Tourists tend to gravitate towards its historic monuments such as Wawel Royal Castle, the Barbican and St Florian’s Gate.
Its Old Town pulses with literally hundreds of restaurants, bars and clubs which sit alongside vast churches and fascinating museums. It is also home to Rynek Glówny, Europe’s largest market square. Here you’ll find St Mary’s Church and the Cloth Hall as well as Collegium Mais of the Jagiellonian University which dates back to the 15th century.
In fact, the Old Town was one of the first sites to be added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List back in 1978.
Then there is the Jewish quarter Kazimierz, once an autonomous enclave governed by rabbis and elected elders and home to more than 64,000 Jews – 25% of the city’s population – before the outbreak of World War II when all were deported to Auschwitz, with only 6,000 to return. It is still the location of many synagogues and is now becoming known as something of a bohemian quarter.
Or you can head underground at the Wielicza salt mine to discover the unusual beauty of its labrynthine saline corridors while learning about the daily life of its miners. Alternatively, you can take advantage of the unique micro-climate with a treatment at the underground health resort – the birthplace of subterranotherapy.
Krakow is also home to many museums which hold impressive collections such as the National Museum, Galicia Jewish Museum and the Princes Czartoryski Museum which has the most valuable art collection in Poland.
Places to Visit in Krakow
- The Old Town
- Tatra Mountains
- Planty Park
Unique Things to See and Do in Krakow
- Wander the picture perfect streets of the Old Town
- Visit gothic Wawel Royal Castle and discover the Dragon’s Den
- Ski or hike in the alpine Tatra Mountains
- Take a walk around the Jewish quarter of Kazimierz
- Explore the saline chambers of the Wielicska salt mine
A City Built on the Defeat of a Dragon
Legend has it that a terrible fire-breathing dragon once lived in a den at the foot of Wawel Hill, with the city of Krakow said to have been founded upon its defeat.
Now you can visit the lair of that terrible creature – a vast natural cavern in the western rocky slope of the Wawel Hill above the Vistula (Wisla) river bank.
To access it, visitors must descend a long, spiral staircase with 135 steps in a converted 19th century well which brings them to three chambers beneath the Wawel Hill.
Once underground, visitors can wander through part of the 270 metre Wawel Cave which is lit with electric lamps. But much of the cave, which includes five underground ponds and passageways, is considered too dangerous for visitors to access.
The exit brings visitors out on the embankment of the Wisla River. A massive bronze sculpture of the Krakow Dragon stands on a boulder by the exit, spurting fire on demand via SMS.
Getting Around Krakow
The majority of Krakow’s major sites are located within walking distance of each other, so the easiest way to get around is on foot. Most of the city’s historic area has been pedestrianised making it even easier to wander from one attraction to another.
However, in the Old Town and Kazinierz you can also take a horse-drawn carriage, an electric cart similar to a golf buggy, or a bicycle rickshaw. There is also a double-decker bus tour of the city available to visitors.
Did you know…?
There are around 6,000 historic sites and 2 million art works within the city of Krakow.
Did you ALSO know…?
Krakow was the capital of Poland from 1038 to 1596.
Best Time of Year to Travel to Krakow
Autumn and spring are generally considered to be the best times to visit Kraków. During these months, the weather is pleasant and the hordes of tourists that arrive with the summer are thankfully not around.
However, the summer is when you’ll come across some of the city’s most vibrant festivals, and although winters can be very cold, it is also a beautiful time of year.
Ready to plan your visit to Krakow? Check out these popular guides and trips.