In the Heart of History: Roaming Krakow’s Old Town and UNESCO Site

During our weekend trip to Poland, Krakow Old Town was our top destination. Known as the first UNESCO city and the former Polish capital, Krakow has rich history and grandeur. Exploring every corner of the city in just a few hours is quite impossible. Hence, we devised a walking itinerary to cover the key highlights while minimizing walking time.

While many tourists typically follow the Royal Route, starting from the city’s defensive walls to Wawel Hill, our route in Krakow Old Town included the iconic Wawel Royal Hill and several quaint streets around the bustling 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
Buildings on Wawel Royal Hill in Krakow old town
The fantastic view over the Vistula River and promenade from Baszta Sandomierska

Wawel Royal Hill Round Walk

As we walked alongside the Vistula River, just before we reached the Dragon Statue, something interesting caught our eye. There, on the pedestrian path known as Krakow Star Alley, were a series of handprints. These imprints belonged to renowned movie producers, actors, and directors.

Following our encounter with the Dragon Statue, we continued our journey, sticking to the left side. Ascending the stone stairs, we continued on the path towards the Wawel Royal Hill. As we wandered along the massive wall, we approached an arched stone door adjacent to the Baszta Sandomierska tower. Entering through this gateway, we entered the confines of the royal complex. From the vantage point of Baszta Sandomierska, we had  a breathtaking view of the Vistula River and its bustling promenade.

Wawel Cathedral

The Wawel Cathedral is Poland’s foremost place of worship. Revered as the nation’s sanctuary and steeped in historical significance, it is the traditional coronation venue for Polish monarchs.

Throughout history, rulers have expanded and modified the cathedral extensively, incorporating various architectural styles and constructing numerous burial chapels, resulting in a unique blend of architectural elements.

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 Wawel Royal Castle is a spectacular Renaissance palace, once serving as the residence of Polish kings and their immediate family. Within its grand hall, the dramas of courtly and political life played out.

Wawel Royal Hill in Krakow old town
Buildings on Wawel Royal Hill in Krakow old town

The picturesque Kanonicza Street

Leaving the Wawel Royal Complex behind, we retraced our steps to Kanonicza Street. This is an exceptionally picturesque street, with each building steeped in centuries of fascinating history. It is truly one of Kraków’s most enchanting corners.

Kanonicza Street is a blend of architectural styles from different eras. Its well-maintained cobblestone paths make strolling a pleasure. In fact, there’s even an option for an electric car tour offered by a local operator.

The Mansion of Bishop Erazm Ciołek

Back in the early 16th century, a series of smaller townhouses were joined together to create the magnificent Mansion of Bishop Erazm Ciołek. Once the grandest residence on the street, it now serves as a branch of the National Museum in Kraków. Inside, visitors can explore a rich collection of art from the Middle Ages to the late 18th century, including sacred pieces from the Orthodox Church.

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

Nowadays, the Deanery is home to the Archdiocesan Museum. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, it was where Karol Wojtyła, later known as Pope John Paul II, resided.

Main Market Square in Krakow Old Town
Kanonicza street, Krwkoa old town

One of the oldest streets in Krakow, the Grodzka street

Grodzka Street offers a splendid view of the main market square. As one of Kraków’s oldest streets, it has significant historical value. Here are some noteworthy sites along this charming street:

  • 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 different eras. You can start an architecture walking tour from any direction leading to its 13th-century market square.

Horse-carriages are only there for sightseeing purposes; Things to do in Krakow
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 lies Krakow’s main square, the second largest in Europe. The brightly coloured buildings surrounding the square appear recently renovated. I could spend hours admiring every architectural detail, every subtle flourish on each facade.

One of the standout buildings in the square is the Cloth Hall, now housing a market hall and a Polish art museum. Divided into two sections, one side hosts a street market with various Polish specialties, while the other has numerous restaurants and bars. Additionally, the Gothic Town Hall Tower and several museums are nearby.

Restaurants in the area offer a variety of culinary delights, including local Polish cuisine. We enjoyed a delicious Polish-style lunch on the ground floor of the Cloth Hall, savoring the Krakow’s famous meat-stuffed pastry.

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
Clock Tower of St. Mary's Basilica, Krakow Poland

Part of the Royal Route, the Floriańska Street

Floriańska Street, which begins at St Florian’s Gate and extends straight from the Main Market Square, is also part of the Royal Route. Notably, it’s one of the first cobbled streets in Krakow.

By the end of the 15th century, most houses on this street were occupied by nobility and wealthy citizens. In the late 19th century, Krakow launched its first horse-drawn tram line there. However, nowadays, horse-drawn carriages are mainly for sightseeing purposes.

We walked nearly the same road back to our parking place. The entire walk took us about five hours, including an hour-long lunch break. Honestly, that seemed too short to fully appreciate this incredible city. If possible, we’d love to stay for two or three days.

krakow old town travel tips

How to get around

A convenient way to get around Krakow is by purchasing a Krakow City Card, which grants holders free access to city buses and trams, as well as complimentary entry to numerous museums in Krakow.

Where to Stay

Hotel Polski Pod Białym Orłem sits directly across from St. Florian’s Gate, a mere 4-minute stroll from the Main Market Square, and a leisurely 15-minute walk from the Wawel Royal Castle. Additionally, the bus and railway stations are conveniently only 300 meters away. This strategic location allows you to soak in the charming evening ambiance of the old town without feeling rushed to return to the hotel.

Meanwhile, Hilton Garden Inn Krakow Airport caters to the needs of both business and solo travelers. Positioned just outside Krakow Balice Airport, it offers unparalleled convenience. As we retrieved our car from the rental office, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that it adjoins the hotel lobby.


  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!

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