Krakow (Pronounced: crack-ov) is one of Eastern Europe’s most exciting cities. A city that is packed with culture and art, is one of Poland’s prized gems with its history and stunning architecture.
Krakow is one of the most exciting and interesting cities in Europe – it was once home to Polish kings who lived in Wawel castle, located in the city centre. During medieval times Krakow was a rich and powerful city in Eastern Europe and now thrives on business, culture and art, making it the most popular tourist destination in Poland.
Packed with interesting sights and great culture, Krakow is surrounded by stunning architecture such as museums, churches and palaces admired by locals but also by millions of tourists around the world.
One of the city’s main attractions is the Old Town. Full of character, Star Miasto is home to some of Central Europe’s most stunning architectural masterpieces and is a great way to start your time in Krakow. The historic site is the central district of the city and was once surrounded by a three kilometre fortified wall. By the 19th century most of the fortified wall was demolished and the surrounding moat filled in to create a horseshoe shaped park known as the Planty.
The centrepiece of old town is Main Market Square, Rynek, is the largest of its kind in Europe at 40,000 square metres. At the centre you will find Cloth Hall (Sukiennice), home to the Gallery of the National Museum, the New Underground Museum, and numerous arts and crafts stalls.
Today Cloth Hall continues to be an active market, although no longer in international trade. Wooden stalls line at each side of the ground floor are stacked with local craft and sovereigns such as amber jewellery, colourful wood carvings, hand embroidered blouses, wood slippers and crystal glasses.
The iconic building became a national symbol for the city in the late 19th century, after years of decline under the partitions of Poland and Austrian occupation. The building has since been renovated and turned into Poland’s first national museum. It now houses one of the museums nationally symbolic collections of 19 century polish paintings.
On your trip to Krakow, visit the Jewish district in Kazimierz that was once home to thousands of Polish Jews. It is one of the trendiest and interesting places in the city. While wandering around the narrow streets and courtyards you will quickly be reminded of the history and the devastation caused by the Second World War.
While walking through the Kazimierz you will be amazed the beautiful historical buildings, numerous cosy cafes, art galleries and antique shops. Synagogues and magnificent monuments pave the street where you can embrace the Jewish culture. A trip through the Jewish district wouldn’t be complete without a tour around Oskar Schindler’s factory, which was turned into a museum showing wartime experiences in Krakow under Nazi occupation during World War Two.
If you believe in legends and dragons then Wawel Castle is the place for you to visit. According to legend, Krakow was founded when mythical ruler Krakus built the city above a dragons cave. The cave is believed to be at the foot of Wawel Hill, where you are now able to find the National Art Collection, Wawel Castle and Wawel Cathedral.
By exploring the castle you can find out more about the history of Poland. In its 16th century museum you can explore interesting collections such as the Crown Treasury, State rooms, Royal Private Apartments, Lost Wawel and Oriental Art. You will discover more about the castle’s turbulent history that was once home to Polish kings until the late 1800s.
It was later used as a military hospital and a Nazi headquarters during World War Two. Today the castle is a representation of Polish independence and national pride, making it a must-see attraction for both tourists and locals.
When it comes to eating you are spoiled for choice. Sample traditional Polish dishes such as Golonka – a pork knuckle which is a local delicacy – or Pierogi dumplings which can be stuffed with sweet or savoury fillings. These dishes can be found in some of the best traditional restaurants in the city or food trucks on the street. It’s just not local food you will enjoy: there is also a variety of choice of international flavours. Cafes, restaurants, bistros and bars can be found on almost every corner of the city.
Many of the most popular bars and restaurants in the city are located in cellars, spilling out onto the streets of old town in the summer months. Here you can enjoy some people watching or try a nice cold beer at the rooftop bars as you take in the city’s amazing architecture.
Chlopskie Jadlo, or Peasant Kitchen in English, is one of the most well-known restaurants in Krakow that is popular with visitors and locals alike. A personal favourite dish of mine is the Farmers style pork neck; potato dumplings and salad that is cooked to perfection and is bursting with delicious flavours. Décor is traditional polish mountain style wooden home, and the staff dress on traditional mountain wear.
Movida Cocktail Bar is one of the best in the city. Here you can chill out after a long day of sightseeing and relax with a cocktail or two. A personal favourite is the Red Velvet, a sweet infusion of Chopin vodka, Chamboard, Kahlua, Raspberry Purée and cream – very fruity and a delight for the taste buds.
With cheap flights and cheap prices for accommodation, Krakow is definitely a city to add to your list of places to visit. Its interesting culture, delicious food, amazing atmosphere make for a great time.