Krakow is a surprisingly peaceful and affordable vacation destination that combines centuries of history with a vibrant culture. With 28 museums and art galleries, Krakow is a major attraction for locals and visitors alike.
The Old Town and the Kazimierz District are where you’ll find most of the city’s landmarks. Here, every building has a story to tell.
The Old Town
The Old Town of Krakow is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s the historical core of the city, where the grid of streets was originally designed to be perfectly orthogonal, and the large central Market Square (Rynek Glowny) is still a popular venue for events and gatherings.
The original medieval town grew up in the fortified enclosures around the Wawel Hill and was protected by a ring of walls, topped by city gates. A fragment of this wall survives near the Florian Gate in the northern corner of the city.
In the 1820s the fortifications were torn down and replaced by a circular park, now known as Planty Park. It’s a beautiful green buffer between the Old Town and its modern quarters.
The Old Town is one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations, with five-star luxury hotels dominating the area. However, if you’re on a budget, it’s best to avoid the district and find accommodations in a more secluded neighbourhood.
The Kazimierz District
One of the most fascinating districts in Krakow is Kazimierz, which was a town in its own right until World War II. Its labyrinthine streets and low-standing houses feel very different from the Old Town, but it’s worth walking around to experience this unique area of the city.
You’ll find a number of intriguing places to explore in Kazimierz, such as the Wolnica Square and the Ethnographic Museum. In addition, you can visit the Old Synagogue and stroll along Ulica Szeroka Street.
The district’s central market square, called Plac Nowy, is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike. Here, you’ll see a round building, Okraglak, which serves as a pavilion for traders and a gastronomic facility selling famous casseroles.
The Wawel Castle
The Wawel Castle is the most important monument of Krakow and one of the most significant in Poland. It was built on a high limestone outcrop in the center of town, overlooking the Vistula River.
It’s considered to be the seat of Polish kings, where they were crowned and buried. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978 and is a popular tourist destination.
You can explore the castle on your own or book a tour. We highly recommend a guided tour as the guides are very knowledgeable and they can explain many things you may not know about the castle.
There are lots of exhibitions within the fortified walls. We particularly liked the State Rooms and Crown Treasury, as well as the Cathedral Museum.
The St. Mary’s Basilica
Located next to Rynek Glowny (Main Market Square), this Brick Gothic church is a must-visit for Krakow locals and visitors alike. Built in the 14th century, it is a treasure of art and architecture, ranked as a UNESCO World Heritage Site alongside the Old Town.
Its two asymmetrical towers, which reach over 80 meters tall, dominate the city. Inside, it houses some of the most important masterpieces of Polish Gothic art.
The most famous piece of art on display is the wooden altarpiece by Veit Stoss (Wit Stwosz). This triptych took him 12 years to complete, and is a must-see for all those who visit Krakow.
In addition, the cathedral also has some impressive artwork by renowned masters Jan Matejko, Stanislaw Wyspianski and Jozef Mehoffer. You can see their work in the stained glass windows, polychrome murals and finely decorated vaults.