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

Krakow Old Town is the main place we visited during our long weekend trip to Krakow. Krakow carries many significant titles. It is not only the first UNESCO city but also the second biggest city in Poland as well as the old Polish capital. Having searched the website and read other blogs, we realized that there are so many churches, squares, old streets, and museums to see. That means it is impossible  to explore the entire old centre in a couple of hours. Therefore, we had to define a round walk to cover the most sites in the centre while using the minimum walking time.

Most tourists will follow the Royal Route, which starts at the city’s defensive walls, passes through St. Florian’s Gate, goes down to the Main Market Square, and then leads down Grodzka Street to the Wawel Hill. Our final round walk in Krakow old town includes:

    • 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
Wawel Cathedral

How to get around in Krakow old town

To use local transportation is an efficient way to explore the Krakow old town. You can use either Krakow City Card or Hop-on Hop-off Sightseeing Bus Ticket  to save walking time and energy while enjoying the old town leisurely.

Krakow City Card

The best way to get around in Krakow is to buy a Krakow City Card. The City Card entitles holders to free travel on city buses and trams, and free entry at up to 40 museums in Krakow. The card is valid on city buses and trams day and night. You can choose a 2-day card or a 3-day card.

Hop-on Hop-off Sightseeing Bus Ticket

Or, buy a hop-on-hop-off sightseeing bus ticket to explore Krakow at your own pace. You can enjoy panoramic views of Krakow from an open-top bus, hop on and off at attractions such as Wawel Castle. You can choose bus ticket valid for either 24-hour or 48-hour.

The hop-on hop-off bus goes to many sites in Krakow. You can choose between a 1-day ticket or a 2-day ticket.

We drove there and parked next to a football field (by the way, you can join a tour to learn about the Krakow’s football history), which is a few minutes walking to the foot of Wawel Royal Hill.

Wawel Royal Hill Round Walk

Walked along the Vistula River, we passed the tourist information centre. Before reaching the Dragon Statue, we saw a series of handprints on a pedestrian path. The path, known as Krakow Star Alley, displays the handprints from 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. Walking along the massive wall and passing through the arched stone door next to the Baszta Sandomierska tower, 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. The main sites on the hill atop include Wawel Cathedral, Wawel Royal Castle, Museums and the Dragon Den.

Roman Polanski's Handprints; Krakow Old Town; Polan; Krakow Day Trip
Roman Polanski’s Hand prints
Wawel Cathedral Castle Garden; Krakow Old Town
Wawel Cathedral Castle Garden

The Wawel Cathedral is the most important house of worship in Poland. It is the last resting place of Polish kings, national heroes, eminent poets, and the patron saint of Poland, Bishop Stanislaus. The cathedral was also the venue of coronations for the past centuries. It has also been significantly extended and altered as individual rulers have added multiple burial chapels. Therefore, it is in a mixture of different styles.

The Wawel Royal Castle is a spectacular renaissance palace and is the result of the refurbishment of the Gothic Royal Castle in the first half of the 16th century according to the wishes of Sigismund I the Old (Zygmunt Stary). It was the residence of Polish kings and their closest family, while the stately halls provided a backdrop for courtly and political life.

Unfortunately, the impressive arcade courtyard was under the renovation. Otherwise, the State Rooms, Royal Private Apartments, Crown Treasury and Armoury, and Oriental Art would be of our interests.

The picturesque Kanonicza Street

From the Wawel Royal Complex, first we followed Podzamcze street and then walked along the Kanonicza street. The Kanonicza street is an exceptionally picturesque street, where every house boasts a long and rich history.  Needless to say, it is one of the most picturesque corners of Kraków.

The street features façades in various styles from various periods. In the 16th century, many earlier buildings were transformed into renaissance mansions. All the streets are nicely paved and easy for walking. An tour operator even offers a tour by electric car.

The main sites worthing to see are the Mansion of Bishop Erazm Ciołek and The Deanery.

The Mansion of Bishop Erazm Ciołek

In the early 16th century, 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 it is home to the Archdiocesan Museum. It used to be the residence of Karol Wojtyła, later Pope John Paul II, who used to live here in the 1950s and 1960s.

Kanonicza street in Krakow Old Town;Poland; Krakow Day Trip
Kanonicza street

One of the oldest streets in Krakow, the Grodzka street

The Kanonicza street ends at the Senacka street. We turned left and after about 20 metres turned into the beautifully renovated Grodzka street. The street boasts a splendid view across the main market square.  It is one of the oldest streets in Kraków. The main 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

 

The Mariacka Tower Bugler at the main square; Krakow Old Town
The Mariacka Tower Bugler at the main square

The main market square in Krakow old town

At the end of Grodzka street is the main square of Krakow and the second largest square in Europe. The romantic Church of St. Wojciech is right at the corner of the square.

The centre of the square is the famous Cloth Hall, which is a market hall with a Polish art museum nowadays. It separates the main square into two parts. The first part usually hosts a street market. There you can find many Polish specialties. We have bought some Polish candies.

In the second part of the square, there are many restaurants are located in the second part of the square. The Gothic Town Hall Tower and some interesting museums are found there. And the square is so  big that it is impossible to capture the whole square with my mobile phone.

Those restaurants offer different cuisines and local Polish food. We had a nice lunch on the ground floor of the Cloth Hall before we explored the main square. You can book a Culinary Tasting Lunch for just a couple of Euros. The lunch includes a traditional Polish menu, a dumpling-making workshop, and a movie about Krakow and Poland’s culinary habits.

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

Main Market Square in Krakow Old Town; Poland; Krakow Day Trip
Main Market Square in Krakow Old Town
Town Hall Tower and Cloth Market; Krakow Old Town; Krakow Day Trip
Town Hall Tower and Cloth Market

Street restaurants at the main market square; Krakow Old Toan; Krakow Day Trip

Part of the Royal Route, the Floriańska Street

Floriańska Street leads straight to the Main Market Square. It is also part of the Royal Route. The street starts by St Florian’s Gate and is one of the first cobbled streets in Krakow. By the end of the 15th century, nobility and wealthy citizens inhabited in most houses standing on Floriańska. Late in the 19th century, the first line of the horse-drawn tram was launched there. Today the horse-carriages are only used for sightseeing purposes. Tourists can see many elegant horse-carriages in the centre of the main market square.

Walking from St Florian’s Gate towards the Main Market Square, it’s worth paying attention to individual townhouses and their architectural details.

We walked nearly the same road back to our parking place. It took us about five hours to finish the walk, including one hour of lunch break. Honestly, the time was too short for this wonderful city.  If possible, you should plan a two to three days itinerary for Krakow.  Alternatively, you can also book a guided tour to get more information about each site.

Horse-Carriage on the Sightseeings Tour; Krakow Old Town; Krakow Day Trip
Horse-Carriage on the Sightseeings Tour

Tours

If you don’t want to walk so much, you can have fun to join this Krakow in a Day: 3-Hour City Tour by Electric Car and have some fun instead. The tour takes 3 hours. You will enjoy the beauty of Krakow Old Town in a heated electric car and learn all about the city’s history with a detailed audio guide. The tour covers the city’s most interesting and important spots. It also includes a visit to Schindler’s factory.

Being one of the best manufacturers of vodka in the world, you might like to join a Private Vodka Tasting tour to taste the Polish national liquor.

Where to Stay

The hotels in Krakow Old Town have reasonable offers. If you don’t have a car, then the 4-star Hotel Polski Pod Białym Orłem is perfect for your stay. It is located just opposite the St. Florian’s Gate, 4 minutes’ walk from the Main Market Square and just a 15-minute walk of the Wawel Royal Castle. The bus and railway stations are only 300 m away. 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.  Luggage storage and WiFi are available free of charge. Guests can enjoy a fitness centre free of charge. You can find these hotels on the following platforms.

Hotel Polski Pod Białym Orłem, Krakow
Hotel Polski Pod Białym Orłem, Krakow (Booking.com)
Hilton Garden Inn Krakow Airport
Hilton Garden Inn Krakow Airport (Booking.com)

 

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.

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.