The royal city of Kraków

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  • Picture: krakow.plPicture:
  • Picture: krakow.plPicture:
  • Picture: krakow.plPicture:
  • Picture: krakow.plPicture:
  • Picture: krakow.plPicture:

Kraków, the former capital of Poland is a must if you’re planning a longer stay in Poland. If you have two or three days and have not decided yet which city you are heading to, we recommend Kraków.

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It has been one of the most important cities in Poland for many centuries. Kraków used to be the political center of Poland the cultural trendsetter of the whole country. Nowadays, the city has everything a visitor can wish for – priceless attractions, a lively old town and a wide offer of restaurants, night clubs and shopping centres.


Most historians agree that the city has its origins on the Wawel hill. That’s where a fortress was built during the early Middle Ages, which gradually grew into a town. It is said that there used to be a pagan temple near the hill which later was modified into Michael Archangel’s church. In the end of the 10th century Kraków was considered as the heart of the country and it seemed to have a great future ahead of it.


The 15th and 16th century were unarguably the golden years in the history of Kraków. The castle complex on the Wawel hill underwent constant modernization. You could barely find any traces of the small miserable fortress. Kraków’s most important hill was now enriched with a majestic castle that was almost impossible to besiege. The cultural life was becoming more intense, the trade was flourishing and Europe’s greatest monarchs felt a pang of envy at the thought of Kraków.


In the end of the 17th century the dynamic development of the city came to a sudden stop. The court was moved to Warszawa. 40 years later Swedish troops were looting the streets of Kraków and wreaking havoc in the whole city. The 18th century was not too peaceful either. Prussian, Swedish, Austrian and Russian troops marched through the city, which affected the beautiful architecture of Kraków. On top of that a great fire broke out in 1850. 10% of Kraków was swallowed up by the flames and fell into oblivion.


Although Kraków was rebuilt after the second world war, it had underwent considerable changes. Before the war Kraków was inhabited by about 60 000 Jews who made up 25% of the whole populations. After Hitler’s defeat only 1000 of the remained. The other ones had fallen victim to the Holocaust.

Despite all wars, uprisings, sieges and fires Kraków is still popular. Here in Kraków each and every alley has its own history. At the same time Kraków is a vivid business center where many international companies locate their offices.


If you’re in Kraków, you must visit the castle on the Wawel hill. Don’t worry if you don’t have any map and you always get lost. All you need to do to find the majestic castle is to follow other tourists. Look for people with backpacks and cameras and go in the same direction.

The Wawel hill played a vital role in Poland already in the 10th century when the country was taking its first stumbling steps on Europe’s political scene. That’s where the king and his court used to have their headquarters. The royal castle was visited by many famous artists and scientists making it the cultural center of Poland. Nowadays, almost everyone in Kraków considers the castle as the heart of the city.


There is plenty of tourist shops for all those who want to buy some souvenirs. If you don’t want to stand in a long queue to buy a plastic sea shell, you should visit Sukiennice, a big stone house that looks like a medieval version of a shopping mall. Sukiennice dates back to the middle of the 13th century. It used to be a market first which was later modified into a big hall. Nowadays it’s filled with market stalls where you can buy local products and handicrafts. Sukiennice is a place for everyone who is tired of all cheap and mass-produced souvenirs. Quality is a top priority here.

The great square is one of Europe’s biggest squares and it proves that Kraków is a vivid metropolis visited by thousands of tourists every year. It has a wide offer of different cafeterias and restaurants. Furthermore, the square is located near many vital attractions such as Saint Mary’s basilica, Sukiennice, saint Wojciech’s church or the 70 meter high city hall tower. The latter is the only thing that’s left of Kraków’s city hall which was tore down in 1820.


If you’re already in the great square, you should definitely visit Saint Mary’s basilica located within a stone’s throw of all the cafeterias and restaurants. This over 700 years old church is one of Poland’s most important and famous tourist attractions. Its beautiful towers and gothic style make you think of the gloomy middle ages. Saint Mary’s basilica was one of very few flickers of light in the mental darkness of the middle ages and it used to bring hope and joy in the everyday life of the inhabitants. If you’re fond of historical novels, you’re bound to fall in love with the solid walls of the basilica and its medieval interior.

There are many ways to shop in Kraków. You can find modern shopping malls such as Galeria Krakowska with its sterile interior, luxurious clothing shops and tastefully designed cafeterias. On the other hand there is a lot of typical polish markets resembling bazars in the Middle East, where you will find anything you can think of – cheap CDs, fresh vegetables, fake glasses and eggs. As you can see the shopping world in Kraków is extremely versatile and full of unending possibilities.


There are hundreds of books about Kraków. It’s impossible to describe everything in one article. What you’ve just read is only a short sample, remember that there is much more you can discover yourself. Start you adventure now and plan your journey today!

These films may encourage you even further. Take a look at what Kraków can offer you!

Eager to find out more about the region surrounding Kraków? Here you go:

How do you get to the royal city of Kraków? It's as easy as pie: take the plane to Kraków or Katowice and rent a car at the airport. You can, of course, take your own car and travel with the ferry to the continent. Book accommodation directly in the heart of the city. Don't forget to take care of your travel insurance!

Region: Małopolskie.

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