Krakow, an adoring Gothic city, used to be the capital of Poland before Warsaw. I visited Krakow during the weekend, so I couldn’t explore the city to its fullest. However, I managed to experience the main things to do in Krakow.
The city’s existence dates back to at least 50,000 years before the Slavic rule. The golden era in Krakow was in Middle Ages and once here, you fill the sense of it.
Top Things to Do in Krakow
Krakow was barely affected during the WWII, unlike other Polish towns. Thus, the landmarks remain authentic. And the best way to discover the city is by foot – most of the sights are within the walking distance.
1Watch the everyday life of locals at Market Square
Built in 1257, after the Mongol invasion, the square covers at least 100 sq. meters. It is the largest market area in the region, which used to be the epicenter of country’s historic events, festivals, and social gatherings. It serves the same purpose even today. You see locals scattered across the area enjoying warm sun, snacks, feeding the pigeons, drinking a cup of coffee. You can even climb the St. Mary Basilica for spectacular views of the area.
Since the beginning, it was a social and commercial and social hub of the city and a connecting gate with the West.
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It was Easter period when I visited Krakow. I was lucky enough to see the parade of locals dressed in their traditional costumes – white dresses and shirts with colorful embroidery.
2Visit the oldest university
One of the main things to do in Krakow is to visit Jagiellonian University, the oldest university in town and learn more about its façade and legendary history. Founded in 1364, Nicolaus Copernicus and Nawojka, the first women to studied in school in the 15th century attended the university.
3Stroll in Kazimierz District
The Jewish quarter attracts many visitors to its streets. Jews who lived here have created an important culture seen everywhere you look. Rich with history and heritage, Kazimierz district is popular among the young and alternative crowd. If you are looking for a budget dining and nightlife, be sure to check it out.
4Explore the Medieval Castle Barbican
Barbican is the city’s Medieval defense castle build in the 15th century to protect Krakow’s main entrance. 24.4 meters in diameter, Barbican has 3 meter thick walls is the only existing construction of its kind in Europe.
Today, different events like contests and medieval pageants are held here. From April until October, you can visit the castle as an outdoor museum and learn about its history.
5Wander through the Wawel Castle
Located on top of the hill, Wawel Castle is visible from everywhere in the city. It is as iconic as Eiffel Tower is to Paris. It’s fairytale windows, and dramatic spires persuade you to disconnect from modern daily life and imagine the time of its glory.
The Royal Cathedral situated within the compound has witnessed many coronations and marriages of Polish kings, as well as the burials and funerals of the countries monarchs over the centuries.
Spend at least half of the day here. Wander through the Royal residences, chapels, and cathedral. Do not miss seeing dragon’s cave at the bottom of the hill and enjoy breathtaking views of the Vistula River and Old Town.
6Take a day trip to Auschwitz
If you come to Krakow, you should have one day reserved for Auschwitz-Birkenau. Located in about 50 km west of the city, Auschwitz is a thrilling place to visit, leaving you with goosebumps and full of different emotions – sadness, anger, disbelief…
A quiet town of Oswiecim became a concentration camp of Nazi regime; however, it was not enough and Germans spread the camp to the close-by village Brzezinka covering at least 425 acres in total. Everything here was done in secrecy and Nazis made sure to keep it inaccessible.
There are no words describe the place. You should experience it by yourself. I know it can be quite emotional and moving, but it is part of our history – an unbelievable reality of the cruelest ruler of the 20th century.