Cracow is a beautiful city and its heartbeat is the Main Market Square or Rynek Glowny, and every visit to Cracow will include a walk through the square, perhaps a drink at one of the many places that line the largest medieval town square in Europe. Therefore, there are so many things you will do when you are in Cracow.
At the center of any travel experience in Cracow is the main square of Old Town. The main marketplace is a perfect place to start any sightseeing in Cracow. Restaurants, shops, cafés and bars and pretty much anything a tourist could want is here in abundance and a great place to sit and watch the local atmosphere. Make sure to set aside plenty of time to linger in the square.
St Mary’s Church
It is probably the most popular of Poland’s churches. This is the main church in Cracow and has an elaborately decorated interior. It’s right off the main market square and easy to find. If you are there on the hour, you will certainly hear the trumpeters playing from the tower.
One of the most unique and exciting days out of your list to do is a visit to one of the immense salt mines found just outside the city. Tourists can explore through miles of tunnels and caverns adorned with colorful murals and artwork or underground lakes and medieval chapels. It is a true day out with a difference that will provide a memorable experience for all.
Cracow has a vibrant night scene and has become one of the main draws for people visiting the city. One of the advantages is the proximity. Loads of bars and nightclubs are clustered near each other in the Old Town and Kazimierz districts, making the popular bar get a rite of passage for many tourists.
Cracow’s shops, markets, department stores, and boutiques basically team with attractive souvenirs. Most of the shopping revolves around the Old Town, and it’s focused in the center in Rynek Glowny. Next on the list of places to shop in the neighborhood of Kazimierz. If you are among those tourists who enjoy malls, there are lots of shopping malls around Cracow.
Cracow is one of the best places in Poland to enjoy both great foods on a budget and something a little more up-market. Whether its local delicacies that tourists are after. Cracow is certainly the gourmet capital with new eateries popping up every week. And as for the food, you will find everything from traditional Polish cuisine to a pizza with the lot.
Cracow has a variety of museums.
University Museum – Located at Jagielonska 15, Cracow. Jagiellonian University is the second oldest university in central Europe in 1364. Its stunning courtyard ranks as one of the most beautiful in the city. The Museum of the Jagiellonian University in the Collegium Maius shows upstairs its splendid historic rooms with original furnishings, a good collection of the old European art, science instruments, and different collectibles.
National Museum – Located at 3 Maja 1, Cracow. The National Museum is established in 1879. National Museum in Cracow is Poland’s biggest museum. The museum can feature 10 branches, 11 galleries, 21 departments, two libraries, and 12 conservation workshops. Its various collections total about 780,000 items – from art to handicrafts to historical costumes to rare books to manuscripts to old coins and weapons – libraries and deposits inclusive.
Manggha Japanese Center – Located at M. Konopnickiej 26, Cracow. Manggha Center of Japanese Art and Technology has a prime location on the bank of the Vistula River, opposite the Wawel Hill. It houses the museum of Japanese art consisting of a valuable collection of Feliks Jasienski as well as many temporary exhibitions of Japanese art, culture, and technology featuring battle suits, antiques, porcelain, incredibly beautiful watercolor paintings and comical wood prints. It is also a venue for lectures, Japanese language and creative programs, arts and crafts classes for children
Pharmacy Museum – Located at Florianska 25, Cracow. Established in 1946 and part of the Jagiellonian University, the Pharmacy Museum is one of the few museums of that kind in the world. Located inside a wonderful 15th-century building, Cracow’s amazing Pharmacy Museum is set out on several floors and includes all manner of exhibits from full-scale reproductions of ancient Apothecary shops to some beastly snakes in jars and, on the top floor, a really good display of traditional herbal medicines. The museum also houses a library preserving old herbals, Antidotaria, pharmacopeias and other old prints about the history of the art of preparing drugs.
History Museum – Located at Rynek Glowny 35, Cracow. It was established in 1899. The Museum gathers objects of material culture, political and economic history, art and the traditions and customs of the inhabitants of Cracow from the earliest times up to the present. The History Museum features of History of Cracow and its citizens, the maps, documents and city stamps, portraits, scepters and rings of Lord Mayors, Guild utensils and the collection of famous Cracow Christmas cribs.
Museum of Jewish History – Located at Szeroka 24, Kazimierz, Cracow. This is the oldest synagogue to have survived in Poland. Within the Old Synagogue, this is itself a very evocative building. The museum contains a number of exhibits that introduce the Tradition and Culture of Polish Jews that features ancient items from Cracow synagogues, exhibits pertaining to religious rites and family traditions, and pictures of the life of the Kazimierz Jewish quarter of the old.
Cracow is a riverside ex-capital city with rolling hills and gleaming structures and has been given UNESCO world heritage status. The architecture of Cracow is known for its wonderfully designed and spacious buildings. Churches in Cracow are the major reflectors of the culture and architecture that succeeded in the different periods all through the history of the place. The exotic nature and centuries-old architect of the place is sure to impress all the tourists. There is no lack of grandeur and magnanimity in the buildings of Cracow.
Cracow has a unique atmosphere and ancient history. From medieval castles to a seven hundred year old Market Square, architecture-savvy tourists will ultimately be captivated by their observations. St. Mary’s Basilica, a Gothic church built in the 13th century is also located on the central square, dominating the Cracow skyline.
Originally Cracow was a walled town that consisted of 39 towers and 10 gates, but the Brama Florianska is the last remaining part of this. It was the main gate guarding the northern approach to the town. On the side of the gate that faces the old town is a bust of St. Florian, the patron saint of fire brigades, putting out a fire in the old town.
Another awesome sight is the Barbakan. It was originally placed on an island between the two moats crossed via a drawbridge. Cracow’s Barbakan is the largest in central Europe and is one of only a few that has remained intact.
Construction of royal residences on Wawel Hill has later developed into the complex of structures known today as Wawel Castle, one of Cracow’s most recognized sites. The grandeur of the interior architecture is similar to the outside. It is bustling with rare art, handmade furniture, and woodwork. Restorations and additions to Wawel Castle continued up to circa 1600 and as a result, the castle combines elements of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture.
Sukiennice the cloth hall, also a Renaissance masterpiece, shows the prominence of decorative arts and architecture in Cracow. It originally modified from a towering Gothic building into a detailed Renaissance building. Today, it is rendered in the art nouveau style. Shopping in Sukiennice is a must for everyone that visits Cracow.
Do not forget to visit Cracow’s several museums such as the Archaeological Museum, where among the Polish exhibits that range chronologically from the Neolithic age up to historical times, one may also see an impressive collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts.
Cracow for Kids
Cracow is a kid-friendly city. Kids are welcome by means almost everywhere from tourist sites to museums, hotels, restaurants, cafes, shops, etc. Kids rather like Cracow too. The city’s historic monuments flame their imagination and other attractions are plentiful enough to keep them happy.
Cracow Zoo – Located at Kasy Oszczednosci 14, Cracow. One of the family attractions is the Cracow’s ZOO, An excellent zoo, with a variety of animals, big and small, furry and scaly, as well as a playground and a petting zoo. It is located in the spacious Las Wolski Forest at the edge of town, which in itself makes for a great day out with its many walking and biking trails.
Park Wodny (Aqua Park) – Located at Dobrego Pasterza 126, Cracow. Aqua Park in Cracow is the biggest Aquapark in Poland. It offers a wonderful time for the whole family. Aqua Park offers wonderful, healthy fun for all children. Within its many attractions are the longest network of slides in Poland, which stretch to nearly 800 meters, the crazy, the longest Salamander in the world, a rapid river labyrinth, a climbing wall, swimming lanes and space for water sports.
Kryspinow Beach – Located at 12 km west of Cracow. For family water fun in the summer, you can visit Kryspinow Lake. Kryspinow is a water area that provided sandy beaches, watering places, water sports facilities, and rentals, basketball and volleyball pitch and a play area. The water is clean and safe, so you can let your kids enjoy the water.
Jordana Park – Located at between 3 Aleja Maja and Reymonta Street, Cracow. Park Jordana is a lovely place to visit with your family on a summer day. Among the trees, meadow areas and intertwining paths, kids can enjoy three large play areas, each a little bit different in structure.
AGH Swimming Pool – Located at Jana Buszka 4, Cracow. Cracow functions several public swimming pools including two open-air pools, but it is commonly considered that the most fun in a pool can be had at AGH swimming baths – mostly because it features a long spiral slide that the kids will love.
The Aviation Museum – Located at Al. Jana Pawla II 39, Cracow. It is a museum with big shiny machines that kids love. With over a hundred aircraft, from pre-war Polish fighter planes to German Albatrosses, Spitfires and Soviet Kakaruzniks, all on a giant former airfield, it is sure to be a great day out for kids.
Aside from being a place of remarkable historical value and a major tourist location in Poland, Cracow, it is also home to many festivals of a different kind, some deeply based in tradition, some following the latest trends in popular culture.
Welcoming of the New Year – each year the city organizes one of the biggest open-air party in Poland on the Main Market Square in Cracow. The night is full of concerts and the locals share the joy of welcoming the New Year with all the visitors to the city.
International Festival of Sailing Songs (Shanties) – the festival features Polish and International singers of sailing songs that organized in February.
Misteria Paschalia Festival – a festival of early music that occurs around Easter and its topic is connected to Easter Holidays.
Wianki – This translates as “Wreaths”. One of the most important cultural events in Cracow reflecting the city’s deep respect for folklore and tradition. The festival is organized annually in June as a midsummer night’s celebration and it relates to an old pagan tradition of telling one’s fortune from garlands laid in water.
Jewish Culture Festival– the festival is filled with concerts, workshops, and exhibitions.
Traditional Music Festival (Rozstaje) – the festival features performers of traditional music from Eastern Europe.
Summer Jazz Festival – the festival is held in “Under the Rams cellar” and features jazz concerts performed by international celebrities.
Coke Live Music Festival – a music event in this part of the country, featuring the world’s top-class musicians and growing in importance each year.
Pierogi (Dumplings) Festival – dumplings are very popular in traditional Polish cuisine. The festival gives the opportunity to be able to get to know this tradition better as well as to try out Polish specialties.
Sacrum Profanum Festival – the festival of modern music presents masterpieces of vocal and instrumental music in geographical order.
International Festival of Old Music – the festival presents the works of old music, played on old, traditional instruments in historic parts of Cracow.
All Saints and All Souls Day – the day is the tradition of visits to the cemeteries in whole Poland. The cemeteries become adorned with flowers and lit with numerous candles – which makes an unforgettable view.
New Year’s Eve – a farewell to one year and welcoming the new one is celebrated on the Main Market Square of Cracow.
Nativity Scenes Contest – the contest of Nativity Scene is Cracow tradition. The participants build Nativity Scenes with characteristic architecture, reminding the architecture of Cracow.
Cracow is home to one of the nation’s most active theater scenes and some of the oldest ongoing performing arts companies. It is considered to be the second-largest center for Polish theater behind Warsaw. It is home to both acclaimed productions by companies such as the National Stary Theater, and the emerging companies supporting a new generation of local artists.
Bagatela Theater – Located at Karmelicka 6, Cracow. The Bagatela Theater is one of Cracow´s most endearing. Bagatela was originally meant for children and although today it stages plays for adults as well, it has maintained its traditions of staging plays with a lighthearted touch. Today it mostly stages musicals, comedies and other light pieces designed for family entertainment.
Groteska Theater – Located at Skarbowa 2, Cracow. It is a very popular theater that also performs in the square during summer. It has a direct appeal to children, and it favors color and image over language. Using fantastical costumes, masks, color, image and music, the Groteska theater stages outside performances every summer and because they are minimalist in speech they are most appealing to children but are equally accessible to tourists.
Slowacki Theater – Located at Sw. Ducha 1, Cracow. The Slowacki Theater is another of Cracow´s most renowned theaters which can boast a proud history of staging some of the finest plays in the city and attracting the top names in Polish thespian circles.
Stary Theater – Located at Jagiellońska 5, Cracow. The oldest theater in Poland remodeled many times, now with a splendid, boasting a spectacular art nouveau facade. It performs classics in Polish and European theater. The Stary Theater has a solid reputation for staging excellent productions and with a small museum in the basement that most appeal to theater lovers. Some of the country´s most talented directors and actors have made their mark in this theater over the years and it has maintained its major role as one of the most prestigious theaters in Eastern Europe.
Stu Theater – Located at Krasinskiego 16, Cracow. Situated on the grandiose Krasinskiego Avenue, the STU Theater is relatively new to Cracow considering it’s most prestigious and established peers. From its starting days, the STU has captivated audiences with a wide variety of artistic offerings and quickly established a glowing reputation. Those traditions or reputation, have never faulted and it continues to attract theater guests who will find various programs of live performance entertainment to enjoy, such as visual arts, dancers, musicians, photography and publishing. On occasion, the STU even hosts open-air performances.
Music in Cracow
Cracow’s Old Town historic area resounds with music of every kind as street musicians strive for your attention and spare change at every corner. More demanding audiences may choose between regular concerts and recitals of classical music and diverse musical offerings of numerous clubs. There is also no lack of shops selling CDs in downtown Cracow where the latest releases of the world’s top acts are available as soon as they are released in Paris or Berlin.
Radio stations mostly fill the local radio with recent international hits and their domestic counterparts, though a few specialize in jazz or classical music. The Old Town’s huge central Grand Square often serves as an open-air concert venue when some ensemble; usually a pop band takes up the makeshift stage of the Town Hall Tower.
Mr. Krzysztof Penderecki is the one who ranks among the world’s greatest living composers of modern classical music. On the other hand, the latest works are rarely performed in Cracow, and even renderings of the 20th-century classics happen rather seldom as the well-known 19th-century and earlier music is the king in the city’s concert halls.
The latter often takes inspiration from the musical traditions of various peoples in Central-East Europe. Yet it has little bearing on the city’s vibrant club scene divided between varied DJ sets, alternative pop and indie rock, hip-hop, blues, reggae, traditional rock and mainstream jazz popular with club operators.
However, Cracow Philharmonic Orchestra plays regularly in its Filharmonia concert hall at 1 Zwierzyniecka street were also most foreign orchestras, ensembles and soloists perform on their visits to the city as well as the city’s other musicians. The hall also resounds occasionally with pop music.
For decades, the Cracow Opera Company had to make use of the tremendous stage and lavish auditorium of the Teatr Slowackiego Theater at Sw. Ducha Pl. which often provides shelter to varied musical events. Since December 2008 the brand-new, purpose-built opera house at Lubicz Street has become the city’s main venue for operatic productions as well as operetta shows and ballet performances.
Cracow for Free
Taking a stroll around Cracow’s biggest medieval city square, a place surrounded by historic buildings and architecture is one thing to get yourself for free fun. Rynek Glowny’s have main landmarks such as St. Mary’s Basilica, St. Adalbert’s Church (one of Poland’s oldest stone churches), and the old Cloth Hall. This old hall, formerly the city’s center of international trade, is filled with interesting small shops and vendors. The old town is extensive and wonderful to walk around. Its focal point is the wide-open Rynek Glowny (Market Place) in the center. On the outskirts, you can find the remains of the old city wall, including Florian Gate and the Barbakan. The Barbakan is a huge circular defensive position in front of the Florian gate, meant to be the biggest of its kind when built in the 15th century. Having your own walking tour by seeing the attractions that cannot cost you is which will be worth of your stroll.
Many festivals and open-air concerts held in Cracow do not have admission fees, particularly if you are in the city on a summer where several outdoor events and activities are given for everyone to enjoy. There are some museums also who are free of admission that depends on a day.
Visiting Cracow is a fulfilling experience and it sets you off to a whole new adventure. It’s one of the oldest cities in Poland and you will find historical churches all around the city while walking along its cobblestoned streets. You would truly feel like you are in a different place because everything around you is refreshing to your senses.
Cracow is indeed a living museum. They were able to magnificently preserve this old city so that people like you and I could still enjoy the beauty of ancient architecture. You can walk down its street, take photos and enjoy your vacation or trip because the beauty of Cracow won’t cost you a thing.