Discovering Krakow: A Guide to Poland's Historic City

Discovering Krakow: A Guide to Poland's Historic City

Poland, Krakow
Welcome to Krakow, a city where every street leads to new discoveries and ancient buildings remember a history that goes back centuries.

Krakow, the second largest city in Poland, has long been considered the cultural capital of the country and one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. It attracts millions of tourists from all over the world with its unique medieval atmosphere, imbued with heritage.

The historical center of Poland

Krakow is a living legend. As the capital of Poland in the past, it has witnessed many important historical events that shaped not only the city itself, but the entire country. Here is Wawel Castle, the ancient residence of Polish kings, which now serves as one of the country's most important museums. Krakow is also famous for its old university, the Jagiellonian, which educated many outstanding scientists and literary figures.

Cultural Heart

With theatres, museums, galleries and With its magnificent architectural monuments, Krakow is often called the cultural capital of Poland. The city is proud of its music and film festivals, which attract talent from around the world, and is home to leading cultural institutions, including the National Museum and the Philharmonic.

Gateway to the Past

Walking along the narrow cobbled streets of Krakow, you can feel how time slows down. The Market Square, one of the largest in Europe, is the vibrant center of the city with daily fairs, street musicians and cafes wafting with the smell of freshly brewed coffee and traditional Polish pies. Every corner of the city is filled with history, from ancient churches to secret courtyards and dungeons that hold stories about the rich past of this amazing place.

An invitation to travel

This guide is for those who want to dive deeper into the behind-the-scenes of Krakow, its history, culture and traditions. Together we will travel through its streets, discover the best places to visit, learn about local legends and rituals, and perhaps discover something completely new. Get ready to experience a city that never fails to inspire.

Historical overview of Krakow

Krakow, one of the oldest cities in Poland, occupies a special place in the history of the country. Founded in the 7th century, Krakow remained the center of political, cultural and academic life in Poland for centuries. In this chapter, we look at the key historical periods that shaped the city and its unique character.

Foundation and Development

According to legend, the city was founded and is named after Prince Krak, who defeated the dragon and built a city on its ashes. Scientific research confirms that the first settlements on the territory of modern Krakow appeared in the Stone Age, but significant development of the city began in the 10th century.

Krakow in the Middle Ages

In 1038, Krakow became the capital of Poland, and this played a key role in its further development. The construction of Wawel Castle, which became the residence of the Polish kings, symbolized the importance of the city. The medieval walls, which were built to protect against frequent attacks, are today one of the many historical landmarks remaining in the city.

Renaissance and Baroque

Krakow flourished during the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Many buildings in the city center, including the famous Cloth Hall and St. Mary's Basilica, were rebuilt or restored during this period. The cultural life of the city flourished: the Jagiellonian University, one of the oldest in Europe, opened, which attracted scientists and artists from all over Europe.

The period of the partitions of Poland

The end of the 18th century marked the beginning of difficult times for Krakow due to the division of Poland between Russia, Prussia and Austria. The city was assigned to the Austrian Empire, which influenced its architectural and cultural landscape.

XX century and modern times

Despite the difficulties of the first and second world wars, during which Krakow experienced significant destruction and occupation, the city managed to preserve much of its historical heritage. Today, Krakow is an important tourist, educational and cultural center of Poland, which continues to attract visitors with its rich historical past and picturesque architecture.

Each stage in the history of Krakow has left its mark on the architecture, culture and soul of the city , making it a living testimony to centuries-old history.

Market Square (Market)

Market Square in Krakow, also known as the Market, is the heart of the old city and one of the most famous historical squares in Europe. This is a place where medieval history meets modern life, creating a unique atmosphere that can only be felt here.

Historical overview

Market Square was founded in 1257, when Krakow received Magdeburg rights. Since then, the square has remained the constant center of public, commercial and social life of the city. The size of the square is impressive: it occupies about 40,000 square meters, making it one of the largest in Europe.

Architectural pearls

The square contains Numerous historical and architectural monuments, among which stand out:

  • Cloth Hall: A majestic building in the Renaissance style, which previously served as a shopping center. Today you can buy traditional Polish products and souvenirs here.
  • St. Mary's Basilica: One of the most famous landmarks in Krakow. Every hour, a heraldic trumpet march sounds from its high tower, reminiscent of Polish heroism.
  • Town Hall Tower: The only remaining element of the old town hall, destroyed in the 19th century. From the top of the tower there is a stunning view of the old town.

The life of the square

The Market Square comes alive not only during the day, but also at night. Various festivals, fairs and other public events take place here. The square is surrounded by numerous cafes, restaurants and bars, where you can enjoy both traditional Polish cuisine and international dishes.

Cultural significance

Market Square is a place where stories and legends live, passed on from generation to generation. It is a meeting place for city residents and visitors from different parts of the world.

Modern events

Every year there are many events held here, including a Christmas market, a cultural festival, and various musical and cultural events that attract thousands of visitors.


A visit to the Market Square not only allows you to immerse yourself in history, but also to feel the pulsating life of modern Krakow. It is a place where the past meets the present, where every stone and every corner speaks of the city's centuries-old history, making the Market the true heart of Krakow.

Royal Castle Wawel

The Wawel Royal Castle, located on the hill of the same name, is one of the most significant symbols of Polish statehood and history. This is a place where history, culture and art intertwine, making it a must-see for everyone who comes to Krakow.

Historical significance

Wawel Castle served as the residence of the kings of Poland for many centuries and is a symbol of Polish national identity. Founded in the 10th century, the castle was rebuilt in Renaissance style in the 16th century, when Poland was experiencing its political and cultural heyday.


Wawel Castle impresses with its architectural harmony, combining elements of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles. The main castle building is surrounded by defensive walls and several towers, including the famous Sigismund's Tower, which is one of the most prominent in Krakow.

Internal collections

Inside the castle there are numerous exhibitions dedicated to the history of Poland and the Jagiellonian dynasty. Visitors can see royal regalia, ancient textiles, portraits of monarchs, ancient weapons and many other exhibits that tell the rich history of the castle and the country.

Cathedral on the castle grounds

On the territory of Wawel there is also a cathedral, the place of coronation and burial of Polish monarchs. The cathedral is known for its unique architectural features and numerous chapels, each of which has its own unique design.

Cultural events

Wawel Castle is not only a historical museum , but also an important cultural center of Krakow. It regularly hosts exhibitions, classical music concerts, theater performances and other cultural events that attract both locals and tourists.

Importance for modern times

Today Wawel remains one of the most popular places among tourists and a significant cultural heritage not only of Krakow, but of the whole of Poland. It recalls the country's glorious past and continues to inspire generations of Poles and foreign visitors with its beauty and significance.

A visit to Wawel offers a unique opportunity to experience the connections between times and immerse yourself in the atmosphere of grandeur and history that lives within these walls . It is a key point on any trip to Krakow, allowing you to gain a deeper understanding of the historical and cultural fabric of the city.

Jewish Quarter Kazimierz

Kazimierz, Krakow's historic Jewish quarter, is a unique place where history, culture and contemporary art intertwine. This area, named after King Casimir the Great, who founded it in the 14th century, was home to the city's Jewish population for many centuries.

Historical significance

Kazimierz became a refuge for Jews fleeing persecution in Europe, and over the centuries it developed as a separate city full of Jewish culture and traditions. However, during the Second World War the area was almost completely destroyed and its population suffered from the Holocaust.

Architectural heritage

Today Kazimierz is famous for its well-known preserved synagogues and historical buildings that testify to the rich history of the area. Among the most significant objects:

  • Old Synagogue: The oldest synagogue in Poland, built in the Renaissance style, today it is a museum of Jewish culture.
  • Remu Synagogue and Cemetery: One of the oldest cemeteries in Europe, where many prominent figures of the Jewish community are buried.

Cultural Revival

After the fall of communism, Kazimierz experienced a revival as a cultural and artistic center. Festivals of Jewish music and culture regularly take place here, including the famous Krakow Festival of Jewish Culture, which attracts participants from all over the world.

Contemporary art and life

Kazimierz has also become a destination for young people and creative people, with its many galleries, shops and cafes offering contemporary art and alternative culture. The area is famous for its street art walls and is a popular destination for locals and tourists for evening strolls.


Kazimierz is also famous for its culinary offerings, including traditional Jewish dishes such as dumplings, gefilte fish and kugel. Numerous restaurants and cafes delight guests with authentic cuisine and a cozy atmosphere.


Kazimierz, with its rich heritage and contemporary art, represents a unique a combination of past and present, where every corner of the street tells its own story. It's a place to immerse yourself in the history, culture and spirit of Krakow, making it an essential part of any trip to the city.

Dungeons and secrets of Krakow

Krakow is known not only for its visible historical and cultural attractions, but also for its many secrets hidden underground. The city's dungeons and secret places are testament to a rich and mystical history, attracting explorers and adventurers from all over the world.

Historical context

Krakow's dungeons were created over centuries and used for a variety of reasons - from medieval trading warehouses to shelters during wars. Over time, these underground passages turned into labyrinths full of legends and stories.

Underground Market Route

One of the most famous underground routes starts right under the Market Square. This is the Rynek Underworld Museum, which offers visitors a journey into Krakow's past. Exhibitions demonstrate archaeological finds, ancient buildings and household items excavated right under the central square of the city.

Dragon Cave

Another famous underground attraction is Dragon Cave, located at the foot of Wawel Hill. According to legend, a dragon lived in this cave and terrorized the city until it was defeated by a cunning shoe maker. Today the cave is a popular place for excursions, and at its entrance stands the famous statue of the Wawel Dragon.

Crypts and catacombs

Krakow is also famous for its church crypts and catacombs that contain the tombs of significant historical figures and provide unique evidence of the past. The Wawel Cathedral Crypt is the final resting place of many Polish kings and national heroes.

Secrets in Time

Exploring Krakow's underground provides a unique insight into the historical layer of the city, which usually remains hidden from view. Excursions to these mystical places attract tourists with their secrets and the opportunity to touch ancient history.


The underground of Krakow is a mysterious and alluring world, full of stories and legends. They represent an integral part of the city's cultural and historical heritage, making it even more attractive to those seeking not only visible attractions, but also hidden treasures. A journey into these underground worlds allows you to gain a deeper understanding of the complexity and diversity of Krakow's history, turning each visit into an unforgettable adventure.

Culinary delights of Krakow

Krakow is not only rich in history and culture, but is also a true paradise for gourmets. Polish cuisine, with its unique dishes and traditions, is especially well represented in this city. In this chapter, we explore Krakow's culinary heritage, from traditional Polish snacks to modern gastronomic trends.

Traditional Dishes

Krakow is famous for its classic Polish dishes Everyone Should Try:

  • Perogies: These boiled or fried dumplings are filled with all sorts of fillings, including meat, cabbage, mushrooms and cheese. Russian perogs with potatoes and cottage cheese are especially popular.
  • Zurek: Thick and aromatic soup made from sour sourdough bread with the addition of sausage and boiled egg, which is usually served in a bread plate.
  • Bigos: Traditional a dish of sauerkraut, various types of meat and a wide range of spices, often eaten during Polish national and family holidays.

Klepsydra Market

For real gourmets, a visit to Klepsydra , Krakow's main food market, will be a real adventure. Here you can find fresh local products, including cheeses, sausages, fresh baked goods and seasonal vegetables and fruits.

Local cafes and restaurants

Krakow is famous for with its cozy cafes and restaurants where you can enjoy both traditional Polish cuisine and international dishes:

  • Milk Bar: These inexpensive cafeterias offer homemade Polish cuisine at very attractive prices and are part of the cultural Polish heritage.
  • Fusion restaurants: In recent years, many restaurants have opened in Krakow, offering creative takes on traditional dishes, combining them with global gastronomic trends.

Modern Culinary Trends

Krakow also features a vibrant contemporary café and restaurant scene, where local chefs experiment with ingredients and cooking methods to create new gastronomic delights.

Festivals and events

Every year, Krakow hosts culinary festivals such as the Perogov Festival or the Chocolate Festival, where visitors can try a variety of dishes and sweets prepared by artisans business.


A culinary tour of Krakow is an opportunity to taste delicious food, but also a way to get to know the culture and history of the city through its dishes. From traditional Polish snacks to modern culinary experiences, Krakow offers a wealth of flavors that will leave you with an unforgettable experience.

Cultural life and events in Krakow

Krakow is a city where culture surrounds you at every turn. From historic theaters to modern art galleries, from classical music to street festivals, Krakow offers a variety of cultural events that make it one of Europe's leading cultural centers.

Theater Stage

Krakow is known for its rich theatrical tradition. City theaters such as the Old Helena Modrzewska Theatre, one of the oldest theaters in Poland, present a wide range of works from classics to contemporary plays. Summer festivals such as the Street Theater Festival transform urban spaces into live stages accessible to everyone.

Music Events

Music Plays central role in the cultural life of Krakow. The annual festival of contemporary music "Sakrum Profanum" brings together artists from all over the world, presenting avant-garde musical experiments. Krakow is also home to the Philharmonic, where you can enjoy classical music of the highest quality.

Art galleries and museums

There are many galleries and museums in Krakow , each of which offers its own unique exhibitions. The National Museum in Krakow is one of the most important museum complexes in the country, housing priceless art, including Leonardo da Vinci's famous painting Lady with an Ermine. Contemporary galleries such as MOCAK (Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow) present the work of contemporary artists and actively participate in the cultural life of the city.

Cinema and film festivals

Krakow is also famous for its cinematic events. The Krakow International Film Festival is one of the oldest festivals in Europe, attracting filmmakers and film fans from all over the world. The city actively supports independent cinema, offering numerous cinemas and film clubs for screening art-house and experimental films.

Literary Heritage

Literature has a special place in the soul of Krakow. The city is rightly proud of its literary connections with such famous figures as the poet and Nobel laureate Wislawa Szymborska and the writer Joseph Conrad. Literary festivals, including the International Poetry Festival, and regular readings and meet-and-greets keep the city's literary culture alive and accessible.


Cultural life in Krakow is a palette of events and experiences that reflect the city's deep respect for art, music and literature. This is a place where tradition meets modernity, creating a rich and diverse cultural landscape that is accessible to every visitor and resident of the city.

Around Krakow

Krakow, while an extremely rich and interesting city in its own right, is also an excellent starting point for exploring the surrounding area. There are many places to visit nearby, each offering unique experiences and discoveries.

Wieliczka Salt Mine

One of the main attractions , located near Krakow, is the Wieliczka Salt Mine. This amazing site, included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, is famous for its underground halls and chapels carved directly into the salt. A visit to Wieliczka is not only an opportunity to see how salt was mined, but also to experience the mysterious atmosphere of the underground world.

Zakopane and the Tatras

For lovers nature and mountain landscapes, a trip to Zakopane, located at the foot of the Tatras, is an ideal choice. This town attracts tourists with its scenic views, winter sports opportunities and distinctive mountain culture. The hiking and cycling routes of the Tatras offer magnificent scenery and the opportunity to enjoy clean mountain air.


A visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial complex is powerful and important experience. This former Nazi concentration camp, located about an hour's drive from Krakow, serves as a reminder of the tragedy of the Holocaust and the importance of preserving the memory of the past.


For those interested in religious culture and history, it is worth visiting the city of Czestochowa, where Jasna Gora is located - one of the most famous Catholic pilgrimage centers in Poland. The monastery is famous for the miraculous icon of the Black Madonna, which millions of pilgrims from all over the world come to venerate every year.

Oykush Water World

For families with children or those For those looking for relaxation, it would be a good idea to visit the Oykush Water Park, which offers a variety of attractions, water slides and swimming pools where you can have fun and take a break from the bustle of the city.


The Krakow area offers a wide range of places to visit, each of which can add new experiences to your trip. Whether it's a historical dive into the past, outdoor activities or cultural visits, there is something for everyone, making your holiday in Krakow and the surrounding area truly unforgettable.

The magic of Krakow

Krakow is a city that exceeds every traveler's expectations. It combines rich history, spectacular scenery, cultural diversity and culinary abundance. Walking through its streets, you are immersed in history that comes to life in architectural masterpieces, in centuries-old traditions and in legends that echo in ancient halls and narrow alleys.

Preserving history

Krakow has skillfully preserved its rich past, turning many of its historic sites into museums and galleries for you to explore and admire. The city is proud of its roots, reflecting this in every aspect of its life, from daily rituals to major annual events.

Cultural diversity

Krakow is a melting pot of cultures with something for everyone. Music, art, theater, literature - the city offers countless events and festivals that reflect its cosmopolitan character and attract talent from around the world.

Culinary delight

The cuisine of Krakow is a feast for gourmets. The combination of ancient recipes with modern gastronomic trends creates unique taste sensations that remain in the memory for a long time. From traditional dishes to experimental treats, Krakow surprises and delights.

Doors to adventure

Thanks to its location, Krakow also serves as a gateway to other parts Poland and Europe. There are both natural and historical treasures nearby, each of which can be explored on a day trip.

Meet the Future

Despite With deep historical roots, Krakow never stops looking to the future, actively developing and adapting to new challenges and opportunities. The city embraces its rich past as a foundation for innovation and growth.

Krakow is a place where every step along the pavement leads to a new discovery, every Wawel sunset seems magical, and the air is filled with the aromas of ancient and new dishes. A trip to Krakow leaves an indelible impression and makes you want to return again and again to re-experience its indescribable charm. This city is a living page in the book of world history and culture.

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