When visiting Krakow – Poland’s cultural center and ancient capital – do not forget that this city is a symbol for beauty and grandeur. This magnificent and old city will get you bewitched with its fascinating secrets and glorious architecture. The buildings can inspire you to commit yourself to romanticism and knighthood. And the amazing culture in a tandem with the amusing collection of high art might make you want to go on your knees! Of course, there are many worthwhile places to visit in Krakow. Yet, if you cannot manage to see them, or simply do not know where to start, you can use our tips to start your journey in Krakow!
A Myth, a Legend, and a Dream
The myth states that the king after whom the city was named – Krak – was dissatisfied with a dragon – Smaug – flying around his country and frightening his people. And despite the fact that the dragon did not harm anyone yet, his breath was deadly to human beings, and thus the king wanted to get rid of him. So Krak announced that whoever kills the dragon will marry his daughter. And, as always, there turned out to be a brave and sneaky fellow who found a way to overpower the mighty beast. Later on, this story of the defeated powerful monster became one of the most symbolic and monumental things in Krakow. There actually is a monument after this legendary dragon near the Wawel Castle. And if you are persistent enough, you will also see the cave of the beast!
Sadly, no matter how much we dream dragons were real, the true story of the city is far less legendary and mythical, but much more tragic and dramatic. The old parts of the city, especially the Wawel Castle, have been on fire so many times that you can hardly count all those cases. The castle has been reconstructed a number of times, and it was simultaneously changing numerous owners. All of these people – kings and above – were all fighting with each other to take over the Wawel, but none of them stayed forever. Ironically, all these historical figures are gone, whereas the castle and the myth – the imaginary story and its base – are still alive and prospering. So, take a close look at the historic center of Krakow, including the magical castle.
Admire it, I say!
But there are still many other beautiful places in Krakow and all of these constructions are no less worth of your admiration, like the Wawel Cathedral, which though not of as huge significance as the Notre Dame, is still a truly massive piece of Gothic architecture. Another fascinating church – the Franciscan Church – with its beautiful and unusual artwork is also very impressive. A glorious example of Gothic architecture – the Corpus Christi Church – is another of Krakow’s numerous hidden gems. The Church of St. Andrew is one more exciting and amusing example of how talented the Gothic Polish architects were.
In fact, Krakow has many beautiful non-Gothic churches like the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul. Its pathetic yet glorious décor gives you a hint of Roman architecture. A true jewel of Krakow is the Church of the Virgin Mary, which has a marvelous ceiling that you should totally see! And the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy is a great example of a combination of the modernly designed church with the old fashioned chapel. Visit and see what a beautiful contrast is created by the two!
Art Was Here All Along
Museums that you simply must visit in Krakow are the Museum at Market Square, which is full of brilliancy and genius, and the Stained Glass Museum, with its breathtaking collection of beautiful and complicated artworks on glass. To find out more about the Jewish people’s history in Poland you might want to visit the Galicia Jewish Museum. The amazing and talented founders of the museum created a place that commemorates the 800-years long presence of the Jewish people in Poland with photographical masterpieces portraying Jewish cemeteries, synagogues, and other Jewish relics. For a grasp of historical fashion head to the Ethnographic Museum and for high-quality music in a magnificent hall go straight to the Royal Chamber Orchestra.
Other beautiful places you might want to visit are the Apteka pod Orlem and the Pharmacy Museum. These museums are not of interest only to the pharmacists, but are also very picturesque Gothic constructions. A really thrilling and shocking place is the Executioner Museum, showing the whole history of executions. To get a grasp of the history of aviation go to the Polish Aviation Museum. Do visit the two amazing historical streets full of medieval beauty – Florianska and Kanonicza.
Some places full of nature and peace in Krakow are the Planty Park – a beautiful well-maintained park around the old city perfect for a family walk; Kosciuszko’s Mound – a great place for a healthy jog; and the Krakus Mound – a heavenly place filled with fresh air.
Having Fun in the Dragon’s City
For those who came to Krakow with their families the Polish people have fascinating entertainment venues like the Bumper Ball, Bungee Jumping, and the Laser Park. The latter is an amazing place for future physicists and programmers, you know, lasers are a truly inspiring argument for children. Oh, and do take your kids to a ride on a brougham. A truly aspiring ride, and not only for children, folks! Couples should not miss this, either. Rides like this can create the romantic moment for which you came to Krakow in the first place. For all of those machos out there who landed foot in Krakow, the city has great shooting places like Grotgun Shooting Range. A truly adult pastime is the Lost Souls Alley. Terrifyingly thrilling, this pace has the sounds, the smells and the decorations that would scare off even a grown man!
A shout-out to the true alcohol connoisseurs, the Chmiel Beer Pub and the House of Beer are the places that are just right for you. Their amazing collections of the most delightful beer in the city will surely blow your mind. Oh, and do visit the Absynt Café and Drink Bar – a place where everything you could possibly order is based on absinthe.
A magical place to relax and feel your body is the Verde Massage and Beauty salon. One more stunning place for those addicted to health and beauty is Hammam Sheherezada. And if you are still not completely relaxed, try some urban types of relaxation. Take a walk through the Rynek Underground, which, despite the very concept of an underground, is far from being modern. It’s more like a 12th century alley and a perfect relaxation peach.
Last, but not least, shopping and eating come. Krakow is not a place for gourmands, unless, of course, if you know where to go… TrezoRestauracja is a great place to eat: their complex and well-executed dishes throw you up to the paradise when they melt in your mouth. RestauracjaStarkais a place with though dim lightning yet lively atmosphere and delicious food. Have nice dinner with venison at the oldest restaurant of the city – Wierzynek.
And if you doubt whether to go shopping or not you should at least visit the Square Market.This place is not only the right place to eat the exclusively-Polish Oscypek, which you can try only here, but also the perfect place for the historical reconstructions and cosplayers. Here you guys can find astonishingly rare things; like a Middle-Agges-styled axe, which a reconstructor needs to imitate a Medieval warrior, and the cosplayer might use it to get in the role of a World of Warcraft character. For those with a bit more time, head to the Cloth Hall. This stunningly beautiful building suggests a great collection of pathetic (in a good way) jewelry.
The Eye of the Beholder
Must be hard to sleep when a dragon watches you, huh? Do not worry, the fabulous Topolwa Residence will guarantee your safety and your refreshing rest. Another great hotel is the Queen Boutique Hotel. Situated at a very comfortable location, this hotel has the best breakfast in Krakow! And even if you can’t afford the Pod Roza Hotel, at least drop by and look around. This is the oldest hotel of the city and it’s a truly majestic place. More affordable places to stay in Krakow are Companile and Columbus. The meticulous attention to the guests and the absolute cleanness of the rooms fully compensates the absence of expensive spas and pretentious restaurants. The rooms of these hotels are exactly what you paid for – they are not luxurious, but neither do you pay a luxurious price. So now you know how to rock Krakow, go ahead!