The city of Kraków is the second largest and most popular in Poland, after the capital, Warsaw. It has played an important role throughout history, as the home of past Polish kings and an important centre for Polish academia, culture and art.

Today it is abeautiful and interesting city that offers visitors a glimpse of the past and a chance to enjoy the present. Here is our top 10 list of things to do on any visit to Kraków.

1) Wawel Castle and Cathedral

Wawel Castle and Cathedral was once home to the Polish Monarchy and the crowning and burial site of many kings. The architectural structure is a mixture of many buildings that sit atop of a limestone outcrop on the bank of the River Vistula. Parts of the Wawel castle date back to as early as the 9th century, so it’s easy to see why Wawel Castle and Cathedral is such an important place for the people of Poland.

Wawel Castle and Cathedral krakow

2) Czartoryski Museum

Czartoryski Museum was founded in 1796 in Puławy by Princess Izabela Czartoryska but eventually was relocated to Kraków in 1870. The collection that was started in 1796 has suffered much from looting during the two World Wars, with over 800 pieces still missing. Nevertheless, the museum houses some wonderful paintings, artefacts and even ancient exhibits. The most famous piece in the museum is Leonardo da Vinci’s “Lady With an Ermine”.

czartoryski museum krakow poland

3) Wieliczka Salt Mine

Wieliczka Salt Mine is a breathtaking example of what humankind can achieve. It reaches a depth of approximately 327 metres and includes vast tunnels, caverns and even an underground church, St Kinga’s Chapel. There are man-made sculptures and carvings to be marvelled at alongside the overwhelming natural beauty. The mine was built in the 13th century and it is the only mining site to have remained in operation since the middle ages up until modern times; just one of the reasons it is on the list of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.

 

wieliczka salt mine kraków poland

4) Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum

Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum lies in the town of Oświęcim (“Auschwitz” in German) and is the location used by Nazi Germany to imprison and exterminate hundreds of thousands of people. The museum has preserved the two concentration camps, Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau, and is dedicated to remembering the victims of the Holocaust. A tour of the two concentration camps is made as well as a chance to see a collection of artefacts, including personal items, prisoner garments and artwork, and SS weaponry. Over a million people per year visit the museum which is a sobering and educational experience.

Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum

5) Kraków Old Town

Kraków Old Town was one of the first sites to be chosen for UNESCO’s World Heritage List and is one of the most popular old districts in Poland. The centre of the Old Town is the Main Market Square, “Rynek Glowny” in Polish, and is a favourite with tourists who want to experience a quaint and beautiful Polish district. The Main Market Square is surrounded by cafes, restaurants, shops and stalls and is a bustling hub of activity. Other popular attractions within the Old Town include the stunning Juliusz Słowacki Theatre, the Town Hall Tower and St Mary’s Church.

Kraków Old Town

6) Kazimierz and the Galicia Jewish Museum

Kazimierz and the Galicia Jewish Museum is known as the Jewish Quarter and was home to a large Jewish community until World War II. The architecture is different from the rest of the city and the atmosphere is more relaxed than at the nearby Old Town. There are numerous cafes, bars and restaurants to be enjoyed after taking an educational walking-tour around the district. The Kazimierz also houses the Galicia Jewish Museum which commemorates and celebrates Jewish life from the past to the present.

Galicia Jewish Museum krakow

7) Mariacki Church

Mariacki Church known as St Mary’s Basilica was built in the 13th Century and later re-built in the 14th Century and is located in the Main Market Square of the Old Town. It is an exquisite example of a Gothic church and its most spectacular aspect is the 13 metre high altar piece by Veit Stoss. Every half-an-hour the trumpet call is sounded and cut-off, reminding natives and visitors of the story of the trumpeter who was shot while sounding the trumpet alarm before a Mongolian attack.

mariacki church krakow poland

8) Oskar Schindler’s Enamelware Factory

Oskar Schindler’s Enamelware Factory is a popular destination for anyone who has seen the film and read the book. However, it is also a moving experience for anyone who wants to see what Oskar Schindler did for the people he helped save and the horrors which the Jewish people had to live through just to survive. The museum also hosts an exhibition titled “Kraków During Nazi Occupation” which details individual stories of life during the war and the fight for survival.

Oskar Schindler's Enamelware Factory

9) Zakopane and Tatras Mountains

Zakopane and Tatras Mountains are admittedly a couple of hours journey from Kraków but they are an essential day out for anyone staying in the city. Zakopane is a town that lies at the foot of the Tatras Mountains. It is a popular destination for skiing, mountain climbing and walking and is known as the “winter-capital” of Poland. The Mountains offer spectacular views and are a truly breathtaking natural beauty.

Zakopane and Tatras Mountains

10) The Polish Aviation Museum

The Polish Aviation Museum is located on the Kraków-Rakowice-Czyżyny Airfield which ceased operation in 1963. It first opened in 1912 making it one of the oldest military airfields in Europe. The museum opened a year after its closure, allowing guests a chance to see a collection of over 200 aircrafts, engines and other important aviation artefacts which it is the museum’s aim to preserve. The museum is a must-see for any aviation enthusiast and a fun and quirky day out for all the family.

The Polish Aviation Museum