Gothic churches line cobblestone lanes, and in the distance Wawel Castle stands strong on Wawel Hill as the wind blows against it. As you walk towards Main Market Square, Kraków’s town song, St. Mary’s Trumpet Call, chimes on the hour. Locals mingle with the sparse tourists and no one bumps elbows. Nothing is overcrowded, overdone, or understated. It is just beautiful.
The capital of Poland until 1596, Kraków is now considered Poland’s most cultured city, boasting grand museums, galleries, restaurants and architecture. Egyptian artifacts, thousand-year old catacombs and Da Vinci’s “Lady with an Ermine” are some of the many historical artifacts to fill the museums. Known for its well-preserved medieval core, gargoyles guard the main square while legends of dragons whisper through Wawel Castle.
Located in southern Poland, Kraków’s abundant history can be seen in the Jewish Quarter, Kazimierz. Jewish families were forcibly relocated by the Germans in 1941. It is one of one of the major tourist attractions of Kraków and an important center of cultural life of the city.
As you approach the Main Market Square in Kraków you will see the spires of the St. Mary’s Basilica poke its head out over the roofs of buildings. The Church of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven, a 14th century brick gothic church, is 80 meters tall. Famous for its wooden altarpiece, carved by Veit Stross, the altarpiece is surrounded by the royal blue star-spangled ceiling and the bright colors of stained glass. Stand in awe of the majestic interior and exterior.
With a high density of pubs and a large student population, enjoy a pint at a local bar such as Pijalnia Wodki i Piwa, a 24-hour bar with newspaper covered walls, which serves quince and plum vodkas. The city has become popular for stag nights, or bachelor parties, which invites a lively atmosphere to the bar scene.
Wawel Castle is a symbol of national identity in Poland. It is a museum containing five separate sections and each requires a separate ticket. While you’re there you must see the city's most valuable painting, Leonardo da Vinci's “The Lady with an Ermine”. Wander the grounds and find Wawel Cathedral. Enjoy the beauty of the church and the free admission.
When you visit Schindler’s Factory you will come away with a better sense of Poland’s situation in World War II. A detailed museum which tells the historical story of Kraków during the war and how Oskar Schindler helped save many people from the Nazi's. The visit takes around two hours to complete.
Take the day to travel to Auschwitz, about an hour from Kraków, to see the concentration camps where millions died during World War II. Learn about the horrors of the camp and see the conditions in which 150,000 inmates lived. Admission to the memorial is free.
Chandelier’s drip from the ceiling to shed light on Wieliczka Salt Mine, one of the oldest salt mines in operation in Europe. Opened in the 13th century, the mine produced table salt continuously until 2007. Located in the town of Wieliczka in southern Poland, the mine lies within the Kraków, but is about a 30 minute drive from the city center. The mine's attractions include dozens of statues and four chapels carved out of the rock salt by the miners.
Start your day in the mountains and find yourself at the end of the day in a thermal spa. Get out of the city and drive about 2 hours up 3,700 foot Mt. Gubałówka, soak in the views and ride down the other side of the mountain into Zakopane. You might take a break and check out the unique wooden shops before driving to Bania Thermal Pools, a modern thermal pools and spa complex.
Try to book your stay in one of the many hotels in the main square of Kraków, or enjoy a light airy bedroom in a local’s home. At Tripping.com there are almost 6,000 rental options to choose from in Kraków. Cozy up by the fire when the temperature starts to drop in one of the hundred rentals with a fireplace.
The city of Kraków’s favorite street is Kanonicza Street. It ends just at the foot of the hilltop Wawel Royal Castle and is lined with stately, mostly Renaissance houses. This charming street would be a great place to spend your vacation in Kraków.
Walking is easy in Kraków, as most landmarks are within a reasonable walking distance of each other. The majority of the city’s historical district has been turned into a pedestrian precinct. There are some more creative ways to get around town, such as being driven in a horse cab, an electric cart, or a bicycle rickshaw.
Make sure to remember jay walking is an offence in Poland before crossing the road. Also stay alert of the fast cars you’re sharing the road with. This is a walkable city, take advantage of Kraków on foot.
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