is one of the most fascinating medieval cities in Europe and one of the few that escaped destruction in World War II. Today it’s famed for its soaring Gothic church spires and cobblestone streets, while its Old Town heart is attested by UNESCO and known for having one of the liveliest after dark scenes on the continent. Check out the best activities and sights within this enticing neighborhood.
This Renaissance Cloth Hall is located in the dead center of the Old Town Market Square and represents one of the landmarks of the city and its famous main plaza. The building, the Sukiennice, hosts a museum complete with paintings and sculptures from 19th-century polish art, while underground, exhibitions are dedicated to the medieval ways of life in Krakow. From the outside the building oozes finesse, with Gothic, Romanesque, Renaissance and Rococo touches alike.
Sukiennice, Rynek Główny 1-3, Kraków, Poland, +48 12 433 54 00
St Mary’s Basilica
Standing aloft the main Market Square of Krakow, St Mary’s Basilica is one of the most important religious structures in the country. Like so many of the landmarks in the UNESCO-attested Old Town, its past is wreathed in legend and myth. It’s said that it was from this building that a guard signaled the arrival of the Mongol Hordes in the 13th century, while other tales tell of suicidal brothers or patricide to boot.
Plac Mariacki 5, Kraków, +48 12 422 05 21
Church of St. Anne
This gorgeous building is a colossal and fine example of Polish Baroque architecture. The inside was decorated in exquisite stuccoes by the Italian artist Baldassare Fontana at the end of the 17th century, while the church itself is mentioned in historical records from as far back as the 14th century. Don’t miss the massive columns guarding the entrance, and just check out that soaring interior ceiling.
Church of St. Anne, św. Anny 11, Kraków, Poland, +48 12 422 53 18
A passageway used in the medieval times, the Krakow Barbican was once a small fortress connecting St. Florian’s gate to the outside world. Today it sits detached in the green belt park of the Planty with its formidable Gothic turrets still keeping watch on all sides. It’s said that a Polish soldier once managed to turn back an attack by Russian soldiers from this bastion, using his shirt button to snipe the enemy general.
Kraków Barbican, Basztowa, Kraków, Poland, +48 12 422 98 77
A chemical odyssey, the Pharmacy Museum in Krakow is a journey through the medicinal past of the town and nation. Founded in 1946, the exhibition rooms here are spread over five floors from the penthouse to the basement of the building on bustling Basztowa Street and contain oodles of old drug containers, medical implements, curious busts, and inscriptions. In short, this one is an immersive journey back in time!
Muzeum Farmacji Collegium Medicum Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego, Floriańska 25, Kraków, Poland, +48 12 421 92 79
Krawl Through Krakow
Diverting from the usual church-castle-monument rigmarole of the UNESCO-attested heart of Krakow is this hedonistic mishmash of potent vodka shots and frothy Slavic beers. The self-proclaimed original pub crawl of Krakow, this highly-rated tour of the town’s underground bars and clubs includes a whole hour of all-you-can-drink booze, free shots aplenty and entrance to some of the most rambunctious dives in the Old Town. Meet at the Adam Mickiewicz statue at 9pm folks – any night of the year.
1,000 years of history is showcased in the underground vaults of the Main Square, where the turbulent past of the Old Town of Krakow is unraveled. Covering 4,000 square meters of archaeological findings made between 2005 and 2010, this museum is one of the most immersive on offer in the town. The connection of Poland with the Hanseatic League is one of the most intriguing parts of the exhibition, while the objects on display include old weapons and trading goods found in the mud.
Rynek Underground, Rynek Główny 1, Kraków, Poland, + 48 12 426 50 60
A Haven for graphic designers, art lovers and culture buffs alike, the Polish Poster Gallery is a fantastic place to get inspired. Hosting over 2,500 Polish posters and promoting the culture around them, the petite gallery is a grass-roots organization dedicated to understanding the graphic history of the city. Covering areas like painting, theater, cinema, literature and food, the posters here are all-encompassing in their artistic merits!
Galeria Plakatu, Stolarska 8-10, Kraków, Poland, +48 12 421 26 40
Free Walking Tour
Departing every day at regular intervals from outside the front of St Mary’s Church in the Main Square, the Krakow Free Walking Tour is arguably the best way to uncover the hidden histories of this remarkable neighborhood. Qualified Polish guides lead the group, revealing tales of kings and queens and legends and ghosts as they move between the tight-knit streets of the city and the various monuments that abound here. Oh, and the best part: it’s totally free!
Nothing short of an institution on the Krakow nightlife scene, this almost all-night watering hole is always packed out with locals, visitors and students alike. Some of the city’s cheapest vodka and beer flows from behind the bar, while plates of hearty pierogi dumplings and tartar offer some welcome late-night indulgence. Just don’t expect a smile at the bar!
Plac Szczepański 6, Kraków, +48 790 770 648