St Marys Basilica
St Marys Basilica situated in Krakow’s main square (Rynek Glowny) with its twin towers and ornate structure is one of many of Krakow’s most stunning pieces of architecture. Straight away I wanted to view inside this 14th century Gothic style church to see if the inside was just as beautiful as the outside.
The price was just ten zloty and an extra 5 zloty to be able to take photos whilst inside. I advise you do this as they have people checking that your wearing the sticker once inside, so there is no chance of taking sneaky pictures.
Once inside I think I actually gasped out loud. I was in utter shock and couldn’t believe how much work and effort it must have taken to create something so beautiful.
As you enter the church the glimmer of gold ornamental features cast your eyes. Then as you walk towards the alter underneath the magnificent blue star studded roof of the nave, is the spectacular alter piece created from wood carvings, intricately cut to form religious figures. This creation was sculpted by the German sculptor Veit Stoss and is said to be known as the largest gothic masterpiece in the world. Pictures do not give this place the credit it deserves, and even though I haven’t got a religious bone in my body I certainly felt religious walking through this church.
As you walk outside, every hour on the hour the trumpeter carries out the bugle call through the North, South, East and West windows of the tower. This is a tradition which dates back to the middle ages as a warning sign of enemy forces. Overall a wonderful interesting experience.
Rynek Glowny (Main Square).
The main square is equally as beautiful and even more elaborate at night, lined with restaurants, cafes and shops and beautiful historical buildings in the middle. Its home to the 16th century cloth hall (which we didn’t get chance to see but will definitely visit next time), 13th century gothic town hall tower and the church of St Adalberts which dates way back to the 11th century and is probably the smallest church I’ve ever seen. The square is lined with wonderful historic buildings and townhouses and it was so nice to just sit outside with a coffee or wine and watch the world go by both day and night. We ate at the Sukiennice Restauracja in the cloth hall which was great value for money. For two people, starters, main course a beer and wine it came to 29 euros and the meal was great. We had breakfast at the Pod Slonkem which was lovely and right in front of St Mary’s. There are plenty of places to choose from which created a problem as they all looked lovely and very cheap. Horses and carts decorated with the most beautiful ornate fabrics walked the square and it was a lovely place to relax, people watch and soak up the cultural atmosphere.
Wawel Castle and Cathedral
Whilst in Krakow we decided to go and visit Wawel Castle just by the Vistula river. The castle can be seen from miles as it is located on top of a hill and it looks magnificently beautiful.
It was once home to the kings of Poland and is one of the most famous in Poland. An in-depth history of the different rulers and stories is provided via an audio guided tour that you listen to as you make your way around the castle and cathedral. You can literally spend an entire day in this place marvelling at the historic architecture, art galleries and archaeological findings all belonging to different eras. The cathedral is impressive also and was built for the Kings and Queens to attend mass and worship, so for this purpose, as you can imagine it was elaborately decorated. The crypt underneath the cathedral home to some notable graves was also a very interesting factor of this trip. A must do when visiting the cathedral is to visit the Sigismund Bell which ranks one of the worlds largest bells and is housed in the tower at the cathedral. After climbing the gruelling flights of stairs which contains 5 bells, touch the bell and make a wish!!! The views from the top are pretty impressive too !
Wieliczka Salt Mine.
I was dubious about visiting this place but I’m so glad I did . This was the best eye opening trip I have ever encountered. Before I visited this salt mine I underestimated just how far underground you can actually go. It is on the UNESCO list of world heritage sites and so it should be ! We booked on this trip with a local guide which included transport to the salt mine and back, tickets and a guide! I was literally left gobsmacked after this trip just imagine a depth of 327 meters all completely made out of salt! The chandeliers, full chapels the stairs, sculptures even a salt lake filled the depths of this mine. It really was spectacular and apparently breathing in the salty air is also very good for your lungs! Listening to the guide talking about the history and stories of this salt mine was really fascinating and I enjoyed every minute of it. So this trip is definitely a must whilst in Krakow! I still cant believe that all this beauty lay hidden hundreds of feet underground! Mindblowing !
Auschwitz and Birkenau
Ok so this trip might not be for everyone, and it certainly wasn’t a happy trip but for me it was something I needed to experience rather than just read about and felt that I must learn whole heartedly about the atrocities that took place here. Auschwitz really is the symbol of the depths that human cruelty can reach and also a symbol of intense human suffering. The tour guide was really good and knowledgeable she talked us through the prison camps and what had happened there, we went into the gas chambers, observed the stalls, shooting walls and hanging posts I didn’t take very many pictures as I felt like this was really disrespectful. The collections of shoes, suitcase, toiletries and hair was a stark reminder of all those millions of innocent people who had lost their lives. This trip had helped me gain a whole new perspective on the holocaust and made me realise that this is actually a real place where people were abused tortured and murdered. Standing there in those surroundings, feeling the cold, experiencing the dull, bleak structures of the camps made it more of a reality and made it hit home in a way that no book or TV programme had managed to do. I payed my respects that day and I was proud to do so.
Jewish Quarter Kazimierz
The Jewish Quarter is such a wonderful place, quirky and cultural just like me ! Bursting with history and famous for being the Jewish residential area of Krakow for centuries. Some of the buildings the Jews left behind in World War II are untouched and is a sad reminder of those terrible atrocities. However, with charming streets filled with hip and laid back cafes, cool little vintage shops and historic Jewish synagogues it is the perfect place to kick back and unwind, people watch or explore what the Jewish Quarter has to offer. Schindler’s List was also filmed here.
Oskar Schindler’s Factory.
When we arrived I was expecting Oskar Schindler’s factory to be all set out like the factory was during the war and was pretty disappointed to find that it was just a museum dedicated to life under Nazi Occupation and the story behind Oskar Schindler. Although it was pretty interesting and I don’t regret going, I would have much preferred to have experienced the factory as it was. The museum itself is quite interactive and Oskar Schindler’s office is presented just as it was which I liked. I love the story of Oskar Schindler and this museum must not be missed.
All in all Krakow is one of my most favourite places to visit we were only there for 4 days and we crammed everything in that we could but there was still more we wanted to do. Will definitely be revisiting Krakow and I cant wait!!