This absolutely enchanting city has a legend for everything as does Poland in general. Given the fact that I visited the city during christmas and all museums were closed, I transformed this journey into a quest of legends and tasting food and drinks.
How to get there:
I arrived in Warsaw at Chopin airport and from there took a train to the central station in Warasaw and another to Krakow ( train from Warsaw to Krakow costs on average 15 euros and it’s about 5 hours journey ). Best option is to fly directly to Krakow and from there take the train to the main train station.
I stayed on Bonerwoska street, hosted by a friend and I know that many apartments on that street are rent by travellers. Bonerowska is only 10 min walk away from the beautiful Old Town. This area of the city is all surrounded by a park.
What to see:
The best way to enjoy the Old Town is to enter this area through Florianska gate and continue walking on the Royal Road. This road, passing through the Main Market square leads to the Wawel hill, where the castle and the cathedral are.According to the legend the Wawel hill used to be the liar of the dragon, symbol of the city.
In the eastern corner of this square is standing the Virgin Mary’s Basilica. An unique example of gothic architecture. Founded in the 13th century its facade has two towers of different heights: the north tower is 12m taller. It was raised and designed as a watch tower in the 15th century. However,according to a legend appeared around the 19th century, the construction of the towers was entrusted to two brothers. For them building the towers became a competition and a way of proving who is the best builder. The older brother was building the south tower and the younger the north one. Soon it was obvious that the older brother, whom was more experience, was doing a better job than the younger. The latter, filled with envy, lured his brother to the shores of the river, killed him and threw his body into the river. This way he could complete his work: the tower, although slim and slender, surpassed the tower of the brother. Despite the admiration of the citizen he could not live with the sense of guilt so he climbed on the tower and killed himself.
At every hour a trumpet sound is breaking from the tallest of the two towers. People gather underneath to wave at the Hejnalista.
Other landmarks in the Market main square (Rynek Główny in polish ) are the Cloth Hall (Sukiennice) build in the 14th century, the statute of Adam Mickiewicz, Poland’s most eminent scribe, and the town hall tower and next to it the statue of “Eros Bendato”. Visiting this city during Christmas didn’t give the opportunity to enter many landmarks but I could enjoy a very warm and magical Christmas atmosphere. The square was crammed with small stands selling delicious food mulled wine, toys, wool clothes, and eye-catching amber jewels.
The route continues on Grodszka street, on which you can visit Saint Francis’s Basilica decorated in Art Nouveau stile. What caught my attention the most, was what seemed to be a very colourful maquette of a gothic church that was displayed in one of the transepts of the church. I was told later that it was a very special Kraków szopka, a typical Krakowian nativity scene in which historical buildings of the city are used as a backdrop.
The last stop of the Royal Road is the Wawel Castle and the Wawel Cathedral.
Is the oldest building of the Jagellonian university, it used to be the place where professors worked and lived. It’s most famous pupil is Copernicus. Now a days is a museum that can be visited only with an organised tour ( available in both Polish and English)
To admire the whole city the Kościuszko Mound is the best place for this. It’s an artificial mound erected in honour of a national hero. There’s a very nice view of the city from there and you can also relax taking a walk into the forrest.
Where to drink:
Kazimierz district has been the centre of Jewish life for over 500 years. During the communist era was falling in disrepair but it became a very popular and touristic place also thanks to Spielberg’s “Schindler List”. What I love the most in this district was the decadent atmosphere of the locals. I literally spent most of my time in this district sipping tea or drinking mulled wine in some of those bars. When visiting this district don’t miss
- Singer bar, the atmosphere is very warm an old Singer sewing machines are used as tables: very nice place for a warm drink.
- Alchemia this bohemian place is more than just a pub, it’s a gathering place for artists. They also play life music and organise very nice events.
- Bania Luka is very popular among erasmus students, here you can have all kind of shots of vodka, beer and also grab something to eat like the traditional pierogi( polish dumplings)
Where to eat :
- U Babci Maliny, is a very cosy and good restaurant. Has different rooms and each has it’s own design, from very elegant and baroque to rustic.
- Przystanek pierogarnia is a tiny restaurant on Bonerowska street, perfect if you want to try fresh home-made pierogi (polish dumplings).
- The polish typical fast-food is zapiekanka, half baguette with cheese and mushrooms to which you can add different toppings. You can buy it in a variety of places.
- Ambasada, is the perfect place for the traditional pickled herring and vodka for only 2 euros !
- If you are a chocolate lover you should not miss Krakowska Manufaktura Czekolady, it’s paradise for chocolate lovers. They have a very wide variety of pralines and they also have an workshop were you can see how chocolate is made.