A flying visit, so just an overview…


The old town is where it’s at; you need to base yourself here, or at least nearby. Practically all of the central old town is semi pedestrianised so is an easy and pleasant to stroll round, restaurants and coffee bars everywhere; this place is well geared for tourism.

Rynec - Old Town Square
Rynec – Old Town Square

At the center of the old town is the square (Rynek), often featuring live entertainment, and lined with bars and restaurants, which are not as highly priced as you would expect, and certainly not as much as some more western cities, so stop and enjoy the views and some people watching. The square is huge (some 200m sq) and is pretty much the same as originally planned in 1257. The only major addition to the square being the Cloth Hall bang in the middle, this 14th C building was built as a cloth exchange, but now mainly trades in tourist bits and bobs – especially amber jewellery For my money, the bars on the northern side have the most character, several with what look like genuine 20s/ 30s interiors. The food everywhere seems quite similar, and if I were only allowed one word for description it would be ‘heavy’. I haven’t seen food like this for years… huge portions of lardiness, literally in some cases, as bread gets served with a pot of pig fat. By day 3 I was seriously considering a McDonald’s ‘fillet o fish’ as a healthy option. Some lighter options were available here: Restauracja Zdybanka. Ulica Szczepanska 3/1. Just off the Rynec Sq.

Stuff to see

The whole town is very pretty and you could spend a couple of days wandering around: lots of little squares with food markets and craft offerings. The accepted view is that there are 3 parts: the Old Town (Rynec/ Main Square), Wawel castle and Kazimierz (the old Jewish quarter),  all are walkable easily. I didn’t attempt Wawel, guidebooks say to allow a day, I didn’t have that much time…

Wawel Castle
Wawel Castle

Kazimierz is interesting and contains several poignant sites of WW2 Jewish history; perhaps also interesting that the area is comparatively recently revived, having been largely abandoned during the communist years. The driver for this development was the 1993 release of the film Schindler’s List. The ghetto that most people will know (from the film Schindler’s List) is not here, but on the south side of the river: Podgorze. There are several synagogues to see in Ulica Szeroka (more of a square than a street)  and the old cemetery is at the back of Remuh Synagogue.  The Nazis destroyed much of this and the damaged tombstones were used to create the wall at the end if the cemetery. Ulica Szeroka has a good selection of cafes with terraces – so its a good place to break the day.

Cross the river to Podgorze and see some of the old ghetto and the Oscar Schindler factory, now a museum. Signage is quite poor, so the route to the factory is a left turn just after crossing the river via the Powstancow Bridge (opposite the tram stop). It looks like a residential area, but after a few hundred meters you will come to a tunnel under the railway, the factory is just the other side. The factory now acts as a museum of  life under Nazi rule; locals highly recommended it, visitors (tourists) seemed less impressed; I didn’t get in as they had decided to close early – which they apparently do on Mondays… might be worth calling ahead if you want to visit. On your right as you cross the river is Plac Bohaterow Getta (Ghetto Heroes Sq), there are 70 large iron chairs in the square; one for each 1000 Jews deported from the ghetto.

Piwo van
Piwo van

As excellent local guide with extensive listings is Krakow – in your pocket, which is available online and in print locally, it’s priced, but most hotels seem to give them away.

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