Airport Full Name
Krakow International Airport
The airport is situated 7 miles (11km) west of Krakow.
There are banks, bureaux de change and ATMs at the airport. Other facilities include restaurants, bars, and shops, duty-free, child facilities, tourist information and hotel reservations desk, WiFi and a post office. A business lounge (60 zl) and VIP lounge is also available. Disabled facilities are good; those with special needs should contact their airline in advance.
City bus services 208 and 192 leave from the roundabout in front of the passenger terminal, ferrying passengers regularly to the city centre. Taxis are also available outside the arrivals hall and take 20 minutes to get to the city centre. A shuttle train operates between the airport and the city centre. The Kraków-Balice train station is located 200m from the passenger terminal and operated a daytime service every 30 minutes.
Tel: +48 (0) 12 639 33 01; or +48 (0) 12 639 33 22.
Climate Details (C)
Travel Guides: Krakow
The only major city to escape the destruction of World War II, Krakow has one of the best-preserved medieval city centres in all of Europe. The Old Town is a significant UNESCO World Heritage Site and retains a wealth of architectural gems from different periods, with magnificent churches and aristocratic palaces lining the old streets, reminiscent of its glorious days when it was the abode of kings and royalty. At the heart of the city lies one of the grandest squares in Europe, the Old Market Square.
The charming Old Town is a compact area encircled by leafy parkland that forms a green belt around the historic centre. The main entrance to the old city was through the Florian Gate, set within the original city walls, now the haunt of artists and full of galleries containing their work. With a thriving cultural life, it has been home to many of the nation's greatest writers, artists and intellectuals, and is one of the main cultural centres in the country, a spirited city with personality and charisma.
Overlooking the city is Wawel Hill, topped by the striking Royal Castle and Cathedral, the seat of Polish kings for seven centuries and the symbols of Polish national history. Also important is the city's Jewish roots, and the history of one of the great Jewish centres in Europe can clearly be seen in the old ghetto area of Kazimierz, and starkly remembered in the memorial death camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau, west of Krakow.
Situated on the banks of the Vistula River, Krakow is also a modern city, the third largest in Poland, and an important university centre boasting the oldest university in Europe. The large student population creates a lively atmosphere and a vibrant nightlife. Countless cafes and outdoor restaurants surround the cobbled main square. The unique atmosphere of this medieval city has made it one of Poland's most popular tourist destinations.
Buses and trams are the easiest and cheapest way to get around in Krakow, though they can be crowded during rush hour. Tickets can be purchased at various kiosks, ticket machines and on the bus or tram itself. Taxis are readily available, though prices increase between 10pm and 8am. Radio taxis (identified by a taxi sign and the phone number of the company) usually offer the best rates. The Old Town is relatively compact and easy to negotiate, and is best explored on foot as it is closed to traffic. Many of Krakow's attractions are within easy walking distance, and car hire is only really necessary if venturing outside the city into the outer regions.
Wieliczka Salt Mine, Krakow
The Salt Mine at Wieliczka is a unique underground complex that has been in continuous use since its construction in the Middle Ages, and is now a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Monument. The series of labyrinthine tunnels, chambers, galleries and underground lakes are spread over nine levels and reach a depth of more than 1,000ft (304m), but visitors are restricted to a tour of three levels. Following winding passageways, hand-hewn between the 17th and 19th centuries, visitors are guided to magnificently carved chapels, past salt sculptures created by previous mine workers and through huge crystalline caverns. Among the chambers is the oldest creation in the mine, the 17th-century solid salt Chapel of St Anthony. The highlight of the tour is the Blessed Kinga Chapel, dedicated to the patron saint of Polish mine workers. Everything in this huge ornate chapel is carved from salt, including the altar and chandeliers, and the walls are covered in beautiful sculptured pictures. A dark, clanking lift whisks visitors back to the surface at the end of the guided tour. The world's first subterranean therapeutic sanatorium is situated 656ft (200m) below the surface, and makes use of the saline air for the treatment of asthma. There is also a Salt-Works Museum that documents the history of the mine and the local geological formation, with primitive mining tools and machines on display.
Buses and minibuses leave from outside the train station; or else there is the local Krakow-Wieliczka train
Open daily from 7.30am to 7.30pm (April to October), and 8am to 5pm (November to March). Closed on major holidays
48 PLN, with concessions available. Guided tours only. A 10 PLN fee is charged for taking photos and filming
Kazimierz District and the Old Synagogue, Krakow
Once a separate town and now an inner suburb of Krakow, the Kazimierz quarter was the centre of Jewish religion, culture and learning, and the home of the city's large Jewish population before the war. Badly damaged during the Nazi occupation, with most of the residents either killed or deported to the nearby Holocaust death camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau, today it has been rebuilt so visitors can admire the restored historical architecture and experience daily Jewish life. Its renewed interest was brought about by Spielberg's film Schindler's Listthat was set in Kazimierz, and the Jewish culture of the area is being livened up by art galleries, kosher restaurants and specific cultural events. The Old Synagogue is part of the Historical Museum of the City of Krakow, and houses a permanent exhibition, 'Tradition and Culture of Polish Jews', where the collection of physical memories from the Kazimierz Jewish community is kept.
Tram 3, 9, 11 or 13
Old Synagogue: Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 3.30pm; Friday from 11am to 6pm. Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays
Overlooking the city is Wawel, a hill topped with the fascinating architectural complex that includes Wawel Castle and beside it, the gothic Wawel Cathedral. It was here that the Polish kings of the 14th to the 17th Centuries were crowned and buried, and it lies at the heart of Polish history. The Renaissance-style Royal Castle is now a museum, and the historic interior houses an astonishing collection of treasures from the Polish monarchy, including tapestries, period furniture and paintings. Visitors can see the Royal Private Apartments, Crown Treasury, Armoury, and the State Rooms. The Royal Cathedral was the coronation and burial site of all of Poland's monarchs, many of whom are interred in the Royal Tombs. Of the many royal chapels, the golden-domed Renaissance Chapel of King Sigismund is the finest. The bell tower can be climbed for views over the city and to see the enormous 11-tonne bell housed within.
Tram 10 or a short walk from the Main Square, Rynek Glówny
Wawel Hill: Open daily from 6am until dusk. The various castle attractions are open on Mondays from 9.30am to 12pm; Tuesdays and Fridays from 9.30am to 4pm; Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 9.30am to 3pm; and Sundays from 10am to 3pm. The Royal Private Apartments are closed on Mondays. The Cathedral is open from Monday to Saturday from 9am to 5pm, and on Sundays from 12.15pm
Castle attractions range from 3 PLN to 24 PLN. Concessions are available
Main Market Square (Rynek Glówny), Krakow
Dating from 1257, the Central Market Square was one of the largest squares in Medieval Europe, and remains the social heart of Krakow today. Surrounded by historic buildings, museums and magnificent churches, the impressive expanse of flagstones is a hub of commercial and social activity. Flower sellers, ice-cream vendors, musicians, pigeons, students and groups of tourists fill the square. Occupying the centre of the square is the splendid medieval Cloth Hall, a covered arcade with a soaring vaulted interior where merchants once sold their wares; today, it is filled with lively market stalls. The upstairs art gallery houses a collection of 19th Century Polish paintings and sculptures. Along the outside walls of the building are elegant terrace cafes. Most famous of these is Noworolski, which was the centre of Krakow social life before the war, with Lenin a notorious regular. The cafe has now regained its reputation as the prime cake and coffee venue in the city. The most striking church on the square is St Mary's, an impressive twin-spire Gothic structure. Every hour a mournful bugle sounds from the tallest church spire in memory of the lone watchman whose trumpeted warning of an invasion was cut off mid-note by a Turkish arrow in the throat. Within is the famous carved wooden altar, a majestic piece of Gothic art.
Bieszczady Mountains, Krakow
While most tourists to Poland stick to the cities, and content themselves on the wonderful cultural sights that can be experienced in the Old Town areas of Warsaw and Krakow, a trip into the Polish countryside - and particularly, the southern Bieszczady Mountains - is a very worthwhile exercise. A land of snow-capped peaks, tall pine trees, vast green meadows and a rich array of native flora and fauna, the Bieszczady area is not only gorgeous, but offers plenty of well-maintained hiking trails, many of them wending their way through the UNESCO East Carpathian Biosphere Reserve. Yet, despite this natural bounty, the real reason to head to the Polish countryside is the humanity you will encounter there: the internet is awash with tourist tales of being invited to share trout barbecues with friendly local families, of stumbling across eccentric villages and towns, and of snapping photograph after photograph of rural houses that look lifted straight out of Grimm's Fairy Tales.
Piwnica pod Baranami, Krakow
A visit to the Piwnica pod Baranami ('Cellar Under the Rams') - a Parisian-style cabaret house located in Krakow's Old Town district - is the shortest route tourists can take to experiencing the culture of the city, and to gaining an appreciation of its most strongly-held values and ideals. The Piwnica pod Baranami was created by Piotr Skrzynecki in 1956, in a suitably bohemian underground cellar, and soon became a haven for local artists and intellectuals; a place for them to meet, exchange ideas, and indulge in one of Poland's favourite cultural pastimes, the political cabaret. The cabaret's reputation grew throughout the latter half of the 20th Century, and soon became a symbol for the eccentricity (and indeed, the stifled talent) of the local artists of the area. The Piwnica pod Baranami still functions as a cabaret house to this day: performances are on Saturdays at 9pm and remain extremely popular, so book your ticket early. This is a highly recommended tourist activity in Poland, and a great place to begin an unforgettable Saturday night out on the town in Krakow.
Galicia Jewish Museum, Krakow
Situated in the heart of Kazimierz, the Jewish Quarter of Krakow, the Galicia Jewish Museum houses a permanent photographic exhibition, "Traces of Memory". The exhibition documents the history of the Jewish people in the villages and towns of Poland. This poignant museum also hosts a range of special events, lectures and Jewish music concerts and has a well-stocked bookshop. The Galicia Jewish Museum is often overlooked as a tourist attraction in Krakow, but is a worthwhile sight for people from all walks of life. Budget at least three hours to fully absorb the experience.
Daily from 9am to 7pm in the summer, and from 9.30am to 5.30pm in the winter. Closed on Yom Kippur
15 PLN (adults) and 8 PLN (concessions)
Auschwitz Memorial Museum, Krakow
The Auschwitz concentration camp is actually made up of three camps - Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II-Birkenau and Auschwitz III. Together the complex forms the largest cemetery in the world, preserved as a sombre memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, and commemorating the hundreds of thousands of people exterminated there by the Nazis during the Second World War. The Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum was established in 1947 and visitors have access to both camps and can wander freely around the structures, ruins and gas chambers, and visit the exhibits displayed in the surviving prison blocks at Auschwitz I. The hushed atmosphere is one of shock and revulsion from the moment visitors enter the barbed-wire compound through the iron gate, ironically inscribed with the words 'Arbeit Macht Frei' (Work Makes Free). The buildings contain displays of photographs and horrific piles of personal articles of the victims, including battered suitcases, and thousands of spectacles, hair and shoes collected from the bodies. The experience is vivid and disturbing, though also deeply humanising. There are general exhibitions dedicated to the Jews and their history, as well as an interesting documentary film screened in the museum's cinema. Birkenau sees far fewer tourists as it has less visitor facilities and much of the camp was destroyed by the retreating Nazis, but it is here that the sheer scale of the tragedy can be experienced, with a viewing platform to give some perspective over the vast fenced-in area stretching as far as the eye can see. Birkenau was the principal camp where the extermination of millions took place, a chillingly efficient set-up with rows of barracks and four colossal gas chambers and ovens. Purpose-built railway tracks lead through the huge gateway, terminating in the camp, by means of which victims were transported from the ghettos to the camp in crowded box-like carts, often being led straight into the gas chambers upon arrival. A trip to the Auschwitz Memorial Museum is a must for any visitor to Poland who wishes to experience some kind of sobering communion with one of the greatest atrocities in the history of the world.
There are regular coach and rail services from Krakow (a one hour journey), and a shuttle bus runs between Auschwitz I and Birkenau from mid-April to October
Daily from 8am to 3pm (December to February); from 8am to 4pm (March and November); from 8am to 5pm (April and October); from 8am to 6pm (May and September); and from 8am to 7pm (June, July and August)
Free. Documentary film is 2 zlotys