Krakow is a city that knows how to party with its huge number of bars, but there’s so much more to it than that. Known as the cultural capital of Poland, it’s home to stunning architecture and historical landmarks, so if you’re in Krakow for astag weekend, be sure to check these out.
Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum
Situated in Oświęcim, Poland, this is a former Nazi concentration and extermination camp. The museum features a bookshop on site and is situated two kilometres from the closest train station.
The Barbakan is a distinct red brick circular bastion with seven turrets. In the 16th century, it was built as a fortified outpost, a part of the city walls where archers and riflemen made their stand against their enemies. Now the Gothic structure is a reminder of how impenetrable it was as a military defence. Interestingly, the Barbakan even has a moat and a drawbridge.
At the northern edge of the Old Town is Florianska Street with its own Baroque-style Florianska Gate surviving from the ancient defences that once surrounded the Old Town. It’s now a lively area with everything from stylish craft beer bars and Krakow’s oldest cafes to souvenir shops perfect for picking up quirky gifts and traditional Polish food. It’s a great combination of old and new from the historical architecture to the buzzing atmosphere.
Galicia Jewish Museum
Once a mill, The Galicia Jewish Museum is now a research centre that commemorates the victims of the Holocaust and celebrates Jewish culture but with a twist, aiming to challenge Jewish stereotypes. Instead of objects and remnants of the past, the exhibition showcases contemporary photos, places and objects that used to play a role in Jewish culture and still remain today, or in some case, no longer does.
Krakow’s historic Jewish quarter is a vibrant, independent area full of culture. It’s home to some of the city’s most popular cafes clubs and restaurants with a mix of indie galleries, vintage shops, handmade creations and quirky bars that range from cocktail dens to shabby-chic spaces. Here is where you’ll discover the city’s creative side, its hidden gems and alternative nightlife.
Krakow Old Town
Krakow’s Old Town is the beating heart of the city filled with historical buildings, galleries and cultural monuments to explore including the stunning St Mary’s Basilica. You’ll find all the best bars, cafes and restaurants in the lively Rynek Glowny main market square, the biggest medieval square in Central Europe - they even claim to have more bars per square meter than anywhere else in Europe.
Ojcow National Park
Escape the city, just 20 minutes’ drive outside of Krakow for Ojcow National Park, a small yet beautiful natural wonder. From stone peaks and forest valleys with over 1000 different plants to walking trails and deep caves, it’s easy to get lost in nature here. You’ll even see haunted castle ruins and some great traditional taverns to grab a refreshing drink before setting out to explore this stunning parkland.
Surrounding the whole of Krakow’s historic Old Town is the vibrant Planty Park. It’s a narrow garden walk filled with sculptures, sculpted lawns and lovely fountains, with eight differently styled gardens including the Wawel Garden and University Garden. You’ll find plenty of pleasant cafes lining the gardens, perfect for a coffee break during an afternoon stroll and, during the colder months, it becomes a winter wonderland.
Krakow’s Podgorze district might seem like nothing more than a working-class suburb, but it had a notorious reputation in WWII. It was here the Nazis built a walled ghetto and herded at least 16,000 Jews here before sending them to concentration camps. See the Heroes of the Ghetto Square, filled with 70 oversized chairs as a memorial. Nowadays Podgorze has been revived with new cafes and clubs bringing life to the area.
The popular high-tech Rynek Underground archaeological museum is a fascinating walk through the 800-year-old history of Krakow’s development and main market square, deep below the surface. With over 6,000 metres of interactive multimedia exhibits, you’ll explore medieval market stalls and long-forgotten chambers, experiencing history right from the city’s first settlers to the death of Pope John Paul II.
Oskar Schindler’s old Enamel Factory is a big piece of WWII’s history. Now an interactive museum, it tells the story of everyday life in Krakow under Nazi occupation and how Schindler himself bravely saved the lives of over 1000 Jews during the Holocaust. You may remember his story from the 1993 Spielberg film, Schindler’s List. Inside you’ll find all kinds of documents, photos, radio and film recordings, artefacts and multimedia installations on display.
St Mary’s Basilica
St Mary’s Basilica isn’t just a church, it’s an incredible Gothic masterpiece overlooking the main square. With its red brick exterior, two soaring towers, stunning stained glass windows and the intricately carved medieval altarpiece, it’s truly a sight to behold. Every hour you’ll hear the bugle call - a traditional tune played by trumpets from the top of the tower. Be sure to look up at the dazzling blue ceiling or climb the tower for picturesque views in the summertime.
The Sukiennice, otherwise known as the Krakow Cloth Hall, has stood at the heart of the iconic market square dating back to the 14th century making it one of Europe’s oldest shopping centres. It’s architecturally stunning with its Renaissance exterior and is filled with dozens of stalls from lacework and sheepskin rugs to bespoke jewellery pieces and wooden carvings. It’s a great place to pick up souvenirs and gifts for a unique shopping experience.
Wawel Royal Castle
Wawel Royal Castle sits perched atop the stately Wawel Hil and, combining Romanesque, Renaissance and Gothic architecture, it attracts tourists from all over. The castle represents spiritual and political power for Poland, symbolising national pride and patriotism. It has been home to Polish kings and is now their final resting place beneath the cathedral.
Wieliczka Salt Mine
This salt mine is one of the most popular and visited attractions in Poland. Visitors are able to explore 22 chambers, some 135m below ground level, within this labyrinth of underground tunnels. The mine is located 10km from the centre of Krakow and is accessible by bus or train. There are 2 restaurants on site, one of which, in-keeping with the theme of this attraction, is underground.
Krakow has tons of fascinating sights to see, but sightseeing is simply one idea for a fun-filledstag weekend. Check outstag weekend ideas in Krakowfor even more things to do, from exciting daytime activities to top restaurants and nightlife spots. Whatever you choose to do, you can’t help but soak up Krakow’s culture along the way.