Krakow

Painting markes in the old town, KrakowPainting markes in the old town, KrakowI visited Krakow (or Cracow, Cracovia, et cetera) last summer and I really fell in love with this city. Although the reason for my trip was a conference (which was good) what I really enjoyed was hitting the streets and look around. The city boasts one of the most amazingly well conserved medieval “old towns”. The central market square in one of the largest in Europe and is absolutely fascinating. The impressive Virgin Mary Basilica and the Cloth Hall are the main attractions here. I spent hours just strolling around watching the crafts booths, the buildings, houses and people. On weekends the big square is literally carpeted with local crafters’ booths selling all sorts of distinctive Polish stuff for cheap.

Virgin Mary Basilica, KrakowVirgin Mary Basilica, KrakowA few blocks away lies the Wawel Castle. This enchanting place used to be the monarch’s residence for hundreds of years, until the Capital was moved to Warsaw in 1596.

Wawel is a gorgeous visit. Ideally you should go early and stay until visit time is over (at 4 PM). Another landmark that is worth visiting is Kazimierz, the Jewish Quarter. This is a charming neighborhood is impregnated with Jewish culture. Here you can find a small remain of the Krakow’s Ghetto. Reminders of the WWII are abundant throughout the City, and leave the visitor with a blend of mixed feelings. If you have time, remember that the Auschwitz camp is only an hour away from Krakow.

Fortunately, the Communist period of rule left few signs within the limits of the Old Town. However, you can find fascinating pieces of history in other parts of the city. The most impressive is Nowa Huta, a neighborhood built next to a huge steelworks factory, devised to represent the “Socialist Dream City”.

Krakow's "Jewish Quarter" KazimierzKrakow's "Jewish Quarter" KazimierzBesides the historic side, the city has an extremely attractive offers when it comes to going out and dining. Restaurants are good and many. Food is excellent and prices are very appealing too. There are tons of pubs where you can enjoy a beer while listening to live music.
People in Krakow are extremely friendly and helpful. They do their best to help out in spite of language barriers.

Staying within the concurred areas of the City, I felt safe all the time. If you are thinking of visiting Poland, I strongly encourage you saving a few days to visit this amazing place.