Cracow, famous for its priceless historical monuments of culture and art, is Poland's former royal capital and one of the most attractive spots on the tourist map of Europe.
Besides history, art and an atmosphere all of its own, Cracow offers visitors entertainment and leisure: theatres, cabarets, clubs, cafes, bars, wine cellars and restaurants having something to offer for everyone. International festivals and other events are held either in the Main Market Square or at the foot of the Wawel Castle.
Also Cracow's surrounding areas offer plenty of tourist attractions. Wieliczka is famous for being one of the world’s oldest salt mines open to sightseers. The valley of the Prądnik River, part of the Ojcowski National Park, is a unique nature reserve with a fairy-tale landscape carved from limestone. The ruins of the Gothic castle in Ojców and the beautifully preserved Renaissance castle in Pieskowa Skała are two more reasons to visit the park. Just 35 km south of Cracow is the Beskidy mountain range, and 100 km further, in the Tatra Mountains, lies Zakopane, which is often referred to as "the winter capital of Poland".
The Wawel Hill
The Wawel Hill, situated on the left bank of the Vistula River, is perceived as an important historical site in Cracow, as this is where the King’s Castle and the Cathedral are situated. It is here that the coronations of Polish kings as well as funerals for both kings and many other outstanding Poles took place.
The Wawel Castle is the first renaissance castle and is one of Europe’s finest examples of Renaissance architecture built in Poland. It is open to visitors and the many valuable works of art, and antique furniture are certainly worth seeing.
King's Representative Chambers
King's Private Chambers
Crown Treasury and Armoury
Archaeological exhibition "The Lost Wawel"
The "Art of the East" exhibition
The Cathedral, which is thousands of years old, was the place where Polish kings were crowned and buried. As time went by, the greatest Polish heroes, poets and saints were also laid to rest there. For this reason, Wawel became Poland’s key necropolis.
The Dragon's Pit
The pit located at the foot of the Wawel Hill and the sculpture of the legendary dragon are one of Cracow’s most popular tourist attractions.
St. Mary's Church
The gothic St. Mary's Basilica situated in the vicinity of the town square was built in the fourteenth century. Its main attraction is the world's greatest wooden altar, sculpted by Wit Stwosz (Veit Stoss). This church is also well known for its bugle-call played every hour from the top of one of the towers. This popular tune, played also on Radio One station in Poland, is always unfinished, commemorating a thirteenth-century trumpeter, who, according to legend, had his throat pierced by an arrow while he was playing this melody to announce the Mongolian invasion of Cracow.
Town Square (Main Market Square)
The Town Square, situated at the heart of Cracow's Old Town, is included on the UNESCO list of the World Heritage Sites. It is the largest medieval town square in Europe, measuring 656 square feet. The latest museum has beedn opened beneath the Main Market Square www.podziemiarynku.com
In the past, it was a marketplace and the location for numerous official events. Today it is lined with cafes, restaurants, and clubs, and has become a meeting place and a hub of entertainment.
Its surroundings include:
- St. Mary's Church
- Sukiennice (The Cloth Hall)
- Town Hall
- St. Wojciech's Church
Kazimierz is a district best remembered as a former Jewish settlement. It was founded in 1335 by Casimir III the Great. The whole district was placed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites – the first such case in the world. Steven Spielberg’s movie, Schindler’s List, was shot in 1993 almost entirely in Kazimierz.
Seven synagogues: One of Kazimierz’s key attractions are its seven synagogues: Old Synagogue, Izaak’s Synagogue, Kupa Synagogue, Remuh Synagogue, Tempel Synagogue, Tall Synagogue and Popper’s Synagogue. They have various architectural styles: from gothic, through renaissance, baroque up to contemporary modernism. Before World War II there were over 90 synagogues used as houses of worship in Cracow. Only two remain open today.
The Barbican and St. Florian's Gate
The Barbican – a circular Gothic bastion- served both as the town’s main entry path, and as its key defence. It was built by the end of the fifteenth century, and still remains in excellent condition today. According to experts, between the fifteenth and eighteenth century it was a fortress which proved impossible to conquer.
St. Florian's Gate - One of the eight defensive gates in the wall which was built around the city of Cracow at the turn of the thirteenth and fourteenth century. It used to be the town’s main entry point, and this is where the King’s Road begins, leading to Wawel.
Sukiennice (The Cloth Hall)
Situated at the heart of the Main Market Square, this renaissance building is one of the city's most recognizable structures.
During its golden age in the 15th century, Sukiennice was a major centre of international trade and the source of a variety of exotic eastern products like spices, silk, leather and wax, while Cracow, in turn, exported textiles, lead and salt from the Wieliczka Mine.
The present building dates back to 1878.
Much of the Museum’s collection which the Nazis looted was recovered, but some 840 artefacts are still missing, including a painting by Raphael. Apart from the paintings, exhibits include collections of armour, weaponry, carpets and ceramics, as well as numerous ancient Egyptian, Etruscan, Greek and Roman treasures.
Nowa Huta was intended to be the first real socialist town. According to the communist rulers’ plans, working class ideals were intended to eliminate clerical and conservative elements still present in the mentality of the inhabitants of Poland's former capital. History, however, took a different course: the first confrontations, related to the permission to build a church, occurred in the 1960s. In the 1980s Huta became the centre of an uprising against the communists. The removal of the Lenin monument in 1989 became a symbol of the fall of communism.
Wieliczka salt mine is one of the most popular and most frequently visited tourist attractions in Poland. It is also one of Europe’s oldest industrial enterprises which has operated continuously since the 13th century!
The tourist route is 3.5 kilometres long and leads through over twenty beautifully decorated chapels, charming underground lakes and well-preserved traces of mining operations.
The exhibition includes unique mining machinery and facilities used for vertical and horizontal transportation of salt. There is also a display of craftworks related to the mine’s past made by artisans.