Not packed in a bus. Not herded with a group. Self guided walk is the SAFEST way to sightsee while observing SOCIAL DISTANCING!

Krakow Introduction Walk (Self Guided), Krakow

In the course of fifteen centuries Krakow has evolved from a tiny hamlet at the top of the Wawel Hill, overlooking the Vistula River, to one of Europe's culturally richest destinations. One of a kind on the list of the World Heritage Sights, Krakow is a recognized center of the academic, artistic and cultural life of Poland. Take this orientation walk to acquaint yourself with some of the city's most popular tourist attractions.
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Krakow Introduction Walk Map

Guide Name: Krakow Introduction Walk
Guide Location: Poland » Krakow (See other walking tours in Krakow)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 12
Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.5 Km or 2.8 Miles
Author: ellen
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Town Hall Tower
  • Rynek Główny (Main Square)
  • Sukiennice (Cloth Hall)
  • St. Mary's Basilica
  • Florianska Street
  • St. Florian's Gate Tower
  • The Barbican (Barbakan)
  • St. Casimir's Church
  • Basilica of St. Francis. Windows of Awe
  • Wawel Royal Castle
  • Ethnographic Museum
  • Kazimierz (Jewish Quarter)
Town Hall Tower

1) Town Hall Tower (must see)

Slanting just about 55 centimeters, the Town Hall Tower stands proudly as Krakow’s own Leaning Tower. This towering Gothic structure measures 70 meters in height and singularly garners the attention of those visiting the Main Square.

This lean structure adorned the city during the late 13th century and has stood ground ever since, enduring tribulations of passing time. The lonely structure that stands today was initially built to accompany a magnificent Town Hall that was brought down for the purposes of opening up the Main Square in 1820. Built in Gothic-style, the Town Hall was used as a prison and even contained medieval torture chambers.

The Tower's most attractive feature, its helmet, has been replaced thrice in the history of its existence. Initially, the Tower bore a beautiful Gothic top which was brought down by lightning in 1680. This was replaced by an ornate Baroque helmet designed by Piotr Beber which crumbled down in 1783. Post that, a smaller helmet replaced the tower top that presently covers the top of the Town Hall.

Today one can enjoy a hot brewed cup of coffee in the basement of the Tower that once contained outlaws of the city. The Tower also offers its visitors one of the finest views of the city and some vintage photographs that can take you through the history of Krakow.

Fairly tricky climb up steps that are quite steep & deep so not for those with bad knees or little legs.
Don’t miss the giant bronze head located just outside the entrance.
View at the penultimate stop with pretty stained windows is great.
Fun to do but make sure it’s a clear day. Free on Mondays!

Opening hours:
Mon: 10:30am-2pm; Tue-Sun: 10:30am-6pm (Mar-Oct); Mon: 11am-2pm; Tue-Sun: 11am-5pm
The Town Hall Tower is closed on every 1st Tuesday of the month
Sight description based on wikipedia
Rynek Główny (Main Square)

2) Rynek Główny (Main Square) (must see)

The Main Market Square, popularly known as the Rynek Główny, is one place everyone is bound to visit in Krakow. Surrounding the Market are some of the city's most prized treasures like the Cloth Hall, St Mary’s Basilica, the Town Hall Tower, along with many others. The buildings surrounding the Market Square display the tireless effort and the appetite for rich architecture that the denizens of Krakow had. Contained by castles, palaces and historical monuments, the Main Market Square is probably the most vibrant places in the city.

The Mongol Invasion of 1241 which left the city in ruins, also gravely affected the Main Square. It was in 1257 that the foundation for this massive complex was laid and today it is Europe’s largest medieval market area (40,000 m). The main reason for setting up this market was to attract merchants to share their trade in the city – something quite important in those times.

Why You Should Visit:
The main spot for locals and tourists alike. Exciting and lively at any time of day/night. Many shops, restaurants & bars to enjoy a drink with the view. Great place for souvenirs as well.

The square can be expensive but have a look down the side streets as there are lots of bars that are underground – some of which have a magical atmosphere and serve cheaper food/drinks.
Sukiennice (Cloth Hall)

3) Sukiennice (Cloth Hall) (must see)

With its magnificent charm and timeless aura, the Sukiennice welcomes you into its history of luxury, wealth, grandeur and trade. The most happening shopping complex of the medieval era, the Sukiennice was the place where merchants and traders would meet to finalize deals and get the best bargains for the goods in the market. At first sight, the Sukiennice puts time on hold. The opulence and splendor of the building is proof of the glory the city enjoyed in the medieval century.

If you are looking for gifts and souvenirs in Krakow, Sukiennice is the place to find them. This wonderful building, situated in the middle of the Old Town Square, has been the main focus of trade since the 14th century. After a fire in the 16th century, it was rebuilt in a Renaissance style. There is plenty of amber jewelry, lace and embroideries as well as wooden souvenirs such as Jewish statues, ornately carved boxes, chessboards available here at good prices.

Besides the souvenir stalls, don't miss the permanent exhibition of the National Gallery upstairs, displaying artworks of 19th-century Polish painters.
Shops are open until 8pm. There are very clean 24/7 public toilets at one end of the building – on the right as you look from St Mary's church.
Sight description based on wikipedia
St. Mary's Basilica

4) St. Mary's Basilica (must see)

Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, this basilica stands adjacent to the Main Square in Krakow as a beautiful illustration of the merger of different styles of architecture. Together, these styles brew a singular timeless piece of structure that stands as an example for several other churches all over Poland and the world.

The facade of the Church consists of two high raised uneven towers, of which one is constructed in Gothic style while the other has a Renaissance style. The Gothic tower boasts a magnificent spire built in 1478 that measures 81 meters and has a gold-coated crown. The other tower, measuring 69 meters, has a Renaissance roof and was constructed in 1592. The tower has five bells, two of which date back to the 14th century. On the front side of the Church is a beautiful Baroque designed porch that was constructed in the mid-18th century.

Not only is the exterior of the St. Mary's Basilica magnificent, but the interiors also make their mark in terms of grandeur and excellence. The basilica houses the famous altarpiece of Veit Stross, the largest Gothic altarpiece in the world, consisting of 200 figurines sculpted to the utmost delicacy and each limewood figure treated with color and gold foil. One of the national treasures of Poland, this ornate wooden altarpiece is a must-see on your visit to Krakow.

Before going inside, you might want to make sure you're not wearing shorts and your shoulders are covered.
Don't forget to buy the camera ticket; otherwise, the camera spotting official will tell you off (not discreetly either!)...
Note that every hour/on the hour, a trumpeter comes out at the top window of the left tower to play a song out of each of the three windows up there.
If you want to climb the tower, pre-book a time to go up (best to do it online). You can meet the trumpeters at the top and pose with them for a modest tip! The views are excellent.

Tour Hours:
[Basilica] Mon-Sat: 11:30am–6pm; Sun: 2–6pm
[Bell Tower] Thu-Fri: 10am–2pm (Apr-Oct); max 6 people; children not admitted for reasons of safety
[Bugle Tower] Tue-Sat: 9:10am–5:30pm; Sun: 1:10pm–5:30pm (Apr-Oct); Thu, Fri, Sat: 9:10am–5:30pm (Nov, Dec, Mar)
Sight description based on wikipedia
Florianska Street

5) Florianska Street (must see)

There's nothing like strolling the streets of a city to feel its pulse, and if you want to put your finger on Krakow's then take a walk down Florianska. This place gets its name from the famous Florian Gate at the north. Built in the 13th century, the street has managed to garner attention since its inception. Filled with structures that boast of beautiful facades, the Ulica Florianska is the best place to admire the change in styles of architecture of the buildings through the years.

While some buildings still brag of a stern yet intricate edifice displaying Gothic influence, other buildings showcase styles more modern ranging from early to late Renaissance to Baroque and Neoclassic. Never the less, the amalgamation of these different styles makes the street worthy of mention and visit.

Not only is it a must-see because of its rich architectural wealth, but each structure (that is given a serial number) also has a story of its own. There might even be a few houses you would like to enter for a short visit. Owned by some of the wealthier middle-class families in the 14th century, one can read about each structure and its inhabitants in detail. Today, the Ulica Florianska is the most visited street in Krakow and rightly so, for it has so many stories to offer to its visitors.

Be aware of the money exchange outlets located here – to be avoided at all costs or it will cost you.
Be aware, also, that this street is among the most expensive of all of Krakow for souvenirs.
St. Florian's Gate Tower

6) St. Florian's Gate Tower (must see)

You sense the history of Krakow when you try to imagine what it must have been like to approach its well-defended brick and mortar walls during medieval times. This tower, first mentioned in 1307, had been built as part of a protective rampart around Kraków after the Tatar attack of 1241 which destroyed most of the city. The permit for the construction of new city defenses featuring stone watchtowers, fortified gates and a moat was issued in 1285. The gate named after St. Florian became the main entryway to the Old Town. It was connected by a long bridge to the circular Barbican (Barbakan) erected of brick on the other side of the moat. According to records, by 1473 there were 17 towers defending the city; a century later, there were 33. At the height of its existence, the wall featured 47 watchtowers and eight gates. Also, in 1565–66 a municipal arsenal was built next to St. Florian's Gate.

The Gate Tower is 33.5 meters tall. The Baroque metal "helmet" that crowns the gate, constructed in 1660 and renovated in 1694, adds another meter to its overall height. St. Florian's is the only city gate, of the original eight built in the Middle Ages, that was not dismantled during the 19th-century "modernization" of Kraków. The adjoining city walls and two additional, smaller towers had been preserved and today host street displays of amateur art available for purchase.

The south face of St. Florian's Gate is adorned with an 18th-century bas-relief of St. Florian. The tower's north face bears a stone eagle that was carved in 1882 by Zygmunt Langman, based on a design by painter Jan Matejko. Inside the gate is an altar with a late-Baroque copy of a classicist painting of the Piaskowa Madonna.

Do yourself a favour and take 30 mins to walk through Planty Park to this Gate.
The Gate Tower itself is good to see also at night when it is lighted... check the details!
Don't forget to check out the artists displaying their wares nearby and to go through the Gate to see the old round Barbican fort.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 9am-6pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
The Barbican (Barbakan)

7) The Barbican (Barbakan) (must see)

The Barbican guards the city of Krakow. This mighty structure is an excellent example of a building that is deeply embedded in the history of the city and displays its lavish architecture. You can learn about Krakow as you walk along the 10 feet thick walls and stroll inside the inner courtyard.

The Barbican was built for purposes of safeguarding the city of Krakow from those who dared to put a bad eye on its security. With a 3 meter thick wall, it was well designed to accommodate 130 crenels in four rows. The lower crenels were used by artillery and the higher ones were used by archers and riflemen.

With seven turrets, the Barbican acted as the perfect outpost protecting the city. This Gothic-style fortification was built in the late 15th century and is more of the Arabic style rather than a European-style military structure. It was initially linked to the inner city wall.

Today one can take time to watch some of the finest exhibits the city has to display at the Barbican. From classical concerts to dances, exhibitions, and reenactments, the Barbican is the perfect place where you can enjoy the building’s immense historical presence while listening to music or watching a story unwind before your very own eyes.

Make sure you book the outdoor shows in advance or you'll miss out!

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10:30am-6pm (Apr-Oct); closed on every 2nd Monday of the month
Sight description based on wikipedia
St. Casimir's Church

8) St. Casimir's Church (must see)

Standing quaintly in the Old Town District of Krakow is the Church of St. Casimir the Prince. The plain white exterior may not look extraordinary but the church is quite unique in its own right. One of the most mysterious places in Krakow, it gets a number of visitors year-round waiting to steal a peek at the secrets that lie beneath it.

Adjacent to the Franciscan monastery, the church has over the years, managed to garner much curiosity from visitors all over the world. Established in the late 17th century, the church has been the final home for many locals, monks as well as members of the noble family. Although this may not seem like an extraordinary facet, it is this very quality that has popularized St. Casimir's. The catacombs are said to contain over 1000 bodies over the years, a quarter of which were monks and the rest belong to lay people. The unique climatic conditions in the crypts allow the bodies to undergo a natural process of mummification. Historians believe that the micro-climate of the catacombs arrests the decaying of the corpses that have been kept in the crypts since the 17th century. Many corpses were laid in the catacombs without coffins and directly on earth. Among the mummies is the body of Countess Domicella Skalka who served the church as a housemaid for over 20 years and only revealed her true identity moments before her death.

The monastic crypts with mummified bodies are made available for public viewing only once a year on All Souls Day (November 2nd), the day after All Saints Day.
Basilica of St. Francis. Windows of Awe

9) Basilica of St. Francis. Windows of Awe (must see)

The city of Krakow is adorned with some of the most beautiful stained-glass windows in the world. The Basilica of Virgin Mary houses one of the most delicate examples of stained glass windows which attract connoisseurs of the art from far and wide. However, the greatest art piece stands at the entrance of the Basilica of St. Francis on Franciszkanska Street. Titled ‘Become!’ this stained glass window is better known as ‘Our Father’.

The window is a masterpiece not only of this art but also of the artist, Stanislaw Wyspianski. It depicts Creation in a way no other art work in the world has been able to do till date. The fact that it adorns a basilica and is illuminated by natural light everyday belittles every living soul and forces us to pause every other thought and admire His Creation, the world we live in. This art piece beats the artist’s previous works not only which are located elsewhere but also the ones located in the same building. The five years he put in designing six stained glass windows for the chancel and a fresco are over shadowed by the glass windows located at the entrance exactly opposite Archbishop’s Palace.

Wyspianski’s only other competitive work was not used for over a century until the completion of the Wyspianski building which was made to commemorate his work and is located at Szczepanska Street.
Wawel Royal Castle

10) Wawel Royal Castle (must see)

With the wealth of history and abundance of heritage, the city of Krakow is a haven for admirers of the past. The Wawel is one such place in Krakow where one can get enchanted by the city’s legendary sagas. The Wawel Hill has formed about 150 million years ago and is majorly made up of Jurassic limestone that dates back to the Oxfordian age. The Hill comprises many historically significant buildings that date back to different eras. Surrounded by water and marshes, archaeologists found evidence of settlers on the Wawel Hill that dates back to the early Palaeolithic.

For centuries the residence of the kings of Poland and the symbol of Polish statehood, the Wawel Royal Castle on Wawel Hill is now one of the country’s premier art museums. Established in 1930, the museum encompasses ten curatorial departments responsible for collections of paintings, including an important collection of Italian Renaissance paintings, prints, sculpture, textiles, among them the Sigismund II Augustus tapestry collection, goldsmith’s work, arms and armor, ceramics, Meissen porcelain, and period furniture. The museum’s holdings in oriental art include the largest collection of Ottoman tents in Europe.

Why You Should Visit:
"Everyone loves castles" – Peppa Pig

You can walk around the grounds for no charge at all; what you choose to do dictates the entry price.
Opting for the State Rooms and Royal Apartments is worth it as you see a lot of impressive and well-preserved interiors (for English guided tours, pre-book online as to avoid the queues).
The Sandomierska Tower will give you a great all-round view of the place and the Dragon's Den takes you to the underground caves, but note that these are seasonal (closed Nov-Mar).

Please check the opening hours on the Royal Castle website, as they tend to vary quite a bit:
Sight description based on wikipedia
Ethnographic Museum

11) Ethnographic Museum (must see)

After taking a look at how the elite and rich lived in medieval Krakow, why not sneak a peek at how it was to live like a commoner in the city. The Ethnographic Museum gives its viewers an insight into the lives of the working and peasant class of the 18th and 19th centuries, covering minute aspects like their festivals, day-to-day activities, and clothing. Fast becoming an interesting window into the Polish culture, the museum offers its viewers sights, sounds and tastes of its villages and culture. Not to be missed if you want to dive deeper and have a better understanding of the Polish ethos.

The Ethnographic Museum is rigorously looked after and huge efforts are put in to give an authentic feel to the exhibits. In fact, the museum actually has people from nearby towns and villages chipping in with the decorations and interiors that give it a more genuine feel.

Why You Should Visit:
Although some of the exhibits don't have English labels, overall this is indispensable as a guide to the country.
Cheap tickets (further discounted for seniors & teachers), and you can visit in just one hour.

Download the google translate app and use the photo tool to translate the most interesting labels.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 10am-7pm
Free on Sundays
Sight description based on wikipedia
Kazimierz (Jewish Quarter)

12) Kazimierz (Jewish Quarter) (must see)

For many centuries, Kazimierz was a place of coexistence and interpenetration of ethnic Polish and Jewish cultures. Its northeastern part of the district was historic Jewish, whose Jewish inhabitants were forcibly relocated in 1941 by the German occupying forces into the Krakow ghetto just across the river in Podgórze. Today Kazimierz is one of the major tourist attractions of Krakow and an important center of the city's cultural life.

The birth of Kazimierz took place thanks to King Casimir the Great, after whom the town was named. But it was the decision of King Jan Olbracht, which led the Jews of Krakow to move to Kazimierz. After the move, the pogroms and riots between the two major communities reduced drastically. Both the communities co-existed without much difficulty until the early 19th century when the separate Jewish town was made a part of Krakow. Most of the intelligentsia and the elite abandoned Kazimierz and moved to other parts of Krakow. However, those who stayed back in the old town were the poor and orthodox Jews. It is thanks to them that the buildings and architecture can still be appreciated.

The Second World War brought about further abandonment and misery to the community. By the end of the War, the Jewish town that was once a melting pot of distinct and unique Jewish culture was left in ruins.

It was not until very recently in 2000 when the poorest district of Krakow garnered attention from the budding hospitality industry. Soon the buildings became home to some of the finest and coziest cafes and restaurants in the city. Furthermore, each year at the end of June, Kazimierz is home to the Jewish Culture Festival – Europe's largest Jewish festival of culture and music that attracts visitors from around the world. Music at the festival is very diverse and played by bands from the Middle East, USA, and Africa, among others.

Why You Should Visit:
If you're looking for a place to wander pretty streets and dip in and out of nice places, then this is the area for you.

If you head toward the corner of Ulica Józefa and Ulica Nowa, the walkways in that area are the perfect mix of local shops and atmospheric alleyways. You'll see lots of cute shops with fun graffiti and artwork painted on the side of them.
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Krakow, Poland

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