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Your guide to Kraków
All About Kraków
Split in two by the Vistula River, Kraków is a thriving center of Polish culture and art where modern living is juxtaposed against nearly 1,400 years of history. Opulent Renaissance and medieval buildings line the open market-style streets of Old Town — the beating heart of Kraków, which sits under the Gothic towers of St. Mary’s Basilica. Visit Wawel Royal Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and from atop the castle’s hill you’ll have a spectacular view of the city. Just beneath the castle is the Planty, a grassy, tree-lined park belt circling the Old Town that people stroll along during the day, perhaps nibbling at a sesame-covered bagel as they walk. Cafe life in Kraków extends from the early morning to late at night, and you can spend an afternoon people-watching at an outdoor table. Nighttime sends revelers down to the stone-roofed underground bars and dance clubs, and from there, to the street stalls specializing in zapiekanka, open-faced sandwiches.
Immerse yourself in the city’s Jewish heritage at the moving Żydowskie Museum or the stunning Tempel Synagogue on Miodowa in the neighborhood of Kazimierz, now home to many art galleries. In recent years, the city has become a culinary powerhouse, with cuisines ranging from Ashkenazi Jewish and French to vegan, but you can always get a taste of 20th-century Poland at one of the city’s authentic Communist-style milk bars.
The best time to stay in a vacation rental in Kraków
Kraków’s location offers a year-round temperate climate with warm summers and chilly winters. With Kraków being a cultural hub, festivals and events happen nearly every weekend throughout the summer, including one of Europe’s biggest jazz festivals, which features international musicians and occurs each July. Visitor numbers drop as the summer heat dies down, and there’s a chance of the odd rainy day during the fall, so pack sturdy shoes for the Old Town’s cobbled streets. The city’s location in central Europe means that winter days can be bitingly cold, so you’ll need a warm coat, and underground bars are a popular place to warm up. Foodies will want to head here in the spring to take part in one of the city’s many culinary festivals, such as the Chocolate Festival in March or the Pierogi Festival in April.
Top things to do in Kraków
Ojców National Park
Just 40 minutes north of Kraków, Ojców National Park is the best way to reconnect with the serenity of nature during your stay in Kraków. Climb to the ancient ruins of a cliff-top castle, Pieskowa Skała, or take a casual stroll through the lush woods, passing dramatic rock formations and limestone caverns.
It would be remiss to visit this city without acknowledging and understanding its deep and troubling past during WWII. This concentration camp turned museum, located one hour outside town, is where 1.1 million people were killed, most of them Poles of Jewish descent, and a visit provides life-changing insight into the genocidal atrocities that took place during the Holocaust. To visit Auschwitz, you can take a guided tour that leaves from Kraków, or drive or take a bus from town yourself.
Trail of the Eagle’s Nests
This 101-mile trail takes in 25 medieval palaces and fortresses, many of which were built on vertiginous limestone cliffs framed by dense woodland. The section of the route nearest Kraków takes in Tęczyn Castle and its red-tiled tower roof, more than 400 meters above sea level. You can make the journey through the countryside by car, bus, or on two wheels, but bear in mind that the cycling route is longer.