❤ The part of the city, which the tourists are likely to visit, is very small and flat, so one can walk literally everywhere without taking a bus.  Nevertheless, Krakow’s public transport is based on a fairly dense network of tram (streetcar) and bus routes. The bulk of the city's historic area has been turned into a pedestrian zone with bicycle rickshaws, electric cart and horse-drawn carriages; however, the tramlines run within a three-block radius. Tickets are available at almost every tram/bus station and a single route ticket (40-minutes ticket allowing for changing lines) costs 3.8 zloty (an equivalent of roughly 0.9 euro).  There are also several other kinds of tickets (reduced fair, etc) or unlimited travel passes for the tourist to choose, but 3.8 zloty is such a small price to pay; it really does not worth looking for better priced tickets.

The part of the city where most of the touristic attractions are. (Courtesy of Google maps).

The part of the city where most of the touristic attractions are. (Courtesy of Google maps).

Trams are easy to use, clean and always on time

Trams are easy to use, clean and always on time

❤ Krakow is cheap compared to other European cities. Food is roughly 30% cheaper than in Athens.  Tips are welcome throughout the tourist service sector. Yet in Krakow only waiters rightly expect extra payment, i.e. roughly one tenth above the charged sum, in appreciation of satisfactory service. Simply leave cash on the table or round up the bill, saying “Raeshty nye chaeba” (“Keep the rest”).  Almost everyone dealing with tourists speak very good English and people in general are very polite and always smile back to you, unlike some other eastern European peoples who can hardly pretend a smile!

 The center of the city is built on the north of Vistula River and it is all flat, except of Wawel Hill, a rocky hill by the river, which is elevated, but nothing really to bother even those with reduced mobility.

All streets in Old Town (Stare Miasto) are cobbled, but in very good condition and the side-walks in excellent condition and hardly higher than 5cm from the road.

Exploring the city

The areas which the visitor will visit for sure during his/her short stay and will pleasantly wander around are the following three.  All of them are very close (attached) to each other and easy to explore.

1. The Old Town

2. The Wawel Hill

3. The Kazimierz

Medieval Krakow (right), Wawel Hill (top) and Kazimierz island (left) from the Nuremberg chronicles - by Hartmann Schedel.

Medieval Krakow (right), Wawel Hill (top) and Kazimierz island (left) from the Nuremberg chronicles - by Hartmann Schedel.

The monuments, the churches, the museums, the sculptures, the palaces, are so many in the citythat I believe there’s no reason to try to visit all of them.  Unless you want to visit something very specific, my idea of visiting the city is to wander around its clean streets and try to absorb all this architectural beauty without any anxiety of missing something.  Besides, no matter how hard you try, there is no way not to miss something! 

The Old Town

Kraków Old Town is the historic central district of Kraków. It was the center of Poland's political life from 1038 until King Sigismund III Vasa relocated his court to Warsaw in 1596.

The Old Town is known in Polish as Stare Miasto.

Medieval Kraków was surrounded by a 3 km defensive wall complete with 46 towers and seven main entrances leading through them. The fortifications around the Old Town were erected over the course of two centuries. The current architectural plan of Stare Miasto – the 13th-century merchants' town – was drawn up in 1257 after the destruction of the city during the Tatar invasions of 1241 followed by raids of 1259 and repelled in 1287. 

In the 19th century most of the Old Town fortifications were demolished. The moat encircling the walls was filled in and turned into a green belt known as Planty Park.

Sukiennice (top). The interior of St. Mary's Basilica (middle left). Church of St. Barbara (bottom left). Town Hall Tower (bottom right).

Sukiennice (top). The interior of St. Mary's Basilica (middle left). Church of St. Barbara (bottom left). Town Hall Tower (bottom right).

Sukiennice is flanked by the 13th century Town Hall Tower (Wieża ratuszowa). The 70m high Tower is the only remaining part of the old Town Hall (Ratusz) demolished in 1820 as part of the city plan to open up the Main Square. Its cellars once housed a city prison with a medieval torture chamber. Today, the tower serves as one of many branches of the Historical Museum of the City of Krakow featuring permanent display of photographs of the Market Square Exhibition.

Old Town and Wawel Hill. (Courtesy of Google maps).

Old Town and Wawel Hill. (Courtesy of Google maps).

The main feature of the district is the centrally located Rynek Główny, or Main Market Square, the largest medieval town square of any European city. There is a number of historic landmarks in Main Square's vicinity, such as St. Mary's Basilica (Church of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven - Kościół Mariacki), home of the oldest and the largest Gothic altarpiece in the world, the Romanesque Church of St. Wojciech (St. Adalbert's), Church of St. Barbara, as well as other national treasures. At the center of the square, surrounded by kamienice (row houses) and noble residences, stands the Renaissance cloth hall Sukiennice (currently housing gift shops, restaurants and merchant stalls) with the National Gallery of Art upstairs. Sukiennice is the city's center of the commercial life since the 15th century and the most recognisable building of Krakow. The building took its current appearance after a thorough restoration in the 19th century.

The Town Hall and its Tower at a 1797 painting by Franciszek Smuglewicz.

The Town Hall and its Tower at a 1797 painting by Franciszek Smuglewicz.

Comments

03.11.2019 04:15

Rob

What a great adventure.

15.10.2018 08:50

Jane

The first time I read such an interesting review on Krakow.