The legend tells us that Kraków was founded on the defeat of a dragon but history tells us that it is because the city escaped the bombing that affected so much of Poland during World War II that its mythic past still rings so loud. Wawel Castle makes monumental claims for your attention but it is the more intimate architecture of the old town that really pulls you in. Not that things are that small here: churches soar to the sky, impressive museums are everywhere and the enormous Rynek Główny is Europe’s largest market square. Meanwhile hip clubs, boutique bars and cool cafes remind us that Kraków didn’t just happen: it’s very much a happening city.
Areas & Neighborhoods of Kraków
Old Town - The historic old town rests at the foot of the Wawel castle hill and is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here you will find the majority of sights, museums and a great selection of cafes and restaurants.
Kazimierz - The area just beyond the old town was an independent city in medieval times with a Christian quarter in the west and a Jewish quarter in the east. Today this vibrant area is where the nightlife action centres and you can almost literally feel the buzz as you approach it.
Zwierzyniec - To the west of the city you will find its greenest area that includes Las Wolski forest and the Kosciuszko Mound. However, as the city nestles at the feet of the Carpathian mountains all you really need to do to escape the streets and see the trees is head for the city’s borders.
Podgórze - Immediately south of the old town you will find some interesting museums, memorials and galleries in the area on the bank of the river Vistula which is where the Jewish ghetto was located during the Nazi occupation.
Things to See in Kraków
In some parts of the old town you can almost swear that you can see the Middle Ages still alive and kicking. The glorious main square, the Rynek Główny, is wonderfully preserved and contains the Cloth Hall, the intricately carved wooden altarpiece of St Mary's Church and the high tower from which a bugle call still warns us of a illusory Tatar attack. Wawel castle is well worth seeing for its colourful history and just out of the city history gets darker at the memorial to the holocaust at Auschwitz. There's so much to see with a city tour.
Things to Do in Kraków
It would be rude not to sample the local tipple so head for a trendy bar and sample the cool, crisp clear vodka before moving on to Wiśniówka (cherry-flavoured), Żubrówka (rye-based vodka flavoured with bison grass) or Żołądkowa Gorzka (spiced with nutmeg). If you are still up for it there is great nightlife in the Kazimierz district, so get your glad rags on and your dancing feet going. Head for the Carpathians just south of the city where Zakopane is considered the best mountain in the area for skiing. Perhaps you should let the vodka wear off first though!
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