Useful Travel Tips for Krakow, Poland

Main Market Square in Krakow, Poland at night by Monica Goslin

The travel blog series on Krakow, Poland continues with: Where to Stay, How to Get There, and What to Wear in Krakow

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Where to Stay in Krakow

I recommend staying in the historical city center where you can easily get around by foot to all the main sights. The city does have an interesting system of tourist golf cars (not sure of the official name) which you can hire to cart you around the city and includes a historical audio guide. While you can take trams (buy tickets before you board), I found that everything is within easy walking distance.

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Getting to Krakow and Airport Information

The John Paul II International airport is only about a 20 to 25 minute taxi ride from the historical city center. You can also take a train from the airport that just goes right to the main train station in Krakow (tickets can be bought on the train and the ride is 18 minutes long. You can get a free shuttle from the airport to the train stop/station or walk as the station is only 200m from the airport – this is to the shuttle train that takes you to the main downtown train station).

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What to Wear and Weather in Krakow

I visited Krakow in the summer and it was pretty cool during the day and night. So summer trips to Krakow should definitely include a jacket and scarf. Average temperatures in the summer are mid 70’sF and low 60’sF. Winters are cold and snowy with average temperatures in the 20’sF.

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To read more about what to see and do in Krakow, Poland see the previous posts which include information on the main sights, what to see in the Jewish Quarter, visiting Wawel Castle and more!

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** Interested in a photo on this travel blog about Krakow? You can purchase a photo of Krakow, Poland on The Monica Store by clicking here.

*** For more photographs about Krakow, Poland click here for stock images of Krakow which are also available as prints.

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Krakow, Poland the “City of Churches” and Music

Franciscan Church and Monastery in Krakow, Poland

The travel blog series on Krakow, Poland continues with a must see church in the historical downtown, plus finding a musical concert to go to in Krakow.

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Krakow, Poland the “City of Churches”

 Krakow is known as the “city of churches” with over 120 churches, basilicas, etc. The city of Krakow also has an abundance of monasteries and convents and is sometimes referred to as the “Northern Rome.”

The churches and basilicas in Krakow are some of the most beautiful I have seen! The churches in Krakow have elaborate carvings, beautiful stained-glass windows, and detailed painting on the walls and ceilings.

Earlier in this travel series on Krakow, Poland I covered the St. Mary’s Basilica and Church of St. Adalbert in the main square, along with the Wawel Cathedral.

Below is information on another church that should not be missed when visiting Krakow, especially if you appreciate architecture and art nouveau.

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1 – The Franciscan Church and Monastery is on Franciszkanska Street where it’s set back from the street and looks like a rather ordinary church with a brick façade and a stepped roof, which is very common in Krakow. But once you enter the Franciscan Church in Krakow you see how different it is! The church was founded in the 13th century but has painting and stained-glass windows designed by the Polish artist Stainslaw Wyspianski. What makes the Franciscan Church so interesting, at least to me, is that every inch is covered in paintings but not those typical to church interiors but instead has intricate flowers interwoven with geometrical patterns.

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2 – Stainslaw Wyspianski was a 20th century Polish artist who created monumental church murals, stained-glass windows, paintings, graphic art, and interior decoration. Wyspianski also designed stage sceneries and costumes; he also restored old murals and stained-glass windows in Krakow churches. You can see work by Wyspianski in the Stainslaw Wyspianski Museum, which I highly recommend as it shows you a great deal of his work. The Museum dedicated to Wyspianski’s work is just off the Main Market Square on Szczepanska Street in a historic tenement house built in 1904. The National Museum of Krakow created the Wyspianski Museum due to their rich collection of the artist’s work and for the high position he held in Polish culture. I was unable to visit the National Museum of Krakow, short on time, but hope to get back to see it and discover more Polish artists to admire, as I have come to admire Wyspianski’s work!

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 Music in Krakow, Poland

Krakow is a city of classical music. During the summer (I do not know about the winter schedules) you can enjoy concerts in numerous venues, mostly churches. I highly recommend attending at least one concert during your visit to Krakow. You will find signs in front of most churches about the concerts, where you can buy tickets at the time of the performance or reserve tickets ahead of time.

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The next post will give tips on how to get to Krakow and include airport information.

** Interested in a photo on this travel blog about Krakow? You can purchase a photo of Krakow, Poland on The Monica Store by clicking here.

*** For more photographs about Krakow, Poland click here for stock images of Krakow which are also available as prints.

 

What to See in the Jewish Quarter of Krakow, Poland

Main Market Square in Krakow, Poland by Monica Goslin

The Krakow, Poland travel blog series continues with: What to see in the Jewish Quarter of Krakow, Poland

The Jewish Quarter in Krakow is called the Kazimierez district. You can reach the district on foot by walking right down the Stradomska and Krakowska streets (from the palace), which takes about 15 minutes from the castle base. The overall district, while interesting to see, does have a melancholic feel about it. There are various synagogues you can visit (all require a ticket) and all of which are very different from each other.

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1 – The Remuh synagogue and cemetery – The Remuh synagogue is a very small structure built in 1557 and next to a Jewish cemetery. You do have to pay to enter the synagogue (fee includes a visit to the cemetery). The cemetery is interesting and I saw what appeared to be a tradition of placing small rocks atop the grave markers; although I do not know the significance of this act and I have never seen it done before. The cemetery dates back to 1511! Just in front of the synagogue you will see memorial plaques to families and friends lost in World War II; needless to say it isn’t an easy visit to make.

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2 – The Tempel Synagogue is one of the newest synagogues, built in the 19th century. The interior of the Tempel Synagogue has been renovated in an Oriental-Moorish style with elaborate stuccoes and frescoes.

3 – The Old Synagogue is on Szeroka Street and was built in the 15th century making it the oldest synagogue in Poland! After World War II the synagogue was renovated to become a museum of Jewish History and today you can see various ritual artifacts.

4 – Corpus Christi Church is a church with many architectural styles from late Gothic to Renaissance and Baroque. There is an unusual 18th century pulpit with elaborate carvings and detailed stalls from the 17th century.

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To see more photographs of Krakow, Poland click here for travel stock photography that is also available for sale as photo prints.

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Visiting the University of Krakow, Poland

University of Krakow photo by Monica Goslin

This travel blog series on Krakow, Poland continues with: Visiting the University of Krakow, Poland

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The University of Krakow – Jagiellonian University

The University of Krakow is the second oldest university in central Europe, founded in 1364 by King Casimir II the Great. The university provided studies in law, theology, and astronomy, attracting students from Germany, Spain, Russia, etc. Between 1500 and 1535 the university had over three thousand students; however attendance declined in later centuries before growing under the Austrian Empire when new buildings were added. The university was shut down during World War II but now the university is doing well again, with over fifty thousand students and a third campus is being built. The university offers 48 degrees and 93 specializations.

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Notable Alumni of The University of Krakow – Jagiellonian University

Many distinguished alumni of the university include poets, diplomats, scientists, economists, etc. Two very notable and well known alumni of the University of Krakow are: Nicolaus Copernicus and Pope John Paul II.

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Visiting the University of Krakow – Jagiellonian University

You can see many of the university buildings but the main one to visit is the Maius Museum, which is the oldest university building dating back to 1400. The building was donated to the university by King Wladyslaw Jagiello. After World War II the building was converted into a museum. Each room served a different function – you will walk through the library, a dining hall, a lecture room and more where you will see scientific instruments, historical documents, etc.

Location and Tickets – The Maius Museum is not far from the main square and you can see the main courtyard and gardens for free. The main building ticket price is 12pln but entrance is free from 3-6PM on Tuesdays (April to October) and 2-4PM on Tuesdays (November to March).

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The clock at the Maius Museum of the University of Krakow

 There is a clock in the courtyard of the Maius Museum which has a small “show” five times a day in which trumpets sound and the doors open for a small procession of figures to circle the clock. The musical clock procession is at 9AM, 11AM, 1PM, 3PM, and 5PM.

The clock has been restored four times, but the original clock was installed in the late 1400’s. The present day clock was restored in 1999. The current music during the procession is from the 16th century. The figures that go through the doors five times a day are historical Polish figures and were made in the 1950’s by the folk sculptor, Ladislaus Kozyra.

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The next post will talk about the Jewish Quarter of Krakow, Poland and what you can see and visit today.

** Interested in a photo on this travel blog about Krakow? You can purchase a photo of Krakow, Poland on The Monica Store by clicking here.

*** For more photographs about Krakow, Poland click here for stock images of Krakow which are also available as prints.

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Visiting Wawel Castle and Cathedral in Krakow, Poland

Wawel Cathedral in Krakow, Poland by Monica Goslin

The travel blog series about Krakow, Poland continues with: Visiting Wawel Castle and Cathedral in Krakow, Poland

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After seeing the main square in Krakow, Poland you should set off to see the Wawel Castle.

 The Wawel Castle was built for King Casimir III the Great and rebuilt by Jadwiga of Poland (late 14th century monarch of Poland) who made many additions including more towers and defense walls. The 16th century brought about more reconstruction and additions to the castle. After World War I the Polish Second Republic designated the Wawel Castle as a building of the Polish state to be used by the Governor and President. In 1921 the castle became the official residence of the President of Poland until it became a national museum after World War II.

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Visiting the Wawel Castle – You can actually see a lot of the castle by walking around the grounds. I actually only visited the castle cathedral and the small historical museum across from the cathedral. The signs and ticket booths for the Wawel Castle were complicated and involved having a reservation (seemingly days in advance) and tickets were sold out right in the morning. Unfortunately I found this to be the case in a few other locations as well. Nevertheless getting tickets to see the Wawel Cathedral was much easier and doable, see details below. I highly recommend seeing the cathedral if you aren’t able to get tickets to the castle, and if you figure out how to get castle tickets let me know!

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 Wawel Cathedral – Cathedral Basilica of St. Stainslaw and Vaclav in Krakow

 The Wawel Cathedral is right in the heart of the Wawel Castle grounds and appears to be a jumble of small buildings and towers with an interesting interior with hundreds of years of history.

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Fun Facts about the Wawel Cathedral in Krakow, Poland

 –          The Wawel Cathedral was the coronation site of Polish monarchs.

–          The current Wawel Cathedral was constructed in the 14th century with two previous churches occupying the site in the 11th and 12th century.

–          Over the main alter is a black marble canopy; underneath it lies the silver coffin of St. Stainslaw. Stainslaw was a Bishop of Krakow in the 11th century who was martyred by King Boleslaw II the Bold.

–          The Wawel Cathedral is the burial site for Polish monarchs. You can visit the crypts and see the tombs of the Polish monarchs as far back as the 14th century. The crypt also holds the tombs of generals, national heroes, poets, revolutionaries, and other important leaders.

–          In front of the Wawel Cathedral is a monument to John Paul II.

The overall church is impressive and steeped in history. Each chapel is different and the artistic quality is astounding.

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*My favorite chapel is Queen Sophia’s Chapel, with murals by Wlodzimierz Tetmajer, which reminded me of Alphonse Mucha’s work. You are not permitted to take photos in the Wawel Cathedral and sadly I was unable to find any postcards or books on it that fully covered the church and especially highlighted the Queen Sophia Chapel, so I simply have to remember it. But if you are an art history buff or a fan of Mucha’s work, make sure you see Queen Sophia’s Chapel.

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The Bell Towers of the Wawel Cathedral – Your tour of the Wawel Cathedral is along a directed route and includes a climb up the bell tower. Note that the climb up the bell tower is narrow, dark, and steep!

There are actually two towers with 8 bells, the most famous is the Sigismund Bell at the top, and there is a clock tower as well. The bells were all made at different times but dates range from the 12th to the 17th centuries. Each bell has a plaque next to it which tells you the technical data such as the weight and dimensions of the bells.

The Sigismund Bell has a total weight of 12,600 kg and has to be rung by twelve bell-ringers! The sound range of the Sigismund Bell is said to be 186 miles/30km! Read more about the Sigismund Bell by clicking here for the official website of the Wawel Cathedral where you can also hear a sample of the tolling bells!  The bells are still used today to mark special occasions and holidays.

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* Ticket to see the Wawel Cathedral – Admission to the Wawel Cathedral is free but you need tickets to enter the bell tower, the royal tombs, and the Cathedral Museum which is the building across from the cathedral. Tickets are 12zt for one person.

For the official website of the Wawel Cathedral click here and read more about it! The website is very informative and full of great photos!

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The next post will talk about the University of Krakow!

** Interested in a photo on this travel blog about Krakow? You can purchase a photo of Krakow, Poland on The Monica Store by clicking here.

*** For more photographs about Krakow, Poland click here for stock images of Krakow which are also available as prints.

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Main Sights to See in Krakow, Poland

Krakow, Poland by Monica Goslin

What to see and do in Krakow, Poland

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 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!

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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.

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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.

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The next post will be about visiting Wawel Castle and Wawel Cathedral.

** Interested in a photo on this travel blog about Krakow? You can purchase a photo of Krakow, Poland on The Monica Store by clicking here.

*** For more photographs about Krakow, Poland click here for stock images of Krakow which are also available as prints.

 

 

Fun Facts about Krakow, Poland

Main Market Square and St. Marys Basilica in Krakow, Poland by Monica Goslin

Visiting Krakow, Poland Travel Series – starting with a few fun facts

Krakow is an interesting city to visit and there is a lot to see and do. Krakow has an old-world charm to it and could be the next Prague, becoming a popular destination.

This and the next few posts will highlight what to see and do in Krakow. Overall I really enjoyed my visit there and hope to visit again as there is always more to see. I recommend the main sights and a few lesser known stops that are still in the historic city center. If you are interested in art and architecture (especially gothic architecture and art nouveau) you should visit as many of the churches in the city as you can as they are all extremely distinctive, plus Krakow is known as the “city of churches.”

So keep reading and find out more about Krakow, Poland!

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A few fun and interesting facts about Krakow, Poland:

–          Krakow is one of the oldest cities in Poland, dating back to the 7th century.

–          Krakow was the capital of Poland for over 500 years

–          The city of Krakow is an important academic and artistic center.

–          Krakow’s historical city center is a UNESCO world heritage site.

–          Pope John Paul II was the first Slavic pope ever, and the first non-Italian pope in 455 years! He became pope in 1978.

–          The University of Krakow is the second oldest university in central Europe, founded in 1364 by King Casimir II the Great. (Read more about the University of Krakow in a later post).

–          After World War II, with the creation of a giant steel mill, the city became an industrial center with a new working class and a jump in population growth.

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Next post will feature the main sights to see in Krakow, Poland – so stayed tuned!

** Interested in a photo on this travel blog about Krakow? You can purchase a photo of Krakow, Poland on The Monica Store by clicking here.

 *** For more photographs about Krakow, Poland click here for stock images of Krakow which are also available as prints.