A Must-See Guide for Krakow Newcomers

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Rynek Glowny (the Main Market Square) Rynek Glowny (the Main Market Square)

Krakow’s marvellous Main Square, one of the greatest in Europe, dates back to the 13 century. It boasts the city’s emblematic Cloth Hall – Sukiennice, located right in the middle, the Town Hall Tower and the little church of St. Wojciech. The Main Square is Krakow’s hub of the city life, bustling with people round the clock, magnetising both the locals and tourists with its magic ambience, street performers and many open-air cultural events and exhibitions.

Kosciol Mariacki (St Mary's Church) Kosciol Mariacki (St Mary's Church)

St Mary’s Church is one of Krakow’s most-loved landmarks. This majestic Gothic church boasts a dazzling, lavishly ornamented and brightly coloured interior, topped with dark-blue vault. Its jewel in the crown is the 15th century wooden gilded altar, the masterpiece by Wit Stwosz, one of Poland’s greatest sculptors. This astonishing huge altar is one of the greatest medieval altars in Europe. The church is also known for the trumpet call, which is played every hour from the church's tower. The trumpet call stops suddenly to reflect the old legend of the trumpeter who was killed by a Tatar arrow while playing the call to alert the city’s inhabitants of the approaching enemy’s army.

Ratusz (Town Hall)

Town Hall Tower is the only remaining part of the medieval Town Hall, which was erected in 14th century and pulled down in the early 19th century. From the top of the tower visitors can enjoy a wonderful panoramic view of the Old Town. The tower houses a branch of the Krakow Historical Museum. Its vast cellars contain a theatre and a cafe.

Sukiennice (the Cloth Hall) Sukiennice (the Cloth Hall)

Sukiennice is Krakow’s oldest “shopping mall”, built in the 13th century to house numerous market stalls that were traditionally located on the medieval Main Square. The Cloth Hall was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in the Renaissance style. Sukiennice retained its original commerce purpose and today visitors can buy there traditional Polish souvenirs and local handicrafts. The upper floor houses the Gallery of Polish 19th century art.

Brama Florianska (St. Florian's Gate) Ulica Florianska (Florianska Street)Brama Florianska (St. Florian's Gate)

Built in the 14th century, it is one of the best known Gothic towers in Poland, and a focal point of the Old Town. The Gate and the adjoining walls are the remains of the medieval town’s fortifications. The Gate features the top Baroque helmet, which was added in the 17th century. Its south wall is adorned by a statue of St. Florian, while the north side features a stone eagle. Inside the gate is an altar with the Baroque painting of Piaskowa Mother of God. The Gate used to be the starting point of the Royal Road, which led to the Main Market Square (along Florianska street), then down Grodzka Street up to the Wawel Royal Castle. It was followed by the kings, princes, noblemen and foreign envoys as well as coronation processions and parades. Today St Florian Gate together with adjacent walls is a venue for Krakow’s artists selling their paintings.
Fortifications Krakow CracowFortifications

The city fortifications were built gradually, the earliest of them in the late 13th century. Once the fortifications had double walls and a moat which was filled with water. By the late 18th century there were 7 gates and 47 towers, the city walls survived in this shape until the early 19th century.

Planty GardensPlanty Gardens

Planty is a city park which surrounds the Old Town. It was planted on the site of the former moat and the medieval city walls, which were dismantled in the 19th century (they were in very bad condition due to the lack of maintenance after the Partitions of Poland). The only surviving part is of the medieval fortifications is the Florian Gate with adjoining walls and the nearby Barbican. The park is dotted with numerous monuments and fountains, and is one of the favourite outdoor venues for Cracovians and tourists alike.

Barbakan (the Barbican) KrakowBarbakan (the Barbican)

The Barbican, one of the very few surviving structures of its kind in Europe, is a fortified outpost, which served as an additional protection of the Gate and the walls. It was added to the city’s fortifications in the 15th century. Barbakan was originally linked to the city walls through the Florian Gate by a covered passage-way. It features an inner courtyard and seven turrets. Currently, it serves as a visitor attraction and hosts many temporary exhibitions.

Wawel Castle CracowWawel Castle

Wawel is perched proudly on the hill above the city, with the Vistula River flowing gently at its bottom. The castle, steeped in the glorious history, was the seat of Poland’s monarchs from the mid-11th to the early 17th century. The present structure incorporates Romanesque fragments and considerable Gothic parts, but it acquired its present form mainly in the 16th century.
The Wawel Hill is accessible to visitors daily, Apr-Sept: 6am-8pm, Oct-Mar: 6am-5pm.  
The courtyard is closed half an hour before closing. Exhibitions in the Royal Castle are closed on: 1st January, Easter Sunday, 1st and 11th November, and 25th December.
The exhibitions include:
State Rooms: historical interiors, tapestry collection of Sigismund Augustus, royal portraits, Italian Renaissance furniture, as well as Italian and Dutch paintings of the 14-17th centuries.
Royal Private Apartments: fine tapestries and period furhishings, clocks, textiles, goldsmiths’ work
Crown Treasury and Armoury: the royal regalia, memorabilia of Polish monarchs, wide array of weapons.
Oriental Art: Turkish tents and banners, Turkish and Persian weapons, carpets, Chinese and Japanese ceramics.
The Lost Wawel: an archaeological-architectural reserve with the early 11th century Rotunda as well as objects connected with the history of Wawel Hill, and stove-tiles dating from the 16th-17th centuries.
Dragon's Den: a cave linked with the legend of the Wawel dragon.
The Castle Apartments are open: Tues-Sun: 9:30am-4pm. Closed Monday and some also on Sunday. Depositing luggage is mandatory (the luggage room at Bernardynska Gate).

Wawel CathedralWawel Cathedral

This beautiful 11th century cathedral served as the crowning and burial place of almost all Poland’s monarchs. It features Romanesque elements, however most of the structure is in Gothic style. The cathedral contains the shrine of St. Stanislaus, the patron saint of Krakow and Poland. It boasts several finely decorated royal chapels and monuments. Its highlight is the Sigismund Chapel - the masterpiece of Renaissance architecture and sculpture. The cathedral’s tower features the massive 11-tonne Zygmunt Bell (named after the king Sigismund), one of the largest bells in Europe, cast in the 16th century. Its powerful, sonorous sound is heard far away on important Church and national occasions. The crypt contains the tombs of the kings, royal families, prominent poets and national heroes.
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 0900-1700, Sun 1215-1700 (May-Sep); Mon-Sat 0900-1500, Sun 1215-1500 (Nov-Mar).

University Quarter  Collegium MaiusUniversity Quarter - Collegium Maius

Krakow’s Jagiellonian University is the most renowned Polish university, established in 1364. After Prague it's the second oldest university in Central Europe. Its oldest college, the Collegium Maius, is a fine example of 15th century Gothic architecture, featuring a beautiful arcaded courtyard. The Collegium Maius houses the Museum of the Jagiellonian University containing splendid historic rooms with original furnishings, fine collection of the old European art, unique science instruments, and varied memorabilia. The museum also hosts regular temporary exhibitions. Opening hours: 10am-3pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; 10am-6pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays; 10am-2pm on Saturdays. There is also a permanent exhibition The World of Senses, open Mon-Fri 10am-2:30pm, Sat: 10am-1:30pm.

Kazimierz  The Jewish Quarter)Kazimierz (The Jewish Quarter)

The Old Jewish District bears the name of the Polish king Kazimierz the Great (Casimir III of Poland), who granted equal rights to the Jewish minority. Originally, Kazimierz was an independent town, but it gradually became one of Krakow’s districts. Its seven historic synagogues, Jewish cemeteries, atmospheric marketplaces, narrow streets and myriad tenement houses are the reminders of the history of Polish Jews.
As a result of their extermination during the Second World War, Kazimierz fell into ruin. It existed as a poor, neglected area until the 1990s when many renovation projects were undertaken to bring back former vitality to the district. Today, Kazimierz is Krakow’s thriving bohemian headquarter, with myriad atmospheric cafes and restaurant featuring original interiors. Their magic and laidback ambience and retro décor takes visitors on a journey back in time. The district enjoys growing popularity among tourists. Every June is hosts world-famous Jewish Culture Festival, featuring workshops, lectures, exhibitions and concerts. Kazimierz was immortalized by Spielberg in his Schindler’s List.

Salt Mine in Wieliczka

The Wieliczka Salt Mine is a world-class attraction and a UNESCO Heritage Site.
This subterranean wonder world features numerous corridors, caverns, lakes and chapels – all hidden deep underground. Wieliczka is the only mining site in the world functioning continuously since the Middle Ages. Its oldest part is accessible to visitors. The tourist route starts 64 m deep and ends 135 m below the earth surface. The salt mine contains the world's biggest museum of mining with unique centuries-old equipment on display, but its highlight is a truly dazzling chapel dedicated to the Blessed Kinga. It is carved in rock salt and decorated with sculptures and bas-reliefs – all carved in solid salt.
The Mine is accessible all year round, except for January 1, Easter Sunday, November 1, December 4, Christmas and December 31. Opening Hours: 7.30 - 19.30 Apr-Oct, 8.00-17.00 Nov-March. There are also guided tours in: English, German, French, Italian, Russian and Spanish.
Blessed Kinga's chapel in the Salt Mine
Chapel dedicated to the Blessed Kinga is located 101 meters below the surface, it is over 50 meters long, 15 meters wide. Yes, it's all made of salt, including the chandeliers made of salt crystals.
Krakow's greatest stained glass window
The church of St. Francis on Franciszkanska street features one of the world’s greatest modern stained glass windows. It depicts a powerful image of God the Creator, the masterpiece of Krakow’s artistic and literary genius Stanislaw Wyspianski (1869-1907). Other stunning designs, commissioned for Krakow’s Wawel Cathedral in 1900 were left unrealized for over a century. Now they grace the windows of the Wsypianski 2000 brand-new building, adjacent to the church of St. Francis. 
Leonardo da Vinci's Masterpiece
Krakow is one of just six places in the world that can boast a painting by Leonardo da Vinci. The city’s museum houses one of his three female portraits - Lady with an Ermine, whois arguably the most beautiful. Leonardo’s outstanding masterpiece can be seen in The Czartoryskich Museum at Sw. Jana 19.
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