Wawel Castle and Cathedral, Krakow, Poland

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 Wawel Castle

The Wawel hill was a shelter for people as long as 100,000 BC ago. It became the residence of the kings of Poland in mid-11th century. The Episcopal See of Cracow was established in A.D. 1000 and the first cathedral on the site was built shortly thereafter. Wawel’s importance changed when Sigismund III Vasa moved the court to Warsaw in 1609-1611 but it remained as official royal residence and the site of coronations and funerals of Polish kings. The castle became a residential museum since 1930. (Source: Wawel Royal Castle brochure)

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The castle today has 5 permanent exhibitions and 3 seasonal routes opens from April to October. There are available information at the visitor information centre or the ticket counter to read on what each exhibition displays.

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Each exhibitions has different admission fee and timing. One thing to note is the admission time is controlled in batches. So, you may not be allocated the time you wanted. So, it will be best that you allocate a full day to visit the castle and cathedral.

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You will need to be sure which exhibition you would like to visit. At the ticket counter, there are number of tickets available shown for each exhibition. The State Room has the most visitors. This exhibition displays appearance of royal residence in 16th and early 17th centuries. Some of the interesting things that you could see are many reowned tapestry, leather wall decorations, and coffered ceiling with wood carvings of human heads.

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Here’s how the ticket looks like with admission time. They will still allow you to enter even if you missed the admission time especially if you are not in a big group. Big bags or luggages must be deposited at the luggage room available.

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Wawel Cathedral

Admission ticket to the cathedral is different from the castle. You can visit the ticket counter in front of the cathedral. It is a recommended place to visit. I enjoyed the cathedral more than the castle, especially when I don’t have a guide with me to explain more of the history of the castle.

Operating hours: Weekdays during April to September 9.00am – 5.00pm ; October to March 9.00am – 4.oopm; Sundays and holidays 12.30 – 5.00pm

Ticket prices: Adult 12 Zloty, Reduced 7 Zloty

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Behind your ticket is this map, you can follow the map to see the whole cathedral.

Enjoy!

Historical city centre walking tour, Krakow, Poland

Reaching Krakow caught me by surprise because I expected it to have many of very old and worn buildings but instead it is all interesting and clean. It is the second largest city and one of the oldest place in Poland. The look of old buildings does not match up to its real age. You can see how well they are restored and kept making you feel very welcome.

I had very little time to visit the many attractions available. So I had to start with the some of the most famous locations. I got this very informative book from the hotel which provides an easy-to-follow walking trail.

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I have selected the Historical City Centre tour which brings you to the Old Town, or also called the Main Market / Main Square, where some of most famous historical places are and also the city centre is. This tour roughly will take you 1 day but I only had half a day, visiting only some main attractions while still passing by the recommended locations on the map. I started my tour from the North to South, that is from Grunwald Battle Monument (near the train station) to Wawel Castle.

Here’s a little information of the few places I visited. Information extracted from The Visitor book.

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Grunwald Battle Monument

This is a monument to the battle of 500 years ago when Polish and Lithuanian forces defeated the Teutonic Knights. This monument is replaced by a copy in 1976 because the original monument was destroyed at the beginning of World War II. On the top of the monument is an equestrian sculpture of King Wladyslaw Jagiello. On the front dais is the Lithuanian Prince Witold and at his feet, defeated in battle, the Teutonic Grand Master, Ulrich von Jungingen.

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The Barbican

Facing the monument is The Barican. Built between 1498-1499 as the most important element in the defense wall system around the city. In some places, the walls are 3 meters thick and surrounded by a 6 meter deep and sometimes 26 meters wide moat.

Visiting hours: April to October, everyday 10.30am – 6.00pm

Ticket price: Adult 8 Zloty; Reduced 6 Zloty

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The Florianska Gate

Walking towards the city from The Baarbican is the main city gate which was built at the end of XIII century to protect the northern entrance to the city. Inside the gate is the altar to the Holy Mother of Piaski. The roof was built in Baroque style with chapel on the first floor. The elevation shows the Polish eagle, symbol of Poland’s first rulers, by Jan Matejko.

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The Basilica of the Holy Virgin Mary

An easily spotted attraction in the Main square. It was built in 1287-1320. It was built originally in Gothic style, with Baroque chapels and altars. Today, it contains frescoes and stained glass windows. Both towers of the church are not in equal height or style. The higher is 88m and lower one at 69m. The taller tower was originally a city guard tower for lookouts. A horn was blown to signal to shut the gates against approaching enemies. Today, it is heard every hour from the tower. The horn stops suddenly in mid call in remembrance of the guard struck by an arrow when warning the people of Krakow of the approaching enemy.

 

I recommend that you enter the Basilica. I’m sorry that I’m not posting the inside photo here as my photo will not bring out how beautiful it looks. You can view from afar by entering from the front or get closer to the altar with a fee by entering from the right.

Visiting hours: Weekdays 11.30am – 5.45pm, Sundays and church holidays 2.00pm – 5.45pm (Altar opens at 11.50am on weekdays)

Ticket price: Adult 10 Zloty; Children, students, seniors 5 Zloty; Children under 8 free

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The Cloth Hall

Located in the middle of the Main square, The Cloth Hall which was originally a street crossing with shops on both side and was then roofed with many shops selling local souvenirs. It was reconstructed many times with different styles and decorations and was opened in September 2010 after a total renovation. The 1000 square meters long hall today also has exhibition galleries displaying pictures and sculptures from XIX century, and cafeteria with viewing terrace of the square and the Basilica. If you need more information, you can also find a visitor centre there.

Gallery visiting hours: Tuesday – Thursday and Sunday 10.00am-6.00pm; Friday and Saturday 10.00am – 8.00pm

Gallery ticket price: Adult 12 Zloty; Reduced 6 Zloty; Family up to 5 person 24 Zloty (with free entrance to viewing terrace)

Viewing terrace only ticket price: Adult 2 Zloty; Reduced 1 Zloty; Family 4 Zloty

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Adam Mickiewicz Monument

A place in front of the Cloth Hall with many people crowding around to rest, a monument to the celebrated Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz, where his remains were brought from Paris and buried in the Wawel.

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St. Wojciech Church

Still at the Main square, St. Wojciech Church is one of the oldest churches in Krakow. It was reconstructed in Baroque style between 1611-1618.

There is more than what I managed to see. So, if you have more time, you can understand more of the city. You can either have a guide to give you more stories of the city or read from information you can obtain from the visitor centre or internet to appreciate the history of each location and building.

Enjoy!

 

Auschwitz Museum, Poland

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You will need to be mentally be prepared to visit this place. You may have heard or read online about this place but it physically visiting the place and understand its existence that makes you feel sad. You will need a guided tour to have better understanding of the place and its history.

The Auschwitz concentration camp is a place of horror, inhumanity and destruction of a race of people. The camp was constructed by the German Nazis in 1940 and in 1942, it became the camp for mass extermination of European Jews. Most of the people were gassed and burnt leaving many personal belongings still being displayed today at the camp. Between 1940-1945, estimated about 1.1 – 1.5 million people were murdered, young and old.

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The Auschwitz Museum has 2 location, Auschwitz 1 and Auschwitz 2 Birkenau. Auchwitz Birkenau is the place where remains of ruined gas chambers, kilometres of barbed wire, barracks and train platform still stands.

 

Location:
20, Wiezniow Oswiecimia Street.

Tel: +48 33 844 8099

Website: www.auschwitz.org

Operating hours: May 8.00am – 6.00pm; June 8.00am – 7.00pm

Ticket prices with guide: Adult 40 Zloty; Children 30 Zloty

Information source: The Visitor guide book

Wieliczka Salt Mine, Poland

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One of the main attraction in Krakow is Salt mine. It is a beautiful underground city on 9 levels at 64 – 327 metres below ground surface. It houses about 2,400 chambers connected by corridors of 245 km long. This magnificent place entered onto UNESCO’s first list of Cultural and Natural Heritage.

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For tourist route, it is a 3 hours route through 23 chambers through 2.5 km of corridors. We would only walk pass 3 levels from 64 – 135m below ground surface. You will see the development of mining technology with a small chance to give it a try yourself. There are also many displays of religious and historic sculptures and chapels for prayers and wedding ceremonies.

The temperature in the mine is stable whole year at about 14 degree celcius. You may need a jacket.

Location:
ul. Danilowicza 10, 32-020 Wieliczka, Poland.

Tel: +48 12 278 7302

Email: turystyka@kopalnia.pl

Website:
www.kopalnia.pl
www.wieliczka-saltmine.com

Opening hours: April to October 7.30am – 7.30pm; November to March 8.00am – 5.oopm.

Ticket prices: Adult 75 Zloty, Reduced 60 Zloty, Family 210 Zloty (Prices may change)

 

For foreign language guided tours, they are available at different timings:

English – From October to May from 9.00am to 5.00pm every hour, from 10.00am to 1.00pm every 30 minutes

German – All year round at 10.45am and 4.10pm, June to September additionally at 2.15pm

French – All year round at 12.05pm, July and August additionally at 10.15am and 3.15pm

Italian – All year round at 1.10pm, July and August additionally at 9.45am and 3.45pm

Russian – All year round at 11.10am, July and August additionally at 4.15pm

Spanish – June to September at 11.20am and 4.20pm

Information source: The Visitor guide book and Wieliczka Salt Mine brochure