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Visit Kraków

Mary Basilica

Kraków, often anglicized as Krakow, is one of the oldest and largest cities in Poland, situated on the Vistula River in the Lesser Poland region. It has a rich history dating back to the 7th century and has been a prominent center of Polish culture, academia, and art for centuries. Here are some key points about Kraków:

Kraków's MUST SEE

UNESCO World Heritage Site – Krakow's biggest attraction

  • In 1978, the historic centre of Krakow was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list. With an area covering nearly 150 hectares, including the Old Town area, Wawel Hill, Kazimierz and Stradom districts, Krakow was included in the List as one of the first 12 sites, while as many as 14 are located in Lesser Poland [Malopolska region].
  • The historic Main Square of the Old Town (the largest medieval market in Europe) is at the heart of the city, and is dominated by the Renaissance Cloth Hall [Sukiennice], where merchants have been selling their goods for more than 700 years, while at the western end you can spot St. Mary's Basilica. The bugle call is played from one of the church's towers to the four corners of the world, every hour throughout the day; if you're lucky, the bugler will also wave to you. The newly restored altarpiece by Veit Stoss [Wit Stwosz] in St. Mary's Basilica is one of the greatest masterpieces of medieval art. 
  • History lovers cannot miss the Wawel Castle – a hill with a magnificent Royal Castle and Cathedral. Dating back more than 900 years, it not only represents Polish identity, but is also considered a national treasure for its history as a coronation site and residence of Polish monarchs.
  • A City of Jewish Heritage – explore Krakow's Jewish roots on a walking tour of the Kazimierz district to see the amazing architecture and discover the rich history. Once a thriving centre of Jewish life and culture in Krakow, the district was almost completely destroyed during World War II, having undergone a revival in recent years. Visit the Remuh Synagogue, one of two synagogues in Krakow that are still in use, with a cemetery containing tombstones dating back to the 16th century. The Old Synagogue, also known as the "Fortress Synagogue," is the oldest synagogue in Poland, and today it is a fascinating museum of the history and culture of Krakow's Jews. In the evenings, Kazimierz is one of the city's most fashionable and vibrant districts, with bustling cafes, bars and restaurants.

A city with more than 100 museums 

While all the museums are worth a visit, the MOCAK Museum of Contemporary Art, a pearl of modern architecture, the Museum of Krakow and the Rynek Underground, located just under the Main Square, are particularly worth mentioning. Don't miss Oskar Schindler's Factory, the collection of Polish art in the Main Building of the National Museum in Krakow and the classic Gallery of 19th Century Polish Art in the Cloth Hall, the Polish Aviation Museum with its collection of more than 250 airplanes, gliders and helicopters, the original Manggha Museum of Japanese Art and Technology, and Leonardo da Vinci's famous masterpiece "Lady with an Ermine" in the Princes Czartoryski Museum.

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A green city – ideal for rest and relaxation

  • Krakow is one of the greenest cities in the world, with parks scattered throughout the city, the Planty, Błonia and Wolski Forest to name just a few. According to estimates, about 36% of Krakow's area is covered by trees, and 20% by grasslands. Krakow is pursuing a policy of sustainable development, aiming to provide residents with a better quality of life.
  • The Planty Ring – popular with tourists and locals alike, Krakow's largest park is one of the city's jewels, surrounding the entire perimeter of the historic Old Town, hence its nickname: "the green necklace of the city".
  • More than 50 parks – Choose one of the best parks in Krakow. The magnificent green areas scattered throughout the city are the perfect place to relax. The Krakowski Park, covering more than ten hectares, or the newly renovated Bednarski Park offer child-friendly playgrounds, picnic tables, chess tables, elegant fountains and colourful flower beds. Alternatively, you can visit the beautiful Czapski Garden, which is located in the centre of the Old Town, or head to the Blonia Park, which stretches over 120 hectares. 
  • With more than 250 km of bicycle paths, Krakow's bicycle infrastructure makes exploring the city by bicycle a real pleasure. Cycle through the historic centre of the city, visiting the green parks and wild banks of the Vistula River along the way.
  • The Wawel Royal Gardens – Carefully restored, the Renaissance Gardens have been recreated with plant arrangements, paths and flower beds, and architectural elements that evoke the atmosphere of traditional gardens of the period.
  • Vistula Boulevards – located at the foot of the Wawel Hill, the peaceful embankments become a tranquil centre of relaxation during the sunny summer months, and are the ideal place for walking, cycling and relaxing in the city.
  • Five mysterious mounds – Do you like stretching your legs and getting some fresh air? If the answer is yes, then head to the Krakow mounds: the Kosciuszko Mound, Krakus Mound, Wanda Mound, Pilsudski Mound, and the John Paul II Mound. These historic sites offer breathtaking views. What's more, most of them are just within a stone’s throw from the centre, which means they can be easily reached on foot. 
  • Three water reservoirs – the Krakow reservoirs Bagry, Kryspinow, and Zalew Nowohucki are ideal places for outdoor recreation, water sports and for families. They can be explored by canoe, boat or pedal boat, or you can rent a bicycle and ride the kilometres of bike paths that circle the water. Of particular note are the Przylasek Rusiecki and Zakrzówek reservoirs, which have undergone a real metamorphosis. Located in Nowa Huta, Przylasek Rusiecki is 26 hectares for recreation, several kilometers of walking paths, beach soccer fields and a playground. Zakrzówek, on the other hand, a beautiful turquoise lake surrounded by rocky bluffs and greenery, has become a publicly accessible, safe swimming area with floating pools, just a few stops from the city center!

The culinary heritage of Krakow 

Krakow also boasts rich culinary traditions, delicious regional cuisine and locally produced delicacies. 

Taste and fall in love with the city's unrivaled local cuisine.

  • If you consider yourself a foodie, you will be impressed by the fact that the European Academy of Gastronomy awarded Krakow the title of European Capital of Gastronomic Culture in 2019, singling it out as a must-visit culinary destination.
  • Start your day with a delicious obwarzanek krakowski [braided ring-shaped bread] – Krakow's most distinctive baked product is the inconspicuous round obwarzanek, which today you can buy at street stalls scattered around the Old Town. The first mention of obwarzanek dates back to 1394, and we know that it was loved by Polish kings. Baked twice daily, these warm treats cost less than 1 euro. They are traditionally served sprinkled with salt, poppy seeds or sesame seeds, but more recently, going with the times, with cheese, nigella seeds and herbs.
  • Local cuisine – Immerse yourself in the life of the city while enjoying exceptional local cuisine. Try Zurek, a typical Polish soup served in bread, Barszcz, a traditional beet soup, or Maczanka Krakowska, the epitome of Polish street food. To experience the city, you must visit Krakow's restaurants and milk bars, where you will find the best regional dishes. 
  • Outdoor restaurants – there are plenty of places in Krakow that are ideal to enjoy the summer sun while dining outdoors. The main square and surrounding cobblestone streets, as well as Kazimierz and Podgorze – with the iconic Forum Przestrzenie – are full of cafes, restaurants and bars with terraces. Don't forget the food trucks – the ones in Judah Square or on Krupnicza Street are a real mix of international cuisine.
  • Traditional and regional products – Lisiecka sausage or oscypek cheese, made from sweet sheep's milk and then smoked for two weeks in a fire, are some of the best products. Suska sechlonska plum, Zator carp – these and countless other delicacies can be tasted at culinary festivals and local fairs held in the surrounding towns. 
  • Fresh Markets – Don't miss Krakow's markets, offering fresh products in the city centre. Browse stalls full of all kinds of delicious treats, from smoked meats, sausages and slow-cooked hams to freshly picked seasonal vegetables, local cheeses and sweet treats. Make sure you visit Stary Kleparz, where you can not only shop, but also enjoy a great cup of coffee, Plac na Stawach, the Parsley Market or Hala Targowa [Market Hall], where an antique market is held at the weekend.

Krakow – the city of festivals 

Processions, parades, St. John's garlands, the Emaus or Rekawka historical fairs, the enthronement of the chancer king, the Lajkonik parade, and nowadays nearly 80 festivals. The shortest lasts two days, the longest – two months. The city's oldest festivals are now more than 60 years old (such as the Krakow Film Festival – Poland's oldest documentary film festival). Even before the political transformation of 1989, Krakow was home to the world-famous Jewish Culture Festival. Some were established as a consequence of Krakow's obtaining the title of European City of Culture 2000 (e.g., Ludwig van Beethoven Easter Festival, EtnoKrakow/Rozstaje or the later Sacrum Profanum festival), while others emerged as a result of demand for new high-quality events (e.g., Film Music Festival, Unsound, Divine Comedy). One thing is certain, Krakow hosts events that are a sign of connectivity with the immediate surroundings, with the suburban neighborhood, with the former villages of Krakow, sometimes with the region, and many of them - through the economic, cultural or civilizational community – also with Europe and the world.

When planning a weekend or longer stay in Krakow, check out what is currently happening in the city: Calendar – KrakowCulture (krakowculture.pl)

Nowa Huta – a model socialist city

In Nowa Huta, you can go back in time to the era of communism, known in Poland as the People's Republic of Poland or PRL. For some it is a real vintage treat, for others the height of kitsch. Check it out for yourself during a crazy trip in a Trabant or a Polish Fiat 126. Nowa Huta is also the ideal place for a bicycle tour.

Construction of Nowa Huta began in 1949 as a separate city near Krakow. It was planned as a large centre for heavy industry and designed as a residential area for workers employed at the local steel mill. Its assets include distinctive architecture and an attractive spatial layout, making it a treat for lovers of modern architecture. Today, Nowa Huta is a vibrant district offering a variety of cultural and business events.

Lesser Poland [Malopolska] – discover the south of Poland!

Wieliczka Salt Mine – The oldest salt mine in Europe is a unique place where many generations of Polish miners created an underground world, including salt lakes, interiors decorated with sculptures and bas-reliefs (the largest sculpture weighs 15 tonnes), an underground church and chapels, including the famous chapel of St. Kinga. The lakes are so vast that Mateusz Kusznierewicz, a multiple World and European Championship medalist, surfed on one of them. Wieliczka's salt deposits cover an area of 7 square kilometres. At the beginning of the 20th century, exactly the same amount of space was occupied by the city of Krakow. The Wieliczka Salt Mine was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978.

Kalwaria Zebrzydowska and Lanckorona

Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, listed by UNESCO in 1999, also known as the Polish Jerusalem, is a town located in the picturesque Pogorze Makowskie [Makowskie Foothills], founded in 1602 by Mikolaj Zebrzydowski, the governor of Krakow. Today, the church and monastery, the complex of chapels and roadside churches, and the Mannerist landscape park are visited by millions of pilgrims every year. Connoisseurs of ancient architecture are offered charming sights, including wooden houses and late 19th and early 20th century indulgence stalls standing on the oldest street in the city. During the tour, participants have the opportunity to admire the Miraculous Image of Mary of Calvary.

Lanckorona – a picturesque town, located near Kalwaria Zebrzydowska – is called the magical city of angels. It is said to be the only place in Poland where angels knock on residents' doors and wish them Happy Christmas.

Tourists are attracted to Lanckorona by its beautiful location and its famous 19th-century market buildings, where time has stood still. Wooden houses on marble foundations seduce with distinctive arcades and tall gates in the middle of the front walls, through which carts once drove in. For years Lanckorona has attracted artists, painters, photographers and pottery enthusiasts.

Zakopane – Tatra Mountains and Podhale

Podhale and the Tatra Mountains are some of the most visited corners of Poland by tourists. No wonder, Zakopane is a unique place for many reasons and on a European scale. Add to this the natural qualities of the Tatra National Park (beautiful valleys and peaks, scenic mountain trails), biking trails, unique architecture, professional ski slopes and delicious highland cuisine, and this is still just the beginning of the story of the charms of the region! Podhale is attached to tradition, and its residents have a very emotional attitude to folk elements and folklore, which is visible at almost at every step. Join us for a fascinating journey in the Podhale region!

Wooden Architecture Route 

The Wooden Architecture Route was established in 2001. Among the 255 most valuable and interesting historic wooden buildings are picturesque churches, slender bell towers, Old Polish manor houses, wooden villas and open-air museums, among the most valuable monuments of folk material culture. In 2003, four 15th-century wooden churches from Lesser Poland received UNESCO listings. These include: the church of St. Michael the Archangel in Binarowa, the church of St. Michael the Archangel in Debno Podhalanskie, the church of St. Leonard in Lipnica Murowana and the church of St. Philip and St. James in Sekowa.  In 2013, four Orthodox churches, part of the Route, were added to the UNESCO List, including: the Orthodox Church of St. James the Younger Apostle in Powroznik, the Orthodox Church of the Protection of the Virgin Mary in Owczary, the Orthodox Church of St. Paraskeva in Kwiaton and the Orthodox Church of St. Michael the Archangel in Brunary Wyzne.

Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum

The museum was built on the site of the largest Nazi concentration camp established in 1940, when Auschwitz was part of the Third Reich. In 1942, the camp became one of the centres of the "Endlösung der Judenfrage," the final solution to the Jewish question. By 1945, historians estimate between 1 and 1.5 million people had been murdered here, mostly Jews from all over Europe, but also many Poles, Gypsies or Russians. The museum, which is also a memorial, includes two parts of the former camp complex: Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II Birkenau, along with more than 150 building structures: barracks, crematoria, roads and ramps. The brick blocks, standing behind the ominous gate with the phrase Arbeit macht frei [Work sets you free], were decorated with displays dedicated to the victims of various nationalities. The site of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1979.