Krakow / Cracow City Guide: Welcome to
Krakow (pronounced KRA-KOOF) (Cracow) is one of the jewels of Poland. As a
world-renowned college town, it has a lot of life and flavor. As the
former capital of Poland it has a lot of old world charm and deep history.
Krakow has survived World War I and World War II fairly undamaged. Krakow's
close proximity to
Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp,
makes it one of Poland's new tourist attractions. Krakow's medieval castles,
legendary Vistula River, old churches, historic squares, shops, pubs, and
more, Krakow has all the you would expect from a European town.
part of LukeTravels.com Travel Guides
Situated in the heartland of Europe, Poland has been both a bridge and a front line
between eastern and western Europe. Today, free from outside interference, Poland is the
place to go if you're interested in seeing how a nation picks itself up off the floor and
tries to reinvent itself. It's a multifaceted country where the capital and medieval old
towns are coddled by contemporary city slickers and where horse-drawn carts negotiate
country lanes in areas where the 20th century appears to have got lost somewhere down the
To find the soul of Poland, you must
seek it in Krakow - wrote the author and critic Wilhelm Feldman at the beginning of this
century. Poland's soul is chiseled into almost every stone of its old capital. This
atmosphere can be felt in each of the city's most visited sites.
Krakow is a colossus of art and architecture, and
its Old Town has been placed on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organization's - UNESCO - list of protected World Historic Sites. But Krakow is also a
modern city - the third largest in Poland.
Set on a rocky point overlooking
the Vistula River, Krakow has been attracting increasing numbers of
tourists, lured by its colorful past, which is associated with Poland's
The country's patron
saint, Stanislaus, charged with high treason and murdered by king Boleslav the Bold in the
11th century, rests in a silver tomb in the center of the Wawel cathedral.
Legendary Krakow is filled with vivid reminders of the days
when Polish kings were crowned and buried at the 11th-century Wawel Castle. A fabulous
collection of Arras tapestries, portraits and other precious objects await visitors.
The third largest city in Poland, Cracow (Krakow) is the new capital of the Malopolska (Little Poland) region in the southeast - between the Jura uplands and the Tatra Mountains. This magical city on the banks of the Wisla (Vistula) River, has one of the best-preserved medieval city
centers in Europe, with dozens of churches covering almost every architectural period and surrounded by monasteries and abbeys. Laid out in 1257, the Rynek Glowny (Main Market Square) is one of the largest medieval market squares in Europe - and a remarkable set piece fronted by elegant façades. It is dominated by the 16th-century Sukiennice (Cloth Hall), which continues to perform its role as a trading
center with lively market stalls and pavement cafés in and around the building. The surrounding lanes of the Stare Miasto (Old Town) are ringed by the Planty - a leafy, linear park that follows the line of the Old Town walls. Wawel Hill, to the south, is home to Wawel Castle, the seat of Polish kings from the 11th to the early 17th century. It was at this location, in 1000 AD, that the bishopric of Cracow was established and the Cathedral remains the spiritual home of Poland.
The city has largely been left intact since the Tartar raids of the 13th century, and this accounts for the largely
unspoiled Old Town - now a World Heritage Site. One area that has seen traumatic changes is the Kazimierz district. For centuries it was a
center of Jewish culture, until the Nazis killed many of its residents and deported most of those remaining to the wartime ghetto and from there to Auschwitz-Birkenau. An astonishing one third of tourists come to Cracow to see the concentration camps an hour's drive away. Although the former ghetto had largely fallen into decline since World War II, the area is rapidly changing in response to the renewed interest brought about by the film, Schindler's List (1993). The Jewish culture, if not the Jewish community, is being revived with lively Klezmer concerts in the city's theatres.
Cracow's millennium coincided with the Krakow 2000 festival - a celebration of the city's many musical, literary and artistic achievements - and the choice of Cracow as one of the nine European Cities of Culture for 2000. The recognition of Cracow as a cultural capital is justly deserved - almost a quarter of Poland's museum holdings can be found here and the city's cultural scene is without equal in Poland. While Warsaw may be Poland's administrative capital, Cracow is frequently referred to as Poland's cultural capital. This is a city steeped in myth and legend and many of its medieval traditions have carried forward to the present day. The city's cultural heritage is mirrored in its intellectual achievements - the Jagiellonian University is the oldest in Poland. The student population numbers almost 100,000 and this can be felt in the lively atmosphere throughout the city - Cracow is Poland's second biggest
center for science and education. Added to this are the increasing numbers of tourists who have discovered Cracow. In response, even more bars, cafés and restaurants have been opening up, making the city
center all the more attractive a place to enjoy. In fact, Cracow has more cafés and bars per square
meters than anywhere else in Poland. Summers tend to be busy, as the weather is at its most pleasant. The seasons are sharply differentiated, with cold, snowy winters and 'fresh' springs and autumns (visitors should beware of the locals' use of the word 'fresh' - an optimistic reference to blatantly cold weather). The labyrinthine cellars of the Old Town are an ideal place to huddle in escape of the winter weather.
The Sukiennice, or Cloth Hall, dominates the
square. It is here where merchants of old sold their wares. Today, visitors can stock up
on local art and souvenirs or simply sip a cup of coffee or espresso.
It's an easy traverse across Europe's largest medieval
marketplace to feast at the Wierzynek Restaurant as the royalty once did! This Polish
institution is the oldest, continuously operating restaurant in Europe. It dates back to
1364 when Mikolaj Wierzynek prepared a famous wedding banquet for the granddaughter of
King Casimir the Great. Sit back and take in the rooms furnished with antique chandeliers,
old battle armor and ancient clocks.
Other attractions in the area include the original
city walls, the Barbican fortress and the Florian Gate. Once the main entry point to the
city, the gate is now the site of a flourishing open art show. In addition, the Kazimierz
district, one of the principal centers of Jewish religion, culture and learning since the
15th century, now boasts a large complex of partly restored historical architecture.
The royal capital for half a millennium, Krakow has
witnessed and absorbed more history than any other Polish city. Moreover, it came through
the last war unscathed, so it has retained a wealth of old architecture from different
periods. The tallest structures on Krakow's skyline are not skyscrapers but the spires of
old churches, the 20th century's impact having been confined to acid rain. Yet Krakow is
not a silent memorial to bygone events: it's a city alive with character and soul.
Ringed by parkland, the Old Town is compact and utterly
charming. The Main Market Square is flanked by historic buildings, museums and churches.
St Adalbert's Church is one of the oldest, dating back to the 10th century. If you catch
an enthusiastic priest at his most generous he might open the coffins in the Church of the
Reformed Franciscans enabling you to reconfigure your lunch with a gawk at some mummified
bodies. One of the best museums is the Czartoryski Museum, with an impressive collection
of European art, as well as Asian handcrafts and armor. Krakow was Otto Schindler's
stamping ground and there are tours tracing the steps of his story and some of Spielberg's
Krakow / Cracow City Guide: Fast
Cracow is one of the
largest and oldest cities in Poland, with a population of 756,336 in 2007
(1,403,247 in the Kraków-Tarnów sub-region).
Situated on the Vistula
river (Polish: Wisła) in the Lesser Poland region, the city dates back to
the 7th century. It was the capital of Poland from 1038 to 1596, the capital
of the Grand Duchy of Kraków from 1846 to 1918, and the capital of Kraków
Voivodeship from the 14th century to 1999. It is now the capital of the
Lesser Poland Voivodeship.
People: 98% Polish, plus Ukrainian and Belorussian minorities
Religion: 95% Roman Catholic
Government: Parliamentary democracy
Visas: Most EC countries and the
USA can enter Poland without a visa and stay for 90 days. Australians need visas. Border
laws are being liberalized so check with a Polish Embassy before you leave.
Health risks: Substandard hospital care, especially in rural areas
Time: GMT/UTC plus one hour
Electricity: 220 volts, 50 Hz AC
Weights & measures: Metric
Tourism: 8 million visitors per year
Currency: Polish zloty
- Budget meal: US$3-5
- Moderate restaurant meal: US$6-20
- Top-end restaurant meal: $20 and up
- Budget room: US$10-30
- Moderate hotel:US$20-50
- Top-end hotel: US$100-500
Though not the bargain it used to be, Poland is still a
cheap country for travelers. If you are accustomed to rental cars and plush hotels, you
can spend almost as much as you would in western Europe. However, if you can get by with
cheap hotels, medium-priced restaurants, bus or train travel, a few beers, the odd museum
and occasional taxis, you should be able to get by on around $50-90 a day.
However you carry it, your money will
generally be safe while you're traveling in Poland. Checks are reasonably
easy to exchange wherever you go, but you'll get a slightly better rate
with cash. Credit cards are becoming more useful - you can use them to pay
for up-market hotels and restaurants, car rentals and long-distance
transport. You can also get cash advances with the major cards.
There are a number of banks as well as
automatic teller machines located around the Main Square, which accept
most major credit and charge cards. Moreover, most shops in the city
centre allow payment by card. Money exchange is possible in exchange
bureaus and banks. As banks usually take a small commission for such
services this method is less attractive and beneficial for customers. When
exchanging money at an exchange bureau, it is worth paying close attention
to the exchange rates of the currencies on offer - taking the time to
compare them with those on offer in other local exchange bureaus is also
highly recommended and could make a considerable difference to the amount
Krakow / Cracow City Guide: How to Get There?
to Krakow by Air
There are several non-stop and
connecting/direct flights to John Paul II International
Airport Kraków-Balice (airport code KRK) from major European,
North American, and other destinations. LOT Polish Airlines
offers the only non-stop service from Chicago O'Hare ORD, New York City JFK and
Newark Liberty EWR airports to Krakow Balice Airport KRK via non-stop
or direct flights.
Airport is served by the following airlines:
- Aer Lingus (Dublin)
- Austrian Airlines
operated by Tyrolean Airways (Vienna)
- bmibaby (Birmingham)
- British Airways (London-Gatwick)
- Brussels Airlines (Brussels)
- Czech Airlines (Prague)
- easyJet (Belfast-International,
Bristol, Dortmund, Edinburgh, Liverpool, London-Gatwick, London-Luton,
Newcastle, Paris-Charles de Gaulle)
- Finnair (Helsinki) [seasonal]
- Iberia Airlines
operated by Air Nostrum (Madrid)
- LOT Polish Airlines
(Chicago-O'Hare, Frankfurt, New York-JFK [seasonal], Newark
[seasonal], Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Tel Aviv, Warsaw, Poznan,
- operated by EuroLOT (Vienna)
- Lufthansa (Munich)
Lufthansa Regional operated by Augsburg Airways (Munich)
Lufthansa Regional operated by Lufthansa CityLine (Frankfurt,
- Norwegian Air Shuttle (Bergen,
Copenhagen [begins 2 April], Oslo-Gardermoen, Stavanger, Stockholm-Arlanda)
- Ryanair (Birmingham, Dublin, East
Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow-Prestwick, Liverpool, London-Stansted,
Milan-Bergamo, Shannon, Stockholm-Skavsta)
- Transavia.com (Paris-Orly)
- Windjet (Forli) [begins 31 March]
Transportation to/from Krakow-Balice
Airport to/from Krakow city center:
The "Balice Ekspres" operates between
Kraków Główny (Main railway station) and the Kraków-Balice Airport
railway-stop everyday from 4:00 am to midnight, with trains every 30
minutes between 7:00 and 21:00).
Trains from Kraków Główny to Kraków
Balice Airport depart from platform 1, track 9. Trip time: 16 mins.
One-way fare: 6.00 zł (ca. Ł1.50 or 1.87 €). No charge for luggage.
A free shuttle bus operates between
the airport train stop and the terminals: international (T1) and
domestic (T2). (1)
In addition, you can take a city bus:
Bus #208 (from Nowy Kleparz), #192 (from Plac Bohaterów Getta, Rondo
Mogilskie, main railway station). Travelling time is approximately 35
min. Please purchase regular public transportation tickets.(2)
Facilities at the Airport:
Foreign currency exchange bureaus,
ATMs, BPH-PBK S.A. bank branches, restaurant and coffee shop at the
passengers terminal, viewing terrace coffee shop, duty free shop in
the main flight departure hall, 24/7 parking lot, car rentals agency.
(1) Compiled from
Wikipedia.org. Thank you Wikipedia and its authors. (2) Compiled from
Getting to Krakow by Rail / Cracow by Rail
The city is easily and comfortably
accessible by train from all larger cities in Poland, for example, the
journey by InterCity train from Warsaw to Krakow takes only 2.5 hours.
Apart from local transport systems, Krakow also has direct railway links
with Berlin, Budapest, Bucharest (from June to August trains also run to
Varna), Hamburg, Kiev (from June to August trains also run to Odessa),
Lviv, Prague, Vienna, Żilin. All trains stop at the Main Railway Station.
The tourist season runs roughly from May to September,
peaking in July and August. At this time the Baltic beaches are taken over by swarms of
humanity, resorts and spas are invaded by tourists, Masurian lakes are crowded with
thousands of sailboats, and mountains can hardly be seen for walkers. Perhaps the best
time to visit is either late spring (mid-May to June) or the turn of summer and autumn
(September to mid-October). These are pleasantly warm periods and there are plenty of
cultural activities going on. During winter it's cold, but its still a good time for
visiting Poland's cities.