When the Second World War broke, Krakow was one of the few places that was not extensively bombed by either the Germans or the Allies. Compared to Poland’s capital Warsaw, that was completely down in rubles, Krakow was spared and as a result it was able to preserve its fine Medieval treasures. Today, Krakow is Poland’s most visited city. It was also named as one of the first UNESCO Heritage Sites.
As first time visitors, Derick and I were so impressed of the well-preserved Medieval buildings in the Old Town. We explored the city by joining the free walking tour with an expert local tour guide. Below are the interesting sites we have visited during our stay in Krakow.
The Old Market Square
St. Mary’s Basilica
St. Mary’s Basilica is a remarkable brick Gothic church built in the 14th century. The impressive structure standing adjacent to the Main Market Square is one of the most noticeable buildings you can find in the area.
According to chronicler Jan Długosz, Saint Mary’s Bacilica in the Main Square in Kraków was founded in 1221–22 by the Bishop of Kraków, Iwo Odrowąż. The building was destroyed during the Mongol invasion of Poland. Between 1290–1300 the new early Gothic church was built on the remaining foundations. It was consecrated twenty years later, in 1320.
The Cloth Hall and Town Hall Tower
Krakow’s Cloth Hall is an iconic Renaissance building which is the central feature of the main market square in the Old Town. It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978.
The Cloth Hall was once a major centre of international trade. Traveling merchants met there to discuss business and to barter. During its golden age in the 15th century, the hall was the source of a variety of exotic imports from the east – spices, silk, leather and wax – while Kraków itself exported textiles, lead, and salt from the Wieliczka Salt Mine.
Krakow doesn’t have Town Hall after the original one was demolished in 1820 to give more space for the Main Square. Luckily the Town Hall Tower survived and remained standing until today.
Adam Mickiewicz Monument
‘The Head’ – Eros Bendato’ (Eros Bound). The bronze head is the work of Polish artist Igor Mitoraj (1944 – 2014). Now the head is a popular attraction which became a photography subject and backdrop.
Wawel Castle – view from Vistula Boulevard.
The Wawel Castle is a castle residency located in central Kraków, Poland. Built at the behest of King Casimir III the Great, it consists of a number of structures situated around the Italian-styled main courtyard. The castle, being one of the largest in Poland, represents nearly all European architectural styles of Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque periods. The Wawel Royal Castle and the Wawel Hill constitute the most historically and culturally significant site in the country. In 1978 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the Historic Centre of Kraków.
Wawel Royal Castle Complex
Today Wawel Castle is one of the country’s premiere art museum. It houses important collections of paintings, sculpture, textiles, tapestries, ceramics, furnitures and a lot more.
The City Defense Walls
The City Defense Walls include the St. Florian’s Gate and the Barbican. These are among the few surviving remnants of city’s medieval walls. The St. Florian’s Gate was once the city’s main entrance back in the 14th century.
This fortified outpost is considered a masterpiece during its time because of its impressive military engineering. It was once connected to the city walls and its historic gateway leading into the Old Town. It is also connected to the gate by a narrow passage running over a moat.
The Gothic-style barbican, built around 1498, is one of only three such fortified outposts still surviving in Europe, and the best preserved. It is a moated cylindrical brick structure with an inner courtyard 24.4 meters in diameter, and seven turrets. Its 3-meter-thick walls hold 130 embrasures. The barbican was originally linked to the city walls by a covered passageway that led through St. Florian’s Gate and served as a checkpoint for all who entered the city.
Juliusz Słowacki Theatre
Juliusz Słowacki Theatre in Kraków, Poland, (Polish: Teatr im. Juliusza Słowackiego w Krakowie), erected in 1893, was modeled after some of the best European Baroque theatres such as the Paris Opera designed by Charles Garnier, and named after Polish poet Juliusz Słowacki in 1909.
Trendy, creative Kazimierz is Krakow’s historic Jewish quarter, now a jumble of indie galleries, quirky shops, vintage clothing stores and bars that range from hip cocktail dens to shabby-chic spaces. Szeroka Street’s many synagogues include the 16th-century Old Synagogue, while the nearby Remuh Cemetery has a wall built of tombstones broken during WWII. The Galicia Jewish Museum celebrates local Jewish culture.
Auschwitz – Birkenau Concentration Camps
One of the highlights of our Krakow tour is the Auschwitz Concentration Camps visit. It is an hour travel from Krakow which is ideal for day tour if you have extra time. Although it is the saddest place to visit, it is also a good place to learn about what happened during the holocaust.
Wieliczka Salt Mine
The Salt Mine is one of the most popular attractions in Poland. Also considered a UNESCO World Heritage site, this salt mine is about a 30-minute drive from Krakow’s old town square.
Today, the “Wieliczka” Salt Mine combines many centuries of tradition and modernity, the history of several hundred years and an underground metropolis with extensive infrastructure.
The mine is a product of work of generations of miners. A monument to the history of Poland and to the Polish nation – a brand, present in Polish consciousness for centuries. – UNESCO
The Schindler’s Factory
If you have watched Steven Spielberg’s ‘The Schindler’s List’ you would know that this factory saved many lives during the holocaust. Now a museum, a visit to this factory is highly recommended. It may also be worthwhile to note that Schindler’s Factory is now one of the most visited museums in Krakow.
Krakow Photo Gallery
Note: Some information mentioned above are taken from Wikipedia.