Krakow, also known in English as Cracow, is a large city in southern Poland. For most of the country’s history, it’s been the capital of the nation, and unlike other Polish cities it survived WW2 almost in perfect condition. For these two resons Krakow is full of historical monuments and other attractions related to Polish history.
Krakow’s attractions are concentrated mainly around the Old Town, but even outside it, there are many interesting places to see. After all, it is the former capital of Poland, where its historical imprint has left its mark on the entire city’s architecture and culture. On the one hand, it is a very old city, on the other hand, there are many interesting events that make it vibrant with life.
The attractions of Krakow have been attracting crowds of tourists for years, including those from abroad. It is a city mentioned in one breath, next to Warsaw and Gdańsk when it comes to visitors from other countries. They are tempted by ancient monuments, numerous museums and wonderful green areas. In Krakow, there are plenty of atmospheric alleys and interesting places for tourists. The city boasts a unique atmosphere that is a kind of mixture of the historical past with the modern present. For this reason, many people come back here many times.
Attractions in Krakow
Krakow is an ideal place for lovers of history and sightseeing. Not only schoolchildren or organized groups of seniors can come here for a trip, it is a city where young people who are familiar with the nightlife will also find their way here. There will also be attractions in Krakow for families with children. Everyone, on the other hand, will be happy to sit in a pub or on a bench in the park and enjoy the unusual atmosphere of this city.
Sightseeing of Cracow
Krakow can be explored on foot, by bike or using public transport. The greatest attractions are within the range of shorter and longer walks, while others are best accessed by bus or tram. When it comes to your own car, unfortunately you can get stuck in traffic jams at rush hour. In addition, parking lots in the city center are paid.
You need at least two days to visit Krakow. Unfortunately, such a short time will not allow us to see even half of the attractions and monuments of this city. That is why so many people return to Krakow to get to know it more and explore it further. The weekend is the perfect time to barely tick off a few of the city’s most important spots. So it’s best to reserve a few days to see most of the attractions that interest us.
Krakow can be visited all year round. If you are not disturbed by periodically occurring heat, the good time to come will be the full summer. However, if we prefer to visit in a more comfortable weather, it is better to go here at the end of spring or at the beginning of autumn. In winter, Krakow also has its own charm, especially when it is covered with snow. Then, as its inhabitants say – you cannot see the urban dirt. However, in the colder part of the year, you have to take into account the poor quality of the air here and the problem of smog.
See also the monuments and attractions of Warsaw.
Monuments of Krakow
First, let’s check the most important and greatest monuments of Krakow.
The Royal Castle and the Wawel Cathedral
The largest and most popular monument in Krakow is undoubtedly the Wawel Royal Castle, built on the top of Wawel Hill, initially in the Gothic style, but later transformed into a Renaissance estate. For centuries it was the residence of the kings and rulers of Poland, and for this reason it was entered on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The second famous monument on the hill is the local Wawel Cathedral. It is this temple that is the oldest church in Poland. Inside are buried people of merit, from poets to kings.
Inside, there are also antique works of art or the reliquary of St. Stanislaus. The entire Wawel Cathedral can be visited, from the Royal Tombs, through the Sigismund Tower with the Sigismund Bell, to the Cathedral Museum.
St. Mary’s Church in Krakow
Another monument and symbol of Krakow is also St. Mary’s Church. It was built at the beginning of the 13th century in the Romanesque style. One of the towers is apparently larger than the other, and it was once used as a watchtower. For this reason, the famous St. Mary’s bugle call is played, which is played here every hour. The church stands out from other buildings with its red brick structure. Of course, the external façade is also covered with numerous decorations and ornaments. However, the greatest treasure is hidden inside the St. Mary’s Church.
Inside, you can admire the altar, created by Wit Stwosz. It is one of Poland’s gems when it comes to sculptures, the value of which is also added by the polychromes made by Jan Matejko.
The Florian Gate is also a well-known and frequently visited monument in Krakow. It is she who welcomes visitors from the railway station. The Florian Gate is a remnant of the city walls that were to protect the city. Made in the Gothic style, it is one of the eight gates belonging to the local fortifications. Its name comes from the church of St. Florian.
Once upon a time it was used by kings after winning battles, or by important invited guests, because the Florian Gate begins the main royal route leading to Wawel. Today, it houses an altar with a copy of the painting of Our Lady of Piasek.
Another monument related to the defensive structures of Krakow is the Barbican. This part of the fortifications with seven towers once defended the entrance to the Florian Gate. The barbican was built at the end of the 15th century in the Gothic style, on a circular plan, with walls almost 3 meters thick.
Currently, you can go inside, because inside there is a branch of the Historical Museum of the City of Krakow, where you can see exhibitions or other artistic events.
Tourist attractions in Krakow
We have the greatest monuments behind us. Now let’s move on and check the tourist attractions in Krakow.
The Wawel Dragon and the Dragon’s Den
One of the greatest tourist attractions of Krakow is the legend of the Wawel Dragon. His sculpture was placed right next to the descent from Wawel, so tourists eagerly stop to take a commemorative photo with him. In addition, the dragon character breathes fire, more or less every 10 minutes, which is only an additional attraction.
The second object related to the Krakow legend is the Dragon’s Den, a karst cave, located just below Wawel. It fit perfectly into the famous story of the Wawel Dragon. This is where the animal terrorizing the area and breathing fire was supposed to live. The Dragon’s Den is 270 meters long, but visitors can only visit 81 meters. It is at the entrance to it that the sculpture of the Wawel Dragon stands.
Main Market Square in Krakow
A tourist attraction in Krakow that is hard to miss is the Main Square. It is the largest medieval square in Europe, built on a square plan. Due to its uniqueness, it was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
It is in the Main Market Square where all major celebrations for this city take place.
Within its borders there are the Cloth Hall, the Town Hall Tower, St. Mary’s Church and the tiny St. Wojciech. We can find here a statue of Adam Mickiewicz, a sculpture by Mitoraj, as well as historic tenement houses and famous Krakow florists under umbrellas.
A tourist attraction in Krakow, already mentioned above, which is located on the Main Square, is the Cloth Hall. It is not only a historic building related to trade in ancient times, but also a pearl of Renaissance architecture. Their name comes from the commodity traded here, i.e. cloth. At one time, only visitors had the right to sell them. Today the Cloth Hall is divided into three parts. On the first floor there is a branch of the National Museum – with the Gallery of Polish Painting and Sculpture of the 19th century.
There are retail outlets on the ground floor where you can buy souvenirs and handicrafts. On the other hand, in the basement another branch of the Historical Museum of the City of Krakow was located, about which we will write a little below.
The Kościuszko Mound is also a big attraction for tourists in Krakow. It is located on the mountain of Saint Bronisława. There are a total of five mounds in Krakow, but the most famous one was dedicated to Tadeusz Kościuszko.
It is said that it was made of soil brought from all over Poland. Right next to the Kościuszko Mound is the Kościuszko Museum.
What’s worth seeing in Krakow?
We went through the monuments and tourist attractions and now let’s check what else is worth seeing and visiting in Krakow.
Underground Market Square in Krakow
In Krakow, it is worth seeing not only the Main Square itself, but also its underground. It is just below the ground that one of the branches of the Historical Museum of the City of Krakow is located, whose entrance is in the Cloth Hall. The Undergrounds of the Market Square in Krakow show archaeological excavations, including the remains of the first brick buildings, stone roads and municipal waterworks.
Some of the excavations date back to the 15th century. The whole area is over 6,000 square meters and is properly lit and exposed.
On site you can see old coins, tools, ceramics and ornaments. In addition, part of the exhibition is a multimedia spectacle, thanks to which you can go back several centuries.
During a trip around the city, you should definitely see the famous Planty in Krakow. It is a large green area that surrounds the center of the capital of the Małopolska region. Planty Park is the largest park in the city. It is here that you can rest on one of the benches, in the shade of huge plane trees. The alleys are ideal for walkers, but also for cyclists and runners.
The Krakow Planty was built on the site of a dry moat that once surrounded the city.
Kazimierz – the former Jewish district
In Krakow, it is also worth seeing Kazimierz, the former district inhabited by the Jewish community. It is the perfect place for a leisurely walk among the atmospheric streets. There are now many small eateries around where you can sit down and eat. Many Jewish churches have been preserved in quite good condition in Kazimierz – for example, the Old Synagogue and the Tempel Synagogue.
There is also the Galicia Jewish Museum, which is devoted to Jewish culture in Poland, in the form of an exhibition of photographs by Chris Schwarz.
Interesting places in Krakow
What interesting places are worth seeing in Krakow? Let’s check out all the interesting places.
One of the most interesting places in Krakow is the Jagiellonian University – Collegium Maius. It is one of the oldest universities in the world. The whole complex consists of several buildings, but the oldest of them is Collegium Maius. Built in the Gothic style, it now houses the Jagiellonian University Museum. One of its attractions is a playing clock with a retinue dancing to the rhyme.
You can also see figures of important personalities, such as, for example, Casimir the Great.
Another interesting place in Krakow, also associated with the Jagiellonian University, is the Pharmacy Museum. It houses over 22,000 exhibits, ranging from laboratory equipment to medicine containers. On site you can see pharmacy furniture, old medicines (including human fat), mortars and presses as well as old prints and old pharmacists’ manuals. An interesting collection covers two floors, the ground floor, plus the attic and the basement. The Pharmacy Museum is located in a fourteenth-century tenement house at 25 Floriańska Street.
An interesting object in Krakow is also the Old Synagogue, which was built in the 15th century. It is one of the oldest Jewish temples in Poland. Currently, it houses a branch of the Historical Museum of the City of Krakow. It is here that you can see the history of the Jewish people who lived in this city.
The most valuable Judaica from Krakow has been collected in the Old Synagogue. Two rooms have been made available to visitors: the Men’s Room and the Women’s Room.
On the other hand, for all fans of Spielberg’s film – “Schindler’s List”, the most interesting place in Krakow will certainly be Oscar Schindler’s “Enamel” Factory. Once upon a time there was a real factory producing enameled and tin products. The convicted Jews were employed here, who thus avoided certain death in concentration camps. Currently, the Schindler’s Factory houses a permanent exhibition entitled “Krakow – Nazi Occupation 1939-1945” and the Museum of Contemporary Art.
The most important, however, is the fact that some of the photos for the film “Schindler’s List” were filmed here.
See also the website of the city of Krakow.
Tourist map of Krakow attractions
On the map below you will find the most interesting places, monuments and tourist attractions of Krakow: