There is a lot of history and culture to Kraków than one can imagine. From a 13th century salt mine to the oldest medieval square; from the Jewish district to a majestic castle – the city of Kraków is known to surprise its visitors at every corner.
This lesser known city of Poland is budget-friendly and less touristy, which makes it even more desirable. Whether you want to delve into its historic past or admire the grandiose architecture, reasons to holiday in Kraków are plenty.
If you are planning a trip to Poland, do add this city to your itinerary and you will not regret the decision!
1. Explore the lovely Main Market Square
The biggest medieval plaza in Europe, the Main Market Square or Rynek Glówny, holds a significant place for the people of Kraków. A meeting place for locals and tourists alike, the square is packed with beautiful medieval houses, elegant palaces, and the 14th century St Mary’s Basilica – one of the top attractions of Kraków city. Brimming with cafes, bars, and restaurants, this 40,000 sq/mt Market Square is truly the ‘heart of the city!’
2. Admire the stunning Wieliczka Salt Mine
A holiday in Kraków is incomplete without paying a visit to the amazing salt mines. Located in the town of Wieliczka, Kraków, the Wieliczka Salt Mine is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built in the 13th century, the mine produced table salt until 2007. Working underground, the mines had become a second home to the rock salt miners. As a respect to their workplace, they started to carve out stunning statues and chapels out of salt. Now a full-fledged art gallery with breath-taking sculpting artwork, this salt mine has become a tourist place to reckon with.
3. Ponder over the past at the Ghetto Heroes Square
70 chairs made from cast iron and bronze are installed in the middle of the square in memory of the Jewish victims of Kraków ghetto. These installations are a constant reminder of the tragic past of the Polish Jews, who lost their lives in the very place or were imprisoned in concentration camps. Once inhabited by 68,000 Jews during the WWII, the Ghetto Heroes Square is a place to ponder over the tragic history, and a learning for the future generation.
4. Experience culture at the Jewish Quarter
Once a separate city, the Jewish Kazimierz has to be on your list of must-visit places in Kraków. For a taste of Jewish flavour, visit Kazimierz and experience the Yiddish culture. The cozy cafes, antique shops and galleries, quaint beer bars, cobbled streets, and synagogues – the bohemian vibe of the place will get to you, one way or another!
5. Marvel at the Wawel Castle and Cathedral
Perched on a hill, overlooking the city, the majestic Wawel Castle is a sight to behold. The seat of Polish Monarchy during the 13th – 17th century, the castle is a living testament of Polish glory. This UNESCO-listed castle has glimpses of Renaissance, Gothic, Romanesque, and Rococo architecture.
Hidden behind the walls of the castle is the Wawel Cathedral – the most important church of Poland. The cathedral has seen numerous coronations of the Polish royalty and is also the final resting place of many national heroes and important cultural figures. Wawel Castle and Cathedral is the best place to explore Polish history.
6. Learn more about Oskar Schindler
If the movie Schindler’s List moved you to tears, Oskar Schindler’s Factory visit is a must for you! The Oskar Schindler Enameled Goods Factory is now a world-class museum which opened to public in 2010. The museum has the well-preserved office of Oskar Schindler, along with photos and artifacts that narrate horrific tales of Kraków under Nazi and Soviet occupation. Take a tour of the factory and learn more about this brave German industrialist who went on to save the lives of over a 1000 Jews!
7. Enjoy the sweet life at Vistula Boulevards
Vistula Boulevards is the place where locals like to go and chill. By the banks of the river Vistula, is the grassy embankment where people come for a stroll, to bicycle, or to purely relax. Make-shift markets, beer bars, and boat cafes are a norm here during summertime. The boulevards serve as a pit-stop for water tram services and quays for cruise boats.
8. Let emotions run high at the Auschwitz-Birkenau
Deeply moving and highly emotional, there is no camp like Auschwitz-Birkenau. There are fortified walls, barracks, barbed wires, gallows, and gas chambers that still stand to narrate the gruesome tale of Nazi cruelty. If you are faint-hearted, please avoid visiting this concentration camp.