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Cracow

Listed under Historic Towns and Villages in Kraków, Poland.

  • Photo of Cracow
  • Photo of Cracow
  • Photo of Cracow
  • Photo of Cracow
  • Photo of Cracow
  • Photo of Cracow
  • Photo of Cracow
  • Photo of Cracow
Photo of Cracow
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'The historic centre of Cracow, the former capital of Poland, is situated at the foot of the Royal Wawel Castle. The 13th-century merchants' town has Europe's largest market square and numerous historical houses, palaces and churches with their magnificent interiors. Further evidence of the town's fascinating history is provided by the remnants of the 14th-century fortifications and the medieval site of Kazimierz with its ancient synagogues in the southern part of town, Jagellonian University and the Gothic cathedral where the kings of Poland were buried.'

Copyright © UNESCO/World Heritage Centre. All rights reserved.

UNESCO.

Written by press.

Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers

Krakow from an Aussie vierwpoint

Krakow is a delightful city. The focus is Rynek Główny, or main market square. It is the largest square in Europe. Rynek is vibrant at any time but takes on another life on weekend summer evenings. The square is best approached by starting at the Barbican, an old fortress on the edge of the town. The thick walls are worth closer inspection. Walk through the Florian Gate into Ul Florianska, a pedestrian boulevard. Here most of the top name shops are to be seen. Whilst the prices are lower than in other western cities, they are still pricey by Polish standards. In the distance you will see the Basilica of St Mary with its distinctive towers. They were built by disputing brothers and are at differing heights. Every hour a bugler sounds from the high tower in memory of warnings from days of old.

On certain days you can climb the tower. This gives you a wonderful view of the old town and even Wawel Castle.

Passing St Mary's you enter Rynek. The square is dominated in the centre by the Cloth Hall which houses a gallery and ethnological tourist items. It has been rebuilt after fire damage but has retained an air of authenticity.

By now you will be thirsty. There are casual bars and cafes all around the square. These make a pleasant place to relax and enjoy the sights and sounds. Krakow used to be famous for its pigeons but the administration appears to have dealt with them. They are still in evidence but no longer fight you for space.

Having soaked up the atmosphere it is pleasant to walk along SW Anny past Collegium Maius where Copernicus studied and past the former residence of Pope John Paul II and into the Planty, a cool arboretum surrounding the old town. If you stay in the Planty you can make you way to Wawel Castle which is worth a day on its own.

Krakow is a very reasonably priced city. The złoty hovers around $A0.45 Food is comparatively cheap and very good. Beer is lower priced than in Australia. Vodka is well priced. Wine is more expensive and the quality is variable. The Poles have yet to really develop a taste for the grape.

Rynek will always provide a good meal but, being a tourist magnet you will pay the highest prices. Moving further afield to places like Kazimierz in the old Jewish quarter will pay dividends. Not only will the venue be quieter and the prices lower but you might find offerings not seen elsewhere.

Whilst in Kazimierz, it is worth taking a look at small square that formed the hub of the ghetto and at the synagogues, some of which include museum displays. At night Kazimierz is becoming the equivalent of Glebe where those in the know can get away from the tourists.

Accommodation is plentiful in Krakow. You can have anything from an hostel to an hotel, a B&B or an apartment.

Transport is great. Taxis are readily available. When you book they tell you the colour and make of car and the ETA. Waits rarely exceed 5 minutes.

Taxis are metered so fares are standard. Buses and trams are also widely available. Tickets (bilety) can be bought from the driver but this involves a penalty. It is better to buy them at a kiosk beforehand. Pretty much any kiosk near a stop will have them on sale. Tickets work on an honour system where the rider stamps them in a machine. It is possible to scale but there are plain clothed inspectors.

Krakow seems to be a very safe city. I have spent six months there and have never seen anything untoward. I have found the people to be charming and accepting. They even try to understand me with Aussie accented Polish.

English is spoken almost universally in Rynek and at major attractions.

Beware though if you are English. Last summer, restaurants were turning away Brits, saying they were full. Apparently this was a reaction to very boisterous English tourists dissuading other potential diners from entering.

Nearby Krakow are other sites of interest. Auschwitz is a train or bus trip away. It is a harrowing experience as it remains authentic. Several of the displays brought me to tears. On a lighter note is Wieliczka Salt Mine. It is expensive but if you have never been in a salt mine, it is a unique experience. The guides lead you through several kilometres of passages with larger than life size carvings, dioramas and lakes. There is even a bar and a restaurant.

Krakow makes a good base to see Europe. It is reasonably central and travel to most anywhere is still cheap using the budget airlines. Before you travel it pays to check your luggage allowance. Stirling Air limits you to 15Kg and charges an arm and a leg for each Kg over if you don't pay in advance. Not all the carriers have such a low limit but it is in your interest to check.

I am in love with Krakow and cannot wait for my next trip.

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