Krakow, the former capital of Poland and the cultural centre of the country for centuries, is full of sites and attractions to keep travellers occupied.
Great market place
The market square dates from the 13th century and is located in the old town and was the commercial centre of Krakow. A market is still held in the Cloth Hall of Sukiennice, covered with fabric, on one side where you can also see a statue of the poet Adam Mickiewicz in the centre of the square.
Cathedral of Saint Mary
Well-positioned above the main market square is St Mary’s Cathedral, a 14th-century building with two red-brick towers of uneven height on the facade. Inside the Roman Catholic basilica, travellers can admire a wooden altar carved by the Gothic sculptor Veit Stoss.
Going from Old Town to Krakow via Wawel Hill, travellers leaving from their Krakow youth hostel can admire some of the city’s most famous landmarks along the way, including the market square, the Barbican and the Town Hall Tower – from where travellers enjoy panoramic views of Krakow.
The Vistula crosses several large Polish cities, including Warsaw, Gdansk and Krakow. A boat ride through the latter offers some of the best views of the city’s sights, including Wawel Castle.
Wawel Royal Castle
Wawel Castle was built in the 11th century on the banks of the Vistula River and has since been used as a royal residence, military base and government office. Now open to the public, travellers can visit the great state halls, the state treasury and the gun shop and the dragon pit – a cave on Wawel Hill with a legend about a dragon killed by the city’s founder, Krakus.
Located on the outskirts of the old town, the Barbican fortress in KrakÛw was built in the Gothic style in the 15th century and was connected to the gate of the city’s Florian tower. Impressive, even when viewed from the outside, the inside can also be explored as part of a guided tour.
The National Museum consists of several sites in Krakow, but the main building has three permanent collections: Polish art from the 20th century, the Gallery of Decorative Art and Weapons and Colors in Poland.
Food and drink
It already houses several long-standing restaurants, and in recent years a large number of new restaurants have opened in Krakow, serving everything from traditional Polish dishes to Pan-Asian dishes. For a taste of local dishes, travellers staying in Krakow hostels can head to the Tomasza or Poselska neighbourhoods, while Kazimierz is the neighbourhood to choose if you’re looking for a decent pub.
Formerly divided into a Jewish quarter and a Christian quarter, Kazimierz is home to several synagogues and churches, including the former synagogue, which is now the museum of Judaism. By 1941, the Jewish population of Kazimierz was largely expelled from the region by the Nazis. It is only in recent years that the neighbourhood has started to restore its Jewish heritage.
The infamous former Nazi concentration camp is located about 50 kilometres from Krakow and today houses a museum and a permanent memorial to those who were imprisoned and died there. Travellers can wander around Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II (Birkenau) without thinking for free. About 25 million people have visited the site since the monument opened.