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ABOUT KRAKOW

  • About Krakow
  • About Krakow
  • About Krakow
  • About Krakow
  • About Krakow
  • About Krakow
  • About Krakow
  • About Krakow
  • About Krakow
  • About Krakow

Magical, magnetic... Kraków attracts visitors from various parts of the world, and it is not about making comparisons, or about valuing similarities or perceiving differences. Whether it is Rome, the Crimea, the Grand Canyon or Machu Picchu - each of these ‘top places' has something unique of its own. Krakow has its own Protective Spirit, which is as much experienced as it is undefinable... Just walk along the narrow streets of the old town, think about the underground passages winding below your feet, about the arcades and cellars, look at the couples strolling hand in hand in the "Planty" Park and along the Vistula, ‘be' while watching the ‘God the Father' stained-glass window, touch the heart of the ‘Zygmunt' Bell that makes dreams come true, see the fascinating contrasts of the old Jewish Kazimierz District, listen to jazz in a basement club and to the organs of Tyniec Monastery, have a drink in a pavement cafe and listen to the bugle call, give a red rose to someone you love... It slowly creeps into your heart... Is it the City or the Spirit?

 

Discovery I: Krakow - The Old Town

 

An adventure in Krakow can begin on Plac Matejki Square. From here we can pass through the Florian Gate and follow the Royal Way. En route we will see such places as the Barbican, the Czartoryski Museum, the Market Square, the Mariacki Church, Collegium Novum and Collegium Maius, as well as many churches and townhouses of Renaissance and Gothic origin before we finally reach Wawel Hill.

 

After such an exhaustive walk, we can relax in the Planty Park. This is a special place in Krakow. This unusual park was established in place of the defensive walls that used to surround the town. Some say that it is like a magical garden. You must certainly see it for yourselves.

 

Discovery II: Kazimierz - The Jewish Town

 

Kazimierz used to be a separate town established in 1335 by King Casimir the Great; nowadays it is a district of old Krakow. Kazimierz's past is inseparably linked to the history of Polish Jews, who started settling here from the 15th century onwards, setting up synagogues, houses, schools, shops and cemeteries. Before the outbreak of World War II, Kazimierz was inhabited by 64,000 Jews.

 

We suggest beginning any visit to Kazimierz with a stroll along Miodowa Street where the Tempel synagogue is located, and then following the synagogue route, visiting the Isaak and Wysoka (High) synagogues on the way, until we finally reach Szeroka Street, where we will see the oldest Jewish building in Poland, the 15th century Old Synagogue. There is also an old Jewish cemetery on Szeroka Street that was instituted in 1511. We will also see the Popper Synagogue before reaching the new Jewish cemetery that lies on the outskirts of old Kazimierz. We cannot, however, finish our walk here if we want to learn about the complete history of Polish Jews in Kazimierz district; a visit to Plac Bohaterów Getta Square is a must; it was here in 1941 that the Nazi Germans created an enclosed Jewish Ghetto from where in the following years of World War II Jews were then transported to concentration camps.

 

Later, you can wander along the district's old winding streets, experiencing their charm and finding traces of the past which will keep ‘popping up' by themselves. You can step into one of the many antique shops located in the district's tiny cozy shops or visit original galleries and old-fashioned little boutiques. And you simply must drop into one of Kazimierz's many cafes, where you can watch the world go by as you try a delicious pascha cake and some aromatic coffee.

 

Discovery III: Kazimierz - a Christian town

 

When he founded the town that bears his name, King Casimir the Great had great plans for it. Kazimierz was surrounded by defensive walls. It had its own market square (today's Wolnica Square), its own municipal council, royal privileges, and a number of magnificent monumental buildings. You really should visit the district's churches, which are considered by some to be the greatest examples of Gothic church architecture in Poland: St. Catherine's Church and Corpus Christi Church. Attention must also be drawn to the beautifully located late Baroque Na Skałce Church - a place where many famous Poles are buried. Nearby you can see the preserved remains of Kazimierz's defensive walls.

 

To get some fresh air and recover a little from the grandeur of the buildings you have seen, we suggest a stroll along the Vistula River, where Cracovians like to take a walk and where there is always something interesting taking place.

 

Discovery IV: Nowa Huta - or a perfect socrealist city

 

Nowa Huta has always been a controversial district in Krakow, especially among Cracovians themselves. It has usually had negative connotations, mainly for ideological reasons, although there are some people who have looked upon it with admiration. Nowadays, its appeal lies in its unique architecture and urban layout. According to experts, it is the best urban planning project of its type among the countries of the former Eastern Bloc. If you want to step back into that bygone era for just a while Nowa Huta offers the only unique chance to do so. And if you wish to experience socrealism and communist life more intensively, you are welcome to visit a socialist apartment or take a crazy ride in a Trabant, Syrena or Nyska car.

 

The Salt Mine in Wieliczka (distance from Krakow - 15 km)

 

Very near Krakow, there is a small town, Wieliczka, with the oldest operating salt mine in the world.

 

Rock-salt has been mined here for over 700 years! Over 30 years ago this place was included among the UNESCO World Heritage sites. The salt mine houses about 3000 grand chambers and 300 km of underground galleries distributed on 9 levels. Obviously, visitors do not see the whole mine, but a special route covering about 2 km, and including 20 chambers, underground chapels, and salt lakes - all this at the depth of 64 to 135 m underground! Visitors give most praise to St. Kinga's Chapel, which is 12 m high with beautiful sculptures and bas-reliefs made of salt. The Wieliczka salt mine also includes an underground spa.

 

The salt mine in Wieliczka is a place with its own history, legends and an unusual atmosphere.

 

Approx. visiting time: 3 hours.

 

The "Eagles' Nests" Route - surroundings of Krakow

 

In the scenic Jurassic Krakow-Częstochowa Plateau (Jura Krakowsko-Częstochowska), covered with lone limestone rocks, there are several strongholds, or rather ruins thereof. These were strongholds built in the 14th century by King Casimir the Great to protect the trade route from Krakow to the Wielkopolska Region and to the near borders of the state. The castles, due to their picturesque location on high rocks have been called Eagles' Nests. The route of such Eagles' Nests stretches from Krakow to Częstochowa at the distance of 163 km. The route offers not only the castles, but also wonderful landscapes with many lone limestone rocks and caves.

 

The Eagles' Nests Route starts with the Castle in Korzkwia (distance from Krakow - 20 km) situated in the Kokrzwia Cultural Park. This stronghold from the 14th century is presently being thoroughly renovated and is slowly returning to its condition of its golden age. It houses a little museum where you can visit the reconstructed royal kitchen, there is also a hotel and a restaurant. From the castle hill you can admire a beautiful park complex stretching at its foot, which features magnificent old trees. The Kokrzwia Cultural Park is not limited just to the castle hill and the park, but covers the entire village and its surroundings. Attention must also be drawn to the old church that attracts visitors with its Gothic reliquary of the late 14th century, with a crystal box for relics of the Wood from the Holy Cross and the Table of the Last Supper. Moreover, the church houses a silver monstrance of 1640, beautiful tapestries and a Baroque stoup. Attention is drawn by 5 wooden altars of the early 17th century.

 

The Castle in Ojców (distance from Krakow - 24 km)

 

Situated within the Ojców National Park, at the centre of Ojców, it acted as one of the most important strongholds of the Kingdom of Poland. It was erected on a protruding rock by King Casimir the Great in the second half of the 14th century. Only the octagonal tower has survived, with ruins of the chapel gate, walls and the bridge structure. Visiting the castle should be connected with a trip to the beautiful, scenic surroundings.

 

The Ojców National Park is one of the smallest (1570 ha), but also one of the most unusual National Parks in Poland. The Ojców Valley is the longest (15 km) and the most beautiful valley in the entire Krakow-Częstochowa Plateau. One can visit beautiful canyons, ravines, rock spears, gates and columns in form of clubs. Of special attraction are the caves, amounting to as many as 50. The most interesting one is the King Łokietek's Cave, the corridors and chambers of which are 250m long. The cave can be visited with a guide. The park in Ojców is also interesting due to the rich and now unique fauna and flora.

 

The surroundings of Krakow feature one of the grandest castles on the Eagles' Nests Route, namely the castle in Pieskowa Skała (distance from Krakow 40 km).

 

As one of few castles it has survived the Swedish occupation of Poland. Rebuilt in the Renaissance period, it is nowadays a pearl of Polish architecture of this period. One can admire the arcade yard, visit the museum, walk in the Renaissance gardens and ponder at strong bastions guarding the entry to the castle yard. Next to the castle there is a landscape park. In the valley, at the feet of the castle, there are several ponds from the 16th century. Nearby, there is the famous 20-meter-high lime rock, called Hercules' Club - an interesting example of a Karst phenomenon and erosion.

 

Approximate visiting time: 3-5 hours

 

Cruise on the Vistula River and the Monastery in Tyniec (distance from Krakow - 12 km)

 

On the Vistula River, just at the Wawel Castle, there is a haven where ships start their cruises on the river. Of particular interest is the cruise up the river, to Tyniec. In this section, the Vistula flows in a scenic valley, among the green hills of the Krakow Valley. From the ship, you can admire the landscape and monuments, such as the historic Zwierzyniec district stretching at the foot of the Kościuszko Mount, the old wooden St. Margaret Church from the 12th century, the beautiful Norbertan Convent in a picturesque location, and the grand Baroque Camaldoli Church and Erem on the Srebrna Góra Mount. The ship ends its cruise at the very old village of Tyniec. Here, on the white cliff, stands a fortified monastery and church - the almost one-thousand-year-old Benedictine Convent founded in the 11th century by King Casimir the Renovator. The Vistula flows here in a very narrowed valley, creating a ravine in the rocks of the Krakow Jurassic Plateau (Jura Krakowska), thus the stronghold at the cliff blocked the pass to Krakow. Two fortified gates guard the entry to the convent. One part of the yard is occupied by the church with two strong towers, the other - by the monastery, and at the centre there is a well that was hewn in rock in 1620.

 

In the summer, from May to September - the church is the place for organ concerts that attract many music fans.

 

Approximate time of cruise and visiting: 4 hours.

 

The Primeval Forest and the Royal Castle in Niepołomice (distance from Krakow -24 km.)

 

Thi magnificent and once vast forest land was the favourite hunting ground of Polish kings. The forest was then abundant with big animals. It still attracts hunters seeking deer, roe-deer, wild pig, hare or fox. The special attraction of this place is the bison reserve founded in 1936. The animals live here in the conditions close to their natural habitat. The forest also features several flora and forest reserves.

 

Niepołomice was not only a favourite hunting ground of kings, but also their favourite place for relaxation. Apart from the magnificent wild forest, one must also visit.

 

The Royal Castle. Already in the 14th century the famous Polish King Casimir the Great built a small Gothic hunter's castle here. Later, rebuilt many times by other kings, the castle became a grand Renaissance residence that we can admire today. The castle also houses the Museum of Hunting. Niepołomice offers a few more interesting historic places. It is worth stopping at the parish church founded in the 14th century. The church has preserved its Gothic character, but we can admire its chapels of well-known aristocratic families: the Branicki Chapel in Renaissance style, and the Lubomirski Chapel in the Baroque style.

 

Lipowiec (distance from Krakow 40 km)

 

Lipowiec is one of the most interesting places on the Krakow - Częstochowa Plateau. At a hight of 362 m, the forested hill bears the vast ruins of an old castle. Despite many reconstructions, the castle has preserved its original character and is perfectly adjusted for visiting. The castle is surrounded by a high wall, with the entrance through a draw bridge suspended over a fosse that used to be seven meters deep. The castle features three floors and a yard with an old, deep well. One can visit old chambers, kitchens, pantries, cart halls, prison cells, and a small museum presenting the history of the castle hill. A characteristic part of the castle is the 28 m tall tower which can be ascended to see a beautiful view.

 

At the foot of the castle hill, an unusual open air museum has been established, namely the Vistula Ethnographic Park (Nadwiślański Park Etnograficzny), containing wooden village houses from the 18th and 19th centuries. On an area of over 3 hectares, in the scenic hilly landscape, farms have been distributed, with orchards and vegetable gardens, facilities related to rural crafts, a church with a bell-tower, a small town complex, and other examples of the over-the-Vistula rural architecture. Visitors can relax at a regional inn, where they can taste specialties of old Polish cuisine.

 

Approximate visiting time without driving: 2.5 hours

 

Kalwaria Zebrzydowska and Wadowice (distance from Krakow - 38 km)

 

Kalwaria Zebrzydowska is the first Calvary in Poland. It was founded in 1602 by Mikołaj Zebrzydowski - a Starost of Lanckorona. It is a complex of 41 churches and chapels and other sacral facilities, situated on a circumference of 8 km. This second, after Częstochowa, most important pilgrimage centre in Poland since 1999 is the only such complex entered in the UNESCO World Heritage list. The greatest celebrity among the pilgrims to Kalwaria Zebrzydowska was probably Pope John Paul II, who was emotionally bound to this place from his earliest years. Special attention must be drawn to the mysteries of the Lord's Passion staged here in the Easter Week, which very imaginatively and suggestively present the last days of Christ's life.

 

Wadowice (distance from Krakow - 58 km). 20 km away from Kalwaria, there is the hometown of Pope John Paul II - Wadowice. Here, at 7, Kościelna Street, next to the parish church - the Basilica of Our Lady's Presentation, one can visit his family home, which offers rich documentation and photographs illustrating important moments of Karol Wojtyła's life.

 

Approximate visiting time of Kalwaria: 2.5 hours

 

Auschwitz - Birkenau - Death Camp (distance from Krakow - 50 km)

 

Oświęcim is a town which became widely recognized worldwide. In 1940, next to the very town, the Nazis established the largest and the most inhuman concentration camp, Auschwitz- Birkenau. Presently the place is a symbol of terror, genocide and the Holocaust. During the camp's operation, the Nazis brutally murdered 1.5 million people of various nations, of which the majority was formed by European Jews. In the camp there is a museum, which apart from a permanent exhibition devoted to the memory of the victims and documenting the Nazi crimes also maintains the archives and performs broad research. The area of the camp has been preserved unchanged from the time when the Nazis left. The place has been considered a Martyrs' Memorial. It is a place of pilgrimage for millions of people from all parts of the world.

 

In 1979 the memorial was listed among the UNESCO World Heritage sites.

 

Approximate visiting time of KL Auschwitz - Birkenau: 3 hours

 

Untypical villages and towns

 

Lanckorona (distance from Krakow 40 km)

 

This small town picturesquely located on the south-eastern slopes of the Lanckorońska Góra Mount attracts tourists and artists, who can admire its ancient architecture of the market square and the atmosphere of a sleepy town from a nineteenth-century sketch. While staying at Lanckorona, it is worth walking through the square market place and the nearby streets. You can admire wooden houses with arcades, built in 1868-1872. Due to its old wooden architecture, the market square in Lanckorona is one of the more attractive places on the Małpolska Route of Wooden Architecture. Lanckorona has its special charm. You can visit interesting historic places here, but also enjoy active recreation. We recommend a walk to the ruins of a castle from the 12th century.

 

Lipnica Murowana (distance from Krakow 60 km)

 

Nowadays a village, yet once a medieval town with municipal rights awarded in the 14th century by King Ladislaus Łokietek. We can still see the typical layout of a medieval town, with a vast, almost square market place and streets extending from its corners. Around the market square, there are wooden houses with arcades from the 18th and 19th century, and a brick house, called the "Starost House" from the 17th century. Another landmark is the brick Church of St. Andrew the Apostol, founded in 1364 by King Casimir the Great.

 

In its walls there is preserved a statue of Our Lady from 1420.

 

A special attraction in Lipnica Murowana is the celebration of Palm Sunday. Each year this event attracts many tourists from Poland and abroad. During this event there is a contest for the most beautiful and the tallest Easter palm, and great folklore festivities during which one can learn about Polish Easter customs, listen to and see folklore music bands, and try regional dishes.

 

Zalipie - a painted village (distance from Krakow 85 km)

 

It is a village famous for its painted huts. Due to its unusual image, the place is an attraction not only for tourists, but also keeps fascinating ethnographers, journalists and regionalists. The custom of decorating village rooms with flowery paintings dates back to the 19th century, when the women of the village started decorating the interiors of their houses with flowers painted on the walls. In Zalipie, there are over 20 painted houses. Paintings can be found everywhere: on external walls of the buildings, on wells, on fences and in cellars, and often dogs live in painted dog houses. Zalipian painting is naturally very characteristic, but at the same time each woman artist has her own individual and unique style. Until the present day, the women of Zalipie paint their modern houses and other household items. Apart from paintings on the walls, one can also admire many other forms of folk decoration, including beautiful paper-cuts, which are used to decorate the interiors of houses, elaborate carpentry, magnificent embroideries on blouses and corsets, or on liturgical clothes.

 

About Krakow

About Krakow