Krakow is a magical and enchanting place to visit with its rich history, myths and legends blending with today’s modern and state of the art services, activities and attractions on offer in Poland’s oldest city open to everyone. There are two main central areas the Old Town and Kazimierz which are full of restaurants of all international culinary delights, quaint cafes, cinemas (in original language too), museums, art galleries, multi-level & music dance clubs, unusual pubs, spa & wellbeing centres plus a host of must see attractions. Also, along the Vistula riverbanks lots of floating restaurants, cafes, clubs and pubs you can also go on river cruises by day or night.
Here is an ace guide to Krakow’s top 10 unmissable attractions that you can do in a weekend break.
1. Rynek Glowny
Rynek or Draper’s Square is the largest square in Europe and was a textile and cloth trading centre in the past. In fact, the world’s silk trading hub back in the 13th century. The Cloth Hall or Sukiennice and Town Hall or Ratusz are museums now. The Ratusz was demolished in 1820 leaving only the main tower standing on the square today. The square itself measures almost 4 hectares and is host to a tremendous amount of activity including festivals, markets, buildings and monuments. Rynek is surrounded by cafes, restaurants, hotels, pubs & clubs, a waxwork museum, cinema, theatre and live music venues. On Rynek there is the St. Mary’s Basilica or Kościół Mariacki with its twin towers and bugler sounding every hour of the day from the tallest turret, a marvellous 14th century Gothic church. The basilica also had its own parish cemetery adjacent to it but was later turned into a white stoned lined square called Plac Mariacki which leads to Maly Rynek or Little Rynek Square. Next to the existing Town Hall Tower on the main square lies the ever popular ‘Head’ as it is affectionately known or Krakow’s very own Eros Bandato. The huge head of Eros sculpted in bronze laid on its side provides many a happy photograph for visitors. Krakow’s
2. Horse & Carriage
Sightseeing tours are available directly from the main square as the carriages line the perimeter of Rynek in all their bright regalia feather head-dresses. These two-horse open top carriages will trot the Old town streets passing all the landmarks and monuments day and night and during the winter as the cabriolet version becomes a hard top with heating. Many ‘Just Married’ couples choose to parade their union with a famous Krakow Horse & Carriage ride.
3. Electric Buggy Tour
This tour of Krakow is also a perfect and leisurely way to see Krakow’s main city centre attractions. The tour takes around 2 hours and is available all year round as like the horse & carriage in colder times the buggies become soft-sides and heated, you can book online through a company or agency offering this service. The tour includes the Royal Route through Krakow, the main city St. Florian’s Gate onto Rynek, Royal Wawel Castle with its own cathedral within the grounds. Built on top of Wawel Hill this medieval fortress will certainly capture your imagination. You will also hear the Legend of the Wawel Dragon which resided in a cave under Wawel Hill near the banks of the Vistula River and to mark the dragon’s lair a huge statue of the dragon that actually breathes fire. Remaining on the square there is the entrance.
4. Krakow Underground Museum.
This fantastic interactive museum displays how life was centuries ago in Krakow spread over 4,000 m2! Exhibition areas cover Krakow’s sometimes turbulent history, daily life and activities with all kinds of artefacts on show. One particular exhibit is the 693 kg lead ball called The Loaf, regarded as a precious metal back then and the 11th century burial chamber are top choices to see. All the exhibition areas have touch screen technology and the interactive mechanics room along with a play area for children. Moving closer to the Vistula river we have Krakow’s
Or the Jewish quarter which is extremely popular all year round. Some of the sights while on tour of the city include The Old Synagogue, Jewish culture and history can be viewed close up in the main hall and south hall, all the ceremonial artefacts and the Torah Scrolls are on display. There are many synagogues and the Remuh Cemetery which dates back 1535. You can visit Landau’s house and Helena Rubenstein’s birthplace, also, the weekly market stalls with the most popular being on Plac Nowy. In and around this area it is filled with cafes, pubs and restaurants and the nightlife scene is pretty intense. Spielberg filmed in Kazimierz for Schindler’s List, you follow on with a visit to
6. Schindler’s Factory
The factory has been restored and open to the public and the nearby Nazi camp transfer departure point Plac Bohaterow Getta which is where many Jewish people were brought to before going to Auschwitz. The square has large chairs placed on it symbolising people with all their belongings that waited there without knowing what would happen. A visit to
7. Auschwitz/Birkenau Nazi Concentration Camps
It’s best to arrange a visit via an agency or dedicated company with a morning departure too. Oświęcim which is the Polish name for this city was originally a concentration camp to hold Russian POWs. Approximately 10,000 soldiers were interned there and not very many survived. Later, the camps were used for holding Jewish, Roma and anyone else not to the liking of the Nazi regime. Today, the Auschwitz/Birkenau Memorial is a World Heritage Site and is a stark reminder of the horrific crimes committed there for all humanity to reflect upon
8. Wieliczka Salt Mine Excursion
This particular mine has over one million visitors a year. Once again a morning departure is advised to see everything properly. The highlight of the tour is St. Kinga’s Chapel, everything you see, touch or stand on is or was carved from rock salt, even Da Vinci’s Last Supper is reproduced but totally carved in rock salt. The 5D interactive museum room is a truly magic experience. If you are the active sporting type then.
9. White Water Rafting
A great opportunity to test your mettle and teamwork on a rafting challenge. This activity is popular especially with Krakow Stag Do groups and company bonding exercises. All aboard the raft on the Olympic standard white water circuit for a couple of hours followed by a hearty meal and a few beers ‘n sing song, quite a day for sure. Sticking with high adrenaline pumping activities this next one will surely rank with the best, that is the
10. AK 47 Kalashnikov Shooting Range
if you have never shot a gun before or would like to then make time for this super event. The sheer force and power of firing one of the most well-known automatic machine guns in the world is a feeling you will never forget, you get to use up to 7 different weapons and you can take your target score cards home. Well, the guide is coming to an end now and ten ideas have been highlighted for your pleasure or choice. The last activity I thoroughly recommend, especially on your first evening here in Krakow is a BONUS !
As they are a great introduction to visiting Krakow’s best drinking parlours. The many local breweries provide an excellent choice of beers and ales as well as non-Polish and mainstream brands, a guided pub crawl is the best way to appreciate Krakow’s unusual cellar and garden bars on the first night to set you up for the rest of your stay. Experienced guides will entertain you with drinking games, Karaoke and recommend the best drinks to try on your travels. Also included in some pub crawls entry to some of Krakow’s hottest dance clubs.
Krakow, a great place to be and a fantastic city to know!