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Krakow, the former capital of Poland is a definitely a must when travelling in Europe. The historic centre of Krakow has been added to the UNESCO heritage list. This beautiful old town is full of history and traditions that will WOW even the most picky traveller. If you are planning on visiting Krakow for the day, its important you book all your entrance tickets at list 3 days in advance. That will help you to avoid the super long queues that go for hours. Also, it might be difficult to get the time slot you wanted. I found out this myself when I visited Krakow in August.
Visiting Krakow for the day – Wawel Castle
We started our trip around Krakow by visiting the Wawel Castle. The Wawel Castle is located around 15 mins walk from the Krakow Main Square and 30 mins walk from the train station. Wawel Castle is a must, when visiting Krakow for the day. Why do I think you should start exploring from there? Firstly, there is so much to see and secondly, you are restricted by opening hours.
The entrance to the Wawel Castle grounds is free. It took us around an hour to walk around it exploring every corner. There are a few cafes and restaurants where you can sit down and enjoy the stunning architecture.
If you want to discover the Wawel Castle on the inside, you can do so by booking private guided tour (prices starts from 116 PLN plus entry ticket) or you can rent out a pre recorded audio tour that you will listen via headphones- that’s what we did.
As we didn’t start exploring Wawel Castle until about lunchtime, we didn’t have enough time to do all the tour. We decided that we were only going to buy tickets to the Cathedral which cost us 14 PLN plus 5 PLN for the headset. The tour was very informative, and there was lots to see. Inside of the Cathedral, you will find different types of altars dedicated to different people. Mostly Kings of Poland. This is also where you will find coffins of previous kings and Polish president Lech Kaczynski who died in April 2010 in a plane crash, together with 96 other people. Mostly Polish politicians. Our ticket also gave us entrance to the Bell Tower – currently there is 9 small and large bells there ( you will get the best view of Krakow from the top of the tower) and Treasure Museum. It took us around 2 hours to complete our tour.
If you visit the Wawel Castle first thing in the morning, you should have enough time to also visit the Royal Chambers, Crown Treasury and Lost Wawel.
We left the Wawel Castle through the Dragon grotto (3 PLN). Be prepared to walk down 100’s of stairs down. The exit from the Grotto is located right by the Wisla River– the longest and biggest river in Poland.
Visiting Krakow for the day – Main Square
When visiting Krakow for the day, you can’t miss the Main Square. This is the heart of Krakow full of bars, restaurants and monuments such as Cloth Hall or St Marries Basilica. You can go on a tour around the square in one of the horse carriages (250 PLN for 30 mins or 200 PLN for 15 mins).
During the summer time, in the square there is always lots going on. From the market with traditional food and art to cultural shows and live music. The atmosphere is very friendly and relaxed. Perfect place to sit down with your Tyskie beer and watch the world go by.
There is also plenty of restaurants selling local cuisine most of them super overpriced. If you want to try the local food, I will recommend walk 5 mins outside of square to one of the local bars or restaurants in the small streets outside of the square.
You can also discover Krakow Main Square from a different side and go underground on the Rynek Underground tour. I really wanted to do this tour that lasts around 70 mins but unfortunately we could not get the tickets as they all sold out for the day 🙁 The Underground historic Museum of Krakow has an area of around 6000 sqm. The museum opened its doors for the first time in 2010. The exhibition uses mixture of fog machines and projectors to recreate the atmosphere from 700 years ago.
Visiting Krakow for the day- Cloth Hall
Krakow Cloth Hall other known as Sukiennice is one of the most known landmarks of Krakow. Dating back to Renaissance time. The Cloth Hall was once the center of international trade. Now, the Cloth Hall is full of restaurants and market stalls selling local products and souvenirs.
On top of the market, you can visit The Art Gallery. The Art Gallery is home to the most important pieces of Polish art from 18th and 19th century painted by artists such as Matejko or Chelmonski. The gallery is spread across 4 rooms named after the artists.
Outside, there is a terrace bar with a stunning views of the square. Perfect place to take pictures of the area. I wouldn’t bother getting a drink there as the service was pretty awful. We had to ask 4 times to placed our drink orders and never been asked if we would like any more drinks. We had to ask 3 times for the bill and 3 times we have been ignored. As we could not get hold of anyone, eventually we left without paying.
Visiting Krakow for the day – St Mary’s Basilica
The St Mary’s Basilica was built-in 14th century and the highest point measures 80 meters tall. The St Mary’s Basilica is most famous for wooden altar made by Wit Stwosz.
For a small fee of 15 PLN you can go to the top of the smaller tower. From the taller tower, every hour you can hear Hejnal Mariacki- trumpet signal that was use to played to worn the locals about the upcoming attack on the town. If you listen carefully, you will noticed that the Hejnal Maricki cuts off unexpectedly. That’s because the Trumpeter was shot in the throat with an arrow while alarming locals of upcoming Mongol attack.
I think St Marries Basilica is one of the most stunning churches in the world. The minute I stepped in inside I was absolute speechless. For some reason, I always like to visit churches on my travels. I think mostly due the fact that they all have amazing architectures and are work of art but I can honestly say that’s St Mary’s Basilica beats every church I have seen so far.
If you have a bit of time left…
If by the end of the day you still have some time and energy left, or if you visiting Krakow for longer than a day, here is a list of other places that are worth visiting.
The Oskar Schindler’s Factory– learn about heroes of World War II
Kazimierz- the old Jewish Quarters. Place of Jewish life in Krakow for over 500 years before it got destroyed during second World War
Auschwitz– Built by German Nazis who occupied Poland during Ward War II. The Auschwitz concentration camp was place used by Nazi to exterminate Jews and Pols by using poisoning gases.
Wieliczka Salt Mine– around half our drive from Krakow. one of the most popular Polish Attractions. The tour take you 135m to the saltworks museum. You can read about it here
River cruse– go on a mini cruse along the Wisla river. The longest and biggest river in Poland
Walk around the Krakow– every little street in Krakow has a story to tell. Take time to walk around the narrow, cable streets and see what surprises they have stored for you
Equally beautiful to Krakow is Wroclaw. Located in Lower Silesia county of Poland. Wroclaw was my next adventure. You can read all about it in here