Which Part of Krakow Makes the Best Impression on Visitors?
Krakow has a magnetic pull for millions of tourists from all over the world. In addition to a long list of amazing sites around the city, you’ll encounter other visitors from every corner of the planet. But what, exactly, are they coming to see? It’s hard to keep any such list to under ten or fifteen pages, but we’ll try! Here it goes…
Krakow Tours: Favourite sightseeing paths around the city
While helping many foreign guests to plan their stays in Krakow, we noticed that certain destinations are almost always found at the top of their lists – the Old Town, Wawel Castle and the former Jewish Quarter of Kazimierz.
photo credit: pixabay
Guests from outside of Poland are fascinated by Krakow’s long history and its role in nation’s history as well. You’ll find them every day on Krakow’s Royal Route, the path right in the heart of the city taken by Polish monarchs during various ceremonial processions like coronations and funerals. It starts at St. Florian’s Church and goes through the Barbican, down Florianska Street, through the Main Square and along Grodzka Street before heading right to the gates of Wawel Castle. As you make your way along the Royal Route you will encounter many of the most famous sites in the city. You will see St. Mary’s Church long before you’re able to step inside and take in its splendor. Many locals will admit to being so used to the scenery inside that they forget just what a huge impression it makes on first-time visitors. The interior of the church is packed with spectacular works from various historic and artistic eras and the entire history of European cultural influences is carved, painted and sculpted into its walls. Make your way further inside to see the jewel of the entire church, the carved Gothic altar. Back outside the church, at some point you will feel the invisible force that seems to draw everyone in the direction of Wawel Hill and the Royal Castle. Once on top of the hill and inside the castle complex, the Royal Tombs, Sigismund’s Bell and courtyard of the castle are just steps away. And don’t forget about the fire-breathing dragon! Yes, of course Krakow has a fire-breathing dragon…
Wawell Hill, Photo Credit: pixabay
Foreign tourists also know that Kazimierz has to be a part of any visit to Krakow. The old Jewish Quarter has quickly become famous around the world because of its intriguing history and fascinating culture. It’s also the location of many sites associated with darker times in Krakow’s history during World War II. The juxtaposition of this against the lively atmosphere of today’s Kazimierz makes for a truly memorable visit. Just a short walk away across the river, visitors will find the Podgorze district, home of the Schindler Factory and the Jewish Ghetto from the war. Both have become major attractions, particularly since an excellent city museum was established in the former factory just a few years ago. Also, the film Schindler’s List has obviously done much to put this destination on the radar of many visitors to Krakow.
Kazimierz, Old Jewish Quarter, Photo Credit: pixabay
Another theme that sparks interest in many newcomers to Krakow, especially those from beyond the Western border of Poland, is the Communist era. Krakow Tours to Nowa Huta, the industrial district created by the Communist regime and grafted onto Krakow, take visitors to a world far away from castles and cobblestones, and fairy tales and dragons. This is where you can see what real, everyday life was like during the days of the People’s Republic of Poland. Remember that this period wasn’t all about funny little cars and kitschy propaganda, it was also a time of extreme human drama. Foreign visitors are always fascinated by the fight against the totalitarian regime and are eager to visit places that served as symbols in that struggle, like the the Church of Arka-Pana. The monumental architecture of Nowa Huta alone is often enough to leave visitors speechless.
They say that the most well-known Krakowian in the world is Pope John Paul II and we won’t argue with that. Pilgrims to the Sanctuary of St. John Paul II and places associated with his earlier life when he was known as Karol Wojtyla are extremely popular among tourists, especially those from Italy and Spanish-speaking countries.
photo credit: pixabay
Touring the region around Krakow
Travelling to Krakow often means taking some time to get out of the city and into the region around it. There are two places in particular that welcome many visitors every year but are very different in what they have to offer.
One of the most well-known attractions just outside of Krakow is the Wieliczka Salt Mines. Visitors are amazed at the trip down into tunnels that were first carved out seven centuries ago. There’s a Cathedral – yes, a Cathedral – and much else carved into the salt and you will only need a few minutes to see why the complex is one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.
Also of enormous historical significance, but for very different reasons, is the Aushwitz-Birkenau Museum. Confronting the enormity of the genocide that the museum documents is sometimes a difficult experience and moves visitors to powerful reflections on the events of the Holocaust. Thousands of visitors make the trip each year to bear witness to this dark chapter of the 20th century.
Like we said at the beginning, we could go on for ten or twenty more pages but we’ll leave it here for now. To find out more about all there is to see and do in and around Krakow, go to http://guide-krakow.com/ for more information. See you here in Krakow soon!