Also known as the Draper’s Square as in the past this largest square in Europe was a textile and cloth trading centre. In fact, the world’s silk trading hub back in the 13th century. This medieval era piazza has hardly changed since those early times and only had to be rebuilt after the Mongol invasion of 1241. The Cloth Hall or Sukiennice and Town Hall or Ratusz were added by King Casimir III. The Ratusz was demolished in 1820 leaving only the main tower standing on the square today. The square itself meausures almost 4 hectares and is host to a tremendous amount of activity including festivals, markets, buildings and monuments. Rynek is surrounded by cafes, restaurants, hotels, pubs & clubs, a waxwork museum, cinema, theatre and live music venues.
2.Wawel Royal Castle
If you want to get a feel of life in medieval times then a visit to Wawel Castle is the place to go. The castle reflects many different styles in its architecture from medieval, renaissance, gothic and baroque with Italian influenced courtyards. This is where all Kings, Queens and Heroes are buried in the adjoining Wawel Cathedral. It is also one of Poland’s main collective gallery museums, ten different areas exhibiting everything from art to arms of varied periods in its history and listed as a Unesco World Heritage site. Wawel and its castle were considered a powerful state in the past much like the Vatican City in Rome. Built on top of Wawel Hill near the Vistula River this foreboding monument will certainly intrigue you especially the Legend of the Wawel dragon.
3. Kazimierz or Jewish Quarter
A popular part of Krakow with its pre-WWII architecture, synagogues & museums celebrating the Jewish heritage. The area is full of pubs, clubs & restaurants and featured in Steven Spielberg’s film Schindler’s List. The area was given the name by King Kazimierz III The Great in 1335. Today Kazimierz is a vibrant and bustling hive of activity day and night with its markets, festivals and attractions which include the Jewish cemetery and Galicia museum along with important synagogues
4. Vistula River & Cruises
If it’s a sunny day then it’s definitely worth taking a stroll down by the river. There are also a number of boats offering cruises with different attractions on board from a relaxing lunch to full blown boat parties available. There are also a number of stationery boats moored along the river bank which have been converted to bars and restaurants which make them the perfect place to sit outside and enjoy a cold beer whilst sitting in the sun. The river can be easily reached on foot from the centre of Krakow.
5 – Auschwitz/Birkenau Nazi Concentration Camps
It’s best to arrange a visit via an agency or dedicated company with a morning departure too. Oświęcim which is the Polish name for this city was the chosen place for a concentration camp to hold, originaly, Russian prisoners of war. Approximately 10,000 soldiers were interned there and not very many survived. Later, the camps were used for holding Jewish, Roma and anyone else not to the liking of the Nazi regime. Today, the Auschwitz/Birkenau Memorial is a World Heritage Site and is a stark reminder of the horrific crimes committed there for all humanity to reflect upon.
6. Wieliczka Salt Mine
A wonderful insight to how salt was an important commodity especially in the past. You get the chance wander the many kilometres of tunnels & caverns as a real Salt Miner for a while. When you meet a fellow miner you must say ‘God Be With you’, it’s a traditional custom. You can also hire a cavern for a dinner party if you wish or just take in the sights of all the salt carved monuments and statues, truly, a fascinating place to spend some time.
A day out to, Poland’s favourite place to be whether in summer or winter and it is the most popular place to get married for Polish couples. Zakopane if you have time to visit is a 90 minute journey each way high up in the mountains, the Tatra Mountains very close to Slovakia. The centre of Goral culture and winter capital of Poland. There are many ski and snowboarding resorts plus health spas and snowmobiling companies. The famous smoked cheese from Zakopane called oscypek is sold all over Poland. This bijoux of a town receives over 2,500,000 visitors a year but only has a population of 27,000! The town is a 1,000m above sea-level and the health resorts are always full with all this good, fresh and clean air, you can relax and rejuvenate. Take a hike in the Tatra National Park or a swim in the Morskie Oko mountain lake, nature at it’s best. In the winter snow activities are full on and the national sport of ski jumping is not to be missed. A little further on is the Pieniny National Park and the Pieniny Mountain range with the Dunajec River running through them.
Few tourists know of this, but within a short distance of Krakow, there is this magnificent national park with forests and rugged limestone rock formations – a visit there will give you a sense of nature away from the city noise. This is the smallest national park in Poland, and frequently visited by the locals, so if you truly want to enjoy nature and tranquillity, you’d be better off visiting it during mid-week.
On the way to Ojcow it’s worth paying a visit to Piaskowa Skala castle and seeing the famous rock called “Hercules’s mace”
9. Krakow Shooting Range
This activity is a must do especially as a part of a Krakow stag do ! A high octane, adrenalin pumping session of firing live ammunition- there are different packages available from up to 5 different weapons, one of which is the famous Russian AK 47, exhilarating! Dedicated stag do companies (e.g.: https://partykrakow.co.uk/ ) offer this activity with return transfers included for individual travellers, as well as for the organised groups
10 – Krakow pub crawl
This tour is a great introduction to visiting Krakow’s best drinking parlours. The guided bar crawl is the best way to appreciate Krakow’s unusual cellar and garden bars on the first night to set you up for the rest of your stay. Experienced guides will entertain you with drinking games, Karaoke and recommend the best drinks to try on your travels. Also included in some pub crawls is entry to some of Krakow’s hottest dance clubs.
Krakow is truly a great place to visit for a weekend break and a fantastic city to know !