Krakow is a beautiful city with a rich history. There are regular decently priced flights from London making it a perfect place for a weekend away! If you’ve got limited time in the city this 24 hour itinerary will make sure you’ve covered the must-see sights!
1. The Cloth Hall
Krakow’s main market square is the natural starting point for a 24 hour adventure around the city. In the centre of the main square lies The Cloth Hall. Known as Europe’s oldest shopping centre, the Cloth Hall has been a place of trade since the mid 14th century. In the middle of the 16th century, a fire destroyed much of the original building and a redevelopment project saw it rebuilt in classical renaissance style. After Krakow lost its status as Poland’s capital in 1569, the Cloth Hall was left to fall in to disrepair for almost three centuries. Towards the end of the 19th century the facade was restored to its former glory. The development was not only superficial, a new museum space was also created upstairs. The Cloth Hall now houses a row of shops selling traditional souvenirs such as sheep skin slippers and all the amber jewellery your heart could desire! I picked up a couple of rings and a necklace, all at really decent prices.
2. St. Mary Basilica Church
Across the square from the Cloth Hall is the magnificent St. Mary’s Basilica church. Built in classic Polish gothic architecture in the 1300’s, this incredible church should definitely not be missed. The blue starred ceiling and stained glass windows are truly unique and no matter how many churches you’ve visited, this one will definitely stand out.
We happened to wonder out of the church minutes before 12, just in time to hear the trumpet signal, known as the Heijnal mariacki, being played from the taller of Saint Mary’s two towers. To commemorate the 13th century trumpeter that was shot in the throat while sounding the alarm before the Mongol attack on the city, the tune breaks off mid-stream.
3. Lunch break- Pierogies
No trip to Krakow is complete without sampling as many Piergoies as you can fit in your stomach! An upcoming blog post will be dedicated to the insanely good food we ate in Krakow, so i’ll save the details of our lunch stop for that!
4. Jewish Quarter
Following our lunch we wandered through the snow to the Jewish quarter, Kazimierz. Prior to WWII, Kazimierz was the centre of Jewish culture in Krakow. Szeroka street is the main road in this neighbourhood, lined with synagogues, bars and unique boutiques.
5. Wawel Castle
Following a quick stop for a warm drink, we headed on to the Wawel Castle complex at the top of Wawel Hill. The complex consists of a castle and a cathedral centred around an Italian style main courtyard. Wawel has been a significant place throughout Polish history. It is said that people settled on Wawel Hill as early as the 7th century, and from the 9th century onwards it became the principal home to the Vislane tribe and the first historical ruler of Poland, Miesco I. It also became the centre of Polish christianity.
Throughout history, Wawel has been occupied by a number of powers. After Poland lost its independence in 1795, the castle was handed to the Austrians who converted a number of the buildings into a military hospital. In 1880, the castle was the residence of the Emperor of Austria Franz Josef I. Between 1905-1911 the Austrian troops left the hill and Poland regained its independence in 1918. During this time, the castle served as a residence of the Head of State, and as a museum. During the Nazi occupation the castle was again occupied by foreign powers and used as the residence of the German governor general, Hans Frank.
In 1978 Wawel Castle was declared a UNESCO world heritage site. With some beautiful examples of romanesque, gothic, renaissance and early baroque architecture, the castle and cathedral and definitely worth the walk up the hill. There is also an art museum that can be visited on site.
6. Cat Cafe
Our final stop before dinner was the cat cafe that was situation just opposite our hotel, The Mercure Kraków Stare Miasto. The hot drinks were nothing to rave about but the cats were adorable and friendly and, unlike many cat cafes around the world, we walked straight in and grabbed a seat without a reservation. A cute place to stop and warm up if you’re in the area!