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What to do in Krakow?

Krakow, a medieval Polish city brimming with history, the seat of Polish kings and also a bohemian place famous for its art, culture and a thriving cafe scene. Follow in the footsteps of Copernicus or pope John Paul II and trace the work of Steven Spielberg or Andrzej Wajda.

With lots of sightseeing ideas, excellent choice of restaurants and many interesting daytrip excursions, Krakow is an attractive proposition for a weekend city break.

A visit to Krakow can also be combined with more active walking holidays in the Tatra Mountains nearby.

Top 10 things to do & see in Krakow:

1. Krakow Old Town

The beauty of Krakow starts just 5 mins from the main train station (dworzec glowny), when you come up to 'stare miasto' (old town) and one of the main gates into it. From there, you can wander the cobbled streets til your hearts content, stopping off for a (traditional polish) tea with lemon or a fantastically fresh apple pie.

Admire the famous sights of Old Town Tenement houses and mansions around the Main Market Square, Barbakan (Fortress remains), Brama Florianska ( Florianska Gate), The Town Hall Tower, Sukiennice ( The Cloth Hall), Kosciol Mariacki ( The Marian Church, Pomnik Mickewicza ( Monument to Mickewicz).

The centre of 'stare miasto' is 'rynek glowny (main square) with the focal point being Sukiennice (the old Cloth Hall), where all the souvenir shopping action happens. Walking through the cobbled centre will show you exactly what trinkets you can buy on your visit - leather, wooden goods, nice glass, crystal, lots and lots of silver. The stalls in Sukiennice can be more expensive, so either try the side road shops or haggle like you've never haggled before…. it will work!

Krakow Old Town Sukiennice2. Visit Mariacki Church

The large Mariacki Church in the Old Town square dates from 13th century. Step inside and admire the 15th century wooden altarpiece carved by the Nuremberh sculptor Wit Stwosz ( Veit Stoss) - try to see its celebrated daily opening at about 11.50am. You can climb to the top of the church tower for panoramic views of Krakow. From the church tower, the 'Hejnal' tune is played by the trumpeter. It breaks off mid stream to commemorate the trumpeter in the 13th century who was shot with an arrow to the throat when sounding an alarm of invasion. The tune is also played on the radio across Poland every day at noon.

Krakow Old Town Mariacki Church

3. Climb up to the Royal Castle on Wawel Hill

Wawel Castle is a real symbol of Polish national identity. It was the seat of Polish kings between 11th and 16th centuries when Krakow was the capital of Poland. The Wawel Cathedral contains sarcophagi of Polish kings and national heroes and is worth a visit. It's worth going on a guided tour of the Castle and if you're feeling fit then climbing up the narrow stairs of the Cathedral Tower is worth it to see the most famous bell in Poland - the Sigmuntus Bell. Line up to touch it and make a wish - it might come true! The views of Krakow and Vistula River from the tower are magnificent. And don't miss out on the interesting display of medieval armour in the Armoury.

Wawel Castle Cathedral Krakow Poland

4. Dine like a king in Royal Krakow

Krakow is famous for its many restaurants, some like Wierzynek, have seen many crowned heads in their time grace their tables. Try the restaurant Pod Gruszka to dine in the charming room full of antique furniture. In the Old Town there is a huge choice of places to eat as old gothic cellars house a few hundred restaurants, pubs and cafes. This is a great place to sample traditional polish food and Krakow specialities but also any other European & exotic cuisine.

Wierzynek Restaurant Krakow

5. Explore Kazimierz

Listen to klezmer bands in one of little restaurants in the old Jewish district of Kazimierz. Here you can find out about culture and traditions of Polish Jews in the old synagogues and Jewish museums.


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6. Go back to University in Krakow

Krakow's Jagiellonian University was founded in the 14th century and is one of the oldest universities in the world. Nicolaus Copernicus studied astronomy here in Collegium Maius in 1491. See the numerous astronomical instruments that Copernicus used in the university museum. Another famous student was Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) who studied Polish literature there.


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7. Listen to Live Jazz

Listen to live jazz in one of the atmospheric jazz clubs such as Harris Piano Jazz Bar or U Muniaka. Krakow has great a long-established jazz culture and traditions. Renowned jazz trumpeter Tomasz Stanko also started here.

8. Go underground to Wieliczka Salt Mine

Climb down into the Wieliczka salt mine (the oldest salt mine in Europe)and witness the spectacular salt ballroom and caves. … and resist the temptation to lick the walls! There is also a spa to get your dose of goodness on your Poland break


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9. Go on a daytrip to Zakopane

Zakopane is a picturesque resort in the Tatra Mountains with traditional highlanders' style architecture. This is also a busy winter sports centre in Poland with skiing slopes and ski lifts as well as televised ski jumping competitions. Take the funicular up Gubalowka or a cable-car to Kasprowy Wierch. Back on the ground; wander around the shops in the resort to stock up on wooden and leather souvenirs - much cheaper than in Krakow.


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10. History tour to Auswitz (Oswiecim)

A visit to the old concentration camp of Auswitz (Oswiecim) is a must on a Krakow city break, full of Polish and Jewish history, and deeply moving.

How to get there - fly to Krakow

Located in the south of Poland, Krakow is easy to get to from the UK as direct flights to Krakow are available from London and other UK airports.

 

 

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