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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.