Krakow, a Walk Through the First UNESCO City and the Old Polish Capital

Krakow Old Town Centre 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. However, to explore the entire old centre is impossible 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 includes:

  • Wawel Royal Hill
  • The Kanonicza Street
  • Grodzka street
  • Floriańska Street
Wawel Cathedral
Wawel Cathedral

How to get around in Krakow

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 1-day ticket or 2-day ticket. If you drive a car, the closest parking lot is the one 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 all the way up 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 Hand Print
Roman Polanski’s Hand Print

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 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. If you want to have fun, then you can book the tour here.

The Mansion of Bishop Erazm Ciołek

In the early 16th century, the Mansion of Bishop Erazm Ciołek was formed from the connection of smaller townhouses. 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
Kanonicza street

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

Main Market Square in Krakow

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.

Main Market Square in Krakow
Main Market Square in Krakow

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.

Read more from my post:  7 Polish Food I have Tried in Poland

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.

Restaurants in the Main Market Square
Restaurants in the Main Market Square

Many 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.

Floriańska Street

The 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, most houses standing on Floriańska were inhabited by the nobility and wealthy citizens. 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 purpose. 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.

Horse-Carriage on the Sightseeings Tour
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 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 Vodka Tour in Krakow. Or, Krakow Football’s History Tour is something you are looking for? Then please book a tour online at:

Conclusion

We walked nearly the same road back to our parking place. It took us about 5 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 two to three days itinerary for Krakow.  Alternatively, you can also book a guided tour to get more information about each site.

Where to Stay

Krakow has many hotels priced reasonable. 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 realised 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)

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