Topped with a formidable royal citadel and dotted with church spires and world-class museums, Kraków combines the historic with the cosmopolitan.
The streets of former Jewish quarter Kazimierz and close by Auschwitz are sobering reminders of Twentieth-century tragedy, whereas the crowds thronging Kraków’s main square and the eating places lining photogenic Outdated City lanes buzz with Twenty first-century joie de vivre. Alongside heavy-hitting sights exist easier native pleasures: strolling alongside the Vistula River, eating on hearty home-style cooking in a retro bar mleczny (cafeteria), catching a neighborhood band at a legendary dive bar, having fun with a espresso in hipster enclave Tytano. Listed below are the perfect issues to do in Kraków.
Go to Wawel Royal Fortress and Wawel Cathedral
Overlooking Outdated City from its Wawel Hill perch, the seat of Polish royalty for hundreds of years is the town’s most spectacular sight, to not point out the image of Poland and the supply of native pleasure. Pink-roofed, turreted, and ringed by a red-brick wall, this 16th-century Renaissance palace is merely the most recent incarnation: royal residences on this very spot have come and gone (burned down, prolonged, vandalized by Swedish and Prussian armies…) because the Eleventh-century.
Highlights embody the Sixteenth-century tapestries and carved wood heads within the grand State Rooms, the Royal Non-public Flats that offer you an intimate glimpse into the monarchs’ personal lives, the Crown Jewels within the Treasury and the Szczerbiec (Jagged Sword) that’s performed a necessary function in Polish coronations from 1320 onwards – discover it contained in the vaulted Gothic armory.
Give your self loads of time to go to the adjoining Wawel Cathedral, the place a lot of Poland’s kings and queens are seeing out eternity in elaborate tombs, alongside the bones allegedly belonging to the legendary Wawel dragon. The grounds are free to go to, but it surely’s a extremely good concept to e-book tickets for displays you need to see no less than two weeks forward as a result of their monumental reputation.
Discover Główny Rynek above and beneath the bottom
Surrounded by eating places and missed by good-looking centuries-old buildings, Główny Rynek (Foremost Market Sq.) is the focus of Outdated City, in addition to Europe’s largest medieval city sq.. After you’re finished shopping the wares contained in the market constructing, return to the Center Ages by descending to the medieval-meets-the-21st-century museum beneath the sq..
Intelligent multimedia shows, holograms and animated puppets present you medieval markets stalls and educate you about vampire prevention burials. Purchase your timed ticket on-line prematurely. Free entry on Tuesdays; closed second Monday of every month.
Pay your respects at Auschwitz-Birkenau
You don’t know what’s going to contact you notably deeply till you get there. For some, it’s the “Dying Block” with its torture cells and its crematorium. For others, it’s the gasoline chambers and the limitless rows of crematoria chimneys at Birkenau, the place many of the mass killings occurred. For others nonetheless, it’s the mountains of eyeglasses and prosthetic limbs, the mass of human hair collected from victims for use in textile manufacturing, and piles of battered suitcases with house addresses written on them by these for whom this Nazi extermination camp grew to become their remaining vacation spot.
In any case, Auschwitz is unlikely to go away you unmoved. Greater than 1,000,000 Jews, in addition to quite a few Poles and Roma, have been systematically killed right here between 1940 and 1945, and the loss of life camps have been preserved as a brutal, important historical past lesson.
Auschwitz is reachable by bus, practice and arranged day tour from Kraków. Whereas solo vacationers can go to the location with out a information, it’s nicely price becoming a member of a tour to get essentially the most out of it, from the screening of the graphic 1945 documentary movie by the Soviet liberators to the exhibitions within the barracks.
Take a stroll via Kazimierz
Southeast of Outdated City, Kazimierz neighborhood had been Poland’s most essential heart of Jewish tradition for 500 years, till mass deportation and extermination of Kraków’s Jews by the Nazis destroyed it. Largely rundown through the Communist period, Kazimierz has bounced again in recent times.
A stroll via its streets is a superb technique to get to know its historic sights, from the restored Old Synagogue and a Nineteenth-century Jewish cemetery with surviving tombstones, to the Moorish-style Temple Synagogue and the sobering Galicia Jewish Museum that traces the historical past of Jews in Kraków. Browse the flea markets on Plac Nowy on the weekends, or attend a movie screening or live performance at Cheder through the Jewish Tradition Competition.
Head underground into the Wieliczka Salt Mine
One other massively widespread attraction that’s not really in Kraków correct however is definitely reachable from the town, this Unesco-certified subterranean labyrinth of passages and chambers has been drawing guests because the 1720s. It’s not for the claustrophobic: as a part of a “vacationer” tour, first-timers descend no less than 125m (410ft) beneath the bottom and spend two hours within the depths of the former mine, whereas return guests can go for a extra immersive miners’ tour.
Highlights embody an underground lake, chapels adorned with statues carved from the white stuff, and a salt cathedral with chandeliers. And sure, every part round you is carved from salt; we licked the wall so that you just wouldn’t need to. Wieliczka is definitely reached from Kraków by bus, practice or tour. Pack a sweater.
Go to Schindler’s manufacturing facility
You’re more likely to have heard of Oscar Schindler, the German industrialist immortalized in Steven Spielberg’s 1993 movie Schindler’s Listing. Throughout WWII, Schindler saved greater than a thousand Jewish inhabitants of the Podgorzé ghetto from deportation to the loss of life camps by using them at his enamel manufacturing facility. This factory-turned-museum, which was a part of the Schindler’s Listing movie set, was given a significant face elevate in 2010 and have become one in every of Kraków’s must-visit museums. Ebook your timed slot on-line no less than three days prematurely (it’s massively widespread!), and don’t miss the excellent everlasting exhibition Kraków Throughout Nazi Occupation 1939-1945 that tells the story of on a regular basis life, underground resistance, and anti-Semitic repressions within the metropolis throughout WWII.
Chow down on road meals
Many cities have signature road meals. Paris has its croissants, Hanoi has its banh mi, Vienna has its käsekrainer, and Kraków has its obwarzanek. Chewy, moreish, and topped both with poppy seeds or sesame seeds, Kraków’s bagels are discovered at stalls on each nook in Outdated City, and locals will inform you which stall is more likely to have the more energizing lot.
However there’s extra to Kraków’s road eating than bagels. For the perfect kielbasa (signature Polish sausage) on the town, head for the Kiełbaski z Niebieskiej Nyski van in entrance of the Hala Targowa market on ul. Grzegorzecka. Then there’s zapiekanka – half a baguette topped with melted cheese, mushrooms, and a squirt of ketchup. Poland’s reply to pizza was invented within the Seventies, when fundamental elements have been all you would get, however now variations with fancier toppings are ubiquitous at quick meals stands. For quite a few zapiekanka sellers underneath one roof, strive the Okrąglak meals court docket at Plac Nowy in Kazimierz.
Go Communist in Nowa Huta
If you wish to see how metal staff lived within the Fifties, catch a tram #4 or #10 from central Kraków to this masterpiece of socialist-realist city planning and Communist structure within the east of the town. If wandering across the uniformly gray, an identical blocks of flats is not sufficient of a draw, take a tour of Nowa Huta in a classic, Communist-era Trabant with Crazy Guides, who’ll take you down into the outdated nuclear-fallout shelters and ply you with vodka.
Rock out with Kraków’s finest nightlife at Klub Awaria
Klub Awaria is the type of dingy dive bar that your mom warned you about: a sticky-floored, vaulted-ceilinged saloon the place the carpe-diem clientele will gladly press a drink right into a sober stranger’s hand to assist them take part within the mildly anarchic nightly revelry. Up-and-coming native blues and rock bands carry out on the little stage most nights and after the band is finished, there’s occasional dancing on the tables and on the bar itself by regulars to Tina Turner classics.
Stroll or cruise alongside the Vistula
The slow-flowing Vistula River bisects the town. Be a part of locals throughout their morning runs alongside the footpaths that run alongside the river banks for a number of kilometers from close to Wawel Royal Fortress to the town’s japanese suburbs, skirting Kazimierz on the way in which. Alternatively, you probably have native pals, you may be invited aboard a celebration boat with a full bar and music system; these can be found for rent by teams and are primarily floating nightclubs. Extra simply accessible are hour-long cruises that depart beneath Wawel Fortress Hill, that showcase the town’s essential landmarks, such because the Dębnicki Bridge, the Norbertine Monastery, the Manggha Museum of Japanese Art and Technology, and the Piłsudski Bridge.
Go for a swim in Zakrzowek
Tall limestone cliffs and dense pine forest encompass this lagoon with its clear, turquoise waters that feels 1,000,000 miles away from city life, despite the fact that it’s solely a brief tram experience (#1; #4) to Kapelanka, southwest of Outdated City. The lagoon started its life as a limestone quarry but it surely was intentionally flooded in 1990 after falling into disuse. It then grew to become a preferred swimming and picnicking spot for locals. It is presently present process renovations that will not be full till 2023, so you possibly can’t swim or dive right here in the intervening time, but it surely’s good for a scenic picnic and a few actually beautiful out-of-town climbing.
Dine out at a bar mleczny
Low-cost, cheerful, and with severely retro decor, a bar mleczny is a time-warp step behind the Iron Curtain into Eighties Poland – in a great way. Dotted across the metropolis, bar melczny are dirt-cheap cafeteria, the place you’ll be rubbing shoulders with locals when you load up your tray with soup, pierogi (crammed dumplings), placki ziemniaczane (potato pancakes), and different hearty, belly-warming staples – all with out dropping greater than 10zl (round US$2). There’s a department at Grodzka 43 in Outdated City and one other at Starowiślna 29 in Kazimierz.
Summit Kopiec Kościuszki
Whenever you’re standing on Wawel Hill, chances are you’ll discover lump-like inexperienced hills surrounding Kraków. The origins of Kraków Mounds are misplaced within the mists of time, but it surely’s believed that the oldest – Kopiec Krakusa and Wandy – have been constructed by pagan tribes a number of millennia in the past as a part of some photo voltaic calendar: through the summer time solstice, the solar rises at Wandy and units at Krakusa. Kopiec Kościuszki is a more moderen mound, accomplished in 1823 to commemorate a fallen Polish normal. Catch bus #100 to the mound for improbable views of Wawel Fortress, St Mary’s Basilica, and Główny Rynek.
Spend your night time out discovering a “misplaced bar”
Different cities have speakeasies, whereas Kraków has its “misplaced bars”. It’s the identical concept, despite the fact that Kraków’s hidden consuming dens are a latest growth. Head to the Smakolyki restaurant on Floriana Straszewskiego, discover your technique to the cloakroom and cross via to a hidden courtyard from which you enter Mercy Brown. It’s Nineteen Twenties Kraków – all velvet couches, temper lighting, chandeliers, and cocktails from a bygone period (gin with jasmine tea cordial, anybody?). Leisure consists of burlesque exhibits.
Mingle with native hipsters in Tytano
Simply west of Outdated City, a decrepit former tobacco manufacturing facility has been remodeled right into a pocket of hipsterdom, full with artwork studios, exhibitions areas, beer gardens, and brunch cafes that entice Kraków’s younger and funky contingent. Try the most recent images exhibition or style occasion, then seize a espresso from Kraków’s speciality roasters at Bonjour Cava.