Krakow, Poland was never on my radar, until about four months ago. I had plenty of preconceptions about a trip to Poland. Gray, third world poverty, monotone buildings and dress, horrible food and an Eastern European culture still trying to shed its Soviet era past. That is so far from the reality of Krakow that I feel rather foolish for not being aware of one of the most happening places in Europe until last week. I am in love with Krakow after discovering this European gem of a vacation destination.
Krakow Rynek Glowny, Grand Square – Central Market Square
Krakow’s Rynek Glowny is a 10-acre central square of the city. This Grand Square is the largest for any medieval city in Europe. The central square market stalls have been around since the 13th century. Krakow was made the capital of Poland nearly 1,000 years ago and remained Poland’s cultural capital, even after Warsaw claimed capital city status several centuries ago.
Wawel Castle, Krakow.
Interesting architecture is found all around Krakow and also a bit of grime, yet there is a prevailing safe feeling in the locational grittiness.
Kelley got nervous walking around Podgórze area of Krakow across the Vistula River from Old Town and Kazimierz via a pedestrian footbridge. Seeing a homeless man on the street with what appeared to be a gangrenous leg kind of turned her off to the neighborhood. I did not feel threatened there. The area simply had a lot of construction work going on. And as far as street beggars around Krakow, to tell the truth, I counted far more street beggars in Stockholm, Sweden than I saw walking around for six days in Krakow, Poland.
Thousand of locks are attached to the Podgorze pedestrian bridge fences.
Separate bicycle lanes bridge across Vistula River.
In Stockholm we walked around the Gamla Stan old town on a ghost tour with colorful and entertaining stories of the city’s history. Podgorze truly has ghosts. If you have seen Schindler’s List, then you have seen a re-enactment of the Krakow Ghetto events of WW II. Podgorze is the area where a portion of Krakow was walled off by the Nazis during WWII to create the Krakow Jewish Ghetto and 17,000 residents were confined to an area that previously held 3,000. The hip neighborhood of Kazimierz on the other side of the river from Podgorze was historically the Jewish area since the late 15th century and is today the center of low key nightlife.
Krakow Ghetto Wall, photo from Schindler’s Enamelworks Factory Museum, Podgorze, Krakow. Only two small portions of the wall remain in Podgorze and I did not reach either of those spaces.
Plac Bohaterow Getta square, ‘Ghetto Heroes Square’ is a Podgorze memorial commemorating the Jewish ghetto and the Krakow Jews.
Jagiellonian University in Old Town Krakow near Wawel Castle is the oldest university in Poland (1364) and second oldest in Central Europe behind Prague (1348).
Nikolaus Copernicus (1473-1543), formulator of heliocentric theory (sun as center of universe), was a student at University of Krakow – Jagiellonian University.
Krakow had an astounding 10 million visitors in 2015 with 2.62 million international visitors. That is respectable tourism data considering London has 17.4 million, Paris 15.0 million, and New York 12.2 million. Rome at 8.8m, Prague 6.3m and Amsterdam 5.7m are probably on more tourists’ radar, but Krakow is hands down the least expensive of these cities for a vacation.
St. Mary’s Basilica (Bazylika Mariacki) on Rynek Glowny main market square, Krakow. Young person carrying large Jesus flag during Catholic World Youth Days July 2016.
Horse Carriage tourist transportation through Old Town Krakow.
Local transportation for locals. We were struck by the petite people we saw around the city, yet there is also the volleyball player contingent. This looked like a petite person’s kind of car.
So many of the little alterations in Krakow caught my attention and provided a contrast to my regular American-centric life and USA places.
24-Hour Alkohole shops are a common sighting in Krakow’s tourist areas.
Krakow is green in the city center with Planty Park. The park encircles Stare Miasto (Old Town) Krakow in the place where the city medieval walls once stood.
When satiated with museums and parks and sightseeing activities, Kazimierz, the historic Jewish quarter prior to WWII, is a trendy place for nightlife with bars, restaurants, boutique shops and art.
Krakow gets extremely high tourist ratings with over 95% international tourists stating they would recommend the city to a friend and over 80% stating they plan to return.
I concur and I am about 80% certain I will return to Krakow sometime in the next two years. I loved this place.