Krakow Old Town, A Walk Through the First UNESCO Site and the Old Polish Capital

Krakow Old Town is the main stop during our weekend trip to Poland. The city of Krakow carries many notable titles, the first UNESCO city, the second biggest city in Poland, and the old Polish capital. It is impossible to explore the entire centre in a couple of hours. Therefore, we defined a round walk to cover the most sites in the centre while using the minimum walking time.

Most tourists typically follow the Royal Route, which starts at the city’s defensive walls and ends at the Wawel Hill. But in our case, our walking route in Krakow old town includes Wawel Royal Hill and a few streets around the main market square:

  • Wawel Royal Hill Round Walk
  • The picturesque Kanonicza Street
  • One of the oldest streets in Krakow, the Grodzka street
  • The main market square in Krakow old town
  • Part of the Royal Route, the Floriańska Street
Wawel Cathedral, Krakow old town

Wawel Royal Hill Round Walk

Walked along the Vistula River, before reaching the Dragon Statue, we saw a line of handprints on a pedestrian path. The path, known as Krakow Star Alley, displays the handprints of famous movie producers, actors, and directors.

After the Dragon Statue, we kept walking on the left side and then followed the stone stairs leading us to the Wawel Royal Hill. Strolling along the massive wall and passing through the arched stone door next to the Baszta Sandomierska tower, there we entered the royal complex. Baszta Sandomierska is the first site on the hill where we had a fantastic view over the Vistula River and promenade.

One of the handprints on a pedestrian path, known as Krakow Star Alley
The fantastic view over the Vistula River and promenade from Baszta Sandomierska

Wawel Cathedral

Wawel Cathedral is the most prominent worship place in Poland. It is the Polish national sanctuary and traditionally has served as the coronation site of the Polish monarchs. 

Rulers in history extended and altered the Wawel Cathedral in a significant way. They also added multiple burial chapels. Therefore, it is a mixture of different styles.

Wawel Royal Castle

The Wawel Royal Castle is a spectacular renaissance palace. It was the residency of Polish kings and their closest family. The stately halls provided a backdrop for courtly and political life.

Kanonicza street, Krwkoa old town

The picturesque Kanonicza Street

Left the Wawel Royal Complex, we turned back to Kanonicza street. The Kanonicza street is an exceptionally picturesque street, where every house boasts a long and rich history. It is one of the marvelous corners of Kraków.

The street features façades in various styles from various periods. All the streets are nicely paved and easy to access. A tour operator even offers a tour by electric car.

The Mansion of Bishop Erazm Ciołek

In the early 16th century, the connection of smaller townhouses formed the Mansion of Bishop Erazm Ciołek. It was once considered the most impressive house in the street. Currently, it houses a branch of the National Museum in Kraków with art from the Polish territories from the Middle Ages to the end of the 18th century and the sacred art of the Orthodox Church.

The Deanery (Dean’s House, Dom Dziekański, No. 21)

Today the Deanery is home to the Archdiocesan Museum. It used to be the residency of Karol Wojtyła, later Pope John Paul II, who used to live here in the 1950s and 1960s.

One of the oldest streets in Krakow, the Grodzka street

Grodzka street boasts a splendid view across the main market square.  It is one of the oldest streets in Kraków. Some of the interesting sites on this street are:

  • Dominican Church
  • Franciscan Church
  • St Andrews’s Church
  • Church of St Peter and St Paul
  • St Mary Magdalene square
  • St Giles’ Church

Kraków’s architecture is chronologically in style through the eras. It could also be an architecture walking tour from any direction towards its 13th-century market square.

Main Market Square in Krakow Old Town
St. Mary's Basilica and the Cloth Hall at the main square, Krwkoa old town, Poland

The main market square in Krakow old town

At the end of Grodzka street is the main square of Krakow. It is also the second biggest square in Europe. Bright coloured buildings around the square look like recently renovated. I could spend hours taking in every architectural detail, every subtle flourish on every facade.

One of the famous buildings in the center of the main square is the Cloth Hall. Today, it has a market hall and a Polish art museum. The main square has two parts. One part usually hosts a street market while you can find many Polish specialties, while many restaurants and bars are in the other part of the square. Besides, the Gothic Town Hall Tower and several museums are also around there.

Restaurants offer many culinary delights, including the local Polish food. We had a tasty Polish style lunch on the ground floor of the Cloth Hall. Our meal was the Krakow’s meat-stuffed pastry. You can book a culinary tasting lunch for a small budget. 

But if you stay in Krakow, you can also book a traditional Polish folk show, including an all-you-can-eat dinner at a budget price.

St. Mary's Basilica at the main square, Krwkoa old town, Poland
Lunch on the ground floor of the Cloth Hall in Krakow old town, Poland

Part of the Royal Route, the Floriańska Street

Floriańska Street, starting at St Florian’s Gate, goes straight out from the Main Market Square. It is also part of the Royal Route. Besides, the Floriańska street is one of the first cobbled streets in Krakow.

By the end of the 15th century, nobility and wealthy citizens inhabited most houses on this street. In the late 19th century, Krakow launched the first line of the horse-drawn tram there. But today, horse-carriages are only there for sightseeing purposes.

We walked nearly the same road back to our parking place. The round walk took us about five hours to finish the walk, including one hour of lunch break. Honestly, the time was too short for this incredible city. If possible, we would stay there for two or three days.

Horse-carriages are only there for sightseeing purposes; Things to do in Krakow

How to get around

The best way to get around in Krakow is to buy a Krakow City Card. It entitles holders to free travel on city buses and trams and free entry to many museums in Krakow.

Or, buy a hop-on-hop-off sightseeing bus ticket to explore Krakow at your own pace. From an open-top bus, you can enjoy panoramic views of Krakow. And also hop on and off at attractions such as Wawel Castle. 

Suggested tours

Where to Stay

Hotel Polski Pod Białym Orłem is opposite the St. Florian’s Gate, a 4-minute walk from the Main Market Square and a 15-minute walk from the Wawel Royal Castle. The bus and railway stations are only 300 m away. Meanwhile, you can enjoy the evening scenes of the old town without hurrying back to the hotel.

Hilton Garden Inn Krakow Airport is suitable for both business travelers as well as solo travelers. It is just outside of Krakow Balice Airport. When we picked up our car from the rental office, we realized that the office is right next to the hotel’s lobby. 

 

10 Comments

  1. I loved Krakow and am now addicted to pierogi! I loved the fire breathing dragon and the cloth market. I stayed 3 days and went into the old Jewish quarter as well. Such a great city!

  2. Krakow is definitely a place I have been dreaming of going. I have so many Polish friends, and they have inspired me to travel there. So far, I haven’t visited yet, but I want to explore the country and the city. I love old buildings and history behind them, so I think I would love it there. I also love Polish food.

  3. Krakow looks beautiful and going by what I see it surely would feature in my Europe plans next year. Poland is one of the few countries still left out and I am loving it.

  4. I was to Krakow about 9 years ago, and I have made some of your suggestions. I didn’t know that Krakov has so many things to offer. I also didn’t know about Krakow City Card with the entrance up to 40 museums and also valid on city buses and trams. I love museums, next time I will consider to buy the Krakow city card. Your pictures represent very well how I remember Krakow, well done!

  5. I have never been to Poland and Krakow sure seems fascinating. It was interesting to read that it’s the first UNESCO city. The Royal Route seems perfect to explore this beautiful city. I too think the best way to explore a city is via public transport. Thanks for sharing how to go about it.

  6. As a Polish woman, wich loves Krakow and knows this city very well, I happily must admit that you did this guide professionally. I’m so impressed by your work. You showed Krakow, and its most impressive and most beautiful monuments and places worth seeing in an inspiring way. You add plenty of useful in planning trip tips, too. I like it.

  7. Poland is definitely on our travel wish list. Krakow certainly looks like it needs a few days to properly enjoy. I love that the Krakow Card includes public transit. Although we do sometime just use the Hop On Hop Off buses to get around if the bus route is extensive. We love towns that have a lot to see when you walk the old town. Kanonicza and Grodzka Streets both look like they deserve some wandering time. The city sites look beautiful. But I better do my sightseeing before I head off on a vodka tasting tour! Need to get Poland and Krakow on the planning board.

  8. We sadly missed Krakow when we were last in Poland, and what a shame! I can see why it’s a UNESCO town, everything’s historic! I’d most to see the oldest street in Krakow, and that fantastic market square – it looks so grand.

  9. I’ve heard wonderful things about Krakow but have never gotten to visit it myself; now I want to even more! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.