Top Tourist Attractions in Krakow, Poland
The Old Town is one of the top tourist attractions in Krawkow. It is centred on Rynek Glówny, the market square, said to be the largest mediaeval square in Europe. For once, size doesn’t come at the expense of character, and this square buzzes with activity day and night. Taking centre stage is the Cloth Hall, once the trading hub where merchants came from all around to discuss deals and trade in goods such as spices, silk, textiles and local salt. Today, the wooden stalls inside cater mostly for tourists, many of them selling amber jewellery.
There’s still a market in Rynek Glówny today, with stalls clustering between the two historic churches. St Adalbert’s, with its whitewashed walls and copper domes, dates from the 11th century, while the twin towers of the 14th century St Mary’s Basilica dominate the opposite side of the market. Each day and into the evening, stalls sell everything from leather goods to Christmas ornaments, sausages enveloped by thick slices of bread to ham hocks with black pudding.
There are a lot of top tourist attractions in Krakow located outside the square. There’s still lots to see within the confines of the Old Town, let alone the wider area. Walking the Royal Route, signposted at regular intervals, takes you from St Florian’s church to the fortress-like Barbakan. It’s set on the edge of Planty Park, a green belt which encircles the historic centre of Krakow. Through the gates to the city, there are thousands of sights to see, from atmospheric lanes to old mansions repurposed as shops, hotels and cafes.
Krakow was home to the Polish Royal Family for many years until King Sigismund III Vasa shifted his court to Warsaw back in 1596. Walking through the market square and down to Wawel Castle, you’ll follow the route taken by kings on their coronation. On a hill overlooking the Vistula River, Wawel Castle dates from the 14th century. It’s now an art museum, responsible for the conservation as well as display of important works of art.
South of the castle, you’ll find Kazimierz, once a town in its own right. Its origins are as a Jewish settlement, and its numerous synagogues and cemeteries reveal many clues to its past. In World War Two, the area’s population was decimated at the behest of the Nazis, who ripped the heart out of Kazimierz. After the fall of communism, there have been concerted efforts to regenerate the area and an annual Jewish festival now takes place. It’s a rewarding part of any Krakow itinerary.
If you visit just one place in Poland, make it Krakow. Located in the south of Poland near to the borders with the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the top tourist attractions in Krakow make it a good choice for a multi-centre trip teamed with Prague or Bratislava.