Krakow is such a magical place that a few sentences wouldn’t do it justice. As the former capital of Poland, it’s bound to be impressive and rich in history and culture.
And it’s true! Krakow actually has three main centres. It’s due to many historical reasons, one of them being the fact that it wasn’t destroyed at the end of WWII like Warsaw. Thanks to that, the city is full of beautiful old buildings and squares. No wonder, the entire historic centre of Krakow is on the UNESCO list. Each main centre tells a different story. Let’s take a look!
The Old Town
Ah, yes, the medieval Main Square. It contains the famous arcaded Cloth Hall building (Sukiennice) and St. Mary’s Basilica. Be sure to take some time just to stroll around the area. The surrounding streets are packed with palaces, churches, and of course restaurants, cafes, and bars.
You can’t miss the Wawel hill, with the castle and its surrounding buildings sitting on top of it, dating from around the 14th century onwards. You can tour the Castle itself, the Cathedral, the Crown Treasury, or simply the beautiful gardens and courtyards around the area.
Kazimierz was actually once an independent, Jewish city. Now, it’s a vibrant district. You will find lots of historic synagogues and museums to visit. And, of course, there is also an old marketplace, Plac Nowy, though it’s smaller than the Old City main square. On the weekends, a flea market is hosted there. If you want to learn about wartime history, Kazimierz is a place for you. You’ll find Schindler’s Factory, a fragment of the Ghetto wall, and the Eagle Pharmacy in the vicinity.
Kazimierz is also a true gem when it comes to food. It’s packed to the brim with great restaurants and bars, Jewish or other, open till late at night.
A bit farther away is the third centre, Nowa Huta. Not as conventionally beautiful as the other two, the district is a remnant of the PRL (Polish People’s Republic)/communist era.
It was once an industrial centre, with a steelworks site, built in the socialist realism style. The architecture and the district’s layout were supposed to reflect communist values. To learn more, you can visit the Muzeum PRL-u or the History of Nowa Huta Quarter museum.
If you’re up for a bit of challenge, Kościuszko Mound is something for you. It’s dedicated to Tadeusz Kościuszko, a Polish military hero, who also fought in the American Revolutionary War. The mound was erected with soil from both Polish and American battlefields, in recognition of his services to both countries.
The Kosciuszko Mound is located in the Zwierzyniec district of Krakow. It’s 34m high and offers a beautiful view of the city. If you want to learn more about Kościuszko and other Polish heroes, there’s an exhibition in a small chapel at the entrance to the mound.
How about visiting the oldest university building in Poland? Collegium Maius originally part of the Krakow Academy, is a beautiful example of Gothic architecture in the city. Its arcaded courtyard is usually crowded but well-worth a visit. You can also take a tour of the building and see astronomical instruments used by Copernicus, the oldest existing globe depicting the American continent, as well as a beautiful Aula, with its original Renaissance ceiling and portraits of kings, benefactors, and rectors of the university.
Let’s not forget about art lovers! Located on the demolished site of Schindler’s factory, the contemporary art gallery MOCAK is certainly a highlight of Krakow. The gallery focuses on presenting the art of the last two decades in the context of the post-war avant-garde and conceptual art, as well as supporting contemporary artist. Still, the building itself is more “classic”, with a sawtooth roof, which is typical of factory buildings.
The Main Square Underground Museum
Krakow also has something to offer to those who love more unconventional places. The underground area below the Cloth Hall was only discovered a few years ago but it’s potential was undeniable. In 2010 it was transformed into a museum telling the story of the city, from its first settlers up to modern age. You can stroll through medieval streets and market stalls, take a peek into the cellars of long-gone buildings, and even visit an old cemetery. Similarly to Louvre, this museum has a glass pyramid roof/fountain, offering an alternative view of the St. Mary’s Basilica.
Krakow is the official host city of Impact’18, which will take place on June 13th & 14th! Hurry up, and register here!
For more info about the city, visit www.krakow.pl.