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Things to do in Krakow

by Altaf Shaikh
Things to do in Krakow

Krakow is the former royal capital of Poland and still remains its cultural heart. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, it has been considered one of the best destinations to visit in the whole of Europe both for sightseeing and for partying. Medieval city walls and streets, gothic cathedrals and renaissance buildings plus the unique clubbing scene, make Krakow a winning combination of past and present. In 2019 over 14 million tourists appreciated its unique beauty and atmosphere. Despite this fact, Krakow still has an authentic feel mainly due to the very large student population which makes the city live its own life, bustling with parties and festivals throughout the year.

Krakow is the former royal capital of Poland and still remains its cultural heart. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, it has been considered one of the best destinations to visit in the whole of Europe both for sightseeing and for partying. Medieval city walls and streets, gothic cathedrals and renaissance buildings plus the unique clubbing scene, make Krakow a winning combination of past and present. In 2019 over 14 million tourists appreciated its unique beauty and atmosphere. Despite this fact, Krakow still has an authentic feel mainly due to the very large student population which makes the city live its own life, bustling with parties and festivals throughout the year.

Krakow is the former royal capital of Poland and still remains its cultural heart. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, it has been considered one of the best destinations to visit in the whole of Europe both for sightseeing and for partying. Its historic center is a major UNESCO listed World Heritage attraction. Medieval city walls and streets, gothic cathedrals and renaissance buildings plus the unique clubbing scene, make Krakow a winning combination of past and present. In 2019 over 14 million tourists appreciated its unique beauty and atmosphere. Despite this fact, Krakow still has an authentic feel mainly due to the very large student population which makes the city live its own life, bustling with parties and festivals throughout the year.
Krakow was fortunate enough to survive the Second World War largely untouched which has resulting in the stunning buildings and monuments that are still standing today. The main attraction in Krakow is the Market Square which is the largest in Europe and the epicentre of everything that happens in the city. Of course there is much more to see if you wander away from the centre such as the spectacular Wawel Castle of the famous Jewish District where the Schindler’s list was filmed. With a number of monuments, museums and spacious parks it’s no wonder the city is so popular amongst visitors. And it is of course close to the Unesco listed Wieliczka salt mine, and the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp which may not fit in with the usual sports tour activities, but it’s still something many people think they should see whilst based so close to it.

With Krakow also being a student city it also makes for an awesome night out. Cheap prices, and more bars per square metre than any other city in Europe, not to mention a wide variety of clubs with music to suit any tastes mean this is the ultimate place to have your sports tour. In terms of sports Krakow is a very interesting destination for university and adult teams- especially bearing in mind extremely vibrant nightlife and cheap prices- though can be also a great destination for a successful school trip, which wants to combine training with educational programs.

Top 5 things to do in Krakow

1. Cultural tours – take a sightseeing tour of Krakow Old Town

There are different options of tours available including walking tours, electric car tours, or hop on-hop off buses. The most famous tours are:

  • The Royal Route

The Royal Route is one of the most popular and most important routes for Krakow sightseeing. During the tour we follow Polish kings’ footsteps through the way of the coronation processions. Sightseeing begins at the Matejko Square, in front of the St. Florian Church, where the city authorities and Rector of the Jagiellonian University greeted the king. Subsequently the monarch was accompanied by his subjects to the city through St. Florian’s Gate and then St. Florian’s Street, Market Square, Grodzka Street and Kanonicza Street and finally reached his headquarters on Wawel Hill. In short, the road leads through the most beautiful part of the Old Town

  • The Schindler’s list route (Kazimierz district and Oscar’s Schindler’s factory in Podgorze)

The Museum of Krakow During the Time of Occupation 1939-1945 was opened in 2010. Documents, photographs and first-hand accounts of survivors are used to powerfully present the Nazi occupation of Krakow during the Second World War. Visitors can learn about the various phases of the Nazi occupation of Krakow, as well as the fate of the inhabitants of this multicultural city. The story of Oskar Schindler – the factory owner and savior of more than 1,000 Jews – is also a key component of the museum. Extensive photographic documentation presented in the museum is evidence of cunning and charisma of this German entrepreneur and his willingness to help others.

  • The Nowa Huta tour– feel what it was like to live during the communism times (visit “communist perfect city”, and drive cars from that times)

Nowa Huta was started in 1949 as a separate town near Krakow. It was planned as a huge center of heavy industry. The town was to become an ideal urban project for the Communist propaganda and populated mostly by industrial workers. The reasons for building a workers’ paradise near bourgeois Krakow were mostly ideological and were against laws of economy. In the 1980s Nowa Huta became a place of many demonstrations and violent street protests of the Solidarity movement, fought by the police. During this tour you will not only visit these places, but you will be driven around them in typical communism era cars, plus depending on the chosen option of the tour, you may also pop up in a typical commie style bistro bar.

  • Kazimierz- the former Jewish district

At its beginning Kazimierz was a separate town founded in the 14th century by King Casimir the Great. A huge Jewish community lived here until World War II, cultivating its religion and culture. Nowadays the magic and exoticism of this district is comparable only with the nostalgic charm of the Josefov – Jewish quarter in Prague.

After the Second World War, devoid of Jews, Kazimierz was neglected by the communist authorities. However, since 1988, now a popular annual Jewish Cultural Festival has drawn Cracovians back to the heart of the Oppidum and re-introduced Jewish culture to a generation of Poles who have grown up without Poland’s historic Jewish community. In 1993, Steven Spielberg shot his film Schindler’s List largely in Kazimierz and this drew international attention to Kazimierz.

2. Visit famous Unesco listed Wieliczka Salt mine

Salt deposits mined in Wieliczka are even 15 million years old! The oldest traces of their exploitation by man comes from 3 thousand years BC. Initially, local people extract the salt by evaporating water from brine naturally flowing out of the ground. In the early Middle Ages (XII/XIII century) the first mineshafts were hollowed. Salt was one of the main riches of the Krakow region and Polish monarch surrounded the mines in Wieliczka and Bochnia with their special care. In the late 17th century the medical care of the miners was held by the real Polish Dr. Queen –Magdalena Bendzisławska, who took over the practice of her deceased husband and received a diploma confirming her competences as a surgeon from the King himself. It is only one of many fascinating stories associated with Wieliczka.

Wieliczka Salt Mine is located in the town of Wieliczka which is a short drive from Krakow. The mine was built in the 13th century and produced salt continuously until 2007. Nowadays the mine is purely a tourist attraction, with an underground museum, various salt sculptures, a lake, and even a gigantic chapel which is whole curved in salt. Inside the mine there are some spectacular photo opportunities, and the guides are knowledgeable and will keep you entertained with information and anecdotes about the mine.

3. Visit Nazi concentration Camp- the Oswiecim / Auschwitz

Oświęcim (Ger. Auschwitz) was annexed to the Reich after the German invasion of Poland and the concentration camp was established near the city in 1940. At the beginning of its existence most of the prisoners were Polish, but there were also Polish Jews (although at that time still not on a massive scale) and some representatives of other nationalities. After 1941, when the armed conflict between the Third Reich and the USSR began, many captured soldiers of the Red Army joined the prisoners. Soon, in a nearby Brzezinka (Germ. Birkenau) the Auschwitz II – designed as a death camp – was completed. It became a place of mass extermination for hundreds of thousands of Jews and about 20 thousand of Romani people, the true death factory, enforcing a plan of the ‘Final Solution to the Jewish Question’. This infernal machine works until the liberation of the camp in 27 January 1945. Since 2005 the day of liberation is celebrated as the International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

4. For stags in Krakow:

  • do a party trip of Krakow 

There are a bewildering variety of pubs, clubs and restaurants in Krakow – unofficial stats claim there are around 400 bars and clubs here. They are concentrated largely in two areas: in the biggest market square in Europe and in the old Jewish district.
But it’s not only the amount of clubs and bars, but the fact nightlife here is buzzing 6 out of 7 days a week. This is due to a very large student population (over 10 universities) that keep partying most of the week.
Even though Krakow has numerous pubs & clubs it’s better to get expert advice from dedicated expert Krakow stag do companies like PartyKrakow, as it’s very frustrating when large stag groups are refused entry to venues. Get it organised & hassle free especially on the 1st night here. That’s why taking a guided bar crawl is a great idea- you get a friendly and good looking female Rep fluent in English, visit a couple of bars on the tour, get at least 3 free vodka shots plus also you get to enter for free to a reputable strip club, and at the end of the tour you will be taken to a good nightclub where you can continue on your own, or invite your Rep to stay with you.

You can also explore the Krakow nightlife on your own since it is a compact city everything is at hand. That said with a huge number of bars and clubs it’s easy to miss the best ones unless you do your research prior to your arrival. Still if you’d like to tur on your own, here is a couple of suggestions:

  • CoCo music club (Szpitalna 38 street)- this club holds a lot of events & special feature nights, great atmosphere & service. These lads certainly know how to throw good parties as they’ve been doing it for almost 2 decades, and are still one of Krakow top nightclub brands. Many years ago known as “Midgard” then rebranded for “CoCo”. On the weekends lads usually have to pay for the entry (10-20 PLN/pp depending on the party) and there is selection (so make sure you wear no trainers, short trousers, or look intoxicated) unless they are accompanied by a pub crawl Rep, which is another reason to take a guided bar crawl, and get the free entry to Krakow nightclubs.
  • Teatro Cubano (Jagielonska 10 street) – a very well known Latino vibe but not only, lots of chill out places and situated just of the main square Rynek in Jagiellonska street. Ending point for majority of city pub crawls means it’s never empty at Teatro Cubano. There is an entrance fee plus selection on the entry.
  • Try the famous Kalashnikov shooting

The original Kalashnikov rifle was invented in 1947 by, doctor of technical sciences and builder of small arms – Mikhail Kalashnikov. The initial AK-47 (Avtomat Kalashnikova model 1947) improved the AKM (Avtomat Kalashnikova Modernizirovanniy), The weapon is extremely durable, reliable and resistant to dirt. It is also easy to use and cheap to produce, making it ideal for mass production and the use of even poorly trained troops.The popular “Kalash” found a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the most common weapon in the world. Currently there are 100 million units of this rifle in use. When in Krakow on a stag do you will have a chance to try this gun as well as couple of other including the pump action shotgun, Glock or Uzi.

  • Experience the “Magic of Polish Vodka”

“The three most astonishing things in the past half-century were The Blues, Cubism and Polish Vodka” – P.Picasso

When in Poland it’s a must to try a quality Polish Vodka. Nowadays most of people are aware of brands like Wyborowa or Sobieski or Zubrowka, which are simply put mass production vodkas. The quality is OK, the taste (as long as you mix it with soft drink !) is acceptable, but hey – did you know that vodka can be a gourmet spirit- same as whisky ? To give you an idea- Ballantine’s is a good mass production whisky and goes well if served with Coke. But if you’re into Whiskies you’d probably prefer to have a sip of Royal Lochnagar. Same story with Polish Vodka.

The Magic of Polish Vodka is the show based on vodka tasting experience of craft Polish vodkas combined with a themed illusion show. When visiting the country which invented vodka this is a must do stag activity ! The magician vividly tells curiosities about the history of vodkas as well as information about tasted beverages, weaving elements of the magic show into its story. A light and fun form where you can learn interesting facts about Polish vodka but without “historicism”, and at the same time have a great time.

5. For kids and families- visit one of many amusement parks

Choose your theme- you can either visit EnergyLandia Park with its roller coasters, slides, scare houses etc… or visit a dinosaurs themed park where some of these fascinating creatures actually move, or go to “Miniatures Park” and see a miniature version of the Eiffel tower, Sfinx, Big Ben, or just enjoy yourself at Krakow indoor water park, with plenty of slides, saunas, and jacuzzis.

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