Tag: Krakow

Tag: Krakow

Historic Centre Of Kraków

The historic centre of Kraków has been featured on Unesco’s World Heritage List since 1978. Packed full of restaurants, museums, galleries and bars, the medieval layout of the Old Town has not changed for centuries.

The heart and focal point of the historic centre of Kraków is its graceful main market square, the largest medieval town square of any European city.

Most visitors to Kraków visit the market square with its Cloth Hall, the Church of the Holy Mary, Wawel Hill and its Royal Castle, Wawel Cathedral with its outstanding Renaissance chapel, the Barbican and St. Florian’s Gate.

Wawel Royal Castle and the limestone Wawel Hill are extremely important historical and cultural sites containing one of the most important collection of buildings in Poland. Wawel was once the seat of Polish rulers, the residence of kings and the focal point of many Polish historical events. The hill is a symbol of the Polish nation and has witnessed some of the greatest moments in Polish history. Many Polish kings have been laid to rest below Wawel Cathedral.

The Jewish quarter of Kazimierz features a wealth of Jewish heritage with its 16th century cemetery and seven synagogues of which one is now the Jewish museum.

The historic centre of Kraków was once surrounded by a 3km long defensive wall complete with 46 towers and seven main entrances. Today only a fragment of the old fortifications remain including the Florian Gate, the Barbican and a few towers.

Beneath the city of Krakow and housed within the underground corridors of the market square, you will find a museum; which showcases how the city looked and felt during the Middle Ages complete with stone roads with potholes made by cart wheels during the 13th century.

The historic centre of Kraków is bisected by the Royal Road, the coronation route traversed by the Kings of Poland. The Route begins at St. Florian's Church outside the northern flank of the old city walls in the medieval suburb of Kleparz; passes the Barbican of Kraków built in 1499, and enters Stare Miasto through the Florian Gate. It leads down Floriańska Street through the Main Square, and up Grodzka to Wawel, the former seat of Polish royalty overlooking the Vistula river.

The best way to see the historic centre of Kraków is to take a tour. See our Experiences & Tours page for further details.

Wieliczka Salt Mine

The Wieliczka Salt Mine is a UNESCO World Heritage site located around 14km southeast of Kraków and is one of Poland’s most popular attractions, welcoming tourists since 1722.

Wieliczka Salt Mine is a subterranean labyrinth of tunnels, shafts and chambers, underground saline lakes, chapels with altarpieces, majestic timber constructions and unique statues sculpted in rock salt. The size of the mine is staggering, it reaches a depth of 327m and extends via horizontal passages and chambers for over 287 km distributed over nine levels. Only a small part of the mine is open to the public.

The highlight of the mine is a vast chamber housing the ornamented Chapel of St Kinga. Everything that you will see within the chamber is made from salt including altarpieces and chandeliers. It took over 30 years for three sculptors to complete this underground temple, and about 20,000 tonnes of rock salt had to be removed. The rock salt in the mine resembles unpolished granite and its natural colour is grey, not white as many people might expect.

The older sculptures have been supplemented with new carvings made by contemporary artists.

Historically, Wieliczka Salt Mine was a working mine; however due to falling salt prices and flooding, commercial salt mining was discontinued. The mine has produced salt since the 13th century and was one of the world’s oldest operating salt mines.

Other highlights are the salt lake in the Erazm Barącz Chamber, whose water is denser than the Dead Sea, and the awe-inspiring 36m-high Stanisław Staszic Chamber.

If you’re worried about the air quality down there, great news: the mine’s special microclimate actually has a beneficial effect on asthma sufferers and those with allergies!

One of the best ways to see Wieliczka Salt Mine is to take a guided tour. This is the tour which we recommend – Wieliczka Salt Mine: Round Trip from Krakow + Guided Tour.

Besides the salt mine, the picturesque town of Wieliczka has a number of other worthwhile attractions such as the Kraków Saltworks Castle, which is home to the Saltworks Museum, the beautiful classicist Church of St. Clement, the 18th century Przychocki Palace, the Sztygarówka (Foreman’s House), St. Sebastian’s church, and the Franciscan Monastery.

Lesser Poland (Malopolskie)

Lesser Poland (Malopolskie) is located in south-east Poland and has the city of Kraków as its administrative capital. The region has played an important part in Polish history and once was the focal point of the ancient Polish kingdom.

The region is very rich in natural beauty, to the north you will find the Świętokrzyskie Mountains, to the south, the Tatra, Pieniny and Beskidy Mountains and to the west is a broad range of hills.

Lesser Poland has six National Parks and 11 Landscape Parks including: Tatra National Park and Babia Góra National Park in addition to many areas for tourism and recreation, including Zakopane, which is Poland’s most popular winter resort. In the winter, thousands arrive in Zakopane to ski, especially around Christmas and in February. The most popular skiing areas are Kasprowy Wierch and Gubałówka. There are a number of cross country skiing trails in the forests surrounding the town.

The province also has many historic sites. The salt mine at Wieliczka, the pilgrimage town of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, and Kraków’s Old Town are ranked by UNESCO among the most precious sites of world heritage.

At Wadowice, birthplace of John Paul II is a museum dedicated to the late Pope’s childhood. The area of Oświęcim, with the former Nazi concentration camps Auschwitz-I and Auschwitz-II-Birkenau is visited annually by a million people.

It is widely agreed that everyone should visit Auschwitz at least once in their lives, it is a stern reminder of the horrors that human beings can inflict on each other and for some people, a life-changing experience.

Another tourist destination is the town of Bochnia with its salt mine, Europe’s oldest.

Kraków may no longer be Poland’s political capital but it makes a strong case for being the country’s cultural capital. Cited as one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, its Old Town was declared the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in the world. According to official statistics, in 2019 Kraków was visited by over 14 million tourists including 3.3 million foreign travellers.

Wawel Royal Castle

Wawel Royal Castle and the limestone Wawel Hill are extremely important historical and cultural sites containing one of the most important collection of buildings in Poland. Wawel was once the seat of Polish rulers, the residence of kings and the focal point of many Polish historical events. The hill is a symbol of the Polish nation and has witnessed some of the greatest moments in Polish history. Many Polish kings have been laid to rest below Wawel Cathedral.

Located south of the old town and next to the Vistula River, Wawel Hill showcases an incredible assortment of architectural delights including Renaissance, Gothic and Romanesque designs. Wawel Royal Castle and the Cathedral are must-see attractions and a walk around the castle courtyards and open spaces are highly recommended.

Today, Wawel Royal Castle is home to a superb art museum; which is well-known throughout Europe and the World because of its collection of Italian Renaissance paintings, the Sigismund II Augustus tapestry collection, sculptures, ceramics, period furniture and textiles among others.

The museum consists of five individual and separate sections: Crown Treasury and Armoury, State Rooms, Royal Private Apartments, Lost Wawel and the Exhibition of Oriental Art.

Pre-COVID, Wawel Royal Castle’s National Art Collection was visited by over one million visitors every year with two million people visiting Wawel Hill.

Wawel Hill has a long history; which can be traced back to the year 1000 when the first cathedral on Wawel Hill was built. Since then, Wawel has experienced many different timelines ranging from its Golden era from the 14th to the 16th centuries to the start of its decline as a centre of importance in 1609; when the then King moved his court to Warsaw.

Wawel Royal Castle was the cultural and political heart of Poland during the 16th century and today, it stands as a potent symbol and reminder of the Polish national identity. Visitors to Wawel Royal Castle today will see a 16th century Renaissance palace; however before this, it was a formidable Gothic castle; which was burned down in 1499

Over the years, the castle has been repeatedly sacked and vandalised. Extensive restoration work has been carried out since and many of the castle’s external structures and interior decorations have been recovered.

One of the best ways to explore the treasures of Wawel Royal Hill is to take a guided tour. With your local guide providing a fascinating snapshot of its history, and that of the surrounding area, you'll admire Krakow's number one tourist attraction from the outside and get a glimpse of royal life in 14th-century Poland – see further information.