Poland’s third largest city
Sprawling Krakow is Poland’s third largest city and one of its prettiest by far. Crammed with spires, churches, sculptures and monuments, this is where Poland has its artistic and creative soul, and where over 1,000 of years of history is beautifully expressed. Today, 7 million people annually are drawn to its historic centre, which has featured on the UNESCO World Heritage List for over 30 years. Walk its charming streets for yourself, and you’ll soon discover why.
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There’s plenty of contrast where shopping in Kraków is concerned, with the city playing home to everything from Galeria Krakowska (Pawia 5), a shiny multinational mall near the central train station, to the sprawling daily flea market at Hala Targowa (Daszyńskiego 3), which is particularly good on Sundays. Elsewhere, Salon Antyków Pasja (Jagiellońska 9) sells a smart collection of antiques in the Old Town, while the covered market at Stary Kleparz (Rynek Kleparski 14) dates back to the Middle Ages and is great for picking up fresh produce. And naturally, throughout the Old Town, you’ll find numerous souvenir shops – classic Kraków gifts include amber jewellery and lace.
Food & Drink
If your notions of Polish cuisine still tend towards bland, communist-era fare, it’s time for a serious rethink. Today’s Kraków serves up some genuinely excellent dining options, many of them putting a modern spin on traditional national dishes. Restauracja Pod Baranem (Gertrudy 21) is a great example, adding real finesse to classics such as zurek (sour rye soup) and maczanka krakowska (meat stew), while the long-established Wentzl (Rynek Glówny 19) is another classy option. For home cooking at good prices, try the old-fashioned milk bar at U Stasi (Mikolajska 16) or sample authentic café culture at Camelot (Tomasza 17).
International Soup Festival
A hugely popular annual event in the Kazimierz district, during which various cooks and restaurants compete to create a champion soup. Free samples are handed out, and the party continues as day gives way to night and soup gives way to beer.
Comprising three days of live performances by Kraków musicians, Wianki takes place on the banks of the Vistula River and centres mainly on classical music. The event is traditionally timed to coincide with a celebration of the summer solstice.
Jewish Culture Festival
A dynamic expression of Kraków’s strong Jewish heritage, this annual culture festival offers movies, boat cruises, book launches, live music, prayer ceremonies and traditional food stalls. It’s been running for more than 20 years and bills itself as an ‘unending celebration of Jewish life’.
Festival of Polish Music
Presenting works by Polish composers from the Middle Ages to the present day, this nine-day event has been running since 2005 and has featured accomplished musicians from across the globe. It makes use of various concert halls and religious buildings.
Showcasing different types of new and electronic music, Kraków’s Unsound Festival has grown from small beginnings just over a decade ago to become an eagerly anticipated international event. Its line-up typically features well-known artists alongside fresh, innovative talent.
Kraków was the royal capital of Poland for almost 500 years, leaving it with some handsome historical sights and a wealth of period architecture. Luxury travellers visit in numbers, and can choose from familiar hotel brands such as the Sheraton Kraków (Powiśle 7) and Radisson Blu Hotel Kraków (Straszewskiego 17), as well as the boutique five-star charms of properties like Hotel Gródek (Na Gródku 4). For visitors in search of mid-range accommodation, the 20-room Hotel Benefis (Barska 2) and the 57-room Hotel Polski Pod Białym Orłem (Pijarska 7) are among the best value three-star options.