things to do in krakow poland

It felt like we were stepping back in time in Krakow.  Despite its tumultuous history, it is one of the most charming cities in all of Europe.

Historic Center of Old Town

Cloth Hall

The trading post of the old city.  It used to be much larger until the early 1800s when the city demolished much of it to make the main square larger.

Town Hall Tower & St. Mary’s Basilica

Every hour, a trumpeter plays the five-note Polish anthem (Hejnał Mariacki) from each of the four windows of the tower.

You may notice the anthem seems to end all too abruptly.  Legend was that a trumpeter was shot while playing a warning alarm from the tower when Mongol troops were approaching.  In memory of this invasion, the anthem continues to sound daily.

Remarkable and Humbling 5 days in Krakow, Poland

St. Florian’s Gate

These gothic towers built during the Middle Ages were the main entry way to the Old Town.

From there, walk straight down Florianska Street.

Wawel Hill

Wawel Cathedral

Where coronations would take place and crypts hold the remains of the most influential Poles.

Castle – Perhaps the most important building in all of Poland, this is where Polish Kings formerly resided.  Now it has been converted into an art museum.

Dragon Statue & Smok Waweleski’s Bones –   The dragon status breathes fire every so often, crowds gather to wait for this moment.

The bones more likely belonged to a whale or mammoth than a mythical dragon, however they’re believed to have magic powers making this quite an attraction.

Jewish District (Kazimierz)

Stroll Szeroka Street and Nowy Square.

Szeroka Street is the heart of the Jewish District.   After much destruction during the Nazi invasion and formation of ghettos, we were pleasantly surprised to find that much of its medieval charm remains.   That said, it is undeniable that this neighborhood endured some of the most inhumane treatment in history.

Auschwitz Birkenau Concentration Camp

An hour bus ride from Krakow, is the Auschwitz Museum.  

I’ll admit, I was torn as to whether I wanted to tour the site such extreme human suffering.  The day was certainly an uncomfortable experience witnessing the immense cruelty people were capable of, but I also felt that the museum succeeded in honoring the memory of those who were imprisoned and sharing a powerful message that events like this must never be tolerated by societies again.

I felt a bit dirty even snapping this photo while there, so this is all I have to share.

Remarkable and Humbling 5 days in Krakow, Poland

Schindler’s Factory Museum

If you’ve seen the movie Schindler’s List, you know the story.  Oskar Schindler was able to stay on good terms with the Nazi and used this to persuade them to continue to staff his factory with Jews so he could prevent them from being taken to Concentration Camps and also ensured they were sufficiently fed. He saved as many as 1,200 lives through the risks he took.  Visit this museum for glimpse into what life was like for the Jewish Community after the Nazi’s came into turning their neighborhood into a ghetto and depriving them of basic human needs.

Remarkable and Humbling 5 days in Krakow, Poland

Food and Drink

Dinner on the Main Square “Rynek Glowny”

You’ll pay a little extra for the location, but it’s worth it for the ambiance of musicians and being surrounded by hundreds of years worth of history.

Pretzel Carts

You’ll see them all over town, for less than $1, you can grab a pretzel on the go.

Pierogi

Savory/Sweet, try them all.

Remarkable and Humbling 5 days in Krakow, Poland

Milk Bars”Bar Mleczny”

We found some of our tastiest meals in Krakow were also the cheapest!   Milk Bars were first established during socialist times as cafes for workers to get affordable, nutritious meals quickly during their workday and many are still around today!   Three of us ate generous portions and drank beers for $17.

Beer

Poland was the first country in which we tried non-pasteurized beer.  Tyskie Niepasteryzowane was one example.  Worth trying!

Most basic Polish:

○ Hello (formal): Dzień dobry (Jeyn Dob-ry)
○ Thank you: Dziękuję. (Jenkoo-yeah)
○ Yes: Tak (tock)
○ No: Nie (nye)
○ Goodbye (formal): Do widzenia (do vee-dze-neeya)
○ Cheers!: Na zdrowie! (Naz-dro-vee-ay)

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