What to see and do in Krakow, Poland
The main sights to see in Krakow are in the old historic part of town.
1 – Main Market Square (Rynek Glowny) – The main square in Krakow is the largest medieval square in Europe and dates back to the 13th century. The Cloth Hall, or Sukiennice, is the building in the center of the square where you will find market stalls mostly selling tourist souvenirs. Use the main square as a base for direction as all the streets going out from the square lead to more main attractions.
-Fun Fact – Every hour, on the hour you will hear a trumpet being played from the tallest tower of St. Mary’s Basilica in the Main Market Square. The trumpet song is abruptly stopped to honor a trumpeter shot and killed over 700 years ago by a Tatar arrow as he sounded the alarm before the Mongols’ attack on the city!
2 – St. Mary’s Basilica in Krakow – The basilica sits on one side of Main Market Square and looks like a perfect little red brick building. Originally built in the 13th century, St. Mary’s Basilica was re-built in the 14th century. You can enter the church for free, but the free entrance only gives you access to the back of the church, seeing the altar and choir from afar. I advise that you pay to enter St. Mary’s Basilica so you can see the famous carved wooden altar, and see all of the painted details of the ceiling and the walls, admire the choir, and so much more up close! The wooden altar in St. Mary’s Basilica is said to be the largest Gothic altar in the World! The altar took 12 years to make and was sculpted by Veit Stoss (Wit Stwosz).
The inside of St. Mary’s Basilica in Krakow is truly astounding in detail; if you love architecture allow for a good amount of time to absorb all the details of St. Mary’s Basilica!
Side note – The churches and basilicas in Krakow are some of the most beautiful I have seen! With elaborate carvings, beautiful stained-glass windows, and detailed painting on the walls and ceilings.
3 – The Adam Mickiewicz Monument in Krakow – The monument is in front of St. Mary’s Basilica on the main square. Adam Mickiewicz was a Polish poet in the 19th century; his statue is on top of the monument with four allegoric groups below representing Science, Courage, Poetry, and the Motherland. The inscription on the Adam Mickiewicz Monument reads “To Adam Mickiewicz, the Nation.” Ironically, Adam Mickiewicz had never been to Krakow and in fact his remains were brought from Paris and buried in the crypt of St. Leonard’s of the Wawel Cathedral.
4 – Church of St. Adalbert (or Church of St. Wojciech) in Krakow – This church, a discreet and small white building, sits on the main square. The Church of St. Adalbert is one of the oldest churches in Poland, built in the 11th century. On my visit to Krakow the church was under restoration but the side chapel was open – a minuscule room with a low ceiling and faded paintings. The crypt of the church is now part of the Archeological Museum and the church itself is still used today.
5 – Town Hall Tower in Krakow – The red brick tower next to the Cloth Hall is all that is left of the old Town Hall. The original town hall was built in the 13th century and underwent many reconstructions after fires and other damage. The old town hall once housed the city prison and the entire building took up more space in the main square. You can climb the town hall tower, for a small fee, where you will get a nice overall view of the historical city center of Krakow.
The next post will be about visiting Wawel Castle and Wawel Cathedral.