m wide from the city wall!
You can even hire a horse and cart and take a relaxing ride along the outline, the best place to find the horse and cart is in the main square where most of them depart their journeys from.
6. Jewish Ghetto
Hire a buggy and take a ride via the route that the Jew of Krakow took in 1941 when the Nazis forced them to settle in the newly created ghetto north of the Kazimiers area. Stop off at the Plac zgody site which has been turned into a commemorative park with an impressive monument of on oversized bronze chairs, as the Jewish people brought things such as chairs to live in the ghetto. You will also see the Chemist which housed the Jewish resistance and is now a tiny museum dedicated to the memory of the holocaust.
7. Schindlers Factory
When visiting the Jewish ghetto experience the real story behind Schndlers List and make a visit to Schindlers Factory. Oskar Schindlers Factory of Enamels Vessels ‘Emelie’ Is now a modern museum dedicated to the wartime experiences of the people of Krakow during the Nazi occupation of Krakow,
The museum takes p the admin building of the plant in the cities industrial district, It tells the story of the Jews that worked in Schindlers factory, However it also tells the story of Krakow during this period and right up to the eventual soviet capture of the city. One of the main attractions within the factory is Schindlers office is preserved over the years with his desk, art and map he used to show Nazi conquest within Europe.
8. Tyskies Brewery
In the town of Tychy approximately 85km from Krakow is Tyskie Brewery. Take one of the Tyskie Brewery tours and museum and understand why Tyskie is the much loved beer in Poland. It is one of the biggest breweries in the world producing 8,000,000 hectolitres of beer annually. The brewery has in its original decorative tiles and old copper vats which were installed during World War 1. It offers an insight into the history of the factory and best of all there is a tasting session at the end of the tour!
9. Wiecliczka Salt Mine
Situated within the Krakow metropolitan area is the Wieliczka Salt Mine, Built in the 13th century it produced table salt until 2007, and was one of the oldest salt mines in operation.
The attractions include dozens of statues, three chapels and an entire cathedral that has been carved out of rock salt by miners. A world class monument with twelve objects on the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage list makes it well worth a visit.
The salt mine combines centuries of tradition, an underground metropolis which is a monument to the history of Poland.
10. Vistula River
After all the sightseeing and excitement of Krakow wind down and relax by taking a boat cruise on the Vistula river the longest river in Poland. Sit back and take in the views, especially beautiful on a warm summers day.
Krakow really is an amazing city to visit for a short break or longer. There are lots things to do and I really think you will enjoy the city as much as I did. Although some of the places are a shocking and sobering reminded of how horrific human history, these locations really are needed to be visited to be fully understood. If you would like to see more of the country, you might like to check out Poland tours which include others cities in the itinerary.
By Stacey Hunter
Interested in being more than just a tourist in Poland? These pages will help you to plan a trip: