About Krakow v 2.0

About Kraków

Kraków is not just a place with a history – it has a pre-history going back to the Stone Age settlement on Wawel Hill. Krakus, mythical ruler, built that settlement above the cave occupied by the dragon Smok Wawelski (who was not mythical at all, of course – you can visit him today!)



Written records don’t go quite that far back, but in 965 the city was noted as having been under the control of Moravia from 876-879 and captured by Bohemian Duke Boleslaus I in 955. By that time, Kraków was already a commercial centre. Mieszko I (first king of Poland, see About Poznań) took Kraków from the Bohemians and incorporated the city into the holdings of his Piast dynasty.

miezsko 1

In 1038, Kraków became the seat of the Polish Government. Wawel Castle, St Adalbert’s Church, a cathedral and a basilica were built, but the city was almost completely destroyed in 1241 during a Mongol invasion. The rebuilt city was virtually identical – and it was almost identically destroyed again by Mongols in 1259. After new fortifications were built, the third Mongol attack was repelled.

In 1335, Casimir III created a new city out of two western suburbs of Kraków – Kazimierz – and the defensive walls were extended around the new city. The king ordered the construction of a new church on the rocky outcrop where the bishop of Kraków, Stanislaus of Szczepanów, was murdered in 1079 on the orders of Bolesław II the Generous, also known as the Bold and the Cruel. The bishop became a saint, and the church is Church of St Michael the Archangel and St Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr and Pauline Fathers Monastery, Skałka.

Stanislaus of Szczepanów



Casimir also founded, in 1364, the University of Kraków, the second oldest in Europe.  Under the joint Polish-Lithuanian Jagiellonian rule and as a member of the Hanseatic League, the city continued to grow, attracting craftsmen, businesses, guilds and sciences and the arts flourished as befitted the growing capital of a major European power.

The name of the Polish currency, Złoty, translates as gold, and the C15 and C16 were Poland’s Złoty Wiek – Golden Age. It was a time when wonderful works of art and architecture were created.


1493 – the two cities of Kraków and Kazimierz

The most famous church bell in Poland, Zygmunt, was cast in 1520; Hans Dürer was court painter and Hans von Kulmbach and Veit Stoss were making altarpieces for churches in Kraków – the latter took 12 years to make the altarpiece in St Mary’s Basilica. The Jewish community was expanding, and in 1553 was given the right to build their own walls within the city walls, which they did, the extended in 1608 due to growth.


Cracovia near the end of the 16th century

1546 Krakow Uprising

1572 saw a change in the fortunes of Kraków. King Sigismund II, last of the Jagiellonian dynasty, died childless and the Polish throne passed to Henry III of France then to other foreign-based rulers. The decline grew worse during the Swedish invasion and an outbreak of bubonic plague which left 20,000 dead. In 1596, Sigismund III – a Swede – moved the capital of the Commonwealth to Warsaw – half way between the capitals of the Kingdom and the Grand Duchy.


The second half of C18 saw the three Partitions of Poland. The first Partition, of 1772, saw 30% of the Commonwealth’s land and half its population lost to Russia, Prussia and Austria, The second of 1790 saw Poland lose another slug of population and land to Russia and Prussia.

Under the orders of the Austrian Emperor, Kazimierz became a district of Kraków and the richer Jewish families began to move out. However, they stayed fairly close to the existing synagogues to avoid travel on the Sabbath.


The 1794 insurrection began in the Rynek, and led to the Third Partition of 1795 which took what was left and divided it between the three powers – Russia, Prussia and Austria.

In 1809 Napoleon captured part of the former Poland from Austria and made Kraków part of the short-lived Duchy of Warsaw. On Napoleon’s defeat, the boundaries reverted to pre-war but the Congress of Vienna made Kraków a Free City.

free city of krakow 1820

Following another failed insurrection (1846) the city was annexed by Austria and became the Grand Duchy of Kraków.


Defeated in the Austro-Prussian War, Austria granted limited autonomy to Galicia in 1866 and Kraków became a centre for national pride, culture and art.



By the turn of the century the city had evolved into a modern metropolis … yet





rynek 1912

Electric trams and running water came in 1910.

On 3 August 1914, Józef Piłsudski led the First Cadre Company out of Kraków to fight for the liberation of Poland.


During the War, the city was briefly besieged by Russian troops. With the end of the War, Poland regained independence and Piłsudski took the helm as chief of state from 1918-1920 (and, later, as leader of the Second Republic.


Post WW1 Kraków returned to its role as a major cultural, spiritual and academic centre, both for ethnic Poles and Polish Jews, with a strong Zionist youth movement.


In September 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland and on 4 September Kraków became capital of the region called the General Government – an area designated for ethnic Poles, under the control of a German governor based in Wawel Castle.



Polen, Kurt Daluege, Hans Frank, v. Gienanth

Polen, Krakau, Polizeiparade, Hans Frank

Polen, Krakau, Polizeiparade

The Nazis planned to thoroughly “germanise” Kraków by removing all Poles and Jews, renaming locations and streets and portraying the city through propaganda as a historically German city. 180 academics were arrested and shipped to concentration camps – the survivors were eventually released at the request of senior Italian figures.

Polizei-Wache Burg Wawel

Krakau, Gefängnis Montelupich, Klosterschwester

Krakau, Gefängnis Montelupich, Häftling

Krakau, Parade von SS und Polizei

Kraków’s Jewish population was herded into the Ghetto where many died through illness or starvation – the rest were either murdered in the Ghetto or shipped to the extermination or slave labour camp including Kraków-Płaszów and Auschwtz. (See About visiting the camps)

1389.5 Holocaust A

Polen, Ghetto Krakau, Einfahrt

ghetto 2

Krakau, Judenlager

Some Jews were saved through their selection as employees of Oscar Schindler, whose Kraków enamelware factory, now the Museum of the Occupation, houses a modest exhibit to his efforts and those whose lives he saved.

Polen, Ghetto Krakau, Ausweiskontrolle


Krakau, Razzia, deutsche und polnische Polizei



Kraków had been occupied quickly and used as capital of the region, so although looted during German occupation it otherwise survived relatively unscathed. The city was liberated on 18 January 1945 by the Soviet forces, who immediately got to work arresting Poles loyal to the London government-in-exile or who had served in the Home Army. (See also About Katyn for more information about Soviet efforts to remove current and potential Polish leaders).

The former leader in academia was brought to heel by the communists, with total political control and the loss of autonomy and printing rights by the universities. Instead, the communists set out to transform Kraków into an industrial city by opening the largest steel mill in Poland (the Lenin Steelworks) in the new suburb of Nowa Huta.



The steelworks are today owned by ArcelorMittal S.A., the world’s largest steel producer, and Nowa Huta is the mecca for Crazy Communist Tours by communist era cars and buses.



It took Karol Wojtyła, cardinal archbishop of Kraków, close to 20 years to get permission  to build the first churches in the godless suburb – he went on to become the first non-Italian Pope in 455 years.

















Before we get going, we owe you a list of the Abouts covering specific areas for Kraków visitors, and we owe ourselves not to repeat the contents of those Abouts here. We’ll mention them again, though, because we want to cover as much ground as possible in this comprehensive About. So:

About “free” walking tours in Krakow

About getting around Kraków

About validating your ticket

About Castle Przegorzały

About visiting St. Mary’s Basilica

About visiting Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau

About the salt mines

About Czorsztyn and the Dunajec River Gorge

About Ojców and the Jura

About Schindler’s Factory

About Kalwaria Zebrzydowska

About Tyniec and Bielany

About Krakow for Kids

About Splashing About in Southern Poland

There, that saved us about 5,000 words and means you can check these Abouts at your leisure.

Two areas of central Kraków are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites – Wawel and the Market Square and Old Town. Let’s start with Wawel.

Rynek to Wawel

Two World Heritage sites – in the foreground, the Rynek with the Cloth Hall bottom right, the towers of St Mary’s bottom left, St Adalbert’s bottom centre. To the back is the Castle and Cathedral on Wawel Hill.

You’ve already read that Wawel Hill was the site of a pre-historic settlement, built by Krakus above the cave occupied by the fire-breathing dragon Smok Wawelski. Reportedly, Smok was not a very nice dragon and every day he would beat a path of destruction across the countryside, killing the civilians, pillaging their homes and devouring their livestock. He especially enjoyed eating young maidens, and to keep him quiet the townspeople had to leave a young girl in front of his cave every month. King Krakus’ bravest knights lost their lives too, as they tried to kill Smok. The town began to run out of maidens, and the king to run out of knights!


Eventually, the king offered the hand of his beautiful daughter in marriage to the man who defeated Smok. Warriors came from far and wide, but still Smok prevailed. One day a poor cobbler’s apprentice called Skuba took up the challenge. He stuffed a lamb with sulphur and left it outside the dragon’s cave. Smok ate it and developed an almighty thirst. Smok drank and drank from the Vistula, but could not settle his stomach. Eventually, after drinking the Vistula half dry, he swelled up and exploded!


Skuba got his reward – he married the king’s daughter and they both lived happily ever after.

Today, you can visit Smok, down by the Vistula, where he belches flames every five minutes – or more often if you text “smok” to 7168 … there is a charge, but you do get a response!


You will, we hope, note that we got all the way through that without mentioning Skuba diving!

To be fair to you, that conclude the history lesson – save for any interesting snippets that occur to us as we move along. From here on in, it’s what you can see today.


And this IS what you see today – the visitor centre and ticket office is in the long building with the red roof at the bottom of this pic. Behind that is an open space with the remains of the Churches of St Michael and St George plus the house of Canon Stanisław Borek, all of which were demolished by the Austrians who then built a military training square.   To the left is the Cathedral Museum. The building with all the towers and domes if Wawel Cathedral and beyond it is Wawel Castle. See the pointy bit at the bottom of the pic? Below those walls is where Smok lives, down by the Vistula.

Visiting Wawel

There is a website http://www.wawel.krakow.pl/en/index.php which will guide you through the maze of ticket options. Basically, some of the points of interest are covered by a general ticket, while there is a separate charge for others. That site gives you times and prices for everything.

There are limits on visitor numbers and tickets are also for entry at a certain time – you may find you can buy a ticket but you’re in for a long wait, or there are no tickets available, or you can go to the Tourist Service Office or BOT (note: NOT the ticket office) and make individual or group reservations in advance and, if you wish, book a guide. FYI, the Royal Private Apartments can only be toured with a Polish- or English-language guide; the cost of guide service is included in the ticket price.

The Visitor Centre sells tickets, provides visitor information and houses a restaurant, a café, shops, and a branch of the post office, where you can post your postcards but not your parcels. The restaurant menu is here http://kawiarniapodbaszta.com  The Centre is also a Wi-Fi hotspot.

For part of the year you can get into the Visitor Centre from both sides; during the winter, though, entry is only from the courtyard. There’s also a wheelchair ramp on the courtyard side and reasonable space inside to manoeuvre a standard wheelchair.

The accessible/adapted restroom is located in the southern part of the building, next to the restaurant. The restrooms located off of the main entrance hall include a baby changing station.


The Visitor Centre opens at 09:00 all year round. It closes at:

January to February   17:00

March   18:00

April   19:00

May to August   20:00

September   19:00

October   18:00

November to December   17:00

An audio guide is available, normally priced at 20zl, for:

The State Rooms
The Royal Private Apartments
The Oriental Art Exhibit
Wawel Hill – Former Buildings and Fortifications (not currently operating)


Reduced price entry

People always ask. The answer is never simple as rules vary from place to place and generally require you to be either Polish or a student at a Polish school and/or to have documents to prove your entitlement. The difference in price is usually not great and, though John uses a wheelchair, none of his ID verifies it so it’s simply not worth asking.

FYI, here are the rules at Wawel http://www.wawel.krakow.pl/en/index.php?op=50

Admission (only for individual visitors) is free on:

  • Mondays – April 1 – October 31 (9.30 a.m.-1 p.m.)
  • Sundays – November 1 – March 31 (10 a.m.-4 p.m.)

Please note that a free admission pass must be collected from the ticket office last entry 1 hour before exhibitions close

Please comply with the entrance times printed on your ticket (they are for your viewing comfort)


Ticket Office Hours (Visitors Centre)

 April 1–30; September 1–October 31 May 1–June 30
Monday–Friday: 9:00am–4:45pm
Sat., Sun., Holidays: 9:30am–3:45pm
Monday–Friday: 9:00am–5:45pm
Sat., Sun., Holidays: 9:30am–5:45pm
July 1–August 31 November 1–March 31
Monday–Friday: 9:00am–6:45pm
Sat., Sun., Holidays: 9:30am–6:45pm
Monday: Closed
Tuesday–Saturday: 9.15am–2:45pm
Sunday, Holidays: 9:30am–2:45pm

Ticket Office Hours (at the Herbowa Gate, for visitors entering from Kanonicza Street):

  • Monday 9am-11:45am
  • Tuesday-Friday 9am-3:45pm
  • Saturday, Sunday, Holidays 9:30am-3:45pm

To ensure quick and efficient service for all, the ticket office cannot provide detailed information. Please stop at the information desk first for help with planning your visit.


Tickets for the Cathedral – the Royal Tombs, the Bell “Sigismund,” and for the Cathedral Museum are sold at the ticket office across from the Cathedral

The exhibitions in the Castle are closed on:

  • January 1
  • Easter Saturday, Easter Sunday
  • November 1 and November 11
  • December 24, 25
  • All exhibitions are closed on Mondays from 1 November 1 to 31 March



fot.: Jaros³aw ¯eliñski



Permanent exhibitions at Wawel Castle

The State Rooms on the ground and second floor of the castle. You’ll see the Governor’s Parlour on the ground floor before climbing the Envoy’s staircase to the second floor (the Royal Apartments are on the first floor) where you’ll see eleven rooms and halls including the Envoy’s Room, Eagle Room and the Senator’s Hall, the largest room in the Castle. You’ll descend by the Senatorial Stair.

envoys room+ Eagle room

senators room

planet room

The Royal Apartments, on the first floor, are visited only with guided tours (incl in your ticket price for the RA). Our personal favourite, because it’s bizarre, is the Hen’s Foot.

hens foot

The Crown Treasury and Armoury is located on the ground floor of the north-eastern corner of the Castle. In 1795 the Prussians broke into what was then the Treasury and destroyed most of the contents. Yet the new collection includes some stunning works of art – and the Szczerbiec Coronation Sword, one of the most revered objects from Polish history.







The Oriental Art Exhibition in the west wing contains carpets, silks, tapestries, weapons and armour, ceremonial saddles and equestrian equipment from Turkey, the Crimea, the Caucasus and Iran – which eventually became items of everyday and ceremonial use by noblemen and the royal court.

oriental art

Lapidarium was a new word to us, but the Lapidarium at Wawel Castle, combined with the remains of the Rotunda of Sts. Felix and Adauctus (alternately, Rotunda of the Blessed Virgin Mary) from the late 10th/early 11th century and the former royal kitchens and coach house make a fascinating stop for those interested in historical architecture. This exhibition, The Lost Wawel, is in the first block of the Castle you come to, off the green. Favourite, the Rotunda.

tile room












We understand the Royal Garden Tour is closed for the time being.



While Smok is always on display, his Den is open only from May to October. Entry is down a staircase at the foot of the Thieves’ Tower. Several caverns are open, then visitors exit onto the riverbank, beside Smok.



Sandomierska Tower is one of two artillery towers at Wawel. It was built in 1460 to strengthen the south side of the Royal Castle against attack. Open April to September and weekend in October in good weather. Note that touring the tower involves climbing 137 steps. Watch your step and DO NOT hang over the bannisters!

sando tower

The “Wawel Hill – Former Buildings and Fortifications” is not running at present.



For temporary exhibitions at Wawel Castle visit the website. At the time of writing, the site lists the following:

Leonardo da Vinci’s “Lady with an Ermine”


What we have to say is a stunning C17 Ottoman Tent from the Castle’s collection




Tadeusz Kuntze’s “The Death of Priam”


The Shuysky Czars before King Sigismund III in 1611 – A Showing of the Restored Painting from the Collections of the Lviv Historical Museum


The Collection of the Castle Museum contains a large number of items – we’ll show you just some of them

































Visiting Wawel Cathedral

Coronation site for Polish kings and tomb to many of them, along with national heroes, poets, saints and bishops – Wawel Cathedral has seen a lot in its more than 1,000 year history.

The throne of the Bishops of Cracow

The throne of the Bishops of Cracow

The first church to be built on this site was begun and destroyed in C11. The second lasted until only 1305, when it was destroyed by a fire. The third church, basically what you see today, was built from C14. Lest we forget, its Sunday name is królewska bazylika archikatedralna śś. Stanisława i Wacława na Wawelu – the Royal Arch cathedral Basilica of Saints Stanislaus and Wenceslaus on Wawel Hill.

Coronation of John II Casimir Vasa at wawel in 1649

Coronation of John II Casimir Vasa at Wawel in 1649

JPII fans may already now that this is where the future Pope offered his first Mass as a priest in the Crypt on 2 November 1946.


OK – Wawel Cathedral is one of those places where a picture CAN paint a thousand words, and to describe properly all there is to see would take a small book. So we’re just going to give you some highlights – go and check the Cathedral out for yourself…


Admission to the Cathedral itself is free. Tickets need to be bought at the Cathedral ticket office, across from the Cathedral, to visit: Sigismund Bell, the Royal Tombs and the Cathedral Museum.

Regular Concession *
Individual tourists 12,00 zł 7,00 zł
Group ** 11,00 zł/person 6,00 zł/person

* Children, school youth, students, teachers, senior citizens and pensioners, whether from Poland or abroad, are entitled to CONCESSION TICKETS upon presenting the relevant document.
** Groups of more than 10, with licensed guide.

Bishop Padniewski’s Chapel

Bishop Padniewski’s Chapel

Wawel Cathedral is open for tourists
 April – September October – March
Mon – Sat Sunday Mon – Sat Sunday
Cathedral 9:00 – 17:00 12:30 – 17:00 9:00 – 16:00 12:30 – 16:00
Cathedral Museum 9:00 – 17:00 Closed 9:00 – 16:00 Closed
Ticket sale 9:00 – 16:30 12:30 – 16:30 9:00 – 15:30 12:30 – 15:30

The Cathedral is closed for visitors on: New Year’s Day (1 January), Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Sunday, All Saints’ Day (1 November), Christmas Eve (24 December) and Christmas Day (25 December.)


The Cathedral Museum is closed on Sunday and holidays..

Polychrome on the vaulting of Queen Sophia's Chapel

Polychrome on the vaulting of Queen Sophia’s Chapel

Audio Guide

An audio-guided tour around Wawel Cathedral and up the Sigismund Bell tower takes around 30 minutes, the Royal Tombs 10 minutes, and the Cathedral Museum around 20 minutes.

Audio guide hire
RegularConcession 7 zł5 zł
Group 3 zł / person

Tickets to the Royal Castle at Wawel can be purchased at the Wawel Castle Ticket Office. More information on the Castle’s website.

jp2 1966


From the visitor rules

In order to visit Sigismund’s Bell, the Royal Tombs, the Potocki Family’s Chapel, the Holy Cross Chapel, Queen Sophie’s Chapel and the Cathedral Museum one has to have a valid admission ticket bought in the Wawel Cathedral’s ticket office. The admis­sion tickets have to be kept and presented for inspection on en­tering the above listed places.

silver bells tower, the oldest bell tower of the Cathedral

The Urban Bell

Silver Bells Tower and the Urban Bell

In the event of the temporary closing for visitors of Sigismund’s Bell, the Royal Tombs, the Potocki Family’s Chapel, the Holy Cross Chapel, Queen Sophie’s Chapel or the Cathedral Museum the admission ticket may be used within 7 days after their re­opening for tourists.

The John Paul II Wawel Cathedral Museum

The John Paul II Wawel Cathedral Museum


1. While visiting the Wawel Cathedral one should:

— keep quiet,

— switch off mobile phones,

— be properly dressed (have back and arms covered).

2. In the Cathedral it is forbidden to:

— do sightseeing during services,

— take pictures (except for the places exempt from this ban, namely at Sigismund’s Bell),

— consume any food, drinks or chewing gum,

— lecture or teach school or academic classes without the con­sent of the Cathedral’s Custodian,

— have one’s head covered (this applies to men only).


3. People under influence of alcohol or behaving in a manner in­terfering with the sightseeing arrangements and safety rules or violating the generally accepted rules of behaviour in sacred places are not allowed to enter the Cathedral.

4. Tours of the Wawel Cathedral should proceed following the es­tablished direction. Walking against the established sightseeing direction is forbidden.

5. While sightseeing one should obey the instructions given by the members of the Internal Protection Service of the Wawel Cathe­dral

OK. Got your ticket? Let’s go. We’ll follow the route the guides recommend, to take in all there is to see.



Yup – that IS one of Smok’s ribs hanging besode the door!


Int 2 The nave and St Stanislaus altar

The Nave

Int 1 The nave and St Stanislaus altar

Int 1 The nave and St Stanislaus altar

The High Altar

The Altar of St Stanislaus (patron saint of Poland and of Kraków)

Sarkofag Św. Stanisława

The Chancel

The tomb of St Władysław Jagiello

The tomb of St Władysław Jagiello 1

The tomb of St Władysław Jagiello 2

The monuments to Bishops Marcin Szyszkowski, Piotr Genbicki, Kazimierz Lubienski and Jan Malachowski

The stained glass windows of the transept

The tombs of King Władysław of Varna and King Władysław the Short

Wlasdyslaw the Short 2

Wlasdyslaw the Short 1

Wladyslaw of Varna  2

Wladyslaw of Varna 1

The former St Margaret’s Chapel, now the sacristy


Sigismund Tower – see the Royal Sigismund Bell, the largest of the five bells hanging in the Sigismund Tower. It was cast in 1520, weighs 13 tonnes and requires 12 bell-ringers to swing it. .


It tolls on special occasions, mostly religious and national holidays, and is regarded as one of Poland’s national symbols. FYI, the tower has an oaken internal self-bearing supporting construction, detached from the walls, on which the bells are fitted. This construction is a masterpiece of carpentry and has survived to this day unaffected.

The Sigismund Tower

sigismund bell

The former St Nicholas’ Chapel, now the hall to the chapter house

The Maciejowski Chapel

The Crypt of National Poets

A plaque featuring King Jan III Sobieski at Vienna

The Chapels of SS Mathias and Matthew (the Lipski Chapel), St Laurent (the Skotniki Chapel) and SS Cosmas and Damian (the Zebryzdowski Chapel)

The Altar of Christ Crucified

St Catherine’s Chapel (Gamrat’s Chapel)


St Joseph’s Chapel

The Altars of St Wenceslaus and St Hyacinth (stop sniggering at the back!)

The monument to King Michal Korybut Wisniowiecki and Queen Eleanora of Habsburg

The monument to King Michal Korybut Wisniowiecki and Queen Eleanora of Habsburg

The monument to King Jan III Sobieski and Queen Marie Casimire

The monument to King Jan III Sobieski and Queen Marie Casimire

The Chapels of the Birth of the Holy Virgin Mary, St Thomas Becket (Tomicki’s) and St John the Evangelist (Grot’s)

The effigy of Bishop Tomicki

Monument to Cardinal Zbigniew Olesnicki

Tomb of King Kazimierz the Great

Tomb of King Kazimierz the Great 3

Tomb of King Kazimierz the Great 2

Chapels of Corpus Christi and St Andrew (Jan Olbracht’s) and St John the Baptist (Zadzik’s)

(Jan Olbracht’s)

Monument to Cardinal Albin Dunajewski

Chapel of the Immaculate Conception of the Holy Virgin Mary (Konarski’s)

The Royal insignia of St Jadwiga of Poland and the monument in the form of a tomb

Jadwiga of Poland and the monument in the form of a tomb

Funeral insignia from the grave of Anna of Jagiellon orb ca 1596

Chapel of the Annunciation of the Holy Virgin Mary (Rorantist’s)

Chapel of the Immaculate Conception of the Holy Virgin Mary (Psalterists’)

Monument to Castellan Piotr Boratynski of Belzec

Chapel of the Presentation of the Holy Virgin Mary and St Stephen (Doctor’s)

St Stephen (Doctor’s)

Plaque to Voivode (governor) Piotr Kmita the Elder

Chapel of the Purification of the Holy Virgin Mary (Rozyc)

Chapel of the Holy Cross and the Holy Ghost

trinity left holy cross right

Vaulting at the Holy Cross Chapel



Monument to Voivode (governor) Piotr Kmita the Younger

Holy Trinity Chapel

The North Aisle

Monuments to Bishop Andrzej Trzebicki and Stanislaw Ankwicz

Chapel of the Lord’s Passion – the Clock Tower

clock tower

clock mechanism

Which is where you’ll find the entrance to the crypt – show your ticket and descend to …

St Leonard's Crypt

The vestibule to St Leonard’s Crypt and the Crypt itself

King Stefan Batory’s Crypt


The Crypt of Władysław IV Vasa and Queen Cecilia Renata

The Crypt under the south arm of the ambulatory

Sarcophagus of Tadeusz Kościuszko





Sarcophagus of Duke Józef Poniatowski

Sarcophagus of General Władysław Sikorski

Tombs of Bishops and leaders


The crypt houses leaders from the ages – including the President Lech Kaczyński and First Lady Maria Kaczyńska, killed in the crash of Polish Air Force One on the way to Smolensk to attend a ceremony marking the Katyn Massacre.

The Crypt under the Psalterists’ Chapel

The urn with soil from Katyn (see About Katyn)

The urn with soil from Katyn

Marshall Pilsudski’s Crypt

Marshall Pilsudski’s Crypt


Which brings you up the stairs to the exit through the State Entrance to the Royal Tombs

Sigismund’s Chapel (Kaplica Zygmuntowska) was built in 1519-33 as funerary chapel for the last Jagiellons.

Sigismund_Chapel 3




sigismund chapel eagle

It houses the tombs of only of Sigismund I, the Old, who aid for it, but also Sigismund II Augustus and Anna Jagiellonka (who ordered the exterior gilding) beneath its gold dome, while the inner sculptures, stuccos and paintings were designed by some of the most renowned artists of the age.

sigismund chapel




The Cathedral Museum houses four permanent exhibitions

The Royal Room houses the regalia: objects connected with the coronation ceremonies and funerals of the Polish monarchs, as well as their gifts for Wawel Cathedral, which had been kept in the Cathedral Treasury since the 11th century.

St Maurice’s spear, 10th century

The first Cathedral Treasury Room displays a unique collection is kept, consisting of objects donated to the Wawel Cathedral, considered the most important church in Poland, by its patrons: kings, bishops and aristocrats. Works of art displayed here used to serve religious worship and include both masterpieces of various handicrafts, such as weaving and embroidery, and 15th- or 16th-century paintings.

Objects from the grave of Bishop Maurus, second half of the 12th century

The second Cathedral Treasury Room, on the first floor, bring things up to date with gifts donated to the Cathedral by the clergy and aristocracy in the period between the 17th and 20th centuries.

Crosier of Archbishop Metropolitan of Cracow

The Papal Room is the last part of the exhibition and contains memorabilia related to Pope John Paul II who, during his time as archbishop of Kraków, elevated the Diocesan Museum of Wawel to the rank of Cathedral Museum. The room displays his cardinal’s and papal attire (cassocks, birettas, zucchetti and sashes).

Zuchetto and belt of Pope John Paul II, 1978 – 1983

The Wawel Cathedral Tapestries:




The Royal Route

You know we’ve done this backwards, right? We’ve started at the end of the Royal Route, not the beginning – but hey, if they came north to south, then they had to go back south to north … so that’s what we’re going to do. Up ul Grodzka, through the Rynek, up ul Floriańska through the Old Town (Stare Miasto) to the Floriańska Gate to the Barbakan, across pl. Matejki and on to St Florian’s Church.


Right at the start of our trip to the Northern flank of the old city walls you’ll see the Chapter House and Church of St Giles.



Then the Church of St Andrew …




…and a little further the Church of Sts Peter and Paul, the first Baroque church in Poland on St Mary Magdalene Square.








Also on St Margaret’s Square  is Jagiellonian University’s Collegium Iuridicum – one of the oldest buildings of the University.






Keep on up Grodzka and you’ll get to pl. Wszystkich Świętych (All Saint Square) with …





… Wielkopolski Palace …







… and the Franciscan Church on your left …






…with the Dominican Church on your right.


In ul Franciszkańska you’ll also find the Archbishop’s Palace.





The Dominican Church was seriously damaged in the great fire of 1850 so much of what you see today is rebuilt or repairs – but like many churches in Poland, the interior makes up for what the exterior (now) lacks.





Are you enjoying our walk, so far? Kraków is not all about BIG sights – some of the smaller and less well-known places are really worth seeing, no?

You’re in for a treat now, because this is where we bring you onto Kraków’s main square – the Rynek Główny or Main Square. First stop is the Church of St. Adalbert or Church of St. Wojciech – one of the oldest stone churches in Poland.


That’s St Adalbert’s, on the left, and you’re coming into the square from the top, left corner.

St Adalbert’s was built in C11 and named after the martyred missionary whose body was bought back for its weight in gold from the pagan Prussians and placed in Gniezno Cathedral by Boleslaus I. It stands at the south-east corner of the biggest medieval market square in Europe, laid out in 1257 (the rynek in Nowy Sącz is the second-biggest in Poland) but is more than 100 years older than the square.


According to the Archaeological Museum of Kraków, the oldest remains reveal a wooden structure built at the end of C10 and followed by an original stone church constructed in the C11, as seen in the lower parts of the walls. These walls became a foundation for a new church built around the turn of C11-C12 from smaller rectangular stones. Since the level of the plaza, overlaid with new pavement, rose between 2 and 2.6 meters, the walls of the church were raised up in C17 and then covered with stucco. The new entrance was built on the west side and the church was topped with a new baroque dome. The church was restored in C19.




The interior of the church is cramped, relative to its larger exterior, but still worth a peek!




On what should now be your left … OK, let’s do this ship-shape … to port … no, that doesn’t work either.

To your west is Sukiennice or Cloth Hall – one of the city’s most recognisable icons, the central feature of Kraków Old Town (listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Kraków’s first shopping mall (which it continues to this day!).


Sukiennice was once a major centre of international trade. Traveling merchants met there to discuss business and to barter. During its golden age in C15, Sukiennice was the source of a variety of exotic imports from the East – spices, silk, leather and wax – while Kraków itself exported textiles, lead, and salt from the salt mine in Wieliczka.



As royal capital, Kraków was amongst the most magnificent cities in Europe before the Renaissance. That prosperity did not last – wars and politics hastened the decline and by 1870 much of the city centre was falling apart. The Austro-Hungarian rulers decided to restore Kraków and work began on Sukiennice about that time.




The Hall has hosted countless distinguished guests over the centuries and is still used to entertain monarchs and dignitaries. Aside from its grand history and great cultural value, the hall still flourishes as a bustling centre of commerce, albeit offering items for sale that are radically different from those of previous centuries — mainly souvenirs for tourists … including salt from Wieliczka!





More informations about the city on www.mylastdestination.eu !

More informations about the city on www.mylastdestination.eu !

On the upper floor of Sukiennice is the Sukiennice Museum, a division of the National Museum, Kraków. It holds the largest permanent exhibit of C19 Polish painting and sculpture, in four grand exhibition halls arranged by historical period and theme.










Processed by: Helicon Filter;


Behind Sukiennice is the free-standing old Town Hall Tower- our own leaning tower – and to the east is the famous bronze Adam Mickiewicz Monument.


The Tower is the only remaining part of the old Town Hall which was otherwise demolished in 1820 as part of the city plan to open up the Main Square.


Built of stone and brick at the end of the 13th century, the massive tower stands 70 metres tall and leans just 55 centimetres, the result of a storm in 1703. The top floor of the tower with an observation deck is open to visitors.





Mickiewicz was a great Polish Romantic poet, but the monument is arguably more famous because of its near-destruction.


Unveiled on June 16, 1898, on the 100th anniversary of Mickiewicz‘s birth, the monument was destroyed by the Nazis in 1940.



However, most of the figures were recovered from a Hamburg scrap metal heap in 1946, which allowed the restoration of the Monument’s original appearance in 1955.

Read the story of this trip on www.mylastdestination.eu !







Surrounding the square are tenements (kamienice) and the houses of rich and noble families of days gone by, and the rynek is now a place to wander, relax, people watch, enjoy a beer or a meal. But the star is undoubtedly St Mary’s Basilica, in the north-east corner of the square. The Church of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven is such a star act that we gave her an About all of her own, with the help of the Archive’s Office. But just so you know what we’re talking about …








The altarpiece is the largest Gothic altarpiece in the world, and took its master craftsman 12 years’ work.


Just by the Basilica is where the “free” walking tours start. Some are free, but they expect a tip, some have a minimum tip and some are paid for. There are two websites for walking tours on our About “free” walking tours in Kraków.

The Rynek Główny, incidentally, was called Adolf Hitler Platz from 1939 to 1944, when Kraków was capital of the Central Government – as we’ve said, an area under Nazi control and where ethnic Poles from occupied Poland were forcibly moved, allowing for Germanisation in the Reichsgaus which were annexed to Nazi Germany.


Behind St Mary’s is the smaller, but to us no less special, St Barbara’s. Founded in C14, the Church of St Barbara was handed over to the Jesuits in 1583 and remodelled in the Baroque style. The Church housed a Jesuit college rivalling the Jagiellonian University in its day.


Koœció³ Œw. Barbary


Rebuilt many times, the Church today hides a Baroque interior behind a Gothic facade.






Next to the main entrance is the Gethsemane – a complex of stone sculptures which represent Christ with three apostles.





Before you leave the rynek, there is one more place for you to check out … or, rather, a number of places, all part of the Historical Museum of the City of Kraków.

The website is here http://www.mhk.pl/   if it appears in Polish, look for a blue rectangle in the top left corner and click on it. This will change it to Engllish.


The Museum has a number of sites around Kraków, but the headquarters is in the Krzysztofory Palace, a residence dating from mid C17.


35 Rynek Główny, 31-011 Kraków
Phone: +48 12 619-23-03

Opening hours:

Wednesday – Sunday 10.00 am – 5.30 pm



Permanent exhibition tickets:

regular 9,00 PLN
concessionary ticket 6,00 PLN
group, schools 5,00 PLN
family 18,00 PLN

The Old Synagogue is home to the permanent exhibition on the culture and history of the Jews of Kraków. It’s at

24 ul Szeroka, 31-053 Kraków
Phone: (+48) 12 422 09 62, 12 431 05 45
Fax: (+48) 12 431 05 45
e-mail: starasynagoga@mhk.pl

Opening hours:

winter season (November – March)
Monday 10.00 am – 2.00 pm
Tuesday – Thursday, Saturday – Sunday 9.00 am – 4.00 pm
Friday 10.00 am – 5.00 pm
summer season (April – October)
Monday 10.00 am – 2.00 pm
Tuesday – Sunday 9.00 am – 5.00 pm

Admission is free on Mondays.

The Oscar Schindler Factory hosts the exhibition on Kraków under Nazi occupation 1939-1945 as well as a modest exhibit on the work of Schindler.

4 Lipowa Street, 30-702 Kraków
phone/fax (+48) 12 257-10-17, 12 257-00-95,
12 257 00 96
e-mail: fabrykaschindlera@mhk.pl
Opening hours:

winter season (November – March)
Monday 10.00 am – 2.00 pm
Tuesday – Sunday 10.00 am – 6.00 pm
summer season (April – October)
Monday 10.00 am – 4.00 pm
every first Monday of the month – open to 2 pm
Tuesday – Sunday 10.00 am – 8.00 pm

The last admission to the exhibition is 90 minutes before the closing time.

Admission to the permanent exhibition is free on Mondays, however due to security issues the number of tickets is limited.

Tadeusz Pankiewicz’s Pharmacy in Kraków Ghetto, at The Eagle Pharmacy (pod Orlem), is located within the limits of the former ghetto area and commemorates the Holocaust of Kraków Jews and the personage of Tadeusz Pankiewicz, a Righteous among the Nations.


18 Bohaterów Getta (Ghetto Heroes Square), 30-547 Kraków
phone: (+48) 12 656-56-25
e-mail: apteka@mhk.pl

Opening hours:

Monday 10.00 am – 2.00 pm
Tuesday – Sunday 9.00 am – 5.00 pm

Admission is free on Mondays.


Permanent exhibition tickets:

regular 10 PLN
concessionary 8 PLN
group, schools 7 PLN
family 20 PLN (2 adults and 2 children up to 16, or 1 adult and 3 children up to 16)
charge for an audio-guide 10 PLN
guide in English 85 PLN per group + ticket

Tickets can be purchased in the branch ticket office or in the Visitor Centre, Sukiennice, Rynek Główny 1.

People of Kraków in Times of Terror 1939-1945-1956

During the 2nd World War the Gestapo headquarters in Krakow was at 2, ul Pomorska. The exhibition People of Kraków in Times of Terror 1939-1945-1956, tells the complex history of the city, prepares the visitors to see the cells, where Polish people, fighting for Polish freedom and independence, were tortured and murdered.


2 ul Pomorska Street, 30-039 Kraków
Phone: +48 12 633-14-14, 631-10-01, 631-10-02
Fax: +48 12 631-10-02
e-mail: pomorska@mhk.pl
Opening hours:

winter season (November – March)
Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday 9.00 am – 4.00 pm
Thursday 12.00 pm – 7.00 pm
Saturday – Sunday 10.00 am – 5.00 pm
summer season (April – October)
Tuesday – Sunday 10.00 am – 5.00 pm

Admission is free on Tuesdays.

Permanent exhibition tickets:

regular 6 PLN
concessionary 5 PLN
group ticket for schools 4,50 PLN
family 12 PLN (2 adults and 2 children up to 16, or 1 adult and 3 children up to 16)
guide 85 PLN per group + ticket
the cells of the previous Gestapo prison – free entrance

Tickets can be purchased in the branch ticket office or in the Visitor Centre, Sukiennice, Rynek Główny 1.

The rooms of the Hipolit House show characteristics of different interiors of a bourgeois family home as they changed over the centuries.


3 St. Mary Square, 31-042 Kraków
phone: (12) 422-42-19,  411-99-18
e-mail: hipolitow@mhk.pl

Opening hours:

winter season (November – March)
Wednesday, Friday – Sunday 9.00 am – 4.00 pm
Thursday 12.00 pm – 7.00 pm
summer season (April – October)
Wednesday – Sunday 10.00 am – 5.30 pm

Admission to the permanent exhibition is free on Wednesdays.


Permanent exhibition tickets:

regular 9 PLN
concessionary 7 PLN
group ticket for schools 5,50 PLN
family 18 PLN
guide in English 85 PLN per group + tickets

The tickets can be purchase in the branch ticket office or in the Visitor Centre, Sukiennice, Rynek Główny 1.

The Old Town Hall Tower hosts seasonal displays.

Opening hours:

summer season (April – October)
Monday – Sunday 10.30 am – 5.00 pm
winter season (November – March)

Permanent exhibition tickets:

regular 7 PLN
concessionary 5 PLN
group ticket for schools 4,50 PLN
family 14 PLN (2 adults and 2 children up to 16, or 1 adult and 3 children up to 16)
guide in English 85 PLN per group + tickets
charge for renting an audioguide – 5 PLN

Tickets can be purchased in the branch ticket office or in the Visitor Centre, Sukiennice, Rynek Główny 1.


The Barbakan, close to the northern end of the Royal Route also plays host to seasonal exhibits

Ul Basztowa, 30-547 Kraków
phone: (+48) 12 422-98-77, 12 619-23-20
e-mail: edukacja@mhk.pl

Opening hours:

summer season (April – October)
Monday – Sunday 10.30 am – 5.00 pm
closed on every second Monday of the month
winter season (November – March)

There is a one shared ticked for both the Barbican and the City Defence Walls.

Permanent exhibition tickets:

regular 8 PLN
concessionary 6 PLN
group ticket for schools 5 PLN
family ticket 16 PLN (2 adults and 2 children up to 16, or 1 adult and 3 children up to 16)
guide in English 85 PLN per group + tickets

There is a one shared ticked for both the Barbican and the Defence Walls.

The tickets can be purchased in the branch ticket office on in the Visitor Centre, Sukiennice, Rynek Główny 1.

City Defence Walls

Ul Pijarska, 30-547 Kraków
phone: (12) 421-13-61, 619-23-20
e-mail: edukacja@mhk.pl
Opening hours:

summer season (April – October)
Monday – Sunday 10.30 am – 5.00 pm
closed on every second Monday of the month
winter season (November – March)

There is a one shared ticked for both the Barbican and the Defence Walls.


Permanent exhibition tickets:

regular 8 PLN
concessionary 6 PLN
group ticket for schools 5 PLN
family ticket 16 PLN (2 adults and 2 children up to 16, or 1 adult and 3 children up to 16)
guide in English 85 PLN per group + tickets

There is a one shared ticked for both the Barbican and the Defence Walls.

The tickets can be purchased in the branch ticket office on in the Visitor Centre, Sukiennice, Rynek Główny 1.

The Celestat is another seasonal operation, usually summer only.


16 ul Lubicz, 31-504 Kraków
phone: +48 12 429-37-91
fax: +48 12 429-37-91
e-mail: celestat@mhk.pl


The History of the Nowa Huta Quarter Museum rotates temporary exhibitions with its own collection telling the story of  Nowa Huta

NH Museum

16 Słoneczne Estate, 31-958 Kraków
phone: +48 12 425-97-75
e-mail: nowahuta@mhk.pl

Opening hours:

winter season (November – March)
Tuesday, Thursday – Sunday 9.00 am – 4.00 pm
Wednesday 10.00 pm – 5.00 pm
Saturday – Sunday 10.00 am – 5.00 pm
summer season (April – October)
Tuesday – Sunday 9.30 am – 5.00 pm

Admission is free on Wednesdays.


Permanent exhibition tickets:

regular 5 PLN
concessionary 4 PLN
group ticket for schools 3,50 PLN
family 10 PLN (2 adults and 2 children up to 16, or 1 adult and 3 children up to 16)
guide 50 PLN per group + ticket
field lesson 120 PLN per group
guided tours of Nowa Huta 130 PLN per group (reservation on bilety.mhk.pl)

The tickets can be purchased in the branch ticket office or in the Visitor Centre, Sukiennice, Rynek Główny 1.

The Zwierzyniec House (at the time of writing) hosts “Emigreytan. Zygmunt Nowakowski – a Native of Kraków in Exile”

z house

41 ul Królowej Jadwigi, 30-209 Kraków
phone: (+48) 12 427-30-38
e-mail: salon@mhk.pl

Opening hours:

winter season (November – March)
Wednesday, Friday – Sunday 9.00 am – 4.00 pm
Thursday 10.00 pm – 5.00 pm
summer season (April – October)
Wednesday – Sunday 9.30 am – 5.00 pm

Admission is free on Wednesdays.

Permanent exhibition tickets:

regular 6 PLN
concessionary 4 PLN
group ticket for schools 3,50 PLN
family ticket 12 PLN (2 adults and 2 children up to 16, or 1 adult and 3 children up to 16)

The tickets can be purchased in the branch ticket office or in the Visitor Centre, Sukiennice, Rynek Główny 1.

The Cross House – home to The History of Kraków’s Theatre is closed for re-building


21 ul Szpitalna, 31-024 Kraków
phone: (12) 422-68-64, (12) 431-29-61
e-mail: teatr@mhk.pl

Finally, while you crossed the Rynek from Sukiennice and St Mary’s Basilica you walked OVER the last unit of the Museum – Rynek Underground. The Rynek Underground exhibition presents not only Kraków’s rich history, but also the connections between the city and mediaeval Europe’s chief centres of trade and culture.


Opening hours:

Winter season (November – March)
Monday, Wednesday – Sunday 10.00-20.00
Tuesday 10.00-16.00
Summer season (April – October)
Monday, Wednesday – Sunday 10.00-22.00
Tuesday 10.00-16.00

Exhibition is closed on every first Tuesday of the month.


Visitors are advised to make a prior online reservation in the booking system: www.bilety.podziemiarynku.com.

On Tuesday admission is free.


On the corner of Plac Mariacki and ul Florianska (No 1) is the house Pod Murzynami, named after the C16 bas relief of two negroes, supporting the first floor corner. This is the first house to spot as we head north up ul Floriańska towards Floriańska Gate.



On the opposite corner (No 2) is Kamienica Margrabska, the former Hotel Dresden – another historic building and from time to time through the ages, the home of famous people including Myszkowski, Wielopolski, Kosciuszko, and Moniuszko.


Ul Florianska has always been one of the most important streets in Kraków, and you’ll see plenty reminders of that – and changing fashions in architecture –  as we wander up to the Gate. And remember – Kamienica translates as “tenement” … in a good way.

So. No 3 is Kamienica Ciechanowska was first built n C14, while the third floor was added in 1821, when the façade was given its current Classical style.



No 5 is Kamienica Dobrodziejskich, named after its famous owner. Despite many rebuilds, the house still has a late Gothic portal.



The building at No 6, Kamienica Pod Okiem Opatrzności, was built in 1835, following the collapse of the previous building. The name comes from “under the eye of providence”


No 7, the house under the mother of god or Kamienica Pod Matką Boską has the Renaissance Madonna on the first floor façade.



Kamienica Dawidowska at No 8 was built in 1908, but named after one of the previous incarnations as the home of David Rottermell in C16.


No 9, Kamienica Nagatowska, was home to Adam Nagothy’ego and today has its preserved Renaissance interior.


Kamienica Barszczowska at No 10 is not called after the soup, though Wawrzyńca Barszcza who owned it in 1636 may have been. There’s a statue of St Joseph on the first floor facade


No 11 is Kamienica Pod Aniołkiem – the house under the angels


No 12 – Kamienica Cyrusowska – dating from C17 was restored in 2009. Now home to a Swarovski branch.


Pałac Kmitów (aka Kamienica Amendzińska) at No 13 was originally built in the first half of C14.  The palace is named after Governor of Krakow P Kmity, who rebuilt it as his palace in C16


No 14 is Pod Roza.  Now a hotel, the Latin over the door is a prayer that the house should stand until an ant drinks the sea and a turtle walks around the world. The columns date back to about 1550; the house dates back to C13.


No 15 is Kamienica Molendowska – you might have guessed this from the squirrel over the door – it’s the tenement “at squirrel”. This building housed a printer – privately owned from 1578 to 1674 when it passed into the hands of Cracow Academy for the purpose of academic printing. It was also the home of doctor and professor Raphael Joseph Czerwiakowski. The plaque (the front of the house is kinda busy, but you ought to be able to spot it) translates as Here lived and died Raphael Joseph Czerwiakowski 1743-1816, the father of Polish surgery.


No 17, across ul Sw Tomasza, is Kamienica Molendowska. This building has a long history – the first recorded owner was Christopher Trcjusz, secretary to the King (Stefan Batory) and chairman of the Calvinist community. In C16 it was an Inn and still has Gothic wine cellars. From the middle of C17, the house was owned by a family of haberdashers – the Molendów family the house is now named after. Late in C19 it was in the hands of Anastasius Froncz – a well-known Kraków merchant and motorist. After a period of decline after Froncz’s death in 1940, the building is now owned by the owner of the Trecius guesthouse.

No 18 is Kamienica Pod Koniem – the house under the horse. This was the C16 home of the smith, Stanislaus Gostkowicz.


Kamienica Pod Barankiem, no 22, is the house under the lamb – built in C17 but rebuilt in 1880.


Kamienica Podedzwony, at no 24, has three bells over the door – it was the home of Martin Kannegisera who owned a foundry. The grapes were added when the house passed into the hands of Joseph Weiss, wine merchant, in 1830.


No 25 houses the Museum of Pharmacy of Jagiellonian University Medical School.


Kraków_Muzeum_Farmacji no 25

No 26 Kamienica Posiada, is named for its unique (in Kraków) triangular pediment.


Wojciech Stattler, the Kraków University professor, taught Jan Matejko and was a friend of Adam Mickiewicz and Juliusz Slovak. He lived at no 34. In keeping with its history, the house is home to an art gallery.


No 37 does not look much now, but in 1895 it was home to the Art Salon of Henry Frist and later his son, Dr Joseph Frist


The House of Jan Matejko is no 41.  It was built in C16 and has survived small changes over the years. In 1794 the house became the home of the Rossbergów family, of which Catherine was to be the mother of the famous writer and painter Jan Matejko – he is responsible for the current façade. Following his death in 1893, an appeal was launched leading to the purchase of the house for use as a museum. In 1904 it became part of the National Museum in Kraków.




Jan Matejko painted many major Polish political events. In a time when Poland had vanished from the maps of Europe he reminded the world of Poland and her history, still alive in the hearts of the people.






In 1873 Matejko was appointed principal of the Academy of Fine Arts.







He died on 1 November 1893 and was buried in the Alley of the Meritorious in Rakowicki Cemetery.


No 42, Kamienica Pod Białym Orłem – The White Eagle has been a tavern, then hotel, since 1825. The hotel absorbed the building next door, then extended around the corner, where you’ll find today’s entrance and Czartoryski Museum and Library.



Back on the other side of the street is our last house – no 45, Kamienica Belzowska is the café, Michalik’s Den – founded by Lviv confectioner John Michalik in the first years if C2- as an art cabaret, The Green Balloon.


All this time you’ve been approaching the old walls of Kraków and the Floriańska Gate abd its defensive tower. Of the eight gates of the city in the Middle Ages, Floriańska is the only one not dismantled in C19.





Take the opportunity to turn and take a look back down ul Floriańska to St Mary’s and the Rynek.


Through the gate and you’re facing the Barbakan – built in 1499 and one of only three now surviving in Europe.







If you go around the Barbakan and cross ul Basztowa you’ll find plac Matejko and the Academy of Fine Arts (Akademia Sztuk Pięknych). The dude on the horse in the middle of the street commemorated the Battle of Grunwald.

PKP and Gruwald



Finally, you reach the end of our journey, or the official start of the royal Route – St Florian’s Church (Kościół św. Floriana). The church (which originally stood outside the city walls) contains the relics of the patron saint of Poland (Florian) which were saved from destruction many times over C12 – C17. The church was also the starting point for royal coronation and funeral processions, concluding at Wawel Cathedral.

st flo 4

The story goes that Krakow, as the Royal Capital, needed a patron saint and the bones of St Florian were sent from Rome. When the oxen got as far as the spot on which the church now stands, the relics got too heavy to move any further. Eventually a church was built to house the relics and in 1366 Casimir the Great created a town around it, Florencja. The latin of the name was Clepardia. Eventually the town of Kleparz was incorporated into the city of Kraków in 1712.

st flo 3

st flo 1

The church was built between 1185 and 1216 and burned down a number of times in C12, C16 and C17 but somehow survived the city-wide fire of 1528. St Florian is usually depicted as a Roman officer carrying water so, in addition to being Kraków’s patron saint he’s also the patron saint of fire-fighters and chimney sweeps. The church, as you see it today, reflects work at the end of the Polish-Swedish wars.


For JPII fans, Karol Wojtyła was a vicar at St Florians  from 1949 – 1951, and he visited the church on his papal pilgrimage to Poland in 2002.

We’ve already told you a bit about the Historical Museum of the City of Kraków but we just mentioned anther of Kraków’s leading museums – the National Museum in Kraków.

Poland’s National Museum comprises a number of independent branches – Kraków is the main branch. Its first home was on the upper floor of Sukiennice – still one of the most popular units of the Kraków branch. The New Main Building on ul 3 Maja began in 1934 but was interrupted by World War 2 and only completed after the fall of the Soviet Empire. That explains the period-style for a building completed in 1992. Many of the several hundred thousand items in the Museum’s Collection are housed in the Main Building, but there are a further nine sites around the city.




Following much looing during WW2, the Polish government has retrieved many items from the Collection but more than 1,000 remain missing including priceless works of art.

Units of the National Museum

The New Main Building on ul 3 Maja

The Czartoryski Museum and Library, at 19 Św. Jana Street



Portrait of Cecilia Gallerani (Lady with the Ermine), about 1488

The Stanisław Wyspiański Museum in Kamienica Szołaysky, Plac Szczepański 9




The Gallery of 19th-Century Polish Art at Sukiennice





Emeryk Hutten-Czapski was a Polish Count, scholar, ardent collector of histporical items and numismatist. In 1894 when Czapski moved his vast collection to Krakow, it was already known as the Polish Athens, a centre for culture and art. Following his death on 23 July 1896 the family donated his palace on ul Wolska and his collection to the city





Józef Mehoffer was one of the most revered artists of his time. The Józef Mehoffer House is at ul. Krupnicza 26.







The National Museum in Kraków also maintains Jan Matejko’s House in Krzeslawice and the Villa Atma in Zakopane, home to Karol Szymanowsk Museum


villa atma 2


To check opening times and current exhibits, see the Museum’s website http://muzeum.krakow.pl/?L=1

Ul Kanonicza

You may remember … oh a long time ago … that we started our journey on the Royal Route from down by St Giles’ Church, just outside the Wawel complex, where we headed up ul Grodzka. If we’d gone just one street west, we’d have taken a shorter walk, but another interesting one, up ul Kanonicza – arguably the most picturesque street in Kraków, and formerly home to the Canons of Wawel.


So … an amusing bit of “history” to get us started. House no 25, now Dom Długosza, was once upon a time the royal bathhouse. The future Queen Jadwiga was engaged to a Lithuanian, Grand Duke Jagiełlo. It was rumoured that Lithuanians were, ahem, well hung, so the worried (or keen?) bride-to-be sent one of her servants to the bathhouse to check. Whatever the servant reported back, the wedding went ahead.

No 25 is the first house we come to – so handy for the castle – and it’s the one with the inscription over a big door which reads “There is nothing better than a man of good cheer”. The building dates back to C14, though what you say today reflects various alterations up to 1775. Did you see the Madonna and Child on the castle-side wall? If not, go back and check it out.


Stanislaw Wyspiariski – painter, poet, architect, etc – lived here for a few years (1873 – 1880), as a child … the plaque close to the Madonna commemorates him with reference to his famous poem “At the foot of Wawel father had a studio”.


No 24 is Gorka Palace, aka Telegraph House. Created inC16, when two C15 houses were combined, the house was rebuilt after several changes of owners by the Gorka family. It was later used as a barracks by the police, then artillery, then as the police headquarters before housing a telegraph office in the later part of C19.


Across the street, at no 21, is the Palace of Deans – Dziekanka. Built in 1582-88, this is a real gem and if you can access the courtyard, do. Befitting the history of the building, the Palace now houses the Archdiocese Museum, along with no 19, the house of St Stanislaus, which was built before 1370. No 19 was the only house of the canons to contain a chapel, founded on the 2nd floor in the 1580s. Destroyed by fire in 1768 and rebuilt in 1778-90, the house was the home to Karol Wojtyła from 1953-58.





No 18 is the palace of Bishop Florian Mokrsko, built in the C14 and remodelled in 1560-63. Currently the home of the John Paul II Centre.



The Palace of Bishop Erasmus Ciolek at no 17 is another knock-through, dating from 1505 when the good bishop combined two houses to create what was then the most magnificent house on the street.



Today the Palace hosts some of the excellent ancient art exhibits of the National Museum in Kraków.



Formerly the tenement of the butterfly, no 16 is now the Hotel Copernicus.


No 11 was originally built in the first half of C15, then rebuilt about a hundred years later. In the C19 reconstruction the portal and frieze of Napoleonic Eagles were added, to make a pretty fancy house.


No 9 looks tame by comparison, but it started out as two C14 houses separated by an alley, homes to two canons. After a fire in 1455 the houses were combined; in C16 the house was rebuilt – twice; next, it was rebuilt in 1787-88, when wonderful murals were added, featuring marine and coastal landscape (remember, we’re a loooong way from the sea!); all of which was followed by further works in C19 before the house became a printing shop in 1878. From 1892 to the 1970s the house was occupied by a district court, then renovated and converted to use as a museum (now moved and a part of the National Museum in Kraków). If you can, have a look in what is now a part of the JPII university.


Look to your right at this point, to see again the churches of St Andrew and Ss Peter and Paul.

A two-storey building existed at no 7 in the 1350s. What is now the House of Thee Crowns has been through the usual re-buildings over the years – to us the portal is of course notable (we really like the door) but more so are the first floor windows, which have something of the English stately home about them.



The house is home to two institutions of Kraków – the writers (the Polish Writer’s Association) and the bell-ringers – the writers’ café was the place to meet the ringers of Sigismund’s Bell. It takes 12 bell-ringers working together to get the great bell’s 13 tons to swing and sound its best.


No 5 replaces a house destroyed in the fire of 1455 – check the window frames, coat of arms and stepped portal (cool door, again) and the decorative brick. You’ll see the name plates for Crikoteka – the Documentation Centre of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor.


Opposite, no 6 quite rightly gives the impression of age – the Knight’s House basically dates back to C14 when it was home to the Knight Hińcz of Rogow, castellan of Sandomierz. It now hosts elements of the Jagiellonian University.


No 3 was built in the second half of C14 to house students of the Collegium Iuridicum.  In C15 it housed law students and in 1630 it was reconstructed with the current façade. The portal was added in C18.


Today No 3 is owned by the Metropolitan Chapter of the Castle. The ground floor is home to Cathedral choirs and Polish Theological Society.


No 2 is Kamienica pod Aniołkami, house of the angels. It was built in late C16 when two gothic townhouses were combined. It’s the one with crenellations.


No 1 was built in 1531-32, on the site of a wooden house, as the palace of canon (later bishop) Samuel Maciejpowski.


Renovated several times over the years, it is now home to part of the Technical University of Krakow and a coffee shop.

At the end of the street, hang a right to walk a short way to ul Grodzka or a left to dog-leg onto ul Poselska and head for Planty.

Things to do and more places to visit

The Hi-Flyer

Kraków’s balloon is just off the Grunwaldzki roundabout, on the south bank of the Wisła – a pleasant walk from the Old Town or Wawel, across the Grunwaldzki Bridge.


How can you be sure the balloon is flying? One – look up. Two – call +48 511 802 202.

Flights usually run from 09:00 – 20:00 7 days a week and all year round – in good weather and when there’s demand, flights may run later – but check. You’re guaranteed at least 10 minutes aloft.




Passenger capacity depends on a wind speed, temperature and air pressure. The pilot monitors the weather conditions during every flight and decides how many people are allowed to enter the gondola for the next flight. The balloon will not operate if wind speeds exceed 24 knots.



Hi-flyer facts

Gas: helium – 5900m3

Highest flight position: 186m

Balloon diameter: 22m

Gondola diameter: 6m

Diameter of steel cable: 22mm

Steel tenfold security: 10

Ticket prices

Adults: 38,00 PLN
Reduction (children between the ages of 3 – 16): 20,00 PLN
Student ticket: 25,00 PLN
Family: 90,00 PLN

Adults: 45,00 PLN
Reduction (children between the ages of 3 – 16): 25,00 PLN
Family: 100,00 PLN


Quick note on student and other ticket price reductions

Just because you fit, don’t assume you’ll qualify for discounts. The general rule is that you need to be Polish or at least carry Polish ID and have some evidence of your entitlement. Student discounts are generally for Polish students or foreign students attending Polish colleges or universities.

That’s not always the case, though. Confusion abounds because different organisations set different rules and sometimes ticket sellers don’t even spot that two older teens aren’t Polish and sell discounted tickets without checking entitlement … Just a word of warning!

Kraków Eye

We had a big wheel last summer (2012) but honestly, it failed because it was not worth going. Someone installed a fairground big wheel (“12-storeys high”) right beside the disused hotel opposite the Hilton Garden Inn. The old Forum Hotel is referred to by the locals as “the old dog” which gives you a good idea of how they feel about its architectural merit. At least it makes a good billboard!


Anyway, the big wheel was launched with much hoo-ha and towards the end of summer it quietly disappeared.

Teatr Groteska

This is Kraków’s theatre for puppet and mask – adults and children. It’s at ul Skarbowa 2, in western Kraków

XII Wielka PGNiG Parada Smoków, Teatr Groteska, fot_ A_ Kaczmarz 30

Ticket reservations on 12 633 37 62 M-F 08:00 – 16:00

Box Office on 12 623 79 59 MpSa 08:00 -+ 14:00 and 15:02 – 19:00 and two hours before the performance.



Website : http://www.groteska.pl/

Czerwony Kapturek, fot_ Ewa Hajduk (116)


Crazy Tours

We’ve already told you that Nowa Huta (New Mill) is an industrial city built around the steel works in an attempt to industrialise Kraków. As such, it contains fine examples, if those are the right words, of Communist-era architecture.





Another fine relic of communism is the Trabant. So what better than to take a tour of Nowa Huta in a Trabby?




Crazy Tours are the most well-know operators of Trabant tours but they also operate a Nysa van, FSO Polonez and 126bis, and a wonderful “cucumber” bus.


For a look at the tours on offer, check http://www.crazyguides.com/


It’s not co-incidence that there’s a park all the way around the Old Town.

The medieval walls and moat of Kraków stretched all the way around what’s now the Old Town – eight gates and all that – until the Austrians decided to do away with them. The walls and gates (save for Florian) were demolished and the moat filled in, leaving a strip of land which became the series of gardens you see today.





In all, it runs to 21,000 sq metres (52 acres) and 4km with a total of 30 gardens and numerous fountains, statues and monuments. All in all, a very popular place to escape the heat of the summer and take a rest from the streets of Old Town.


Kościuszko Mound

Tadeusz Kościuszko fought with distinction in the American War of Independence before returning to Poland where he fought against foreign rule – remember that from the end of the 1780s Poland was divided between the neighbouring powers – Russia, Prussia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  When he died in Switzerland, in 1817, his body was returned to Poland, to be buried in the royal crypts in Wawel Cathedral.


‘the purest son of liberty that I have ever known.’ Thomas Jefferson

Such was the regard in which Kościuszko was held that the people honoured him with a monument like the prehistoric mounds of Kings Krak and Wanda, to make it the biggest in Kraków. Funded by donations from all over occupied and divided Poland and built in three years by volunteers from all ages ad classes, the Mound is 34m (112 ft) high. The Founding Act was placed in a glass and marble base at its base and  at the top was placed a boulder from the Tatra Mountains inscribed “Kościuszce” (To Kościuszko). Inside the Mound are buried urns containing soil from the Polish and American battlefields where Kościuszko fought.


From the top of the snaking path there is a panoramic view of the Wisła and Kraków.


The Austrians, between 1850 and 1854, built a citadel around the Mound and used it as a lookout!



The Mound is open from 07:00 till dusk year round, and from 1 May to 30S September it stays open until 23:00

Admission is free on 4 February, 24 March and 15 October. Otherwise 11 zł or 9 zł (student id, seniors).


Your ticket also includes entry to the exhibition “Kosciusko’s Insurrection and Tradition in Kraków”, open from 09:30 – 16:30.

The Bastion Cafe, located right by the “Kosciusko’s Insurrection and Tradition in Kraków ” exhibition, has a replica of the Raclawice Panorama. It is open from 09:00 till dusk.

You can get to the Mound by bus or on foot – if you cycle, the ticket office has a bike rack and will lend you a safety chain.

A journey to the Mound should include a bit of lane-wandering along and off the main tree-lined avenue which begins at the Norbertine Monastery.

And while you’re at the top of the Mound, take a moment to turn and spot Kraków’s fourth and most recent mound – Piłsudski Mound, started just before the inter-war hero and leader died and completed in 1937.


Today people know Kazimierz as the Jewish Quarter – I’ve even been asked if it’s OK for non-Jews to visit – but the history of what’s now Kazimierz goes back to long before it became the home to Kraków’s Jewish population.

The origins of Kazimierz go back to the pre-Christian era – ie before 966CE. At the western tip of an island in the Wisła stood a shrine – Skałka (the Rock). We’ve already told you about the church that stands there today. Nearby there was a substantial manor and the important mart town of Bawół. There was also a Tartar cemetery on the small upstream island (Tartar Island, which has since washed away).

On 27 March 1335, Casmir III named created a new town out of the two western suburbs of Kraków and named the town after himself – Kazimierz. Bawół was added in 1340, and the new city covered the island.

The Pons Regalis was the only major bridge across the Wisła for several centuries and connected Kraków, via Kazimierz, with the salt mine in Wieliczka and the Hungarian trade route. The last bridge at this location (at the end of modern ul Stradomska) was dismantled in 1880 when the filling-in of the Old Vistula river bed made it obsolete.

The importance of Jews to Kraków began in C13, when they were granted freedom of worship, trade and travel (1264). The Jewish and Christian communities lived in harmony with their neighbours under Kazimierz III but by C15 some clergy were pushing for less official tolerance and a fanatical priest’s accusations led to riots against the Jews in 1407 even though the royal guard hastened to the rescue (remember Kraków was still Royal Capital at the time).

Starting in 1400CE the authorities started buying buildings in the Old Town to re-found the university. Jews living in the Old Town began to re-settle in Kazimierz and the first synagogue was built there (date uncertain, but between 1407 and 1492).  That building, the Old Synagogue, was rebuilt in 1570 with loopholes in the attic walls, windows far above ground level and thick masonry walls with heavy buttressing – basically, built to withstand a siege. The style is known as a Polish Fortress Synagogue. The synagogue was ransacked by the Germans during WW2 and its artworks and relics looted; it was used as a magazine; and in 1943 30 Polish hostages were executed against its wall. The building now operates as a museum under the Historical Museum of Kraków.


In 1494 a disastrous fire destroyed a large part of Kraków. Consequently in 1495 the king transferred the Jews from the ravaged Old Town to Bawół, where the town council granted permission for the community to build its own walls in 1553 and extended later in 1608 (due to the growth of the community and an influx of Jews from Bohemia).

The area enclosed by the walls, one fifth of the total area of Kazimierz but containing half its population, was known as Oppidum Judaeorum, the Jewish City and became the main spiritual and cultural centre of Polish Jewry, hosting many of Poland’s finest Jewish scholars, artists and craftsmen.

In 1782 the Austrian emperor disbanded the Jewish council and in 1822 the walls were torn down. In 1791 the status of separate city was lost when Kazimierz became a district of Kraków and richer Jewish families moved out of the crowded streets of eastern Kazimierz, though most Jewish families stayed close to the historic synagogues, due to the injunction against travel on the Sabbath. In the years that followed, Kazimierz became less vital to the religious life of Kraków’s Jews as 120 synagogues and prayer houses were scattered across Kraków (1930) and new Jewish centres had formed, such as Podgórze, south of the river. By 1935 Meir Balaban, a Reform rabbi and professor of history at the University of Warsaw, wrote that the Jews who remained in the once vibrant Oppidum were “only the poor and the ultra-conservative.” However, that exodus preserved most of the buildings in the Jewish City in something close to their C18 shape.

During WW2 the Jews of Kraków were forced into the Kraków Ghetto in Podgórze. Most of them were later killed in death camps or during the liquidation of the ghetto.

Like most of Kraków, Kazimierz emerged from WW2 structurally intact and entered another period of neglect until the late 1980s when a popular and now annual Jewish Cultural Festival introduced Jewish culture to a new generation of Poles. Although most of the events depicted did not actually take place there, much of Spielberg’s movie, Schindler’s list, was shot in Kazimierz and the film prompted much interest in the area. There are now restored historic sites, Jewish-themed restaurants, bars, bookshops and souvenir shops in the quarter, which has also seen a return of Jews from Israel and America.

We mentioned the Old Synagogue earlier. Built as the C14 ended and C16 began, this is the oldest Jewish religious building to survive in Poland. Today it hosts exhibits on the history and traditions of Polish Judaism, a bookshop and several temporary exhibitions over the year as a unit of the Historic Museum of Kraków. The bimah stands surrounded by glass cases, in a wrought iron balustrade.


Oude synagoge in Kazimierz

Admission 9/7zł, family ticket 18zł, Mon free.

Open 09:00 – 17:00, Mon 10:00 – 14:00.

From November open 10:00 – 16:00, Mon 10:00 – 14:00, Fri 10:00 – 17:00; Sat, Sun 09:00 – 16:00.

Last entrance 30 minutes before closing.

Address: ul. Szeroka 24

Website : http://www.mhk.pl

Dating from 1553, Remuh Synagogue is the smallest but most active synagogue in Kazimierz.



The cemetery, in use until 1800, escaped damage in WW2 as many gravestones were already hidden – buried during C19 to keep them safe during Austrian occupation in C19. Here you’ll find the tomb of C16 Rabbi Moses Isserles (Remuh) and his wife, Golda Auerbach. It’s the oldest tomb here.

Open 09:00 – 16:00. Closed Fri, Sat at ul. Szeroka 40

Close by is the enormous New Jewish Cemetery, which was used from 1800 and houses the remains of many of Kraków’s C19 and C20 Jews. Reflecting events, many monuments are to entire families killed during the Holocaust.





Open 09:00 – 16:00. Closed Fri, Sat. at ul. Miodowa 55

Next in age is the 1563 High Synagogue, unique for having the prayer room upstairs. Although damaged as a result of a fire in WW2 (arson), the formerly magnificent prayer room has retained some original details including the Holy Ark, two golden griffins above the Aron Kodesh, and some of the murals have been restored.



A bookshop occupies the ground floor, with a small admission charge to see the prayer room and exhibits upstairs.

Open 09:00 – 19:00 at ul. Jozefa 38    (+48) 12 430 68 89

Izaak Jakubowicz built what was probably the most beautiful of Kazimierz’s synagogues to the city (opened 1644), in a style known as Judaic-Baroque. You’ll see what we mean when you visit Isaac Synagogue.


Inside the synagogue there’s also a shop selling Kosher foods and sweets.



Open Su–Th 08:30 – 18:00, Fri 08:30 – 14:30. Closed Sat. At ul. Kupa 18(+48) 12 430 22 22

Website : http://www.chabadkrakow.pl



Kazimierz’s newest synagogue, Tempel Synagogue opened in 1862 though several expansions meant the building as you see it was not completed until 1924. Although used as a warehouse and stables during the Nazi occupation, the temple survived and services continued until 1968.



Restored, the synagogue now hosts concerts and occasional ceremonies – especially during each year’s Festival of Jewish Culture,

Open Sun – Thurs 10:00 – 16:00 at ul. Miodowa 24     (+48) 12 430 54 11

Housed inside an old tram depot in Kazimierz you will find the City Engineering Museum (Muzeum Inżynierii Miejskiej). This is arranged into five exhibitions.



The first two – public transport in Kraków and the development of the Polish automotive industry fill a huge hall with  old tram cars and trolley buses and a large collection of unique wheeled vehicles including micro cars.



Third exhibition is the history of printing in Kraków, covering the C15 to C20. Remember Kraków was the Royal Capital and a major centre of learning.

Kraków,_Muzeum_Inżynierii_Miejskiej 2

The final two exhibitions are aimed at younger visitors with the indoor “Around the Circle” providing 30 hands-on exhibits to teach fundamental scientific principles and the outdoor “Garden of New Worlds” geared to 3-5 year-olds (open Spring and Summer, in nice weather, only).



Open 10:00 – 16:00. Closed Mon at ul. Św. Wawrzyńca 15    (+48) 12 421 12 42

Website : http://www.mimk.com.pl


The former Kazimierz Ratusz (town hall) houses the Ethnographic Museum. Experience teaches us that Poland’s ethnographic museums are pretty good, and this one is not a disappointment – visit to see the building itself and, amongst other things, recreations of peasant homes, local costumes, nativity scenes, folk art (amazing collection, housed on the top floor) and decent English explanations of what you’re seeing.




museum exhibits



The Ratusz houses the permanent collection and an annex at uk Krakowska 46 is used for temporary exhibits

Open 11:00 – 19:00, Thu 11:00 – 21:00, Sun 11:00 – 15:00. Closed Mon.

Address : Pl. Wolnica 1       (+48) 12 430 55 63

Website : http://www.etnomuzeum.eu


During the Partition the part of Poland to the south of Kraków was for the most part included in the Austrian province of Galicia – the formerly Free City of Kraków was added in 1846.



In a former warehouse the Galicia Jewish Museum (Zydowskie Muzeum Galicja) houses a permanent exhibition of 135 photographs aimed at keeping the memory of Jewish life in southern Poland alive, including the late award-winning photo-journalist Chris Schwarz’s images of forgotten cemeteries, derelict synagogues and death camps.


The museum also houses smaller temporary exhibits, a café and a bookstore.

Admission 15/10zł, family ticket 30zł. Children under 7 free.

Guided tours for groups of over 10: 13.50/8zł per person; individual guided tours: 60zł/30-45mins, 100zł/60mins.


Tours available in English.

Open 10:00 – 18:00 at ul. Dajwór 18     (+48) 12 421 68 42

Website : http://www.galiciajewishmuseum.org



Corpus Christi Church dates from C14 and is one of Kraków’s largest holy buildings, with three naves and a pulpit featuring a golden boat being held aloft by two mermaids. But the glory of Corpus Christi is surely the towering golden altarpiece.





Open 08:30 – 12:00, 13:00 – 19:00, Closed Sun. No visiting during mass.

Address: ul. Bożego Ciała 26

Website : http://www.bozecialo.net

Finally, we’ll mention the Pauline Church of Skałka, on the riverside.


The story goes that, in 1070, King Bolesław the Bold accused the Bishop of Kraków of treason and had him beheaded and chopped into pieces (nice story!). As a result the royal family were cursed and to appease his spirit they built the Pauline Church and made regular visits to atone.




The sword is kept next to the altar; the bishop, Stanisław Szczepański, was canonised in 1253. The crypt is full of famous dead Poles.

Open 06:30 – 19:00; Wed,Sun 06:30 – 20:00.

Crypt open 09:00 – 17:00.

No visiting during mass


Address : You’ll find the church at the western end of ul. Skałeczna

(+48) 12 421 72 44

Website : http://www.skalka.paulini.pl


It seems only right to follow Kazimierz, the Jewish Quarter, with Podgórze where so many of Kraków’s Jews spent their last days. You may even get there over Kraków’s newest bridge over the Wisła – Kładka Ojca Bernatka, or Father Bernatek’s Footbridge (opened in 2010 to pedestrian and bicycle traffic).

The oldest man-made structure in Podgórze is the Krakus Mound on Lasota Hill, believed to be the grave of the legendary king Krakus. It is the largest prehistoric mound in Poland and offers one of the best view points in the city. Podgórze, at the foot of the same hill, roughly translates as “the base of a hill”.

Also on Lasota Hill you’ll find Fort Benedict, built in mid-C19 and one of only a few Maximillian Towers remaining. The fort was built to protect the Wisła and the road to Lvov, but quickly became redundant. It has sixteen external sides with a total surface are of 1,500 sq metres and a circular courtyard.

Next door (-ish) us one of Kraków’s oldest and smallest churches – St Benedict’s. Dating ack to C11, this tiny church can only be accessed on St Benedict’s name day (16 July) and on the first Tuesday after Easter.

From small beginnings, Podgórze the independent city grew to 1/5 the size of its larger neighbour by 1915. Once Poland regained independence, Podgórze was incorporated into the city of Kraków.

Here you’ll find the triangular rynek, St Joseph’s Church, the hills of Krzemionki with the World War II quarry and what remains of the WW2 Płaszów camp. Podgórze also includes the site of the Kraków Ghetto and the factory of Oscar Schindler, saviour of nearly 1,200 Jews during the War.

Those taking the tram to visit the Schindler Factory will alight in Ghetto Heroes Square, with the waiting, empty chairs.

There is a separate About Schindler’s Factory, but we’ll mention here that the museum at the Factory is not totally dedicated to Schindler – there are Schindler exhibits, but overall this is the Museum of the Occupation and covers events throughout Kraków during the War. The Factory buildings also house a modern art museum.

The Kraków Ghetto operated for only two years – from 3 March 1941 when the Governnor of Kraków ordered the establishment of a new ‘Jewish Housing District’ until 14 March 1943 liquidated the remainder of the Ghetto – more than 1,000 people were killed in the chaos that day and 3,000 were shipped to the extermination camps.

Initially some 3,000 residents of the chosen are were relocated north of the river and 16,000 Jews took their place, property and possessions confiscated and left with only what they could carry. Thousands of unregistered Jews also illegally entered the ghetto seeking protection, bringing the total population of the Kraków Ghetto to about 18,000 by 20 March 1941. Four families were housed in each apartment, with an average of 2 sq metres of living space per person. Windows facing ‘Aryan’ Podgórze were bricked or boarded up to prevent contact with the outside world and a 3 metre high wall was erected around the the ghetto, crowned with arches designed to resemble Jewish tombstones. Four guarded entrance gates accessed the ghetto. A tram initially ran through the ghetto, and though it made no stops, food and other valuable commodities frequently found their way into the ghetto via its windows.

Beginning 15 October 1941, all Jews remaining in the Kraków area were required to move to the Ghetto – adding at least 6,000 more people and making living conditions unbearable. To “alleviate the distress” Nazi authorities began deportations, and 1,000 people – mostly elderly and unemployed –were loaded into cattle cars and sent to Kielce, where they were expected to find aid from local Jewish authorities. Not knowing what else to do, many of them actually returned clandestinely to their families in the Kraków Ghetto.

29 May 1942 was the first day of inspections in the ghetto – surrounded by German troops, the terrified residents were stopped and their papers inspected. Anyone without the right papers was assembled on Plac Zgody then transferred to Płaszów railway station, loaded into cattle cars in groups of 120, and sent to Bełżec death camp in eastern Poland.

After days of terror, the Germans announced (6 June 1942) that all previous documents were invalid and new Blue Passes had to be obtained. Those denied Passes were shipped to Bełżec. In those few days 7,000 Jews were sent to their deaths and more were simply shot on the streets of the ghetto.

In August and September of 1942 12-13,000 Jews, many from Kraków, were sent to Bełżec as nearby ghettos were liquidated. The fact that deportation meant death was becoming fully understood in Kraków. In October the ghetto was consolidated and more selections for the death camps were made – another 4,500 to Bełżec and 600 shot inside the ghetto.

Meanwhile, work began readying the Płaszów labour camp. As soon as enough barracks had been built, camp commander Göth would order the relocation of the Jews in Ghetto A to Płaszów.

The ghetto hospital, orphanage and home for the elderly closed and many orphans and invalids were sent to Płaszów camp, where they were murdered on arrival.

Following the removal of the area east of Plac Zgody, the remainder of the ghetto was divided in two – Ghetto A for the fit and healthy who would build the Płaszów camp and Ghetto B for the less desirable people, destined for deportation.

On 13 March 1943 the order was issued to liquidate the Kraków Ghetto – at least 6,000 people were immediately shipped from Ghetto A to Płaszów. Residents of Ghetto B and all children under 14 were told to assemble on Plac Zgody the next day. Many mothers stayed behind, despite knowing what likely lay ahead, to stay with their children.

The next day the ghetto, by now reduced to Plac Zgody and the block of buildings just to the south, was surrounded by German troops who herded the residents into trucks. Those who resisted or tried to escape were shot. The 3,000 people who left the ghetto by truck were sent straight to the gas chambers at Auschwitz.

At ul. Lwowska 25-29 you’ll see a 12 metre stretch of the ghetto wall. A 1983 plaque reads “Here they lived, suffered and died at the hands of the German torturers. From here they began their final journey to the death camps.”

After the War, the name of Plac Zgody was changed to Plac Bohaterów Getta (Ghetto Heroes Square) and a small monument was erected. In 2005 the 70 large metal chairs were put in place to wait, empty …

On the Sunday following 14 March each year, a parade honouring the victims leaves Plac Bohaterów Getta for the Holocaust monument on the site of Płaszów camp.

On the square you’ll also see Apteka Pod Orłem – the pharmacy under the eagle. When the ghetto was created, the pharmacy found itself at its heart. The Polish owner, Tadeusz Pankiewicz, and his staff were the only Poles allowed to live and work in the ghetto and the pharmacy became an important social centre as well as the plae to acquire food, medicine and false papers.

The pharmacy, at No 18, is now part of the Historic Museum.

Take a look at our About Visiting The Camps for more information about Płaszów and the Grey and Red Houses.

Hujarowa Hill

Not so much a hill as a hellish pit. A wooden cross with a barbed wire crown marks the approximate site of one of two Płaszów mass execution sites.

A pit was dug here, 50m in around and 5m deep. Beginning in late August or early September 1943 with Jews from the Bochnia ghetto, groups of prisoners were brought to the pit, told to undress, then shot – their bodies then stacked heat to toe in layers and sprinkled with soil. Executions took place almost every day until the middle of February 1944, when barracks were built over the site of the pit and executions were moved to Cipowy Dołek (where you’ll find the Memorial of Torn-out Hearts) and took place in plain view of the prisoners working in Płaszów camp.

As happened in many places, when the tide was seen to have turned the Nazis ordered the excavation of both mass graves and the bodies were burned to remove the evidence of what had happened. It took two months to carry out this operation and eye-witness reports say that 17 truckloads of human ashes were spread over the site before it was abandoned.

While you’re in Podgórze, don’t miss St Joseph’s Church on the rynek. This church is another of those churches with a wow factor.

Built between 1905 and 1909 (under Austrian rule) this confection of a church has an 80-metre clock tower, fancy stonework, saints, gargoyles … and it’s lit up at night!

For added wow, pop inside!

Then pop around the back to see the 1832 belfry – left over from a previous project, never completed due to flaws in its design.

There are tours and walking tours exploring Kraków’s Jewish heritage and the modern city areas of Kazimierz and Podgórze.

John Paul II

The man, not the airport.


Karol Józef Wojtyła was born on 18 May 1920 in the small town of Wadowice, 50km south-west of Kraków.


Karol Wojtyla with His Mother





In 1938 he graduated from the high school in Wadowice and immediately enrolled at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, moving with his father into ul Tyniecka 10, just over the Grunwald Bridge (plaque).


A keen sportsman, the future Pope excelled at swimming, skiing and football. He spent some time in military training before the invasion of Poland but subsequently worked cutting stone in Zakrzówek Quarry – now flooded and open as a diving centre – by day and studying theology by night.


After his father’s death in 1942, Wojtyła began secretly studying under the Archbishop of Kraków and he resumed formal studies after the war until his ordination on 1 November 1946.He delivered his first Mass in the Crypt of St Leonard under Wawel Cathedral; his second on 3 November in the Church of St Stanislaw Kostka at ul. Konfederacka 6. There he would preach Mass every morning until his departure for Rome.





In Rome, Wojtyła completed his doctorate in theology and ministered to Polish immigrants and refugees. Appointed as auxiliary bishop of Kraków on 4 July 1958 at the age of just 38, Poland’s youngest bishop spent the next five years living at ul. Kanonicza 19, now the Archdiocesan Museum.


Wojtyła’s final Kraków home from 1963-1978 was the Bishop’s Palace, next to St Francis’ Basilica at ul. Franciszkańska 3.




Pontifical University of John Paul II

On 11 January 1397 Pope Boniface IX signed a papal bull allowing the foundation of the Faculty of Theology at the Kraków Academy. In the restoration act of 26 July 1400 the Faculty of Theology was listed as the most important faculty of the Academy. In 1817 Kraków Academy became the Jagiellonian University.


In 1954, communist authorities expelled the Faculty of Theology from the university. Continuing under Vatican supervision the faculty received the honorific title of “Pontifical” in 1974 and was established as an Academy of Theology by John Paul II in 1981 – it became the Pontifical University of John Paul II in 2009. Its main building is in ul. Franciszkańska.



Kraków’s airport is the second busiest airport in the country after Warsaw’s Chopin (the troubled Modlin is used only by LCCs).


The originally military airfield opened for civil aviation in 1964.


In 1998 it was decided that Pope John Paul II would be the official patron of the airport, with a name change to John Paul II International Airport Kraków–Balice – thankfully, that was shortened in 2007 to Kraków Airport im. Jana Pawła II.


Hills and mountains

Remember, too, that Karol Wojtyła loved the hills and mountains of southern Poland – come and have a look at what kept bringing him back.