Kraków, the heart of Małopolska
Kraków, the capital of Małopolska, is an unforgettable place. You can admire here not only hundreds of objects of marvellous historic heritage with Wawel Hill and the Main Market Square at the top of the list, but also traces of multicultural past in the district of Kazimierz, and monumental architecture of Social Realism in Nowa Chuta. Kraków captivates tourists with its unusual atmosphere. This home of students, artists, philosophers and…..connoisseurs is always vibrant with life, even at nigh.
Anyone who for the first time enters the Main Market Square is overwhelmed by the beauty of this biggest medieval square of Europe. It is the central point of the former city settlement inscribed on the UNESCO List of World Cultural and Natural Heritage. The greatest building which is situated by the Market, is the Gothic, steeple St. Mary’s (Mariacki) Church with the famous Wit Stwosz altar and high towers; the highest one can be climbed (9am–11.30am an 1pm–5.30pm, Tue, Thu, Sat, May–Aug) to see from a close distance a guard who plays hejnał (Cracovian Hymn) every hour. The Cloth Hall (Sukiennice), that is the medieval trade hall, is also marvellous and brims with souvenir shops, and a miniature church of St. Adalbert, as well as a monument of Polish bard Adam Mickiewicz, take the breath away. Behind the Cloth Hall appears the elegant, Gothic Town Hall Tower, and the square brims with florists, impressive city residences and manors with cafes and restaurants. The towers of the Royal Castle and the Cathedral on Wawel Hill proudly appear over Kraków Old City. Wawel Hill is at the top of a list of places to visit in Kraków. The main attraction of Wawel is the Gothic cathedral with royal graves and the pearl of Renaissance, that is the Sigismund Chapel (Kaplica Zygmunta), and the Royal Castle with marvellous arcaded courtyard in the Renaissance style. Apart from the Main Market Square and Wawel it is worth to see the district of Kazimierz, which in part consists of the former Jewish town. Its heart was the Szeroka Street. Here you can find the Renaissance Old Synagogue (Alte Schul) with the Judaic museum and the beautiful old Remuh Jewish Cemetery. You also cannot miss to visit the district of Podgórze, the territory of former ghetto, next to which the building of the former Oscar Schindler’s factory can be found. When you walk the streets of Kraków Old Town and the district of Kazimierz you will encounter built heritage, such as historic buildings from the XIV century which constitute Jagiellonian University with the Gothic Collegium Maius (the „Major College”), medieval churches (Romanesque church of St. Andrew, the Gothic Church of the Holy Trinity, Church of St. Katharine or Corpus Christi Church), the fantastic Baroque churches (Church of St. Peter and Paul, Church of St. Anna) or remains of former city walls with Barbican and St. Florian’s Gate. You will be also ravished by newer buildings such as the Juliusz Słowacki Theatre or beautiful Art Nouveau city residents in the districts surrounding the Planty Park. The district of Salwator is situated in the charming area. In this district, above the Vistula River tower walls of the medieval Norbertan’s Sister’s Monastery, higher on the slope of the hill there are two historic churches. The long, picturesque promenade leads uphill to the Kościuszko Mount, the best vantage point in the city. Farther you will see Sikornik Hill and the widespread municipal Wolski Wood. It is there, where among the trees appear two white towers of the marvellous built heritage of the early Baroque, that is, the church and hermitage of Camaldolesi. Another beautifully situated monastery is the Benedictine Abbey in Tyniec with almost a hundred years of history. Its walls look like they grow out of rocky slopes of the hill just above the waters of the Vistula River. On the other side of Kraków, next to Nowa Huta, i.e. a model of a city built after World War II in the style of Socialist Realism, there is a historic Cistercian Abbey in Mogiła. It is worth to find some time to visit Kraków museums. The most famous exhibit is the painting of Leonardo da Vinci Lady with an Ermine which can be found in the Czartoryski Museum. Other divisions of the National Museum also house many precious collections of arts, among others, in the historic interiors of the impressive palace of Erazm Ciołek the medieval Polish art is exhibited, and in the Cloth Hall after renovation works the Gallery of the Polish Art from the XIX century will be available for tourists, and in the main building you can admire newer pieces of arts of the Polish artists. The unusual masterpiece of modern architecture can be found in works of the famous Japanese master of Architecture, that is Arat Izosaki in the Manggha Museum of Japanese Art and Technology. It is also worth to visit Museum of Jagellonian University, which is in the historic interiors of the oldest university’s buildings, that is Collegium Maius (the „Major College”), Polish Aviation Museum with unique collection of old airplanes, and Museum of Municipal Engineering with interesting collection of technical objects.
Worth seeing in the vicinity
The Weliczka Salt Mine is another built heritage in the neighbourhood of Krakow inscribed on the UNESCO list. Kraków Salt-Works Museum is devoted to the history and old techniques of salt extraction in Wieliczka.
Niepołomice with the marvellous, Renaissance castle, which arcaded courtyard reminds the Wawel courtyard; it houses a very fascinating museum.
Ojcowski National Park, which white slopes are in contrast with green woods, and that constitutes a perfect landscape for hiking. Ojców is a place with wooden buildings, interesting castles: ˗ Ojcowski and a huge, Renaissance castle in Pieskowa Skała.
Kraków Valleys consist of a few gorges with picturesque, limestone rocks, the impressive, natural gate in the Bolechowicki Gorge, the highest on the upland rocky wall in Sokolica in the Będkowska Valley, and famous climb rocks in the Kobylańska Valley.