If you ever decide to go to Poland, don’t miss your chance to visit the most beautiful city of this country – Krakow, which is also known as a city of churches. When you walk around the city, and especially the old town, you’ll understand why. But the churches are not the only beauty of this amazing city. So let’s walk around and see what could we discover during 24 hours here.
Our bus stopped in the central train station. We booked a hostel close to the Old town, and it was also seemed to be not very far from the station. And actually yes, it was just 15 minutes walk from the station. But this time we were not that lucky with the selection of hostel, as later at night we understood there is a night club next to it, from where loud music and noise was heard even in the morning.. But this was the only bad part that we had here.
When the luggage was left at the hostel, we hurried to go to explore the city, every possible place that we could see during this 24 hours. The first place that caught our attention was the Barbican of Krakow
, late 15th century fortified gateway that was a part of complex network of defensive barrier which once encircled the Royal Town of Krakow. Currently it is one of the most famous tourists attractions that serves several exhibitions.
Right after Barbican, once entering St. Florian’s Gate, you’ll see Earring Gallery on both sides. Here you will find a big range of paintings, that will attract you with bright colors and magnificent works of different artists. Even if you don’t have a plan to buy something from here, you may spend uncounted time here with just watching and admiring the pictures on this outdoor gallery.
Continue walking on the left side of the defensive walls and you’ll see a beautiful building, historic 19th century venue staging concerts, theatrical performances and other events. This is Juliusz Slowacki Theater
, erected in 1893 and named after Polish poet in 1909. Green gardens surround the Gothic style building with small trees and flowers, and also sculptures in those gardens.
Every street in the Old Town of Krakow will lead you to some hidden place here, where you may find some small and big churches, museums and universities. The main street starts from St. Florian’s Gate and is also called Florianska. On this street you’ll find a lot of cafes and restaurants from cuisines of all over the world, pubs and beer houses and also milk cafes, which is the most cheapest way to have some food. Those are small cafes, like self-served canteens, with huge queue and cheap food. If you don’t want to spend much, this might be a good option, but actually food is not that expensive here in Poland and you may have nice food from local cuisine for small amount. The most famous food to try here are Krakow’s sausages, but we didn’t see any small market serving them and couldn’t try. Or maybe we were too excited with the architecture of the Old Town and didn’t notice them..
In the center of the Old Town there is a 13th century Main Market Square, which is considered as a heart of the city. Here is located the main Catholic church of Krakow, St. Mary’s Basilica (Bazylika Mariacka). This is 80m tall Gothic style Roman Catholic Church with 2 towers. It was founded in 1221 by the Bishop of Krakow Iwo Odrowaz. The building was destroyed during Mongol invasion of Poland and between 1290-1300 the new early Gothic Church was built on the remaining foundations. In the 18th century the interior was rebuilt in the late Baroque style. All 26 altars, equipment, furniture and paintings were replaced. Unfortunately taking pictures was forbidden inside and I can’t show how beautiful it was. But that was something that would be hard to describe by words.
At that times there was a cemetery near the Church, but later, at the beginning of 19th century, the city decided to shut down the cemetery and replace by a public square. Today it is known as a Plac Mariacki (Marian Square). This is a huge square with a big range of options of all kind of activities. There are many restaurants with open air sitting places, churches, palaces, statues. You will see a lot of chariots with white horses, that take tourists for a small city tour inside the Old Town. Exactly in the middle of the square there was a 13th century medieval Cloth Hall, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1978. It was once a major center of international trade. In the 15th century it was the source of variety imports and exports, such as spices, textile, silk, leather, salt etc. Nowadays it’s a market hall, where you can find some local souvenirs but mostly big range of jewelry made from natural Amber. The collection was so big and beautiful that was hard to choose something. You can find anything for any taste, earrings, rings, necklaces etc.
Upper floor of the market hall is the Sukiennice Museum division of the National Museum, and holds the largest permanent exhibit of the 19th century Polish painting and sculpture.
On the west side of the hall there is a Town Hall Tower, that gives a whole city view from the top. And on the south-east side of the building you will see a small Romanesque church dating from 11th century, with a Baroque dome. This is the Church of St. Adalbert
, one of the oldest stone churches in Poland. Near this church, on the evenings, you will see some young people making soap bubbles, and a lot of kids, playing with those small and big rainbow colored bubbles. We were lucky to see this on the sunset, when the rays were playing with those bubbles, giving all kind of colors to them. And to see the happy faces of dozens of kids was probably the best in this huge square. But not only kids were playing with that balloons. We also, like a kid, were standing there for a long time, watching how these bubbles were appearing from nowhere and flying in the air with a wind, and finding some place (or someone) to land on. This was kind of feeling that took us to childhood.
Continue walking in the streets of Old Town of Krakow. Every corner of it will give a new place to discover. A lot of museums, churches and universities will appear on your way all the time. You will not have a chance to be bored here. One of the most amazing places we’ve seen was the Church of Saints Paul and Peter. This was a Roman Catholic, Polish Baroque Church, that we found by chance, walking on those crowded, but in the meantime so quiet streets. What “called us” here was the sound of violin, coming fro this side. When we saw the church, there were some people playing violin and cello in front of the church. This was so beautiful. We wanted to stand for hours and listen to amazing music played here.
The Church itself was adorable. in the niches of its facade there were statues of Jesuit saints. Above the main portal there was an emblem of the order of Jesuit with saints. In front of the church there are several plinths with raised sculptures of apostles.
On the way back “home” there was a dance performance show in the Main Square. A lot of people were watching the show. We also saw part of it but it was already late evening and we decided to go back to the hostel. It was cold, but hot wine, lights on the streets and musicians didn’t let us feel the cold and tiredness. Surely we were excited with what we saw today.
But our explorations of Krakow weren’t ended yet, as we still had first half of the next day here and it was a great chance to visit the most famous sight here in Krakow, the Royal Castle
. But this will be another story.