In Poland’s former capital, ancient castles, ruins and museums attest to the city’s grand architecture, a contemporary art scene and captivating history.
Krakow is more than 750 years old, making it one of the oldest cities in Poland. Reminders of the past are reflected in the city’s architecture and artefacts, such as the collections of royal jewels, military paraphernalia and Holocaust memorials that are housed in Renaissance palaces and old castles. Yet, there is just as much to see that is about the present as there is about the past, including markets, contemporary arts culture and lively nightlife.
For five centuries, Krakow was the capital of Poland. A succession of monarchs built cathedrals and castles, lending the city an atmosphere of regal elegance.
Reliable public transport networks make getting around easy. Many of the major attractions are within the compact Old Town (Stare Miasto) district. Here, the St. Mary’s Basilica has one of the most impressive altarpieces in Europe. Where the walls of the Old Town once stood are the relaxing Planty gardens. Visit one of the most impressive sights in the park, the old town gate, known as the Barbikan.
At the centre of the city is the majestic Wawel Castle. Since the 16th century, this castle, with its defensive walls and towers, has protected Krakow from invaders. Today, the stately rooms house an art gallery and museum with displays of artworks, royal jewellery and collections of armour. Within the grounds, make a stop at the Wawal Cathedral and the Dragons Den, a limestone cave where it is believed a dragon once lived.
Krakow's history is deeply entwined with the Jewish community. Oskar Schindler’s Factory, the subject of the renowned Steven Spielberg movie, Schindler’s List, is located here. The former factory has been turned into a museum with extensive displays about the Holocaust. At the Galicia Jewish Museum, photographs depict life for modern-day Jewish people in Krakow.
Summer time in Krakow is all about the outdoors with markets, open-air concerts and festivals in the parks. Enjoy a cruise on the Vistula River or relax with a picnic in Jordan Park. In winter, Krakow has a romantic air as the city is covered in snow.