Poland’s second biggest and, to some, most beautiful town Krakow is not only worth a visit for its old world splendor and fascinating architecture, but also as an emerging hotspot for wild parties and dance-‘till-dawn nightlife.
Krakow has survived the last eight centuries without being destroyed, which leaves it today with the most beautiful historic inner city with buildings from the Gothic, renaissance, baroque and all later periods standing next to each other. No wonder the entire Old Town is part of the UNESCO World Heritage. The founding myth is of Krakow is fittingly romantic: under the Wawel hill a dragon once had its lair, but then the local chieftain Krak slew the dragon and made the Wawel hill the center of his new town. Today you will find the Wawel castle from the 15th century up there, but archaeological evidence points to settlements as old as 50,000 years.
Krakow, city of Kings and commerce
We know that Krakow existed in the 10th century from a merchant in Cordoba who mentions the city, but the Mongols destroyed the whole town in 1254. In 1257, Krakow received the city rights and started to rebuild much more splendidly than before. The gigantic central market place the biggest marketplace in Europe at the time, controlling the flow of merchandise from Spain to Ukraine.
The gigantic Cloth Hall in the middle of the market that gave merchants a weatherproof place for haggling, the spectacular St. Mary’s Cathedral and the Town Hall on the sidelines are as impressive today as they were when they were built. From here, you can go down Florianska Street, once part of the Royal Procession Route from the impressive Barbakane to the Wawel Hill Castle. Here the Kings of Poland made their coronation, marriage and funeral processions.
Art, Science and Alchemy
Visit the Collegium Maius, the historic main building of the Jagiello?ska, Poland’s oldest University from 1354. Here the astronomer Nikolaus Copernikus studied, and the first globe showing the American continent stands in the museum of the university. Krakow is still the polish center of higher learning, a quarter of the population are students. Also on display in the National Museum of Krakow: The “Lady with an Ermine” by Leonardo da Vinci, one of the most famous pieces of art in the world. Other museums include a museum of pharmacy and an alchemist’s laboratory, hinting at the legendary alchemist Pan Twardowski.
See the Szczerbiec, the “Notched Sword”, which was the coronation sword of the first Polish monarchs, in the Crown Treasury and Armoury inside the Wawel palace.Salt was mined in the area and traded all over Europe. In the world-famous Wieliczka, the oldest salt mine in the world, workers have formed a whole cathedral out of the rock salt and decorated it with salt sculptures and salt chandeliers. Enjoy your time in Krakow.