Visiting Krakow

Inside info

Krakow is one of the oldest cities in Poland dating back to the 7th century and is a captivating place to visit. It used to be the capital of Poland until 1596 when the title went to Warsaw. It is considered as the cultural capital of the country and is filled with attractions and things to do from museums and theatres to cafés and parks. It is filled with Gothic and Renaissance architecture and walking down its streets is like taking a step back in time. Wawel Castle is the city’s centrepiece and is where the earliest settlements in the city began around 50,000 years ago. Start by visiting the State Rooms which were used as barracks by the Austrians during the 19th century. Restoration began in 1905 but was hindered by the Second World War. Today, one can admire the beautiful furnishings from ancient Polish collections as well as magnificent tapestries. The Treasury and Armoury section is also well worth a visit and houses a range of jewel-encrusted swords as well as ceremonial objects. The Szczerbiec Sword, which has been used in coronations since the 13th century, can also be seen here. The Rynek (Market Square) is the meeting place of Cracovians and where festivals, parades and public gatherings take place. It is Europe’s largest market square, measuring 200 squared metres. The Sukiennice (Cloth Hall) runs down the centre of the square and is where merchants used to meet to discuss business and to barter. Nowadays, it is used to welcome dignitaries from around the world. During the summer months, cafés on the square set up their chairs outside and it is a great place to enjoy a cup of coffee, whilst watching the world go by. Listen out for the ‘hejnal’ (trumpet) which is played on the hour, every hour each day from the northern tower of St. Mary’s Basilica.Listed in UNESCO’s World Heritage Register, the Wieliczka Salt Mine, situated on the southeast outskirts of Krakow, is definitely not to be missed. It used to be one of the world’s largest and most profitable salt mines and since the mid 18th century it has become a popular tourist attraction. Tours take place every half an hour which take you 200 m underground to the Chapel of the Blessed Kinga carved entirely out of salt by the miners! There are also a few smaller chapels as well as an underground salt lake. A real eye opener!Visit Schindler’s Factory, which is now a museum housed in the administrative building of what used to be Oskar Schindler’s factory, Emalia. The purpose of the museum is to show the history of the factory and to provide visitors the chance to learn about the history of Krakow under the occupation. It is an interactive, multimedia museum of World War II history and features exhibits on the invasion of the Nazis in Poland, a re-creation of Schindler’s office and life in the ghetto. A visit here will have a lasting impact.

Travel review

My husband and I visited Krakow last month for a ‘mini honeymoon’ just after our wedding. We booked 3 nights at Wentzl, a lovely hotel situated on the main square. Our room had a beautiful view of the market square, but just a word of warning – if you are a light sleeper, bear in mind that the square can get quite noisy even through the double-glazed windows of the hotel, so bring some ear plugs with you!The highlight of our visit was the salt mine on the outskirts of the town. It was just fantastic seeing the underground cathedral made out of salt. Even the chandeliers were made of salt – incredible! Although it was tiring walking down all those stairs, it was well worth it. I loved the atmosphere, it was all dark and eerie and I think it added to the charm of the visit. The museum was great too, it had displays of a lot of the original equipment and it was fascinating learning about the history of the place. Our tour guide was great and she spoke excellent English. Highly recommended!We had a walk around Kazimierz, the Jewish District. It was a hidden gem, and during our 4 day stay, we went back 3 times. Historically speaking, there are various synagogues to visit as well as museums- we visited the Ethnographical museum. We also had lunch in one of the many Jewish restaurants and we went back to the area during the evening for a drink in one of the bars – the area is a great place to go at night.Four days weren’t enough to visit all of Krakow. We loved the city so much – it’s the perfect place to go for a romantic break – that we have decided to go back again in December, to experience the atmosphere of the city during the Christmas period.

Did you know ?

Legend says that the city was founded by and named after the mythical ruler Krak, who was said to have built the city above a cave occupied by a dragon!

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The climate in Krakow

Located on the Vistula River in the South part of Poland, Krakow is one of the largest cities in the country with a population of 759,137 inhabitants. From a Stone Age settlement, it became Poland’s second most important city and consists of 18 districts. Home to numerous famous museums and galleries, it was elected the European Capital of Culture for the year 2000. Legend says that it was built on the cave of a dragon killed by the mythical King Krak. Each year, the unofficial capital of Poland attracts more than 2.5 million foreign tourists, most of them coming from Great Britain. The city has an Oceanic climate. The average temperature in summertime is 20°C but often exceeds 25°C. In winter, the average temperature is set between -2°C to 0°C but sometimes drops below -5°C.