The former medieval city situated on the Vistula River is a storybook destination come alive. With roots dating back to the seventh century, Krakow saw its fair share of strife, wars, natural disasters, plagues and raids over the years; but it also saw great periods of flourishing, including under King Kazimierz the Great in the 14th century. The king commissioned many of the great buildings still marveled at today. Poland’s second-largest city remains an international hub of academics and art.
John Paul II International Airport (KRK) — named for the much-adored Polish pope — is 10 miles from the city center. Train service departs every 30 minutes; passengers have to transfer to the train terminal via shuttle bus outside the airport. The 20-minute ride is about $4 one way. Two bus lines, the 208 and 292, run to and from the airport for around $1.30 per ride. Krakow Airport Taxi is the only official taxi company from the airport; rides cost $20–30.
Krakow’s Old Town is perfect for wandering by foot, but public transportation options in the city include a tram network, bus service, cabs and bicycles. The tram network costs 75 cents for one ride; one-hour tickets are 95 cents. The bus, also around 75 cents, runs until 11 p.m. A traveler’s best bet is to call taxis by phone. A typical ride costs around $4.50; fares double at night. As in many European cities, biking is increasingly popular; bicycles can be rented.
Historic Centre of Krakow
The UNESCO World Heritage site begins at the foot of the Royal Wawel Castle. Originally built in the 13th century, the market square is the largest in Europe. Among the historic houses, palaces and churches are the remnants of 14th-century fortifications and medieval Kazimierz, the former Jewish district, as well as Jagollonian University and the Gothic Cathedral, where many Polish kings are buried.
Oskar Schindler’s Factory
A museum is housed in the former administration building of Oskar Schindler’s factory, Emalia. The museum tells the story of Schindler and the Jewish prisoners, the inspiration behind Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List. The movie shot scenes on location in Krakow.
Wawel Royal Castle
The official royal residence from 1038 to 1596, when Warsaw usurped the title of capital from Krakow, is a symbol of the independent Polish state. The castle holds an impressive collection of 16th-century tapestries, one of the largest in the world.
EVENTS AND FESTIVALS
International Festival of Jewish Culture
For the last 15 years, the annual festival celebrates Jewish culture in synagogues, cellars, theaters and cafés in the former Jewish district of Kazimierz. Performances, book launches and tours are capped by an open-air concert.
International Festival of Old Music
For 17 days, Krakow’s early music is honored in a number of different concerts and venues. Venues are based on the type of music being performed. The festival displays the diversity of the city’s musical tradition and attracts well-known performers.
The annual event commemorates the Polish culinary tradition of pierogies. The dish is popular in many households, and the festival offers the opportunity for attendees to sample several varieties.
For more information, visit krakow.pl
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