Before I start, I will give some information about the second largest city in Poland. It is built on the River Vistula or Wisla and the first reference about its existence was in 7th century AD. It has a population of 800,000 people and what is more, in 2000 it was the European Capital of Culture. The easiest way to get there is via the international airport John Paul II, which is a 30 min route from the city centre by public transport (buses and tram). Besides that, the main train and bus station serves almost the entire country with frequent routes.
Krakow certainly has a lot of attractions to see and many things to do. The most interesting district is undoubtedly the historic center. A World Heritage Site, as recognised by UNESCO since 1978, it is a very good reason for someone to fall in love with this city. Pawia Street to the east, Basztowa to the north, Podwale to the west and Podzamcze to the south delimit it, while it is surrounded by a green area and leads to the very famous Wawel Castle.
As in many historical city centers in central or eastern Europe, one of the first elements that catches the eye of the visitor is the alternation of colors among the buildings that are located next to each other. Some of them are white, some others are blue, others red and so on, their combination creates a pretty nice scenery. Just a take a walk on Jana Street, one of the most expensive and busy streets of Krakow, located in the heart of the district, and it is adequate enough to see how awesome is this kind of architecture. At the beginning of this road in a small building you can find Ksiazat Czartoryskich museum. Probably the name is unknown to you, but it is the oldest museum in the country (opened in 1801) and houses a wonderful collection of local and international art handicrafts or other handmade stuff.
Going through this beautiful street we reach Krakow's main square, the “best public space” in Europe according to The Project for Public Spaces (PPS) On the east side of it stands the Basilica of the Virgin Mary which is visible from a long distance and is the first building that you can see approaching the square. A magnificent cathedral that was built in the 13th century. When I was there, the local authorities had placed a huge clock in front of the cathedral that measured inversely to the World Youth Day 2016, which the city hosted. Furthermore, close to the church stands the monument of poet Adam Mickiewicz with 4 clusters representing Poland, science, poetry and patriotism.
As impressive as the cathedral and the square is perhaps the local market located, right in the middle of the square. Traditional stuff made of wood, jewelry and leather goods are just a few of the items you can find there. In Poland wool clothes are widely used, especially thick socks or slippers that you can find in most of the shops in this area and is something that you should definitely buy. Just be careful not to "crash" with the pigeons that fly into the market! What is more, if you notice on the west side of the square there is a traditional building that houses a supermarket. What you probably do not know however (me neither till then) is that this store is considered to be the oldest supermarket in the world!
Any tour in the old city of Krakow doesn't end here though. On its streets you will find several interesting landmarks, hidden or not. Like the old town hall on the central square that now has turned into a historical museum, the impressive Juliusz Slowacki Theater in Szpitalna Street, the Jagiellonian University that is one of the oldest in Europe and many more.
And because any kind of trip is not completed unless you try the local products, you should try the Polish street food like Obwarzanki (which looks and tastes like the famous bagels) or Zapiekanka, a kind of baguette pizza. In any of the various restaurant of this area, you can also get a taste of the local cuisine. What should you order? Absolutely Pierogi (stuffed pies), tasty meat dishes like Zrazy, Sauerkraut or potatoes, accompanied with a glass of wine or one of the famous Polish vodkas.
Stay tuned for the next Krakow chapter, the Wawel castle!