Once the political, economic and cultural hub of the Polish Kingdom, Kraków’s never fails to wow visitors. At its centre is the great Market Square (Rynek Glowny), the largest of its kind in all of Europe, and a veritable hub of local life that teems with flower sellers, crafts shops and sprawling café terraces.
Things to do during your stay:
- Strolling around the old town, follow the green belt and run into the great Barbican fortress;
- Follow the Royal Road from the market square to the majestic heights of the Wawel Castle on the hill;
- Go underground. Literally.
- Visit Oskar Schindlers factory;
- Check out the buildings of the Jagiellonian University (founded in 1364, more than 50 years before Leuven);
- You will find lots of banners for organised tours to the marvelous Wieliczka Salt Mine (with a church carved out in the salt) and the most infamous of the extermination camps: Auschwitz-Birkenau, now a memorial and museum, in the town of Oświęcim. We visited both and highly recommend, however we never took the busses so can’t comment on those. Will try to get info on those.
- Visit Kazimierz. The old Jewish district and walled ghetto during WWII is today the place to be for the wackiest, most stylish independent stores, art galleries, bars and clubs in Krakow. Small, beautiful streets with lovely cafés and restaurants, Lonely Planet recommends Miejsce & Mleczarnia bars, our favourite is Eszeweria. For a visit back in time you go to the market square, in front of the Old Synagogue (worth a visit) and have a coffee at Dawnu Temu. We did check out the renewed Galicja Jewish museum and appreciated.
- For an overview of the city museums, check out their website;
- Ah, and of course you should see the Mariacki church. If you spend a few hours in Krakow, you will for sure get enchanted by the beauty of its uneven towers, be triggered by a trumpeter performing a five-note anthem, or heard rumours of Veit Stoss’ magnificent altarpiece.
There’s an excellent article on Culture.pl which gives a comprehensive introduction to the Polish kitchen. A kitchen with a very rich tradition, however crippled by the ‘somehow more limited possibilities’ during communism. You will find most interesting restaurants situated in Kazimierz. We are personally rather enthousiast about Zazie (reservation recommended), but you might also want to check out Old Town or Starka. For hummus you go to Hamsa. If all of them are booked, Tripadvisor offers some alternatives.
Off the beaten track
If you are looking for alternative city guide, (with offline map & audio) and you happen to be an iphone / ipad-user, do check out the Infamous Cracow App. There is also a Facebook page, which includes links to stories in English about the tales in the app.