Cosa vedere a Cracovia

What to see in Krakow in two days: museums, monuments and squares

Krakow looks classic medieval town straight out of a fairy tale. And, in fact, even if you want to be picky, the ingredients are all there: there is the wide esplanade where once the market was held, bell towers and Gothic towersa dutiful splash of castles and also, to complete it all, bewitching traditions and legends of dragons. In short, to decide to leave and come and discover what to see in Krakow there would be enough of it already. But then you arrive and discover the charm of hers narrow ancient streets, the lattice of the tunnels and the tangle of the courtyards and you are surprised. Finally, you grasp the richness of history and culture. And then you fall in love with this city that does not hide its ambition to be there cultural capital of Poland and who has never neglected, even in the darkest moments, the love for music, poetry and theater. And what you breathe is a strong sense of identity and pride that never gets boring. Yes, because Krakow is not only ancient and suggestive. But it is also a city that likes to let go. With one of the most high concentrations of pubs, clubs and bars in Europe being late here is a pleasure. And this is the kind of Middle Ages we prefer.

What to see in Krakow: capital for five centuries

Krakow is one of the most ancient cities in the country and for nearly five centuries it has been there capital of the Kingdom of Poland well before it arrived Warsaw to steal the role. This legacy can be admired everywhere also because it has one of the best preserved centers in Europe. And although Warsaw is older does not show even for a moment an inferiority complex. But he’s right: just scroll through the guide to be reminded that the Basilica of Marywith its brick facade and asymmetrical towers, dates back to the 13th century and that Wawel Cathedral saw the coronation of kings and queens as well as the Royal Castle it collects in itself the traces of the entire political and cultural history of Poland. The tragic history of the Jewish population of Krakow it is told in various places, from the factory made known by the film Schindler’s List to the Jewish museum housed in the Old synagogue of the fifteenth century without forgetting that it is home to one of the most ancient universities of central Europe. The result of all this? The city belongs to the Unesco list of World Heritage Sites but, at the same time, it also attracts tourists who come here to enjoy the fun and joy. Often at very affordable prices also taking into account the fact that, although Polish cuisine is certainly not famous for its refinement, there are also good restaurants here. Around then there is a beautiful countryside with in the background the offshoots of the first peaks with deep valleys surmounted by ruined castles. And if you really are insatiable just 100 km you can even skiing in the Tatra Mountains.

What to see in Krakow

What to see in Krakow: the Market square

The starting point for appreciating the things to see in Krakow is its great one market Squarethat is to say Rynek Główny. It arose in 1257. And it hasn’t changed too much since then. It remains one of the largest medieval squares in Europe – each side is 200 meters long – and has seen, over the centuries, of all kinds: from wool market at the time of kings at religious festivals but also nativity scene competitions and, unfortunately, i rallies of the Nazis. Many unique buildings overlook the square, including the Textile marketthe first shopping mall in the world, or the incredible Rynek Underground, a hi-tech museum, which runs under the square. Other buildings include the Basilica of Santa Mariathe ancient Town Hall Tower but also many shops and cafes where you can stop pleasantly.

The Textile market however, it is perhaps the most famous palace. It was built in the fourteenth century to house the fabric market and was, in practice, one of the first shopping centers of the time even if it was later remodeled after a fire. Since 1978 it has been declared UNESCO World Heritage Site. Even today, the ground floor houses a huge selection of objects by handicrafts and souvenirs while on the upper floor there is the Painting Gallery which brings together the collection of 19th century Polish art including the gigantic cinema paintings by Jan Matejko. For a stop in the building there are also three rooms, one of which, the historian Noworolski coffee it has been open since 1910. On the same floor as the museum there is also a café with a nice terrace where you can enjoy the view of the square.

What to see in Krakow

What to see in Krakow: let’s go underground

We have already mentioned it and it is one of the strangest attractions: let’s talk about the Krakow Underground Museumopened in 2010, after they had been discovered and explored in 2005 the galleries under the square. It is a network of tunnels four meters below the surface it proposes multimedia exhibitions dedicated to the history of this city. You can see the main exhibition entitled “In the footsteps of Krakow’s European identity”To learn how the city has evolved over the centuries – from 2000 BC until the death of Pope John Paul II and a series of interactive experiences that reveal curiosities and collections of objects of all kinds. And the children will love it.

What to see in Krakow

What to see in Krakow: the castle of the Polish kings

Then to go back to try to get a view on what to see in Krakow you have to go to one of the symbols of the city which is obviously not underground but on a hill. The Wawel Castle it is a gothic building of built by Casimir III the Great during his reign, between 1333 and 1370, and which then underwent profound extensions and changes over the centuries. It is one of those symbols with which all of Poland immediately identifies: also because it was there official residence of the royal family and a symbol of the Polish state for a long time only becoming a museum in the 1930s. It now houses a huge array of collections and works divided into five main sections ranging from oriental art to weapons, from the treasures of the royal rooms to those of the private apartments. Even a quick visit will certainly have to include a passage to the second floor to see the private apartments of the Polish kings and at the last one where the apartments used in the State visits are located. All between collections of tapestries, armor and old weapons but also extraordinary works of art.
Then, not far away, always on Wawel Hill, there is the Cathedral which in its thousand years of history has seen monarchs and nobles pass by. In addition to having hosted the coronations and burials of monarchs. The building is affected by the many manipulations suffered and blends different styles from baroque to classicist and houses many unique pieces, at least for their historical value, such as the late Gothic tombs of the king Vladislav II Jagiellothe seventeenth-century mausoleum of San Stanislao and the tomb of Casimir III the Greatof the best sculptural pieces of those times in Europe scattered among the 18 chapels.

What to see in Krakow

What to see in Krakow: museums and masterpieces

You cannot say that you have grasped what to see in Krakow without dedicating some time to the museum Czartoryski Museum, one of the oldest museums in Poland. It was founded by the princess Izabela Czartoryska in 1796 with the aim of preserving the cultural heritage of the country and now occupies three buildings that collect four permanent exhibitions. The first nucleus was formed by objects taken in Wawel Castle and Cathedral and bequests of the Polish nobility. Over time it also suffered heavy damage and part of the works was stolen by the Germans including a drawing by Raphael never found again. The highlight has always been there Lady with an Ermine by Leonardo which has now been transported to the National Museum of Krakow, the first national museum in Poland and the largest. It was established on 7 October 1879 and has slowly incorporated other collections to the point that now houses more than 780,000 objects of which over 300 thousand belong to the Museum and Library of the Czartoryski Princes. There are exhibits ranging from prehistoric times to modern art and in addition to the main venue there are eleven other buildings which collect part of the works including the aforementioned spaces in Textile market or in the Czartoryski Museum. The main palace is located on the outskirts of the city and houses three sections showcasing 20th-century Polish weapons, decorative arts and painting. Right here since 2017 it is on display the Lady of Leonardo. In addition to the permanent exhibitions, temporary exhibitions of considerable interest are also organized.

What to see in Krakow

What to see in Krakow: the basilica of St. Mary

In the guide that tells what to see in Krakow a fundamental aspect is that related to Jewish history: but we will dedicate a separate chapter to that. We therefore conclude our little journey with a tribute to Basilica of Santa Maria also known as the Church of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven. The cathedral is located near the Market square in the Old City and was built in the 13th and then rebuilt in the 14th century in the Gothic style. The two towers can already be seen from a distance, but the entrance is also striking with the portal added later. From above you will hear the sound of a trumpet: it is thehejnal mariacki and is played hourly from the highest tower. This ceremony celebrates the mythical trumpeter who sounded the alarm to the city when it was attacked by the Mongols. The sound stops in the middle to remember the death of the brave soldier. Once inside, look around giving yourself time to appreciate the famous altarpiece and the many 14th century paintings and stained glass windows.

What to see in Krakow

At this point, before dedicating yourself to the Jewish part of the city, a must stop. Take a leisurely stroll along the streets of Stare Miastothe old city, which is included within the Planty, the rounded park where the walls and watchtowers once stood. There are now benches and cafes. In the old part of the city you will find many places to stop and enjoy the passage and a little rest before the last necessary walk that starts from Barbicana bastion of 1500. From there begins the Via Realethe way i Polish kings they traveled to go to their coronation. You imitate them: go under the Floriana door and then follow the roads Florianska and Grodzka that touch the Piazza del Mercato and head towards the hill. Coronations took place in the church. You just follow the path of the kings. In a city that seems to have come out of a fairy tale, it can be done without too much effort.

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