It might have lost the title of capital city, but Krakow is still by far Poland’s most popular tourist destination, having absorbed far more than its fair share of striking history over the years, as well as literally millions of registered artworks. It’s a striking, interesting blend with so much to offer you could spend weeks exploring its intricacies. The fact that Krakow is one of only twelve cities to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site gives and idea of just how special this place is.
500 years as the Royal capital left behind a rustic castle on the hill, a seven-century-old university, and reams of gothic influences. The entire city is enveloped with towering walls, as well as 55 imposing guard towers, and centered around a picturesque market square, the second largest in Europe, and still home to regular bustling trade.
In 1000 Krakow got its own bishop, and in 1038 the city became Poland’s capital. Krakow’s Golden Age came by the end of the 15th century when it was the thriving metropolis of a vast and prosperous kingdom stretching from the Black Sea to the Baltic Sea
Start in the old town, where startling gothic churches tower over intricate cobbled streets, or head to the Jewish quarter, which seems to lie quietly amongst its synagogues in reverence to its battered, tragic past. The Galicia Museum gives a depressing but necessary insight into the details of that particular branch of Polish history. You can take in the city on the whole from the lofty splendor of one of the ever-present horse and carriage set ups, or enjoy a side trip to the Museum of Pharmacy, and soak up the eclectic combinations of unpalatable looking elixirs and bizarre remedies.
If you’re keen to go a bit further afield, the creepy depths of the Wieliczka Salt Mine draw you into the earth, while the magnificent forests to be found around the outskirts of the city make for a crisp and refreshing break from Krakow’s palatable buzz. And for a grim reminder of the unimaginable horrors that happened during World War 2, you can visit Auschwitz.
Krakow’s history’s been tumultuous and strained at times, but the staple buildings and atmosphere that made it so special still stand tall, making this comfortably Poland’s most alluring destination, and arguably Eastern Europe’s, too. If you enjoy castles, fairytales and quirky yet haunting museums, you’re going to love this city.
More commonly known by its German name, Auschwitz, and overshadowed by its history as a headquarters for genocide and terror as the location of the concentration camp established there by the…