Three Days In Krakow
Tourists are often forced to spend a couple of hours in a place where they should spend an entire week, or three days in a city that would take months to really become acquainted with. In such cases, visitors rely on the advice of random people or hurriedly browse through guide books, because all of them, even those bearing the title "One Weekend in ..." frequently have fewer than one hundred pages of fine print. Therefore, travellers try to "make time stop" by taking photos or video, and they twist and turn in haste to see the most important things even from a distance. Such sightseeing leaves blurred, foggy memories maimed by tiredness and a feeling of insufficiency.
Therefore, we have prepared this leaflet for persons visiting our city. We cannot promise that visitors who make use of it will be able to experience Krakow in depth over the course of three days. Tourists have a lot to see: numerous monuments that make up the historical tissue of the city, a rich artistic and cultural life, a magical atmosphere creating numerous opportunities both for inhabitants and visitors to slow down, stand still and take a look... At the same time, Krakow may be the only city among all the well-known cultural centers where even a short visit may provide numerous sensations and a feeling of complete, genuine satisfaction.
This is what we would like to offer you - a look at Krakow which will allow you to feel the atmosphere of the city, at time leisurely, sometimes full of events, but always unique. Therefore, let us try to take a look at Krakow together, to see how three days could be spent here in the best way - and let us discover reasons to return again.
Access and climate
It is easy to reach Krakow – it has always been located at the junction of important trade routes, at the crossroads of cultures and political influences; nowadays, it is considered the most important tourist destination in Poland. A network of railway, road and airline connections, along with Balice – the second largest airport in the country with respect to size and number of passengers –make Krakow one of most accessible cities in this part of Europe. Further amenities – starting with the A4 motorway through attractive connections with the rest of the world provided by low-cost airlines and up to a special railway line transporting visitors from Balice to the city centre and a well-developed municipal transportation network – open up numerous opportunities for tourists who come here from all parts of the world. Their stay in Krakow may differ, not only in relation to the purpose of their trip or the place of accommodation, but also in relation to the weather, day of the week and season of the year (in winter, the temperature in Poland sometimes drops below –20°C, and in summer the temperature is often higher than 30°C).
It is worth remembering that Krakow is the capital of Malopolska – a partially hilly upland region with numerous spa, recreational and agritourism locations. Both in the summer and in winter, a visit to the city can be easily combined with a trip to the mountains.
Krakow has at its disposal the best tourist base in Poland, adjusted to the needs of tourists representing various degrees of affluence. In the very centre and within its vicinity, there are several dozen high standard hotels, including those belonging to the largest international networks. On the other hand, there are many cosy facilities located next to the Main Market Square, which allow you to begin sightseeing immediately after breakfast. An extensive offer of highly popular hostels and apartments - especially in the district of Kazimierz - allows visitors to find an inexpensive offer at any time of year.
Free Internet is available in almost all of these places – similarly to numerous cafés and restaurants in Krakow– whereas in selected areas of the city it is possible to utilize free-of-charge Internet provided by the local government of Krakow ("hotspot Cracovia"). Additional help with independent sightseeing is provided by free mobile applications (for devices with GPS and with Bluetooth technology). They also play an important role at the innovative route in Poland – the Royal Way for Handicapped Tourists – equipped with amenities for tourists with movement disabilities, as well as the blind and visually impaired. All services of this type are available in at least two languages (Polish and English).
It is worth adding that, on account of the unprecedented concentration of tourist attractions, the distances among a majority of them (in the Old City and the Kazimierz district) are within walking distance; if necessary, an extensive tram network ensures the possibility of quick transfer from one point to another – during rush hours, this means of transportation is probably quicker than a taxi. Ticket sale machines located at key tram and bus stops also provide tourist information, up-dated on an on-going basis.
Any inquiries requiring further detail can be asked at the InfoKraków municipal tourist information points located all around the city.
Today, Krakow is the most cultural of Polish cities. It is the international showcase of Polish historical heritage, also famous as an example of successful investments, such as the new museums which have been opened in recent years (in 2010, 5 out of 10 of the most important museum events took place in Krakow), new and currently constructed stadiums, the Congress Centre, the sports hall.
This impetus goes hand in hand with the development of cultural life; in recent years, Krakow's festivals have become internationally recognised. "Misteria Paschalia" and "Opera Rara", "Sacrum Profanum" and the "Festival of Polish Music", the "Selector Festival" and "Unsound" – a musical journey from Baroque to the 21st century, impressive and attracting audiences of several thousands.
Krakow, the city of writers, hosts the largest Book Fair in the country, along with literary festivals, such as the "Czesław Miłosz Festival" and "Joseph Conrad Festival". This is also the location of the theatrical review "Boska Komedia", and the "ArtBoom Festival" boldly introduces modern art into the historical tissue of the city centre. The "Off Camera" festival, the "Kraków Film Festival" and "Film Music Festival" attract cinema lovers, who soon come back to shoot their films here. Blending in the traditions of Kazimierz and the multi-cultural Galicia Festival of Jewish Culture, Dance Trance during Wow!Night – a New Year's Eve party at the Main Market Square – all of these events confirm the fact that Krakow provides varied and unique experiences all year round.
Culinary and club tourism
In Poland, the idea of culinary tourism primarily refers to Krakow. Even though the annual June issue of the Michelin guide features two Polish cities, Krakow and Warsaw, people come to Krakow in order to visit historical restaurants with a cult status, to have dinner at their favourite restaurant or to dine in a completely new place. The reasons are simple: the number of restaurants, inns, cafés, pubs and clubs, unprecedented in other Polish cities, located in attractive districts, combined with natural competition in such conditions result in the fact that this is the best place to eat, drink and be merry in the country, and it is possible to visit several or even several dozen locations during one night. This truly Mediterranean phenomenon results in the fact that the cultural life is teeming until the early hours of the morning. Students and businessmen, locals and visitors all have fun in the egalitarian, multilingual crowds.
Let us go back to the charms of Krakow's cuisine: local chefs prepare excellent dishes from nearly every nation and culture, frequently combining French or Italian cuisine skilfully with noble local traditions. Numerous restaurants, dispelling the international myth of pierogi as the greatest contribution of Poles to international cuisine, serve up legendary Polish soups, sauces and venison... However, pierogi do have their grand summer festival in Krakow, in the course of which cooks make their fantasy come to life in composing new flavours of this seemingly simple dish. Visitors looking for local specialties will not leave Krakow disappointed: restaurants, pubs and clubs in the city maintain a high level and bring together regular customers, and usually a quick glance inside allows people to decide whether a given place is to their liking or not. Their owners try to provide their venues with individual traits, often thematic, and often unusual and striking. Almost every place organises concerts, exhibitions and artistic events.
Krakow, which has long been the centre of the Polish state, is also the heart of Polish Christianity. Here, historic churches house miraculous paintings and relics, age-old traditions of religious communities and monasteries are cultivated and processions and open-air masses bring together tens and hundreds of thousands of followers. The lives of a large number of saints and those blessed were related to the city – from St. Stanislaus of Szczepanów and Queen Jadwiga, immortalized in common history, to the lesser known Father Stanisław Sołtys, who was known as Kazimierczyk (who lived in the 15th century) and who was canonised in 2010 – many of whom have found their final resting place in Krakow's churches and necropolises.
The city's climate shaped the personality of Karol Wojtyła, who later became Pope John Paul II and was beatified on May 1, 2011 and who always came back here and met with millions of Poles. One of the largest pilgrimage centres in this part of Europe, the sanctuary in Łagiewniki (world centre of worship of Divine Mercy and a memorial to Sister Faustina, forerunner of the revival of this worship in the 20th century) is located in Krakow, 10 minutes by tram from the city centre. Pilgrims who come to Krakow can make use of the "Krakow Trail of Saints" and "Following in the Footsteps of John Paul II" routes, which have been prepared by the city.
Outside the city
One cannot forget about popular excursions outside of Krakow to the picturesque Jurassic valleys, to Ojców and to Pieskowa Skała or to places, besides the historical development of the Old City, entered into the UNESCO world heritage list: to the Museum in Auschwitz and to the Wieliczka Salt Mine. These last two locations, often seen as mandatory destinations by organised groups, each require a full day. The same UNESCO list also includes wooden constructions in the region and the famous landscape design in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska with the unique Stations of the Cross. Those on pilgrimages also go to Wadowice, the hometown of John Paul II.
Krakow is an excellent staging area for trips to the most scenic areas in the country. Only 100 km separate the city from the Tatra Mountains and Zakopane, known as the winter capital of Poland. There are also the lesser-known Pieniny Mountains and the well-known resorts of Szczawnica and Krynica, and the Beskidy Mountains can boast of their less crowded mountain trails. The Tatrzański, Pieniński, Gorczański and Babiogórski National Parks are the most treasured natural and landscape areas located in Małopolska. Local traditions cultivated throughout the area and extensive tourist facilities make Małopolska, like no other region in Europe, a convenient place to relax and to come into contact with nature.