TOP TEN: Krakow|Poland

Visiting a new city? Don’t know what to do first? This Top Ten will take you through places that might not necessarily be on the average city tour, but are defiantly somewhere you should visit. If you’ve only got a few days or a whole week, these suggestions will show you the very best places to visit in the city.

Introducing Krakow

As the second largest city in Poland, Krakow is a popular tourist destination with its quaint Historic Centre and transport links to Auschwitz Concentration Camp and Wieliczka Salt Mine. The city itself is split into 3 main parts; the historic centre, the former ghetto and the Jewish district – all are certainly worth a visit if you have time!

1. Historic Centre

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the centre of Krakow dates back to the 13th century when merchants went to sell their wares. The centre used to be surrounded by city walls but a park was created after the fell which people can still enjoy to this take. Take a walk through the park onto the cobbled streets and experience Krakow at its best.

2. St Marys Basilica

Located in the Main Square, St Marys Basilica is famed particularly for its breath-taking interior and hourly trumpet signal (with the tune breaking off mid-melody in honour of the trumpeter who was shot in the neck whilst warning the city of invaders). You can wander in for a small donation, take a look at the amazing interior and  climb the watchtower for a view of the city.

Price: 15zł (approx. £2.60 Dec 2015)

3. Wawel Hill

Whether you want to visit the renaissance Castle, Gothic Cathedral or the Museum founded in the 1930s there is plenty for you to do on Wawel Hill. At around 288 metres above sea level this fortified complex of buildings offers  great views of the city.

TOP TIP: on a sunny day take a picnic onto the grassy areas, sit back, relax and enjoy the historic surroundings!

Find out more here: http://www.wawel.krakow.pl/en/

4. Cloth Hall and Main Market Square

In the centre of Krakow Old Town you will find the Main Market Sqaure which is dominated by the Cloth Hall (Sukiennice).With plenty of bars and restaurants you can easily spend a few hours just people watching. Or if you’re feeling more adventurous, take a walk into the Cloth Hall market – you can find all kinds of local handcrafted items from jewelry boxes to pottery!

5. Auschwitz Birkenau Concentration Camp

Around 60 km out of Krakow you can find the site of one of the gravest mass murders in the history of our time. It is estimated that over 1.1 million people were killed here. Now it serves as a free museum and memorial site for whoever may want to visit. Not your average holiday destination but its one of those things in life you have to see just once. There are numerous tours companies in Krakow city that will drive you there and provide guided tours (recommended).

Find out more here: http://auschwitz.org/en/

Recommended tour company: Crakow City Tours, 6 1/2 hours duration, cost: 130zł (approx. £23 Dec 2015) http://www.cracowcitytours.com

*This company offers tours of both Auschwitz Birkenau and Wieliczka Salt Mine in the same day if you’re pushed for time*

6. Wieliczka Salt Mine

This UNESCO World Hertiage Site lies around 16km outside of Krakow – its a MUST if you are visiting Krakow! An underground labyrinth of over 300 kilometres with about 300 chambers, 9 levels, a restaurant and even 4 chapels (!) you will not be disappointed.

Find out more here: http://www.wieliczka-saltmine.com/

Recommended tour company: Crakow City Tours, 4 1/2 hours duration, cost: 130zł (approx. £23 Dec 2015) http://www.cracowcitytours.com

*This company offers tours of both Auschwitz Birkenau and Wieliczka Salt Mine in the same day if you’re pushed for time*

7. Kazimierz, Jewish District

The Jewish District of Krakow has a troubled and somewhat confusing history; plague, famine, systematic killings, the establishment of the Podgórze ghetto and being under the control of different nations had turned Kazimierz into a forgotten suburb. With little investment, high racial tension and emigration, Jewish life had all but disappeared by the 1970s. More recently, and especially due to Spielbergs filming of Schindler’s List, the area is once again thriving and a very popular destination for those wanting to learn more about Jewish culture.

TOP TIP: Spend an hour or two in the Plac Nowy (Main Square), its not the most beautiful place but full of 300 or so stalls selling everything imaginable. Try a zapiekanki, a toasted baguette with cheese and  mushrooms – a typical street food in not only Krakow but Poland itself.

jewish

8. Podgórze  Ghetto

On the south bank of the river Vistula you will find one of the most infamous ghettos of the Nazi rule. Established in March 1941, the 20 hectare Podgórze Ghetto housed up to 24,000 Jews behind a 3 metre high wall. With serious overcrowding, illnesses and general unrest, Nazi authorities began systemic deportation to the nearby Bełżec extermination camp in May 1942. Despite only existing for 2 years, the scars from the ghetto and the ten days of terror are still very clear to see to this day.

ghetto 9. Plac Bohaterów Getta, Ghetto Heroes Square

As the main square of the ghetto, Plac Zgody was not only a place for people to socialise and relax but also the site of executions and deportations. The square was renovated and renamed in 2005 and turned into a memorial for all those killed in the ghetto – 70 permanent metal chairs symbolise the absence and loss of all the victims.

heroes square12459903_1256759937672562_1645165635_n

10. Free Walking Tour

There are numerous tour companies operating in Krakow, but I would really recommend Crakow Free Tours. The Old Town and Jewish District Tours are really worth doing, especially if you don’t have too much time to explore yourself. They are all tips based and normally ran by students looking to share their knowledge not take all your money! I would recommend tipping around 20zł per person (approx. £3.50 Dec 2015), but feel free to give whatever you want.

Old Town Tour: 10.30m everyday, meeting point is in front of St Marys Basilica, duration around 2 hours

Kazimierz and Ghetto Tour: 2pm everyday, meeting point is in front of St Marys Basilica, duration around 2 hours

Find out more here: http://www.cracowfreetours.com/

EXTRA:

You cant possible visit Poland and not try vodka! Drink Pijalnia wodka i piwa is located just off the Main Square and caters to a mainly student crowd, meaning its very very cheap! Try homemade flavoured vodka shots and flavoured beers for 4zł each (approx £0.70 Dec 2015)!

Find out more here: https://www.facebook.com/Pijalnia-Wódki-i-Piwa-178848655498407/

wodka

CHECK OUT SOME OF MY OTHER TOP TENS:

BUDAPEST

BERLIN

LISBON

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