What better way to cheer in the New Year than to join the thousands of Cracovians and visitors who congregate together in the Medieval Square for the midnight countdown, followed by the ringing of St. Mary’s Cathedral bells and the grand finale of a fireworks display.
If you are looking for some fun after Christmas, beautiful architecture to admire, cobbled streets to wander, history to unravel, market stalls to visit, choice of day trips and the chance of a smattering of snow, then head to Krakow in Poland.
TOP 10 THINGS TO DO :
Dating back to 1257, the Old Town Square is the heart of Krakow and where main events are staged, Christmas market stalls erected and home to numerous architectural wonders. The medieval square is lined with beautiful pastel coloured townhouses, a great choice of restaurants and cafes and where you can pick up a horse and carriage ride.
- Cloth Hall (Sukiennice) – Dating back to the 14th century, this hall is still home to a thriving market selling wood carvings, jewellery, local crafts and much more and a great place to wander through. Be sure to check out the Polish Art Gallery on the second floor and the Rynek Underground Museum which traces the history of the hall.
- St.Marys Basilica – A magnificent gothic church standing at a height of 80 metres has an intricately carved wooden alterpiece, stunning stained glass windows and a nave with a beautiful blue star vaulting which is breathtaking. A time tradition every hour on the hour, is the famous bugle call from the northern tower.
WAWEL ROYAL CASTLE AND CATHEDRAL
Proudly sitting atop Wawel Hill and reached by a lovely scenic walk, the ensemble of buidings offers a collective mix of Romanesque, Renaissance and Gothic architecture, which dates from around the 14th century. Permanent exhibitions include the Treasury and Armoury, Royal private apartments and state rooms in the Castle and the stunning murals and interiors of the Cathedral.
CHURCH OF SS PETER & PAUL
With stone statues of the 12 apostles outside, this Baroque building dates back to the early 1600’s and is a refreshingly simplistic design inside the church. Make use of the free audioguide to learn the history of the church as you admire the architecture, alter and vault. ** TIP ** The church holds organ concerts so be sure to check listings.
WALKING AROUND THE OLD TOWN
Krakow is a city to stroll around on foot, as most of the Old Town is pedestrianized. Wander from the main Square around the cobbled streets which have their own individual style and character, from imposing churches, local cafes and differing architecture.
OSKAR SCHINDLERS FACTORY
Through the lives of inhabitants of wartime Krakow, you are guided from the war of 1939 right through historical events leading to the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1945. This journey uses multi media techniques and is a fascinating if not sobering journey to witness in this not to miss museum.
Walking around this district (Kazimierz) just south of the Old Town is akin to stepping back in time. Strolling around its streets you feel a sense of pre war Jewish culture which is thriving today and on display in the areas many synagogues, cemeteries and cafes. Don’t be fooled by the wooden shutters of the many eateries, because behind them you will discover delightful quirky, bohemian and character full pre war timelessness. Visit this area now before it gets modernised.
CORPUS CHRISTI CHURCH
This 14th century church in the heart of Kazimierz is a stunner inside. With the majestic pillars and cornices of the nave, a golden alter and pulpit featuring a golden boat, this is not subtlety in the making and not everyones cup of tea. On display though is a beautiful nativity scene and definitely worth a visit for quiet contemplation.
Highlighting Chopin’s most popular works, these concerts are held in an old historical 15th century tenement house, renovated in the 16th century and featuring a grand gothic style panelled hall. Enjoy an uplifting and elegant evening performed by notable pianists.
WIELICZKA SALT MINE
A worthwhile side trip 15 km to the southeast in the small town of Wieliczka is the stunning Salt Mine which was placed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1978.
Your Tour Ticket includes a 2 hour Tourist Route and an hours visit to the Underground Museum. Descending 380 wooden stairs to a level of 64 metres underground, you will be led along timber reinforced tunnels as your guide explains the history of the mine and techniques used to extract the salt.
The intricately carved alterpieces, monuments and figures are nothing short of fantastic and will leave you mesmerized by the sheer ability of the carvers.
Most people visiting Auschwitz don’t particularly want to but feel a compelling need to visit. Yes it is a profoundly moving experience and will leave you with thought provoking feelings but is definitely worth the trip. I won’t go into detail here as I have written a separate post, but the tour takes you to two camps and you will learn the details of this devastating time in history and walk around different areas of the now museum.
Again, most hotels will have tours which makes it an easier option in winter.
NEW YEARS EVE :
This is an extremely popular time of celebration for locals and visitors alike, so now is the ideal time to book Hotels, Restaurants and Clubs depending on how you would like to spend the evening.
We stayed in the Jewish district at the 4 star Metropolitan Boutique Hotel which I can thoroughly recommend. It is stylish, has great facilities, professional friendly staff and a great restaurant Fab Fusion. We booked our day trips to the Salt Mine and Auschwitz-Birkenau through them which were professional and well run. The hotel held a fabulous New Years Eve Dinner which was sumptuous and we had a great night.
- For information including opening hours, prices and directions for Oskar Schindlers Factory check their website here.
- Krakow Concert dates here.
- Check on visiting times and prices at Wieliczka Salt Mine before your trip.
- Read here for everything to know about a trip to Auschwitz.
- For a really quirky cosy cafe in the Old Town visit Cafe Camelot on ul Św Tomasza 17.
DO YOU LIKE TO BE AWAY AT NEW YEAR. IF SO WHERE WOULD BE YOUR IDEAL PLACE?
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