Travel guide for Krakow. Welcome to Krakow!  

Krakow (English: Cracow) is the city of magic, students, countless cafes and vivid culture. It is definitely one of the most charming cities of Europe. Life in Krakow runs rather lazily and people always have time for a cup of coffee in one of the local cafes. The unique atmosphere, beautiful old architecture, and the whole range of historic sights attracts thousands of visitors every year. No wonder that Krakow has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe!

Royal Krakow
The official name of the city is the Royal Capital City of Krakow, as it used to be the capital of Poland. Although now Warsaw is the official capital of Poland, it is still believed that the heart of Poland beats right here, in Krakow, and the city is considered the symbol of Polish history and tradition. It is also called the cultural capital of Poland for its various cultural events and numerous art galleries.

Krakow on UNESCO
Fortunately, Krakow wasn’t destroyed by the German Nazis during World War II. With its original urban layout from 13th century it is still one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe. In 1978 it was included into UNESCO World Heritage (as one of the first 12 cities in the world). Krakow’s Old Town is an impressive mixture of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture. Following the labyrinth of medieval streets you can feel the real spirit of the city. And our Krakow City tour will provide you with the insight into all must-see places.

The best of Krakow
Krakow attracts thousands of visitors each year with its unique atmosphere and the richness of the cultural heritage. Taking one of Krakow sightseeing tours you do the tour around the Old Town and explore the Wawel Hill with the magnificent Royal Castle and the Cathedral; the biggest medieval square in Europe, the Czartoryski Museum with the world famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci Lady with an Ermine. Kazimierz, the old Jewish city became well known due to the film “Schindler’s List” made by Steven Spielberg. Here you can follow Schindler’s Route retracing the history and culture of the Polish Jews: the medieval Jewish quarter with its old synagogues, the ghetto area, and Schindler’s factory. Another district attracting visitors is Nowa Huta, one of a few cities in Europe built after 1945, designed as the Communist Paradise, with the unique examples of the communist architecture. All those who are interested we can take for Communism tram and walking tour of the area. However, if you are fed up with sightseeing, you can get some rest sipping beer in one of the local pubs. Krakow is famous for the unique atmosphere of pubs, jazz clubs and restaurants, as well as for their impressive choice and variety. Food-lovers will enjoy themselves no matter if they decide to participate in an organised Krakow food tour or will explore local delicacies on their own. All those who fancy shopping around will not be disappointed: thousands of small boutiques, art galleries and jewellery shops are perfect for the souvenir hunters!

  Where is Krakow?  
Krakow is located in the south of Poland, by the Vistula (Wisla) river, about 100 km north of the Tatra Mountains and Slovakian border, and 300 km south of Warsaw, the capital of Poland. It covers the area of 327 square kilometres – 0.1% of Poland. With population of 758.500 people, Krakow is the second largest city in Poland. It is picturesquely located in the hilly area of Beskidy Highlands. Krakow is the administration centre of the Małopolskie Voivodship (Province), with the seats of the various national institutions, museums, theatres and universities. Małopolska region (Little Poland) is one of the most picturesque geographical and historical regions of Poland. It extends in the southeast part of Poland.

Getting to & around Krakow
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  Krakow sightseeing  

Wawel Hill
Tours to Krakow usually start with a visit to Wawel Hill. Wawel is a natural lime rock hill (228 m above the sea level) located by the Vistula River. It is one of the most important historical sites in Poland, a symbol of Polish tradition and culture. Between 11th -17th centuries Wawel Castle was the main residence of the royal family and the seat of state power. In the heyday, between 14th -16th centuries Wawel was not only a vivid political centre but also important artistic and cultural one. When the administrative heart of the Polish Kingdom was moved to Warsaw (1609) the Royal Cathedral on Wawel remained the main coronation church and the burial place for the Polish kings. After the loss of independence (1795) Wawel became the destination of the patriotic pilgrimages and the burial place of the national poets and heroes. No wonder, that in that time it used to be called the Polish Acropolis and Pantheon. Today Wawel Hill is a complex of the historical buildings and museums, including Royal Castle and Cathedral.

The Dragon
Before you start visiting Wawel don’t forget to pay a visit to the famous Krakow’s Dragon (the statue is in the foot of the Wawel, on the bank of the Vistula river), which used to live here once upon a time... The Wawel’s dragon is an unofficial symbol of the city. The dragon was killed by the brave shoemaker. He gave a mock sheep stuffed with sulphur to the dragon. When the beast ate it, he got so thirsty that started drinking water directly from the Vistula River. He was drinking and drinking and finally he exploded with an enormous bang! What is the moral? Don't drink too much...But eating is safe; especially during our Krakow food tour.

The Royal Castle
The Royal Castle on Wawel Hill is a landmark of Krakow. A photo from its picturesque Renaissance courtyard seems to be an obligatory souvenir from Krakow! The oldest remains of the stone castle date at the 11th century (to learn more about Wawel Hill in the early Middle Ages visit the exhibition: Lost Wawel ). In the 14th century the castle was rebuilt in the Gothic style, but the savage fire in 1499 destroyed the essential parts of the building. The new royal residence was to show the splendour and ambitions of the Jagiellonian dynasty that started the Golden Age in the Polish history (15th -16th c.) In that era, due to the union of Poland and Lithunania (1386), the Commonwealth of Poland and Lithuania was the largest state in Europe! No wonder that the residence was to be really magnificent! The royal castle, completed in 1536, is one of the most interesting examples of the Renaissance architecture in Central Europe. The ground floor housed the facilities and the offices, the first one – the royal private apartments. The state rooms were located on the top floor and they hosted the court ceremonies. Bartolomeo Berecci, one of the most famous Italian architect working here, is an author of the tricky southern wing, which is… just a wall with no rooms behind! It is an optical trick to close the symmetry of the courtyard and to save some room on the Hill. The artist placed also a Latin inscription on the main gate leading to the courtyard: “Si Deus Nobiscum Quis Contra Nos” (If God is with us, who will be against?). The heyday of the Wawel castle is linked with the last kings from the Jagiellonian dynasty: Sigismund the Old (died 1548) and his son Sigismund August (died 1572). After the fire in 1595 the castle was partly redecorated in the Baroque style, mainly by Giovanni Trevano, the court artists of Sigismund III Vasa. This king moved with his court to Warsaw (1609), and since then the castle started losing its importance and splendour. The Austrian occupation (after the last partition of Poland in 1795) brought it to the destruction. The renovation of the castle started in 1905 and was successfully finished in the interwar period, when the place became the temporary seat of the President. During World War II Wawel Castel was the seat of Hans Frank and the German occupation authorities of General Government.

What to see in the Royal Castle?
State Chambers: Nowadays Wawel Castle is the museum presenting the interiors of the royal residence from the 16th and 17th century: the collection of Italian and Dutch painting, portraits of the kings, furnishing (16th -17th c.). The outstanding collection of 136 Flemish tapestries is especially worth seeing. They belonged to Sigismund August and were used to decorate the castle. The Senators’ Hall with the breath-taking tapestries showing the Biblical scenes reflects the splendour of the royal court in the 16thc. Visiting the castle pay attention to the unique ceiling with the realistic wooden heads (only 30 have been preserved) in the Audience Hall (1531-35made by S. Tauerbach and J. Schnietzer). In the Baroque part of the castle don’t miss the marble fire place in the Bird’s Room (by Giovanni Trevano), leather wall papers and the portrait of the Ladislaus IV Vasa from the workshop of Peter Paul Rubens. The ground and top floor are available for the visitors. For the royal private apartments additional ticket is required (entrance only with a guide, organised tours in English).

Other exhibitions
While being at Wawel Castle with Krakow City Tour you can also visit the Crown Armoury and Treasury: the collection of armoury and weapons, religious vessels, kings’ treasures, ceremonial weapons. The exhibition Oriental Art is the result of the trade and military contacts with East (e.g. war with the Turks in the 17th c.). Here you can see the carpets, tapestries, armoury weapons from Turkey, Iran or Caucasus.

The Royal Cathedral
The Royal Cathedral on Wawel Hill is one of the most important churches in Poland. Since the beginning of the 14th century it was the main coronation and burial temple of the Polish kings. It is the seat of the Krakow’s bishops and the old pilgrimage centre. The cathedral is not only an active Catholic church (Sundays 9.00 Mass in Latin!) but also the great museum of history and art. The first cathedral was built around 1000, when the first episcopacy was established in Krakow. It was rebuilt and redecorated in different periods: we can admire the Gothic architecture, Renaissance tapestries, the Baroque black marble altars and Art Nouveau frescoes (in the Chapel of The Holy Trinity). In the centre there is the 17th c. altar with the silver coffin hiding the relics of St. Stanislaus, the main patron saint of Poland. Around there are the medieval royal tombs. The first on the right is the 15th c. tomb of Ladislaus Jagiello, who started the Jagiellonian dynasty that led Poland to its Golden Age. His feet are on the dragon, the head on the lion – as the symbol of power. The portrait of the king sculpted in red marble is the masterpiece of the highest rank. From the presbytery turn left to enter the medieval Bells’ Tower with the famous Sigismund’s Bell (Zygmunt), the biggest old bell in Poland, founded by the king Sigismund the Old in 1516. It weights 11 tons and is used to announce the most important events and national holidays. Following the direction of the tour you pass by the Poets’ Crypt, where famous Polish Romantic poets: Adam Mickiewicz and Julisz Slowacki were buried. Further on the left there is the 18th altar with the beautiful Black Crucifix (14th c.) funded by St.Jadwiga (Hedwig), the queen of Poland, whose relics are buried below. Proceeding we pass by the King Batory’s Chapel (16th c.) and then the medieval tomb of Kazimierz the Great (14th c.) The most impressive is a splendid burial Jagiellonian Chapel, known as Pearl of Renaissance of Northern Europe. Designed by Bartolomeo Berecci (completed 1531) was to glorify the royal dynasty. The interior strikes with richness: marble tombs, sculptures, the silver altar (16th c.) and the grotesque decoration create the whole iconographic program. Another chapel you can’t miss is the Holy Cross Chapel – the most West place in Europe where the Byzantine frescoes (15th c.) can be found! To complete the visit of the Royal Cathedral go to the Romanesque crypts with the graves of the royal families and the national heroes.

  Around the Main Market Square  

Main Market Square
Next on our list when doing Krakow City Tour is The Main Square (Rynek Glowny). It is definitely the living heart of the city. Here the locals celebrate the New Year’s Eve, organise demonstrations, and drink coffee on Sunday afternoon. The Main Square in Krakow (200 m long and 200 m wide) is the largest medieval town square in Europe! Its history dates back to the 13thc. when after the Great Charter of the city (1257) the layout of Krakow was designed. Since then the unique medieval urban plan has been preserved intact. It was one of the reason of placing Krakow on the UNESCO List. The Main Square was the centre of city’s trade and administration. Here was the town hall, municipal treasury, countless stall shops, city scale and...of course, gallows. It was the scene of all the city’s affairs and ceremonies. And it still plays such a part in Cracovians life for instance hosting an annual Krakow Christmas cribs competition during Cracow Christmas Market. In the 19th c. most of the buildings were in such a bad state, that lots of them had to be destroyed. Only the most important were left: The Cloth Hall, Town Hall, St. Mary’s Church, St. Adalbert’s church. The most recent is statue of Adam Mickiewicz, the Romantic poet and symbol of the Polish literature (by Teodor Rydygier, 1898) and Eros Bendato (by Igor Mitoraj, 2006). There are also some plaques commemorating important events, e.g. the oath of the General T. Kosciuszko before the insurrection in 1794 or our access to EU (2004).

The Cloth Hall
This picturesque building in the centre of the Square dates back to the 13th c. and was founded as the trade centre. The linen and cloth were sold here, what gave the name - the Cloth Hall (Sukiennice). The Gothic hall with its numerous stall shops was erected in the 14th c. In 1556-60 it was rebuilt in late Renaissance style by an Italian Santi Gucci, who designed also famous mascarons crowning the parapet. The silhouette of the building is the result of its reconstruction in 1875-79. On the top floor there is the gallery of the 19th c. Polish painting - a branch of National Museum. The ground floor is the best place for the souvenir hunters!

The Town Hall
The gothic tower from the 14th c. is the only preserved part of the old Town Hall - the seat of the local government until the 19th c. The building was in such a bad condition that the Municipality of Krakow decided to pull it down in 1817 and moved to Wielopolski Palace (at Plac Wszystkich Swietych / All Saints Square). The tower houses a branch of the Historical Museum of Krakow, Tourist Information, and in the basements – a restaurant and a theatre. In summer it is possible to climb up the top floor to admire beautiful Gothic stoneworks in the interiors and the best view of the Old Town of Krakow!

St. Adalbert’s Church
Continuing walking with Krakow City Tour opposite Grodzka Street you will get to a tiny church of Św. Wojciech (St. Adalbert) dating back to the turn of the 10th c. According to the tradition St. Adalbert (died 997), the first martyr in Poland and the main patron saint of the country, preached some sermons here. The silhouette of the church is the baroque one, but the Romanesque remains still can be seen. In the basements there is an exhibition presenting excavations in the Main Square.

St. Mary’s Church
St. Mary’s Church at east corner of the Square was the parish church of Medieval Krakow and became a well-known symbol of the history of the city. In the 14th c. the previous Romanesque church (mentioned in 1222) was replaced by the huge Gothic basilica and it took more than 200 years to finish it. The interior seems to be a treasury: the Gothic architecture, wooden Renaissance stalls (16th c.), a marble ciborium (By Gianmaria Padovano, 16th c.) and marble altars with the paintings by Giambattista Pittoni (18th c.). The wall paintings by Jan Matejko (1890-92) reflect the spirit of the medieval church. Its splendour was to show the piousness of the bourgeoisie and its richness. Entrance for the visitors is on the right side of the church - opposite to the ticket office.

The biggest medieval altar
The interior of St. Mary's Church is dominated by the spectacular altar. Made between 1477-1489 by Wit Stwosz the altar is one of the finest and the greatest artworks of this kind in Europe. The altar is a pentaptych (13 m high, 11 m wide). It illustrates the scenes from life of the Holy Virgin. The central one shows the Dormition (Falling asleep) of Our Lady in the company of the Disciples. The most striking is the drama and the realism of the scene. Observing the altar piece by piece you can discover all the details curved in wood: wrinkles on the faces, bony legs of the old Disciples, or tears on John Evangelist’s cheeks. During World War II the altar was stolen by the German Nazis. It came back to Krakow in 1946. The ceremony of the altar opening takes place every day at 11.45. The altar is open till 17.45. Ticket office is located opposite to the entrance for visitors (on the right side of the church)

Listen! Bugle!
The taller tower of St. Mary's Church was used as the city watchtower, from which the bugle call was played to inform about the time or danger. Since the 16th c. the bugle call has been played every hour. This unique tradition remained and on every hour, 24h a day, you can hear the bugler playing the call live! The interruption of the melody is connected with the story if a raid of the Tatars in 13th c., whose arrow killed the brave trumpeter mid tune.

Collegium Maius
Cracow tours usually take later to opposite corner of Main Market Square. Following Sw. Anna Street leading out of Main Square you can get to Collegium Maius and the Old University Quarter. The Jagiellonian University, the oldest Polish university, was founded by the king Kazimierz (Casimir) the Great in 1364. The name Jagiellonian was given in 1818 and derives from the king Ladislaus Jagiello, the first king form the Jagiellonian dynasty. Using the legacy of his wife St. Jadwiga (died 1399) he renovated Academy in 1400 and founded Collegium Maius – the oldest building of the University. It housed the living and learning quarters, the library and the chapel. The Gothic house was partly rebuild in the 19th c. Today Collegium Maius is used for the University ceremonies and receptions. There is the University Museum with the fine collection of scientific tools and the Treasury. The most famous students of the Jagiellonian University were Nicolaus Copernicus (died 1543) and John Paul II (died 2005). Don’t forget to see the famous clock that rings every 2 hours showing the parade of the statues symbolising people who contributed to the fame of the Krakow’s University (9.00, 11.00, 1.00, 3.00 in summer also at 5.00 PM )

  Following the Royal Way  
The Royal Way is an important part of any Cracow tour. It is a historical name of the main road going through medieval Krakow, connecting the Barbican with Wawel. Every client, king or foreign ambassador heading to the royal court at the Wawel Hill used to enter Krakow through the main city gate – St. Florian’s Gate. Then he carried on Florianska Street, Main Square, Grodzka and Kanonicza Street as far as he reached the Wawel’s entrance. Krakow City Tour will lead you this path and while walking along the Royal Way you can see all the most important monuments of the Old Town.

The Planty Park (Planty)
The Planty Park surrounds the historical medieval Krakow. The Park is 4 km long and was established in place of the former city walls, after they were pulled down in 1814. Numerous monuments in the park commemorate people connected with Krakow.

The Barbican (Barbakan)
The Barbican is a round brick building crowned with 7 turrets, build in 1499 as the artillery fortress and additional protection of the main city gate. It was connected to St. Florian’s Gate with a walled passageway and surrounded by the wide moat. The walls are 3 m thick. This building is one of the best examples of the medieval military architecture in Europe.

St. Florian’s Gate (Brama Florianska) St. Florian’s Gate, built in 13th/14th c. was the main city gate. Together with other 46 towers, 8 gates and a moat was the part of the fortification system. The gate, 3 towers in the neighbourhood, and the Barbican present the only authentic fragment of the Krakow’s city walls. On the Tower wall (from Florianska Street perspective) there is a bas relief with St. Florian, who gave the name to the gate. The walls are famous for the open air gallery – numerous artists sell here their paintings

Czartoryski Museum Next to St. Florian’s Gate there is a building of the former town arsenal (1566) housing Czartoryski Museum (entrance from Sw. Jana Street). The collection of European painting became famous due to the masterpieces: “Lady with an Ermine” by Leonardo da Vinci (around 1485-1490) and “Landscape with the Good Samaritan” by Rembrandt (1638). In the museum you can also find the collection of the European crafts (13th-18th c.), ancient Greek and Roman art, Turkish art (17th. c) and numerous memorabilia connected with the Polish kings and generals.

The Franciscan’s Church and Monastery
Following Grodzka Street from the Main Square towards Wawel Castle, on the right you pass by the brick Gothic Franciscans’ Church (at Plac Wszystkich Świętych / All Saints Square). The church was consecrated in 1269 but rebuilt after the fire in 1850. It is worth to look inside to see the beautiful Art Nouveau wall paintings in the presbytery and the stained-glass windows designed by Stanisław Wyspianski. The most impressive is the composition “God the Father – Let it Be” (1904) and the facade.

SS. Peter and Paul’s Church Further on Grodzka Street we see the huge baroque church of SS. Peter and Paul, funded by the king Sigismund III Vasa in the end of the 16th c. It was erected, together with the neighbouring college building for the Jesuits. The wall with the statues of the Disciples was designed by Kacper Bazanka in 1715-22.The iconographic program of the building was to symbolize the Union of Brest (1596) between the Catholic and Orthodox Church in Poland.

St. Andrew’s Church
Next to SS. Peter and Paul’s church there is St. Andrew’s church, erected in the 11th c. This is the best preserved Romanesque building in Krakow. During the raids of the Tatars (13th c.) it was also used as a kind of a fortress. The tiny interior surprises with its rich baroque stucco decoration made by Baltasare Fontana (18th c.). Note the beautiful Rococo pulpit in a shape of a boat!

Kanonicza Street The last part of the Royal Way is Kanonicza Street, one of the most picturesque places in Krakow. Its name derives from the Canons of the Chapter who lived here in the 14th c. Alongside there are the 15th and 16th century houses (palaces) with the old portals and vaults. The Bishop Erazm Ciołek Palace houses the collection of medieval and Orthodox art of Poland (13th - 18th c.) and is the branch of National Museum. The most notable is the Deanery (no. 21) with a Renaissance portal and the courtyard with the galleries designed by Jan Michalowicz and Santi Gucci (16th c.)

  Walking around the Jewish Quarter (Kazimierz)  
The old Jewish Quarter is located in Kazimierz district, about 15-minute walk from Main Square (following Starowiślna or Stradom Street). Kazimierz was established as a separate city nearby Krakow in 1335 by the king Kazimierz the Great. In 1495 a Jewish town was founded in the neighbourhood, where all the Krakow’s Jews moved after the routs that took place in the city. Jewish Kazimierz started developing as the trade and religious centre, what led to its heyday in the 16th-17th. Then the Polish Kingdom was a shelter for thousands of the Jews escaping from persecution and prejudice in different European countries. Krakow became the vivid international centre of Jewish culture with numerous schools, Talmudic academy, famous rabbis, cabbalists, and thinkers. In 1812 the Jews were allowed to settle down in all the districts of Krakow, and several years later Kazimierz was incorporated into the city. Before World War II Krakow was inhabited by 65 thousands of Jews. It is worth reminding that before 1939 Poland with 3,5 million Jews was the biggest Jewish community in Europe. Today the Jewish Community of Krakow has no more than 300 members. Jewish culture route takes you for a walk around Kazimierz where you can easily get the spirit of the old Jewish town. The old synagogues, cemeteries and old-fashioned narrow streets tell you all the story. This district became also the centre of the Krakow’s social life. It is famous for the cafes and trendy clubs.

Szeroka Street Szeroka Street was the religious and administration centre of the Jewish city. There were 4 synagogues, houses of prayers, seat of the Jewish authorities (kehillah), and a cemetery. The house no 6 was the ritual bath (mykveh), built in the 16th c. Next to it there is a green square (according to the tradition here was the former cemetery) with the memorial commemorating Krakow’s Jews. In the house no 14 Helen Rubinstein known as the queen of cosmetics was born in 1872. On Szeroka Street there are well known restaurants serving Jewish style cuisine. In most of them you can also listen the concerts of the Jewish klezmer music in the evenings.

Remuh Synagogue and the cemetery Next to the green square on Szeroka Street there is Remuh Synagogue, the only one Krakow’s temple functioning on regular basis. It was founded in 1553. The name of the temple relates to Mose Isserles Remuh (died 1572) - one of the most famous rabbis and talmudist. The original furnishings of the synagogue were destroyed during World War II. Only the 16th c. Holy Arch has been preserved. Next to the temple there is the old Jewish cemetery opened it 1552. Partly demolished by the German Nazis, is still one of the most precious monuments of the Jewish art. Most of the beautifully decorated tomb plaques come from the 16th and 17th century. Behind the synagogue there is a grave of Rabbi Remuh, visited by thousands Jews each year.

Old Synagogue The Old Synagogue (Szeroka Street) built in the beginning of the 15th c. is the oldest Jewish temple that has been preserved in Poland. It was rebuilt after the fire in 1557. The silhouette of the building today is a result of the renovation in 1904-13. The synagogue was the witness of all important events in the Jewish city. Here the royal decrees were read, important speeches were given or the anathemas were casted... The Old Synagogue houses the branch of the Historical Museum of Krakow. The exhibition presents Jewish culture: old paintings, synagogue furnishings, Chanuka lamps, ritual tools, description of the feats and rites.

Other synagogues Jewish culture route also includes the visits to some other synagogues. The most impressive is the Temple Synagogue (Miodowa Street) built in 1860-1862 for the modern Jews. Close to it, on Miodowa Street there is also Kupa Synagogue from the 17th c. Drop inside to see the beautifully restored remains of the original wall paintings and the Holy Arch (Aron Hakodesz). Another synagogue worth seeing is the 17th c. Izaak’s Synagogue (Jakuba Street), were you can admire the beautiful stucco decoration from the workshop of Giovanni Falconi (17th c.).

  Schindler's Route  
Kazimierz became world famous due to the film “Schindler’s List” made here by Steven Spielberg. The places forming this route were shown in the film and retrace the history of Krakow’s Jews. Spielberg decided to make the big part of the film in the Kazimierz district, although originally the Jewish ghetto built by the German Nazis was in Podgorze, on the southern bank of the Vistula River. One of the most famous places in this Route is the courtyard (Jozefa Street 12), where the scenes of the liquidation of the ghetto where shot. The main ghetto square shown in the Schindler’s List was actually Szeroka Street.

The ghetto
Follow Starowislna Street and cross the Vistula River to reach the area of the former ghetto, placed here by the Germans in March 1941. 15 thousands of Krakow’s Jews were forced to live here, flocked in 320 houses. Plac Bohaterow Getta (Ghetto Heroes Square) was the witness of the liquidation of the Krakow’s ghetto on the 13-14th March 1943. Here the last way of Cracow’s Jews started – they were transported to the Nazi camps. Most of them died in the extermination camp in Belzec. In the Square there is a small museum of the ghetto in “Apteka pod Orlem” (Pharmacy under the Eagle). It commemorates also the owner of the pharmacy, Tadeusz Pankiewicz, who helped the Jews in the ghetto. He was given the title of the Righteous Among The Nations.

Schindler’s factory
From the Ghetto Heroes Square (Pl. Bohaterow Getta) follow a small Kacik Street . Going straight you reach Lipowa 4 Street where on the left there is the building of the former factory, that was bought by Oskar Schindler. In the factory enamel was produced. Oskar Schindler employed here 1,100 Jews, saving their lives. Nowadays there is one of the branches of the Historical Museum of the City of Krakow.

Plaszow Nazi Concentration Camp Nazi concentration camp in Płaszów was located about 20-minute walk of from the Ghetto Heroes' Square (it is better to take a tram, direction Biezanow or Kurdwanow from the Ghetto Square; get off at “Cmentarz Podgorski” (Podgórski Cemetry) tram stop, follow Wielicka Street and turn right into Jerozolimska Street). The concentration camp was established by the German Nazis in 1942. The last transport to the extermination camp (Auschwitz) was sent from here on the 14th January 1945. Nothing left till today – just the hilly area, bushes and the stone quarries. It is estimated that about 25 thousand people were imprisoned here, about 10 thousand were killed in the camp: Poles, Jews, Romanis. Before World War II this area was a Jewish cemetery, destroyed to the ground by the Nazis. Only one Jewish tomb stone was left. Most of the them were used to pave the roads within the camp. Lots of the prisoners were forced to work in the Liban stone quarry – you can see it from the top of the Krakus Hill. On 3 Jerozolimska Street there is the Grey House (3 Jerozolimska Street) – during World War II it was one the SS commandants’ seat. Following this street you reach so called Red House (25 Heltmana Street), the residence of Amon Goeth, the main commandant of Plaszow Camp. Nearby the Grey House you can enter the site of the camp. Going across you get to Kamienskiego Street where you can see the Memorial of the Plaszow Camp Victims. It was placed here in 1964, designed by the Krakow's artist Witold Ceckiewicz. Every year on the anniversary of the liquidation of the Krakow's ghetto the March of Memory finishes here and the Kadish is prayed at the Memorial.

Krakow - Rome of Northern Europe For centuries, Krakow as a famous pilgrimage centre has been called the Rome of Northern Europe. There are more than 100 churches in the city. In the area of the Old Town, most of them are still the seats of various monasteries and convents. Each church seems to be a small shrine with its holy icons or the relics and a great treasury of art works from different epochs. In Krakow there is also the tourist route of Polish saints followed every year by thousands of pilgrims who come to pray at their tombs. All the churches on this route have a special sign: a triangle with a cloverleaf. And as Krakow is definitely the city of John Paull II, one of the latest saints, you can easily combine Krakow City Tour with part of the walk in the footsteps of John Paul II. He was born in Wadowice (about 40 km from Krakow), came to Krakow in 1938 to start his studies at the Jagiellonian University and stayed for.. .40 years until he was elected to be the Pope in 1978. Following the Route of John Paull II (the most significant places have a sign: a triangle with a bishop's crosier) you can retrace his life and mission.

The Royal Cathedral on the Wawel Hill The Royal Cathedral of Krakow is a vivid pilgrimages centre with a holy icons, relics and memorabilia connected with numerous saints that are now widely worshipped. One of the saints most significant for the Polish history and culture is Św. Stanisław (St. Stanislaus), the bishop of Krakow (killed 1079). He became the main Patron Saint of Poland. His relics are buried in the silver coffin (made in Gdansk, 17th c.) in the middle of the church, under the splendid baroque canopy. It is worth mentioning that peregrination to the place of St. Stanislaus’ martyrdom (Skalka Church) was an important part of the royal coronation ceremony. The cult of St. Stanislaus is still vivid – every year in May there is a big procession from Wawel to Skalka. The Cathedral is also the place of veneration of St. Jagwiga, the Queen of Poland (died 1399) from House of Anjou. Her relics are buried below the Black Crucifix (see: description of the Royal Cathedral in the chapter Wawel Hill).

Lagiewniki (Divine Mercy Shrine)
The district of Krakow called Lagiewniki became famous worldwide due to St. Sister Faustina and Divine Mercy Shrine. This place used to be called by John Paul II The Capital of Divine Mercy. In the 19th-century buildings of the convent of Our Lady of the Divine Mercy were erected and presently there are still sisters spreading the message of Merciful God. One of them was St. Faustina, who had visions of Christ All-Merciful. She died in Lagiewniki in 1938; her burial place (in the old chapel of the monastery) is widely venerated and visited by thousands of pilgrims each year. St. Sister Faustina Kowalska was canonized in 2000 by John Paul II. The shrine was the foundation of his philosophy and teaching. To get to Lagiewniki you can take taxi or a tram (e.g. 8 or 19 from the centre, or any going to Borek Fałęcki; get off at the stop “Sanktuarium Bozego Milosierdzia”).

Skalka Church (The Church on the Rock) The church is located in Kazimierz District, in one of the most picturesque corners of Krakow. It is known as the Polish Pantheon – the crypts became the burial place of the famous Polish artists, composers, and poets. Among them are some of the greatest Polish artists such as Stanislaw Wyspianski (died 1907) and Czeslaw Milosz (died 2004), the Nobel laurate. Skalka Church is the place of martyrdom of Bishop Stanislaus. After his death in 1079 the church became one of the most important pilgrimages centres in the Polish Kingdom. According to the tradition after his body was cut into pieces one of his fingers fell into the small pond and was eaten by a fish... The pond is decorated with a baroque fence and the statue of the bishop (18th c.) The church was founded in the 14th century, but rebuilt in late baroque style (1740-42 by Antonio Solari). Inside, the last chapel on the left is the Chapel of St. Stanislaus with the baroque altar (1745) and the portrait of the bishop. Below there is a trunk containing according to the tradition the drops of the bishop's blood.

Church of St. Catharine and Margaret (Augustines' Monastery)
Going to Skalka don’t forget to visit the beautiful Gothic church of St. Catharine (14th c. ) with a marvellous altar made by the local workshop in the mannieristic style (1634). In the ambulatory there are the remains of the medieval frescoes (Misericordia Domini from the 15th c. and the Crucifixion from the 16th c.) This church is a burial place of Izajasz Boner (died 1471). In Krakow he is called Blessed Izajasz. He was one of the monks in the St. Catharine’s church and the professor of the Jagiellonian University. He devoted his life to poor people.

Corpus Christi Church (Kosciol Bozego Ciala)
Corpus Christi Church was the main parish church for the city of Kazimierz for a long time. No wonder then that it is located just at the corner from the former main square of Kazimierz (Plac Wolnica). The church is a great combination of the Gothic architecture and the baroque art. The interior was redecorated in the 17th – all the altars and a beautiful pulpit in a shape of a boat were made by the local artists and are good example of the mannieristic style. In the church was buried Blessed Stanislaw Kazimierczak (died 1498), the monk and student of the Jagiellonian University. He was famous for his spiritual charisma and wisdom.

  Krakow of John Paul II  
Cracow was a beloved city of John Paul II. Karol Wojtyla, later John Paul II came to Krakow in 1938 to start his studies of Polish philology at the Jagiellonian Univeristy. He stayed here till 1978 when he was elected the Pope. The Route of John Paul II, which is a part of “In the footsteps of John Paul II” tour, commemorates his life and mission. All the places on this Route have a special plaque – the triangle with the Bishop’s crosier. Following this Route you visit the places and churches that were very significant in the life of Karol Wojtyla – the student in Krakow, then the priest (1946), the bishop (1958), the archbishop (1963) and the cardinal of Krakow (1967). To see the most famous part of this Route it is enough to follow the Royal Way. There are still lots of places however, that are not in the city centre but are included in our “In the footsteps of John Paul II” trip.

St. Florian's church (Matejko Square)
Karol Wojtyla was working here as a vicar (1949-51) and in this parish he initiated his pastoral work with Krakow's students. Inside the church (on one of the pillars) there is a plaque commemorating Karol Wojtyla. The church was founded in the 12th century. Several fires and the raid of the Swedish destroyed the temple. In the 18th c. it was rebuilt in the Baroque style. Don't miss the Chapel of St. Jan Kanty (the patron saint of the Jagiellonian University) – here you can see the banner used during the canonization of Jan Kanty in 1767.

St. Mary's church (Main Market Square) It is an important temple in Pope John Paull II biography. In the years 1952-57 young Karol Wojtyla was a confessor and a preacher in it. In front of this church in 1991 he celebrated the beatification Mass of Aniela Salawa. On the facade (on the right) there is a plaque commemorating the White March organized by Krakow's people on the 18th May 1981, 5 days after the assault attempt in Rome, during which the Pope was seriously injured. Thousands of people wearing white clothes came to the Square to pray for his recovery.

University Quarter (Golebia Street)
On 20 Golebia Street there is a building of Collegium Philologicum where John Paul II started studying Polish philology in 1938. When the German Nazi occupation in Poland began and all the schools and the universities were closed – Kraol Wojtyla continued his secret studies at the Theology Faculty. Following Golebia Street towards Planty Park you reach the neogothic brick building of Collegium Novum, the main administration building of the University. Here in 1948 Karol Wojtyla received his PhD title and gave a lecture on ethics. 6 years later he received his habilitation degree here. In 1983 the Pope was given the award of Doctor Honoris Causa of the Jagiellonian University. Follow Jagiellonska Street and turn left into Planty Park to reach the Episcopal Palace.

Episcopal Palace (3 Franciszkanska Street)
It has been the seat of Krakow's bishop since the 14th century. Karol Wojtyła resided here as the bishop (since 1958) and later as the Metropolitan Cardinal of Krakow. He moved here in August 1944 as the student of the Archdiocese Seminar. Two years later, on the 1st November 1946 he was granted the Sacrament of Orders by cardinal Adam Sapieha in his private chapel in the Palace. John Paul II was staying here also during his pilgrimages to Krakow. Above the main gate there is a famous Pope's window, through which John Paul II blessed young people during each visit to his beloved city. People still meet here to commemorate various anniversaries connected with the Pope. All the pilgrims visit this place as it became the symbol of the meetings with John Paul II. So if you want to feel like in the footsteps of John Paul II, it is a must-see place

Franciscans' Church
Next to the Palace there is the Franciscans' church – the favourite church of Karol Wojtyla. He used to come here for his daily prayers. If you enter the church – on the second bench on the left you can find a plaque commemorating the place he used to seat.

Kanonicza Street and the Dean House
Next place on John Paul II Route is Kanonicza Street. Karol Wojtyla used to live in the Dean House (21 Kanonicza Street) as the bishop of Krakow between 1958-67. There is the simple room where he inhabited that can be visited by the pilgrims. The building houses the Archdiocese Museum today. The part of the exhibition presents the gifts related to John Paul II. In the Museum don't miss the exhibition of the medieval sacral art. At 17 Kanonicza Street in the 15th century palace there is the seat of the Institute of John Paul II - in the courtyard you can see the temporary exhibition most of which was organized by the Institute. Following Kanonicza Street you reach Wawel Hill. Climbing up the Hill have a look at the neogothic brick building of the Major Seminar Of Krakow (8 Podzamcze Street), where John Paul II stayed in 1945 as the student. The building was built by G. Niewiadomski between 1899-42.

The Royal Cathedral on the Wawel Hill
In this church on the 2nd November 1946 in the Romanesque crypt of St. Leonard (Royal crypts) young Karol Wojtyla celebrated his first Holy Mass. On the 28th September 1958 Karol Wojtyla was consecrated here as the bishop of Krakow, and in 1967 – as the cardinal. Being the Pope he also visited the Royal Cathedral several times. During the first pilgrimage to Poland (1979) John Paul II prayed at the tomb of St. Stanislaus, one of the parton saints of the Cathedral and of Poland. It was 900th anniversary of Krakow's bishop Stanislaus martyrdom. At his tomb we can see the altar candle offered by the Pope.

Blonia Fields
A walk around the Blonia fields might be relaxing and can give you the chance to see one of the greenest parts of Krakow, out of the tourist route. Blonia field is one of the largest historical meadows within a city that remained in Europe. In 2000 it was added to the Krakow's monuments register. It is located about 15-20 min walking from Main Market Square. In the Blonia field (following 3 Maja Street) there is a Papal Stone commemorating all the meetings of the Pope with Krakow Archdiocese during his pilgrimages to Krakow. Several days after his death almost million Krakow people marched here from the Main Square to take part in the Thanksgiving Mass for Life and Mission of John Paul II. The stone was placed here on the 19th anniversary of the Pontificate of the Pope. It was brought from the Popes beloved Tatra Mountains. It weighs about 26 tonnes.

Krakow's Museums

  In the neighbourhood of Krakow  

Trips to Auschwitz Auschwitz-Birkenau tour is a must-do when you come to Poland. Auschwitz is a historical name of the town located about 70 km from Krakow and at the same time it is a name of the German Nazi concentration camp that was build there during World War II. The Polish name of this place is Oswiecim (on the road maps you can find only Oswiecim, not Auschwitz). Birkenau (in Polish Brzezinka), another part of the camp is located about 3 km from Auschwitz. All over the world, Auschwitz-Birkenau has become a symbol of terror, genocide and the Holocaust. It was established by the Nazis in 1940 in the suburbs of the town of Oswiecim (Auschwitz). Auschwitz had functioned throughout its existence as a Nazi concentration camp and eventually become the largest of its kind. The Auschwitz -Birkenau Death Camp Museum has been entered on the UNESCO World Heritage List and if you decide to see the place our Auschwitz tours from Krakow can take you there. Established in 1940 first as a concentration camp for Polish political prisoners, Auschwitz became the centre for extermination of the Jewish people. In 1940 – 1945 the Nazis killed about 1,100,000 people here, mainly Jews, but also Poles, Gypsies, Russians and members of other nationalities. On site in Auschwitz you can see the gas chamber, crematorium and the exhibition in some of the survived prison blocks. In Birkenau you will see the main gate known as Gate of Death, wooden prisoners’ barracks, unloading ramp, the ruins of the crematoria and the Memorial.

Wieliczka Salt Mine The Royal Salt Mine in Wieliczka is a unique underground enormous complex of the tunnels, chambers and chapels, which dates back to the late 13th century. After 700 years of salt extraction it resembles an underground town. Situated on nine levels, the mine reaches 327 m below the ground and hides about 3000 chambers. A visit to Wieliczka Salt Mine is an opportunity to spend an unforgettable time exploring magnificent salt chambers, statues, underground lakes and chapels, including the biggest underground chapel made of salt in the world. In 1978 Wieliczka Salt Mine was entered on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Wieliczka Salt Mine is located about 15 km from the centre of Krakow. A visit to this is a must!

Zakopane/Tatra Mountains When Doctor Tytus Chalubinski discovered Zakopane as a beneficial place for all people with lung problems at the end of the 19th century, nobody suspected how popular it would become among writers, poets, painters, actors and other eccentrics... and later amid everybody! Zakopane – the vibrant heart of the Tatra Mountains - is called the winter capital of Poland for its perfect conditions for skiing. It is a town picturesquely situated at the foot of the Tatra Mountains. In summer it attracts visitors with its unique atmosphere and the genuine folk culture of the highlanders. Here you can admire the traditional wooden architecture, tiny churches built in the local Zakopane style, nice old-fashioned inns. Being in Zakopane don't miss to see the ski jumps, old cemetery (a pearl of the folk art!), local market at the foot of Gubalowka Hill. To see the beautiful panorama of the Tatras go by funicular to Gubalowka Hill (1123 m above the sea level), the journey lasts about 2 min. If you have more time go by cable car to Kasprowy Wierch (1987 m above the sea level). Zakopane - the vibrant heart of the Tatra Mountains is located about 105 km from Krakow to the south and close to the border with Slovakia. Usually it takes about 2 hours to get there. In winter, if there are heavy snow falls, it take much more and it is better to have snow chains in the car! Visit also the famous wooden village of Chocholow with an amazing complex of the old wooden cottages that are still inhabited! If you want to see the Polish countryside – this is the best place!

Pieniny Mountains/Rafting Going to the Pieniny mountain range and the region of Spisz you can discover one of the most picturesque parts of Southern Poland. Our “Dunajec River Gorge and Niedzica Castle” tour is a landscape trip through the villages, the small towns known as the health resorts and the National Park of Pieniny. The old architecture, medieval castles and the beautiful views of the Pieniny Mountains make this place one of the most popular tourist attraction especially in summer time. But most of the visitors come here for one reason: to take part in a unique rafting through one of the most beautiful river gorges in Europe. The rafting is a kind of a dry and completely safe experience (no rapids) as it is done in a traditional, old fashioned way – the local rowers take no more than 12 people on the traditional wooden raft to follow the current of the Dunajec River. The gorge cuts the limestone mountains forming 7 curves and going between the rocky walls. It seems to be the best way to relax in the nature! Going for rafting don't miss the most beautiful wooden church in Poland (15th century, original wall paintings inside!) in Debno Podhalanskie (UNESCO). You can also visit the ruins of the castle (14th c.) in Czorsztyn and a castle in Niedzica (14th c.) beautifully located at the shore of the lake of Czorsztyn. Spend some time in Szczawnica, a well-known little health resort. Rafting starts in Sromowce Katy, about 100 km from Krakow, South-East (2,5 h by car). So Dunajec River Gorge and Niedzica Castle definitely should be on your to-do list!

Czestochowa/Black Madonna Shrine Czestochowa is famous for Jasna Gora (The Bright Mount), a small hill located in the centre of the city, which in the 14th century became the monastery of St. Paul the Hermit. This place became the most famous and the biggest shrine devoted to Our Lady in Poland. The miraculous painting of Our Lady, widely known as the Black Madonna, attracts pilgrims from all over the world. The Holy Icon in Jasna Gora next to Rome, Lourdes and Fatima, makes Czestochowa one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in the world today. Every year it is visited by millions of the pilgrims. In Jasna Gora you can visit the whole architectural complex of historical buildings – the treasury, defensive walls, numerous courtyards and the splendid baroque basilica. The most important part is the Chapel with the icon of the Black Madonna, the most sacred and venerated place. The walls of the chapel are decorated with various votive gifts which are the symbols of graces obtained and miraculous healings that took place here. Czestochowa is located about 130 km from Krakow (to the North). It takes about 2,5 h to get there by car or go there with us on Częstochowa – the Black Madonna trip.

Wadowice/Kalwaria Zebrzydowska If you want to feel like in the footsteps of John Paul II you should start in Wadowice. Located about 50 km from Krakow it is a hometown of the most famous Pope – John Paul II. It is a tiny town, where you can see his family house (a small museum is there) and the Basilica of the Offering of Our Lady, where he was baptised. Next to these buildings there is the town's museum and the building of the local authorities (former school, which John Paull II used to attend to). All the buildings are located in the Main Square. Being in Wadowice don't forget to eat the famous Pope's cakes (a kind of cream cake). The best place for that is Galicja Cafe, nearby the Family House Kalwaria Zebrzydowska (UNESCO) is the second biggest pilgrimage centre in Poland, built in the 17th century as the symbolic imitation of Jerusalem. It is one of the most unique examples of art and piousness from that times in Europe. The historical landscape of the monastery and 40 chapels located in the hilly area are still perfectly preserved. Here you can see the Bernardine (Franciscans') Monastery and the Church with the holy icon of Our Lady, widely venerated. In the wood around there are 40 chapels symbolizing different places in Jerusalem. They all form the Road of the Cross and the Way of the Holy Virgin. Kalwaria Zebrzydowska is located about 40 km from Krakow, on the way to Wadowice and it is a part of our “In the footsteps of John Paul II” trip.

National Park Of Ojcow/Pieskowa Skała Castle Visiting the National Park of Ojcow might be a relaxing experience and additional insight in the region of Little Poland (Malopolska). It is an opportunity to see the picturesque countryside nearby Krakow with its traditional architecture and a unique landscape of the National Park of Ojcow. It is the smallest from 23 national parks in Poland but it is especially precious for the botanists and the zoologists as it protects the unique and rare species of flora and fauna. Among the tourists it is famous mostly for its marvellous landscapes with deep valleys created in limestone, outstanding rocks fantastically shaped and the caves. The area of the National Park of Ojcow perfectly shows the history of this region – following the Pradnik river valley one can see the remains of the old mills, wooden cottages or the traditional buildings of the 19th century health resort that used to be in Ojcow. The most popular attraction is Pieskowa Skala – a well preserved renaissance castle located on the route of the medieval fortresses known as the 'Eagle’s nests’ route’.
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