Why You Should Visit Krakow, Poland
Last month I set off on a 4-week adventure in Europe that took me through 5 countries and 24 cities. I started in Krakow, Poland, with one of my favorite blogging travel buddies, Sommer from A Spicy Perspective. We chose Krakow because we are both interested in World War II history and thought it was important to visit a city that had such a meaningful historical impact.
I had no idea how beautiful and unique Krakow would be.
Krakow is one of the oldest cities in Poland and is often noted as one of Europe’s most beautiful cities.
It’s teeming with history, breathtaking architecture, beautiful churches, and friendly people.
The city is clean and easy to navigate — you can walk everywhere and we felt very safe doing so.
Krakow is very affordable. And even during the middle of summer, peak tourist season, the main attractions did not feel too crowded.
One of the most iconic landmarks in Krakow is the nearly 1000-year-old Wawel Cathedral, pictured above.
The Wawel Cathedral is a mixture of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture, highlighting each phase of Krakow’s cultural heritage as it grew and expanded over the years.
Krakow’s most famous citizen was the archbishop of Wawel Cathedral. He lived in Krakow for 40 years, until he moved to the Vatican and became Pope John Paul II.
He made history as the first Slavic pope ever, and the first non-Italian pope in 455 years.
Head up to the bell tower of Wawel Cathedral for beautiful panoramic views over the city.
Be sure to touch the bells on your way up and make a wish!
In case you’re curious how the city of Krakow was founded, there’s a legend that dates all the way back to the 13th century of an evil dragon named Smok. He lived in a limestone cave beneath Wawel Hill. According to the legend, a Polish prince named Krakus defeat the dragon and built his palace over the slain dragon’s lair. Today there’s a statue outside the castle commemorating the defeat and the founding of Krakow.
When you’re in Krakow, be sure to climb the Town Hall Tower for a breathtaking birds-eye view of the Old Town Square.
The square dates back to the 13th century, and is one of the largest medieval town squares in Europe.
Another cool historical fact: the cellars in this tower were once a prison with a Medieval torture chamber!
One of the main focal points in the square is St. Mary’s Basilica. It was completed in 1397. Over 600 years ago. That’s a little hard for me to comprehend sometimes!
The church’s two towers were added in the 1400s and are noticeably of different heights. According to legend, the towers were built by two brothers, each trying to out-do the other, until one grew jealous of the other’s work and killed him!
The inside of the St. Mary’s Basilica is stunning. The wooden altarpiece pictured above is the largest Gothic altarpiece in the world. It was carved between 1477 and 1484 by the German sculptor Veit Stoss.
In 1941, during the German occupation, the dismantled altarpiece was shipped to the Third Reich. It was recovered in 1946, hidden in the basement of Nuremberg Castle. The altar underwent major restoration work in Poland and was put back in its place at the Basilica 10 years later.
Seriously cannot get over this blue ceiling!
The square is the perfect spot for people-watching.
It’s surrounded by charming small shops and cafes.
This was seriously one of the most gorgeous bakery cases I’ve ever seen!
Of course we had to try something. ;)
Another important area in Krakow is Kazimierz, the historical Jewish district.
After the invasion of Poland at the start of World War II, Hitler made Krakow the capital of Germany’s General Government due to its prime central location in Europe. The Jewish population of the city was forced into a walled zone known as the Krakow Ghetto. From here they were sent to Auschwitz and other nearby German extermination camps.
These stairs, located near Stajnia Pub in Kazimierz, were featured in a pivotal scene in the movie Schindler’s List.
Now Kazimierz has a hip, thriving, vibrant community of young folks. It’s filled with cool restaurants and pubs like the Singer Cafe, where every table (inside and out!) is an antique Singer sewing machine!
At the end of the day we made our way over to Florianska Street.
Florianska Street is a beautiful pedestrian shopping street that starts at St. Florian’s Gate and goes directly to the Old Town Square.
While we were in Krakow we stayed at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Krakow. Loved how spacious these rooms are.
They even left brand new bottles of water and chocolates in the room every night!
How fun is this clock in the lobby?? I seriously want one in my house!
I forgot to take pictures (although you might have seen on Snapchat) but the breakfast here was amazing! Highly recommend the Radisson Blu if you’re looking for a great place to stay in Krakow that’s walking distance to everything. :)
Stay tuned for some of the AMAZING food we found in Krakow!! I was in pierogi heaven!!
Also… I’m still struggling with writing about Auschwitz. Is this something you would be interested in seeing?
Until next time. xoxo