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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.