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Kraków has established itself as somewhat of a phoenix. Sacked, conquered, invaded, dictated, it has bounced back from everything thrown at it, and in its current revamp, emerging from the grip of the Soviet Union, it’s serving up more unique Kraków experiences than ever.
Its volatile history has made it a city of contrasts, where medieval seamlessly blends with a cutting-edge cultural scene, and looming Gothic churches rub shoulders with graceful Renaissance Halls.
Kraków is a city determined to enjoy itself. At the forefront of creativity in art, music, literature, cuisine, film, it is also a paradise for festival-goers of any description. Every corner crackles with artistic energy, which along with the free-flowing vodka, does an extremely effective job of shutting out those chilly winter nights.
The Old Town
The Main Market Square, the largest medieval town square in Europe, acts as a spectacular hub from which the picturesque lanes and alleyways spider out from, dotted with cosy coffee shops, trendy bars and hidden gems round every new corner.
Take some time to wind your way through the colourful cobbled streets, uncovering alcoves with intriguing histories, rustic, dusty bookshops, or alleyways laden with the scent of hot pastries and coffees on the crisp air.
The Cultural Scene
Few cities have taken to a cultural revolution as easily and readily as Kraków. A sense of medieval dignity combined with an anarchic student population means that whether you’re a theatre obsessive, a food lover, a wine connoisseur, or simply a raver, Kraków will have you covered.
The artistic buzz seeps from every pore in the city, and a ceaseless haze of energy rests over the city, only getting hazier as night falls and Kraków comes to life. From operatic masterpieces to underground techno nights, fine-dining to hearty, traditional Polish fare, you’ll find no shortage of food for the soul, or indeed the stomach, here.
A Complex History
Kraków is the historian’s dream. Situated at the crossroads of Europe, it has inevitably found itself in the midst of countless wars, conquerings and revolutions over the years, and been witness to some of the darkest events in human history.
Having risen and fallen so often, having been at the centre of so much intrigue, history has woven its way into the very fabric of Kraków. A wide variety of stunning architectural masterpieces reflect the tempestuous timeline this city has run on, and it’s all waiting to be discovered.
When is the best time to go?
Kraków is, unsurprisingly, a popular destination year-round, so the best time to visit is when one of its seemingly countless festivals are running. June has a stacked calendar, as does the time around Christmas, so find what interests you and book around it.
Of course, the midsummer months are warm, verging on the balmy and sometimes touching the mid-twenties, whereas in the depths of winter, you’d be lucky to get many days higher than freezing. This, however, can simply make that trip to a snug cafe all the more rewarding.
And, of course, the Christmas markets here are a sight to behold.
Top 10 Must See Kraków Sites
Kraków acts as the base for the hundreds of travelers that visit the site of Auschwitz every single day. And it is an absolutely essential experience for anyone who finds themselves in this part of the world.
The scale of the tragedy, and the profound impact a tour of Auschwitz has upon an individual, is unfathomable until you’ve been there, until you have stood in the spot where untold horrors have occurred and had them relayed to you in distressingly human terms.
A stark reminder of the human capacity for evil and a harrowing memorial for the victims of the Holocaust, it is a haunting, yet entirely necessary journey you need to take.
St. Mary’s Basilica
An imposing brick church located just off the main square, St. Mary’s is instantly recognisable thanks to its two soaring bell towers. A church with a rich history stretching back to the 13th century, a tour of the stunningly intricate interior is well worth your time. Pablo Picasso describes some of the paintings in here as the eighth wonder of the world.
Take the opportunity to climb the magnificent bell tower, rewarding yourself with gorgeous views of the city stretched out before you.
Wieliczka Salt Mine
Tumble headlong down the 300km of twisting, crystalline tunnels and chambers, burrowing as far down at 300m. An incredible feat of human engineering, you will stumble around corners to discover spectacular subterranean chapels and deep green saline lakes.
A labyrinth split over nine levels, there are countless examples of intricate sculptures and imposing structures hewn directly out of the rock salt you’re buried beneath.