5 terrific things to see in Krakow (Poland) and around

Rynek Główny, Krakow

Krakow is a beautiful city.

If you are either a street photographer or an urban one, you’ll find plenty of interesting subjects for your lenses.

Walk around the Planty, get lost in the narrow streets of the old town, visit the many beauties and monuments of the city, pay a visit to the museum to admire a real Leonardo’s  masterpiece like Lady with an Ermine.  You have countless possibilities in Krakow.

But if you are on a run and just want to see the most appalling photographic subjects, here are my tips for you. The 5 places you cannot miss when visiting this historical Polish city.

  • Rynek Glowny (Market Square)

Rynek Glowny, Krakow

This is the real heart of the old city, all roads will lead you here.

It’s a huge square with the majestic and beautiful Renaissance style market building right in the middle. It’s flanked by churches and beautiful buildings from where the café’s dehors spring out.

It’s a great place for street and architecture photographers, full of beautiful corners.  There is always something happening here.

Wikipedia reports that The Project for Public Spaces (PPS) lists the square as the best public space in Europe.

Springtime evening in Krakow Rynek Glowny with St. Adalbert Church

The Romanesque church of St. Adalbert is more than 1.000 years old. You find it in the Southeastern corner of the square. Don’t miss it!

  • Kazimierz

Kazimierz was once a town by itself.  A world of prosperity and tolerance.  Here, until 1939, lived great part of the Jewish community of Krakow. A big community, indeed.

The borough has been neglected for years during the Communist times.

Recently restored , it’s today a place where you can get lost through the cobbled lanes, discovering old synagogues, low-standing houses, churches, bars and cafes.

Ulica Szeroka was the heart of the old Kazimierz.  the Old Synagogue and the Remuh Synagogue stand here, and there is also a small Jewish cemetery.

The street, that looks much more as a square, is flanked by many bars.

Restored old Jewish shops in Kazimierz, Krakow, Poland

Few meters away, a row of old houses has been refurbished and you can see a relic of the old Kazimierz, with its shop and houses.

  • Wavel

Wavel seen from the Vistula river

The huge fortified castle of Krakow overlooks the banks of the Vistula river from the tiny Wawel hill.

The best way to go there from the city centre is to follow the beautiful Kanonicza Street, flanked by beautiful old buildings.

Wavel is a very important place for every Pole. It has been a political power center since Middle Age and is representative of the Polish nation and history.

Wavel, Krakow

Apart from that, the castle is a beautiful complex of secular and religious buildings of different ages and styles, from the Gothic cathedral to the Renaissance castle and in between.

You can easily spend hours here, just wandering around and admiring the impressive architecture and the beautiful view over the river.

Wavel castle courtyard

  • Podgorze

After the visit to Wavel, cross the river and step into Podgorze,  and into the shadows and memories of a tragic past.

During the German occupation of Poland, all the Jews of Krakow were confined here by the Nazis. They lived here while waiting to be sent to the death camps (Auschwitz is not far away from Krakow).

Plac Bohaterow Getta, Podgorze, Krakow

Plac Bohaterow Getta (Getto Heroes Square) is where the Jews were forced to wait for the trains. It’s a huge, empty square with a daunting monument made of large metal chairs to commemorate the victims of Holocaust.

At one side, a florist shop is hosted into what once was a SS barrack.

Plac Bohaterow Getta, former SS barracck today florist shop

On the opposite side you’ll find the Pharmacy Under The Eagles (Apteka Pod Orlem), whose owner of the times, Tadeusz Pankiewicz, secretly helped many Jews of the ghetto. The pharmacy is now a museum.

Just few meters away, in ul. Lipowa you can see the remaining part of the Ghetto Wall. It is incongruously flanked by a small amusement park for children.

Podgorze , Old Ghetto wall

On the other side of the street, you can still see the Oskar Schindler’s Factory. Do you remember the movie? Well, this is the reality. It’s the real factory where Oskar Schindler saved more than one thousand Jews.  You can visit it and there is also a permanent exhibition.

Schndler's factory in Krakow

  • Nowa Huta

To get to Nowa Huta step on  tram 4 or 15 from the city centre and enjoy the long ride until the easternmost part of the city.

Nowa Huta - Kmbinat Tram Stop

Nowa Huta is a planned town. It was built just after the II WW as  ideal town for industrial workers employed in the nearby Vladimir Lenin Steelworks (today Tadeusz Sendzimir Steel Mill), the biggest steel mill in Poland.

Nowa Huta is a still intact good example of Socialist realism in architecture, with its broad major avenues and the quiet residential areas  with parks and amenities. It’s  a very interesting visit for the architecture and street photographer and for all those who like to taste the sense of history.

Nowa Huta buildings

Many buildings have atomic shelters in their basements, projected to protect all the inhabitants of the house against te blast of an atomic bomb.

They could be ermetically closed from inside, had food and water supplies and beds and toilets.

The shelters are still there (personally i could visit one and was a great experience) mostly used as cellars or deposits.

Sfinks C inema - Nowa Huta

  • Wieliczka

Wieliczka is 20 kilometres away from Krakow, a 30  minutes ride by car or train.

Here there is an old salt mine, another interesting visit.

The mine is like an upside down skyscraper. You step down 53 floors and you’re almost at the middle of your path; your final destination is 135 meters deep!

It’s full of curiosities and wonders down there: churches dug in the salt, basketball courts made of salt, salt statues, huge rooms that once were only salt.  Tons and tons of salt that have been moved up by people working there.

The huge room you can see below is actually a church. Here everything is made of salt: floor, ceiling, walls, the three altars, staircases and everything else. It’s 54 meters long and 17 meters wide.

22.000 tons of salt were extracted to create it. And don’t forget, it’s located 101 meters below the earth surface!

Beate Kinga Chapel, Wieliczka

This is a 40 meters wide navigable lake, 140 meters deep

Jozef Pilsudski lake, Wieliczka

While walking, you’ll notice on the walls a lot of scars, parallel and very close to each other. They are the signs of the miners pickaxes, the reminiscence of an ancestral strain made hundreds of meters below the earth’s surface.

Meter after meter, hammer blow after hammer blow they have created a subterranean web of tunnels and sent to the surface tons of salt. You need patience to do that. And strength.

Everything is easier for today’s visitors. They find tracks already opened but still have to cope with uncountable stairs and with a vague sense of claustrophobia once inside.

The many wonders and curiosities you find along the path, half hidden by the low light make you forget every negative feeling .

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House of culture, Wieliczka

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