Kraków: Sights

There's no denying it - Kraków is a gorgeous city. Horse-drawn carriages, cobblestone streets, music playing everywhere you go. It's a picture perfect historical European city. It dates back to the 7th century, which is why the alleys are narrow and the buildings are beautiful. Here are some thing (in my humble opinion, of course) that are worth checking out when you're in the city. 

Kraków Barbican and Florian’s Gate

If you’re staying north of the Main Square, you’ll most likely have to pass through the Gate in order to get downtown – fitting, since it actually used to be gateway to enter the city. The Barbican is the building just north of the Gate and served as a military outpost and was part of the city’s defensive wall. At the height of the wall’s existence, there were 47 watchtowers similar to Florian’s Gate all around the city. Now there’s just the one survivor.

Present day, there are musicians playing underneath the tower and art students from the nearby university selling their paintings and drawings. Their artwork adorns the southern wall and comes at an extremely affordable price. I purchased 5 paintings to bring home as souvenirs for friends and family (and for myself too!)

National Museum in Kraków 

While in Kraków, Mom and I met up with one of my grandma’s closest friends, Pani Basia. She spent the day with us at some wonderful exhibitions and museums. We didn’t visit the main National Museum building, but we visited the smaller branches such as the Kamienica Szołayskich and the Emeryka Hutten-Czapskiego.

If it’s your first time in the city, I recommend going to the massive, main museum. But if you don’t have much time to spare, or you’ve already been to the main building, the National Museum has smaller buildings and exhibitions around the city.

My favourite was the Emeryka Hutten-Czapskiego. Filled with a coin collection, old books, and best of all, vintage maps, I would have loved to spend a few more hours in there.

Main Square

If you visit Kraków, you can’t avoid the main square. It’s the heart of the city. It’s where the magic happens. It’s where musicians, locals, tourists (and pigeons!) come to hang out and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

In one corner of the square is St. Mary’s Basilica, where every hour on the hour, a trumpeter calls out from the taller of the two towers on the church. Halfway through his tune, he stops abruptly, to commemorate when centuries ago, Mongol attackers shot the trumpeter right in the throat. 

That’s what you get when you’re trying to alert the city to an attack. You get shot. But at least it’s remembered and honoured for years and years afterwards, and you become a historical legend. 

Podziemia Rynku

While the Main Square is inevitable to visit, underneath the square is actually an up and coming tourist attraction. A few years ago, the city decided to excavate the entire Main Square of Kraków, and they discovered a whole city underneath the city – namely, the old stalls from the original cloth hall from Medieval times.

The museum is interactive and informative, talking about the history of the city and really making you feel as if you were transported back in time.

Wawel Royal Castle

Wawel is absolutely stunning. I spent 100% of my time there wandering around pretending I was a princess. Maybe in a past life I actually was, because I definitely felt a certain connection with the place.

One of the saddest things about Wawel, however, is their strict rules on photography. No photos of the interiors, at any time whatsoever. It’s such a shame, because the tapestry collection is (I think?) the most renowned in Europe. You’re just going to have to take my word on it.

Jagiellonian University

The University was created and built the same time as the Royal Castle, in the 1300s by King Casimir. It’s one of the oldest universities in the world, and the second oldest in Central Europe.

The architecture on the outside is stunning. Right outside the law building is the “Drzewo Wolności”, the tree of freedom, dedicated to Poland regaining its independence after World War One.

Streets and Alleyways

You could spend days in Kraków just wandering the streets, getting lost in the architecture and the beauty of the city.

One of the things that I didn’t like about the city is what a lot of people love – the closeness and the near-claustrophobia of the tiny streets. It’s not fully for me, but I get the appeal and the romantic nature. I still had a wonderful time in Kraków, even though it wasn't my favourite of places in Poland.