For centuries, Krakow has remained one of the best-preserved medieval city centers in Europe, thanks in part to its stunning Old Town, proclaimed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Wander through its cobblestone street to see traces of its rich history.
In almost every corner are spectacular relics associated with significant historical events. For nearly six centuries, Krakow served as home to the Polish Kings. This means history buff will never get bored in Krakow. Here are some of the places considered to be the most fascinating historical sites in Krakow.
No history of Krakow will ever be complete without mentioning Wawel. This historical monument is considered by many as the pride of the nation. A stroll along Wawel Hill and a trip to the Renaissance courtyard will take you back in time to when Wawel Hill was a ‘fortress.’
This place has been home to countless Polish rulers since the 11th century. One of the major highlights of Wawel Hill is the Wawel Castle, featuring a stately courtyard. Take a tour of the castle to explore its fascinating art exhibitions. Another highlight is the Wawel Cathedral, which once served as both the coronation site and burial place for the Polish kings.
2. Main Market Square
Certainly, the spot to start your Krakow tour. This is by far the most popular attraction in the city. This is unarguably Europe’s biggest market square located in the heart of the city.
The majority of the significant events and outdoor concerts in Krakow are held at this spot. This is where you’ll find a countless number of skillful artists displaying their stunning works of art.
3. Rynek Underground Museum
A one of its kind museum located nearly 6000 square meters beneath the Old Town square. Birthed after an archeological excavation revealed an ancient world, a visit to the underground museum provides well-structured details about the rich history of Krakow.
Visitors will be thrilled at the sight of the well-preserved burial ground and the remains of the brick stalls. Opened to the public in 2010, the museum features an array of temporary and permanent exhibitions. The permanent exhibitions include the Wealthy Stalls, an 11th-century graveyard, and the Great Scales. Kids will also have a swell time exploring the museum, making Rynek Underground Museum a perfect spot for families.
4. St. Florian’s Gate
The Florian Gate is a perfect example of the city’s defensive structure in the medieval age. Measuring 34.5 meters high, the Florian Gate is the only surviving Cracovian defensive gates preserved primarily for sightseeing in this present time.
The gate’s attractive features include the classical altar with a picture of Our Lady. The outdoor painting is impressively beautiful. Another thing that shouldn’t be missed is the art gallery that’s just next to the gate.
5. Collegium Maius
Renowned for being the oldest university building in Poland, Collegium Maius was established in the 14th century. It has a vast courtyard. Be entertained by the famous courtyard clock, which showcases wooden carved figures of royalties and professors at 11 am, 1 pm and 3 pm.
One attraction that catches the eyes of many is the Museum of the Jagiellonian University. The museum features a collection of unique science instruments, souvenirs, artworks, and professor’s rooms with their items. Be sure to stop by at the café, or the gift shop on site.
Allie Caulfield Flickr
6. Kazimierz Jewish District
Just within proximity to the city center is the most rapidly regenerating district. Take a leisure stroll along the maze of crooked streets and ancient structures to appreciate its old-world beauty.
Founded by King Kazimierz the Great in the early 14th century, the district has a long, rich history that’s worth exploring. Check out the Galicia Museum – one of the best spots in Krakow to learn more about the rich Jewish history and culture and the role they played in making Krakow what it is today.
7. Great Barbican
Want to know the strength of the military defense mechanism in Krakow in the medieval age? There’s only one place to visit – the Great Barbican. Dating back to the 15th century, the Great Barbican comprises thick stone walls that protect Krakow from unauthorized entry through its main entrance.
Archers have their own dedicated defensive slots on the thick stone wall for the purpose of fending off an invasion. Presently, the Great Barbican serves as a venue for highly significant concerts and events.
8. Salt Mine of Wieliczka
Millions of visitors flock into Krakow just to see this salt mine. The Salt Mine features many sights that will take your breath away. These include underground lakes, giant caverns, and chapels.
Plan your visit to coincide with the concerts and events that take place occasionally within the mine. Without over 900 years of mining, the Salt Mine of Wieliczka is home to the world’s biggest museum of mining with ancient mining equipment as an exhibit.
9. Town Hall Tower
Yet another historical site that shouldn’t be missed. Located at Rynek Glowny, the Town Hall Tower is 70 meters tall. Built-in the 13th century, the tower has been battered by series of fire outbreak, yet it has been restored. Beneath the Town Hall Tower is a café and theatre. Climb to the top of the tower to catch panoramic views of the city.
It features a vibrant atmosphere and surrounded by a few popular attractions such as the Town Hall and St. Mary’s Church. Here, you’ll also find the oldest shopping mall in the world, dating back 700 years ago. If you love shopping, you’ll never want to leave this area.
Today, Sukiennice features two rows of stalls selling souvenirs, artistic handicrafts, and jewelers. Once in Sukiennice, make sure you treat yourself to a nice cup of finely brewed coffee at one of the cafes.
As you can see, Krakow has lots of interesting historical sites for you. Put on a comfortable pair of shoes, grab your camera, and get ready for a time filled with fun and excitement.