One weekend for Cracow
Krakow is this kind of city, which cannot be visited during one weekend. However, today's lifestyle doesn’t allow us to stay longer in one place. A city with more than a thousand years of history, many churches, townhouses, squares, theaters and parks gives us a great opportunity when it comes to the choice of hiking trails.
Let us assume that the typical tourist comes to Krakow on Friday evening. After arrival and accommodation, it is important to familiarize oneself with the climate of the city. Late in the night you cannot go to most of the museums, instead you should take a walk around the Planty Park. Usually, the stroll starts around the Barbican, which protected the city from the north side. It is a Gothic-style structure, which was built in the late fifteenth century. Some time ago, it was connected to the city walls. Now, there are only three Gothic towers remained in all Krakow: from the east the Haberdashers' Tower, and from the west the Jointers’ and the Carpenters’ Tower. Apart from that, the city has also retained the municipal arsenal. There’s an interesting anecdote connected with the issue of the retention of this part of the city walls. In the first half of the nineteenth century, the walls and churches were torn down, just to make more space in the city. Feliks Radwanski, a well-known architect from Krakow, raised the issue that the Florian’s Gate has to be preserved, simply because it would be rude letting ladies dresses to be windswept by northern winds. And so the Gate is still there.
Direction: Main Square
We go down the Florianska Street to the Main Square. Walk through Via Reggia, the Royal Road traversed by the Kings of Poland. It’s the famous road of coronations and funerals. It leads up to the castle on Wawel Hill. On the Florianska Street you can see the townhouse No. 45, in which a famous café "Michalik's Den” is located. It’s a place where you can step in for a coffee and a cake. A place, in whose stylish interiors you will feel like you were a member of the Krakow artistic bohemians of the early twentieth century. It’s right here, where the "Green Balloon" cabaret performed. It was here, where Boy-Zelenski, Pilsudski, Wyspiański and Slawek met. After the rest you should check the townhouse No. 41, it’s where Matejko lived. The townhouse No. 14 is also worth visiting. It’s called Hotel Pod Różą (Under the Rose), which is well-known because Tsar Alexander I, Duke Konstantin Pavlovich, and Franz Liszt used to live there.
Walking down the Florianska Street, we see the Main Square from the north – it is one of the largest marketplaces of the Medieval Europe. In the evening it is worth just to stroll around the Square, turn right and go to the north side to check the beautiful illuminations. At the corner of the Florianska Street we have Mennica house (Mint) in which Kosciuszko and Moniuszko slept. On the facade of the townhouse No. 45, Pod Orłem, you can see a phoenix, which was designed by Stanislaw Wyspianski. On this side of the Main Square, you have to pay your attention to the townhouse No. 41, “Pod Feniksem”. It belonged to the Vienna Insurance Company "Phoenix" and was rebuilt in the interwar period by Adolf Szyszko-Bohusz. It has a modern structure, which is quite original in comparison with the old city center. At the end of the northern part of the Main Square, we have a townhouse “Pod Jeleniem”, which was visited by Goethe and Tsar Nicholas I. Now we walk along the west frontage. On the corner there is “Krzysztofory Palace”, in which today the Historical Museum of Krakow is located. It is worth to see the arcaded courtyard. One of the most representative townhouses located around the Main Square is “Piwnica Pod Baranami” at No 27. It is known, because the Cabaret Piwnica pod Baranami , was set up there. The numerous guests, who sojourned in the mansion include Jan Kochanowski, Luke Górnicki, Prince Jozef Poniatowski and Kaiser Franz Josef. Now we head toward the Town Hall tower, which was founded in the fourteenth century, and is a relic of the old Town Hall. There is a sculpture in the shape of the head under the Tower, made by Igor Mitoraj. A lot of tourists take pictures here. Strolling around the Main Square, we traverse along the southern frontage. At the corner of Wiślna Street there is a building “Pod Św. Janem Kapistranem” (Saint John of Capistrano). The Saint was once staying in Krakow, and that’s where the name of the house comes from. The legend says that Mr. Twardowski lived in the building. At No. 21, “Pod Ewangelistami”, a famous poet, Władysław Orkan died. An interesting element of the townhouse at No. 19 is a picture of Virgin Mary, after which the townhouse “Pod Obrazem” has its name. It is worth to step into the hall of the “Hetmańska” townhouse (the old Mint house, No. 17) where you can see the one of the best preserved Gothic vaults in Krakow. In the townhouse No. 15 the famous restaurant “Wierzynek” is located. In the eastern frontage of the Market Square, the attention is drawn to the townhouse No. 8 "Pod Jaszczurką". Today, it houses the famous student’s club of the same name. Heading toward St. Mary’s Church we pass the townhouse “Szara” at No. 6. During the uprising, it housed the headquarters of Tadeusz Kościuszko. Today's interior was designed by Joseph Mehoffer. Move a bit toward the center, and you can see the statue of Adam Mickiewicz, designed by Theodore Rygier. Right behind it, the sixteenth century “Sukiennice” is located, which continues to trade till these days, however only with souvenirs. Of course, we cannot omit St. Mary’s Church, as the most important in the city and having the highest tower. It’s impossible not to notice the wooden gothic altarpiece carved by Veit Stoss, the mannerist ciborium, ornaments, and the chapel. After sightseeing, you can go out for a dinner, which, depending on the local, can costs you from 20 zł up. In Krakow you can find cuisines starting from the Japanese, ending with the U.S.
Museums and other attractions
You should start the second day of exploring Krakow with museums. On the first place, you should visit the Wawel Castle, in order to omit afternoon traffics. When on the Hill, you should see the exhibition "The Lost Wawel", where you explore the archaeological discoveries, beginning with the development of the Wawel Hill, from the Middle Ages to modern times. And later - the Cathedral. Inside, you should see the confession tomb of St. Stanislaus, the tomb of King Casimir the Great, Sigismund’s Chapel, the royal tombs, Bishop chapels and climb up the tower to see the Sigmund’s Bell and the panoramic view of the old town of Cracow. The key point is the renaissance Wawel Royal Castle. Very unique in our region. It was built in the first half of the fifteenth century. Due to the limited time, it’s best to visit the representative chambers on the second floor and the East exhibition, which includes the trophies won at Vienna. Going down the Wawel Castle, we go along the Vistula River straight to Kazimierz District. Begin the exploration of this area with the church Na Skałce where St. Stanislaus was murdered and where every year a holy procession honoring this event goes from Wawel. Another point is kościół św. Katarzyny (St. Catherine’s Church). It is the longest church in all Krakow. It was built in the fourteenth century and was damaged in the nineteenth-century by the earthquake. We go to the Square Wolnica. It was the market square of the old town of Kazimierz. Direct your attention to the Town Hall and the Church of Corpus Christi, founded by Casimir the Great. Going down the street of St. Lawrence, we pass the industrial architecture of the nineteenth century and reach the Jewish quarter. Before the World War II there was more than 60,000 Jews in all Krakow. Today, only a few hundred are left. It is worth to have a lunch on the Szeroka Street, or in some other pub in Kazimierz. Then we visit the museum in the Old Synagogue located on the Szeroka street, and the Synagogue Remuh with adjoining cemetery. While walking through Kazimierz it is worth to stop at Kupa and Popper Synagogues. Then we cross the Vistula River and head to Plaszow, where we visit the museum in the former Schindler factory. Next you can take a tram, jump off at the Main Post Office and visit the churches of Cracow. Of course, it is impossible to visit all of them, but worth of recommendation are (in the order of sightseeing): St. Mary's Church , St. Anna (after visiting this church, we go to the university area, and visit the Collegium Maius), Franciscan Church, Dominican Church, Peter and Paul Church, St. Andrew's Church, and the Church of St. Giles. From under the Wawel Hill we go straight to one of the many restaurants in Krakow for a dinner. On the evening, Krakow offers a lot of fun and parties until dawn in many clubs, discos and restaurants. Everyone, from a millionaire to a student, can find something suitable.
The architecture of Socialist realism
On Sunday, you can go to Nowa Huta and see the architecture of socialist realism. In this district, worth of recommendation is the Central Square, the gate to the steelworks, and the Lord’s Ark (Kościół Arka Pana). It’s a place where the cross of Nowa Huta was defended during the solidarity strikes, and then the church (The Cistercian Abbey of Mogila, with the grave of Vincent Kadłubek) emerged, along with crucified Christ, who had grown hair. After returning to the city center you should see the art gallery in the Cloth Hall, the Wyspiański museum and the museum in the basement of the Main Square. After dinner you can relax in the Jordan Park or ascend the Kosciuszko Mound and enjoy the view of the city. Being in the area you can not forget about the lovely monastery of Norbertine Sisters and Church of the Holy Savior - one of the oldest in Krakow.
Weekend in Krakow is slowly coming to an end, so you should say goodbye to the royal city by entering the Main Square for the last time. Then you just need to get safely to your home and talk about this beautiful place. Surely, the whole city cannot be visited over one weekend, but you can easily visit the most important things. All together, Krakow is a city that won’t allow anyone to say "goodbye". There's always a reason to come back.