A tour of Krakow, Poland should start at the city’s Main Market Square where there are a number of restaurants, cafes and bars to enjoy, together with the landmarks of St Mary’s Basilica, Sukiennice and St Adalbert’s Church. The buildings and palaces that surround the square are very old, with some dating back to the 13th century. There are a great many wonders to behold on a Krakow holiday, with an abundance of intricate architecture, stunning scenery and a rich cultural heritage.
From milk bars to chic restaurants, the city offers tasty delights to all visitors - and being famous for its vodkas and beers, there is an amazing array of drinking locations to enjoy. With many restaurants serving a range of traditional Polish dishes to a selection of international favourites, you can decide whether you want to experience an authentic Polish getaway or delight in some home comforts.
There are more than 40 public parks in Krakow which are great for the whole family, with playgrounds, historic gardens and various outdoor sport activities on offer.
A visit to Wawel Royal Castle should not be missed, but to enjoy some of Krakow’s most impressive scenery, travel via Kanonicza Street for the most mesmerising route.
The architectural gem of the 13th century St Mary’s Basilica is also on the Main Market Square. Its trumpet signal can be heard every hour and plays as a reminder to the 13th century trumpeter who was shot in the throat whilst sounding the warning signal for the Mongol attack on the city. With an appearance on the popular film Schlinder’s List and an imposing façade and captivating interior, it is well worth a visit. For more inspiration on things to do in Krakow, check out our guide.
There are many museums and galleries to explore in Krakow too, including the National Museum on Maja Street, The Czartoryskis Museum on Jana Street which is home to Leonardo da Vinci’s “Lady with an Ermine”, and the City of Krakow Historical Museum – to name a few!
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Visiting the Salt mine just outside the boundaries of Krakow is an experience like no other. It has been in continuous operation for 700 years and the other wordly pits and chambers have all been carved by hand. Many popular attractions are located in Kazimierz, within walking distance of the Old Town and one of Krakow’s inner suburbs. It was an independent town for a long time, and historically, it had visibly distinguishable Christian and Jewish sections, although they are not adhered to today.
Krakow nightlife can be described as an ‘explosive cocktail’ of hedonism, and the Old Town offers the poignant combination of beautiful medieval architecture which house dens of vice and pleasure. Shisha Club, in the basement of the Old Market Square, offers bellydancing on Friday and Saturday nights and has both smoking and non smoking areas. Party until dawn or enjoy the relative privacy of the warrens and dens of the maze-like structure with friends.
Plenty of bars are on offer in Krakow, ranging from the rowdy and lively, to places you can sit in solitude or with a small group enjoying a quiet drink. Cellar bars are very common adding a cosy feel, and Alchemia is particularly unique, described as a cultural institution and hosting live bands from around the world alongside exhibitions of work from local and national artists.
Krakow’s Old Town incorporates the Wawel Royal Castle, Grand Square, City Walls and Wawel Cathedral among other attractions. As well as being a historical destination, it is lively and vibrant, with many cafes, pubs and clubs sat alongside busy tourist attractions around the Main Market Square, which is one of the biggest squares in Europe. Horse drawn carriages are available to ride around the town in style.
German forces invaded Krakow on September 6th 1939 and the city became the capital of the General Government. A concentration camp was created in Plaszow, works of art were stolen and plundered, citizens arrested and museums and schools were closed. In 1945 the Soviet forces entered Krakow and forced the German army to leave. Krakow developed into a new city under the newly established People’s Republic of Poland.
One of the largest squares in Europe, the Main Market Square is situated in the Krakow’s Old Town. Outlined in the thirteenth century, it gathered merchants from around Europe to trade their goods in the ‘Cloth Hall’, before becoming the central tourist attraction it is today. Gradually growing into a place of social rather than economic significance, locals often use the Adam Mickiewicz Monument as a popular meeting place. Sit at one of the many cafes around the square to enjoy the views and many street performers.
The whole of Krakow has a particularly medieval architectural layout; and this feeling is also reflected in its many churches, theatres and mansions of Gothic and Romanesque character, which display decorative details such as stained glass, paintings and furnishings.
The city walls themselves are medieval in appearance and conjure up visions of the mighty fortress, which was three kilometres long and featured forty-six towers and seven main entrances.
Many pubs and clubs are now located in buildings of medieval architecture, often in their basements and cellars with vaulted ceilings.
Freedom Hostel, located on Pomorska, is only one kilometre from Krakow city centre and close to Pomnik Henryka Reymana and Palac Sztuki. Rooms include cable TV and the accommodation has a twenty four hour check in and internet access.
Hotel Stary has the most ideal location, being just off the Market Square in the Old Town. Housed in an eighteenth century mansion and spread over four floors, guests can enjoy great views of the Market Square from the roof terrace bar, as well as luxurious décor and a swimming pool in the cellars. From the same owners is another hotel in a great location, The Copernicus, which is situated right at the foot of the Royal Castle.
Although Krakow is best known for its old world charm and tradition, there are a few hotels which can be considered exclusive and romantic. The Donimirski Boutique Hotels enterprise are responsible for a number of romantic hotels, the most spectacular being the Zamek Korzkiew. Choose from one of five chambers to sleep in, all situated within a real authentic medieval castle and decorated with beautiful antiques, heirlooms and cosy log stoves.
Rather than just serving dairy produce, these atmospheric milk bars not longer serve only milk, but instead serve a selection of traditional cuisine for very low prices. Originally named due to the government's attempt to not only sell the surplus of dairy products during Communist reign, but also to sway the locals to drink less alcohol. Most milk bars went bankrupt with the collapse of communism, but some remain with the help of state subsidies. Recommended is Bar Gornik, located at ul. Czysta 1. Go early and often for the greatest choice of dishes.
A short walk out of Wawel is Chlopskie Jadlo, which still appears to be a medieval, rustic old country inn. It is popular particularly for the authenticity of its ‘peasant food’, which can be enjoyed from an antique sleigh seating whilst watching live folk music on Friday and Saturday. For something slightly less authentic, the Edo Fusion and Edo Sushi Bar are great, serving Thai, Mexican and Mediterranean infused flavours.
Vodka is a favourite in Krakow, which is very commonly drunk neat, chilled but with no ice and there is a much greater variety of vodkas in Poland than in Russia. Try vodka flavoured with juniper, caraway and cherry among others, which are made with potatoes or rye. Beer is also increasingly popular in Krakow, with Polish beers most closely resembling German lager.
Krakow casinos are generally located within Krakow hotels. Offering roulette, blackjack, poker and slot machines, they usually only cost one euro to enter with a minimum stake also of one euro, and open from afternoon until dawn. Dress is casual, although those wearing sportswear may not be let in.