If you visit just one place in Poland, make it Krakow

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.

Top Tourist Attractions in Krakow: The Old Town by night
The Old Town by night

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.

Top Tourist Attractions in Krakow: Ham hocks for sale in the market
Ham hocks for sale in the market

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.

Top Tourist Attractions in Krakow: Wawel Castle by KHRoN CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons
Wawel Castle: Photo KHRoNCC BY-SA 2.5

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.

About JuliaHammond

Website: http://www.juliahammond.co.uk

Julia Hammond is a Geography teacher turned travel writer with a passion for places. Winning Mail Travel's Deep South competition was the catalyst to write for a diverse range of publications including Bradt's Bus Pass Britain Rides Again. She’s written Kindle guides to Cape Town, Peru and London for Unanchor and advice on Savannah for Wanderlust. When not travelling, she can be found at home in Essex planning her next trip, her two golden retrievers curled up at her feet.

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2 Responses

  1. Five of the best Eastern European cities for a winter trip | Go 4 Travel Blog

    […] Krakow‘s Old Town is characterful and charming year round. But a winter chill in the air is the perfect excuse to consume Poland’s comfort food. Ham hocks, crispy potatoes, steamed pierogi–they somehow taste better out in the open, followed by a steaming mug of hot chocolate. Wawel Castle and  Schindler’s Factory are year-round attractions, as is the street art of Kazimierz. Take a trip out to visit Auschwitz; the horror of its history is even more real in the cold of winter. […]

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    I am absolutely amazed by Krakow. Those impressive historical monuments, that architecture. I think there is only one city I can compare Krakow to, and it’s Prague. Anyway, I have wonderful memories from my stay here, when I was an Erasmus student. I chose Poland, because it’s a fast developing country that cherishes traditions. I even learned some Polish at Prolog. It really helps in daily life and is a nice experience.


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