Krakow is an amazingly beautiful, poignant city and as Poland’s second largest city most foreign visitors will pass through here. As such, there are numerous Krakow attractions that should be on your to-do list. This is how to make the most of a brief trip!
The top 5 most entertaining attractions in Krakow:
1. Rynek / Grodska Street / Sukiennice / Mariacki
I start with a bit of a cheat, covering 4 items in one, but that’s because they’re all in one spot. They are the main market square (Rynek) and surrounds – the very heart of Krakow. Catch the Rynek as often as you can as events are always taking place there. Stroll down Grodska Street and check out the objets d’art. Surprisingly tasteful trinkets are for sale inside the cloth hall (Sukiennice), but also along its sides. Visit Mariacki at a time when they display the stunning carved wooden altar, and for sport, try to take pictures of it without paying an earnest usher a few zloty for the privilege (having already paid to get in).
Visit the royal castle from the days when Krakow was Poland’s capital. Tour the royal apartments, keeping an eye on the spectacular ceilings. Don’t miss the Cathedral crypt where the Polish Kings are buried. Take the steps (and kids) down from the castle mount, through caves, to a metal dragon that breathes fire every few seconds.
Tour the atmospheric old Jewish Quarter, visiting some of the half dozen or so synagogues. Remuh is the most famous, with a large cemetery, and a wall made up of gravestones ransacked by the Nazis. Tempel synagogue was recently renovated and is very beautiful. Lunch on chicken soup and chopped liver in one of the many Jewish-themed restaurants, and dine whilst listening to Jewish Klezmer music, which can be at once lively and poignant.
4. Collegium Maius
Wander this stunning Krakow University college, taking in where Copernicus studied, and some of the earliest astronomical instruments. If you’re lucky you’ll catch the cute figurines in the quad that chime the hour.
5. Sukiennice Museum
It’s been a while since I visited this museum, but I’ll never forget the sweeping panoramas by Matejko, which help define Poland. In the end it’s personal choice, but I’d recommend this museum, on the first floor of the cloth hall, in preference to the new attraction under it which uncovers the city’s archaeology, but I thought left a little to the imagination.
WILDCARD: Plaszow Concentration Camp Wander out of Kazimierz to what remains of the concentration camp into which the Jews of Krakow were crammed during World War II. You can still see a small section of the ghetto wall, the house from where camp commander Amon Goethe shot at Jews, and one remaining gravestone of an immortalized Chaim Abrahamer.