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Kraków , is the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland. Situated on theVistula River (Polish: Wisła) in the Lesser Poland region, the city dates back to the 7th century. Kraków has traditionally been one of the leading centres of Polish academic, cultural, and artistic life and is one of Poland's most important economic hubs. It was the capital of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland from 1038 to 1569; the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth from 1569 to 1795; the Free City of Kraków from 1815 to 1846; the Grand Duchy of Cracow from 1846 to 1918; and Kraków Voivodeship from the 14th century to 1998. It has been the capital of Lesser Poland Voivodeship since 1999.
The city has grown from a Stone Age settlement to Poland's second most important city. It began as a hamlet on Wawel Hill and was already being reported as a busy trading centre of Slavonic Europe in 965 With the establishment of new universities and cultural venues at the emergence of the Second Polish Republic in 1918 and throughout the 20th century, Kraków reaffirmed its role as a major national academic and artistic centre. The city has a population of approximately 760,000, with approximately 8 million additional people living within a 100 km (62 mi) radius of its main square.
After the invasion of Poland at the start of World War II, Kraków became the capital of Germany's General Government. The Jewish population of the city was forced into a walled zone known as the Kraków Ghetto, from which they were sent to German extermination campssuch as the nearby Auschwitz never to return, and the Nazi concentration camps like Płaszów.
In 1978, Karol Wojtyła, archbishop of Kraków, was elevated to the papacy as Pope John Paul II — the first Slavic pope ever, and the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. Also that year, UNESCO approved the first ever sites for its new World Heritage List, including the entire Old Town in inscribingCracow's Historic Centre. Kraków is classified as a global city by GaWC, with the ranking of High sufficiency. Cited as one of Europe's most beautiful cities, its extensive cultural heritage across the epochs of Gothic,Renaissance and Baroque architecture includes the Wawel Cathedral and theRoyal Castle on the banks of the Vistula river, the St. Mary's Basilica and the largest medieval market square in Europe, the Rynek Główny. Kraków is home to Jagiellonian University, one of the oldest universities in the world and traditionally Poland's most reputable institution of higher learning.
In 2000, Kraków was named European Capital of Culture. The city will also host the next World Youth Day in 2016.
|POPULATION :||• City 762,508 |
• Metro 1,725,894
|FOUNDED :||City rights 5 June 1257|
|TIME ZONE :||• Time zone CET (UTC+1)|
• Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
|AREA :||• City 326.8 km2 (126.2 sq mi)|
• Metro 1,023.21 km2 (395.06 sq mi)
|ELEVATION :||219 m (719 ft)|
|COORDINATES :||50°4′N 19°56′E|
|SEX RATIO :||• Male: 48.28%|
• Female: 51.72%
|ETHNIC :||Polish 96.7%, German 0.4%, Belarusian 0.1%, Ukrainian 0.1%, other and unspecified 2.7%|
|AREA CODE :||12|
|POSTAL CODE :||30-024 to 31–962|
|DIALING CODE :||+48 12|
Kraków was named the official European Capital of Culture for the year 2000 by the European Union. It is a major attraction for both local and international tourists, attracting seven million visitors a year. Major landmarks include the Main Market Square with St. Mary's Basilica and the Sukiennice Cloth Hall, theWawel Castle, the National Art Museum, the Zygmunt Bell at the Wawel Cathedral, and the medieval St Florian's Gate with the Barbican along the Royal Coronation Route. Kraków has 28 museums and public art galleries. Among them are the main branch of Poland's National Museum and the Czartoryski Museum, the latter featuring works by Leonardo da Vinci and Rembrandt.
According to statistics, in 2012 Kraków was visited by 7.3 million tourists including 2.1 million foreign travelers (over 30% of their grand total). The visitors spent over 2.5 billion złoty in the city (without travel costs and pre-booked accommodations). Most foreign tourists came from Great Britain (over 25%), with German, French, Spanish, Italian and American visitors closely following. The Kraków tour-guide from the Lesser Poland Visitors Bureau indicated that not all statistics are recorded due to considerable number of those who come, staying in readily available private rooms paid by cash, especially from Eastern Europe.
The main reasons for visiting the city are: its historical monuments, recreation as well as relatives and friends (placing third in the ranking), religion and business. There are 120 quality hotels in Kraków (usually about half full) offering 15,485 overnight accommodations. The average stay last for about 4 to 7 nights. The survey conducted among the travelers showed that they enjoyed the city's friendliness most, with 90% of Polish tourists and 87% foreigners stating that they would personally recommend visiting it. Notable points of interest outside the city include the Wieliczka salt mine, the Tatra Mountains 100 km (62 mi) to the south, the historic city of Częstochowa (north-west), the well-preserved former Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz, and Ojcowski National Park ,which includes the Renaissance Castle at Pieskowa Skała.
Kraków's prehistory begins with evidence of a Stone Age settlement on the present site of the Wawel Hill. A legend attributes Kraków's founding to the mythical ruler Krakus, who built it above a cave occupied by a dragon,Smok Wawelski. The first written record of the city's name dates back to 965, when Kraków was described as a notable commercial centre controlled first by Moravia (876–879), but captured by a Bohemian duke Boleslaus I in 955. The first acclaimed ruler of Poland,Mieszko I, took Kraków from the Bohemians and incorporated it into the holdings of the Piast dynasty towards the end of his reign.
In 1038, Kraków became the seat of the Polish government. By the end of the 10th century, the city was a leading centre of trade. Brick buildings were constructed, including the Royal Wawel Castle with St. Felix and Adaukt Rotunda, Romanesque churches such as St. Adalbert's, a cathedral, and a basilica. The city was almost entirely destroyed during the Mongol invasion of 1241. It was rebuilt practically identical, based on new location act and incorporated in 1257 by the high duke Bolesław V the Chaste who following the example of Wrocław, introduced city rights modelled on the Magdeburg law allowing for tax benefits and new trade privileges for the citizens. In 1259, the city was again ravaged by the Mongols. A third attack in 1287 was repelled thanks in part to the new built fortifications. In 1335, King Casimir III of Poland (Kazimierz in Polish) declared the two western suburbs to be a new city named after him, Kazimierz (Casimiria in Latin). The defensive walls were erected around the central section of Kazimierz in 1362, and a plot was set aside for the Augustinian order next to Skałka.
The city rose to prominence in 1364, when Casimir III of Poland founded the University of Kraków, the second oldest university in central Europe after the Charles University in Prague. King Casimir also began work on a campus for the Academy in Kazimierz, but he died in 1370 and the campus was never completed. The city continued to grow under the joint Lithuanian-Polish Jagiellon dynasty. As the capital of the Kingdom of Poland and a member of the Hanseatic League, the city attracted many craftsmen, businesses, and guilds as science and the arts began to flourish. The royal chancery and the University ensured a first flourishing of Polish literary culture in the city.
Poland's 'Golden Age'
The 15th and 16th centuries were known as Poland's Złoty Wiek or Golden Age. Many works of Polish Renaissance art and architecture were created, including ancient synagogues in Kraków's Jewish quarter located in the north-eastern part of Kazimierz, such as the Old Synagogue. During the reign of Casimir IV, various artists came to work and live in Kraków, and Johann Haller established a printing press in the city after Kasper Straube had printed the Calendarium Cracoviense, the first work printed in Poland, in 1473.
In 1520, the most famous church bell in Poland, named Zygmunt after Sigismund I of Poland, was cast by Hans Behem. At that time, Hans Dürer, a younger brother of artist and thinker Albrecht Dürer, was Sigismund's court painter. Hans von Kulmbach made altarpieces for several churches. In 1553, the Kazimierz district council gave the Jewish Qahal a licence for the right to build their own interior walls across the western section of the already existing defensive walls. The walls were expanded again in 1608 due to the growth of the community and influx of Jews from Bohemia. In 1572, King Sigismund II, the last of the Jagiellons, died childless. The Polish throne passed to Henry III of France and then to other foreign-based rulers in rapid succession, causing a decline in the city's importance that was worsened by pillaging during the Swedish invasion and by an outbreak of bubonic plague that left 20,000 of the city's residents dead. In 1596, Sigismund III of the Swedish House of Vasa moved the administrative capital of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth from Kraków to Warsaw.
18th to early 20th centuries
Already weakened during the 18th century, by the mid-1790s the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth had twice been partitioned by its neighbors:Russia, the Habsburg empire, and Prussia. In 1791, the Austrian Emperor Joseph II changed the status of Kazimierz as a separate city and made it into a district of Kraków. The richer Jewish families began to move out. However, because of the injunction against travel on the Sabbath, most Jewish families stayed relatively close to the historic synagogues. In 1794, Tadeusz Kościuszko initiated an unsuccessful insurrection in the town's Main Square which, in spite of his victorious Battle of Racławice against a numerically superior Russian army, resulted in the third and final partition of Poland. In 1809, Napoleon Bonaparte captured former Polish territories from Austria and made the town part of the Duchy of Warsaw. Following Napoleon's defeat, the 1815 Congress of Vienna restored the pre-war boundaries but also created the partially independent Free City of Kraków. An insurrection in 1846 failed, resulting in the city being annexed by Austria under the name the Grand Duchy of Cracow (Polish: Wielkie Księstwo Krakowskie, German: Großherzogtum Krakau).
In 1866, Austria granted a degree of autonomy to Galicia after its own defeat in the Austro-Prussian War. Politically freer Kraków became a Polish national symbol and a centre of culture and art, known frequently as the "Polish Athens" (Polskie Ateny) or "Polish Mecca". Many leading Polish artists of the period resided in Kraków, among them the seminal painter Jan Matejko, laid to rest at Rakowicki Cemetery, and the founder of modern Polish drama, Stanisław Wyspiański. Fin de siècle Kraków evolved into a modern metropolis; running water and electric streetcars were introduced in 1901, and between 1910 and 1915, Kraków and its surrounding suburban communities were gradually combined into a single administrative unit called Greater Kraków (Wielki Kraków).
At the outbreak of World War I on 3 August 1914, Józef Piłsudski formed a small cadre military unit, the First Cadre Company—the predecessor of the Polish Legions—which set out from Kraków to fight for the liberation of Poland. The city was briefly besieged by Russian troops in November 1914. Austrian rule in Kraków ended in 1918 when the Polish Liquidation Committee assumed power.
1918 to the present
With the emergence of the Second Polish Republic, Kraków resumed its role as a major academic and cultural centre with the establishment of new universities such as the AGH University of Science and Technology and the Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts, including a number of new and essential vocational schools. It became an important cultural centre for the Polish Jews with a Zionist youth movement relatively strong among the city's Jewish population. Kraków was also an influential centre of Jewish spiritual life, with all its manifestations of religious observance from Orthodox, to Chasidic and Reform flourishing side by side.
Following the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany in September 1939 the city became part of the General Government, a separate administrative region of the Third Reich, and from 4 November 1939 its capital. The General Government was headed by Hans Frank who was based in the city's Wawel Castle. The Nazis envisioned turning Kraków into a completely German city after removing all Jews and Poles, renamed locations and streets into German and sponsored propaganda attempting to portray it as a historically German city In an operation called "Sonderaktion Krakau", more than 180 university professors and academics were arrested and sent to Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps, though the survivors were later released on the request of prominent Italians. The Jewish population was first confined to a ghetto in which many died of illness or starvation. Those in the Ghetto were later murdered or sent to concentration camps, including Płaszów and Auschwitz. Roman Polanski, the film director, is a survivor of the Ghetto, while Oskar Schindler selected employees from the Ghetto to work in his enamelware plant, Deutsche Emailwaren Fabrik (Emalia for short) saving them from the camps. Although looted by occupational authorities, Kraków remained relatively undamaged at the end of World War II, sparing most of the city's historical and architectural legacy. Soviet forces entered the city on 18 January 1945 and started arresting Poles loyal to the Polish government-in-exile or those who had served in the Home Army.
After the war, under the Polish People's Republic, the intellectual and academic community of Kraków was put under total political control. The universities were soon deprived of printing rights and autonomy. The Stalinist government ordered the construction of the country's largest steel mill in the newly created suburb of Nowa Huta. The creation of the giant Lenin Steelworks (now Sendzimir Steelworks owned by Mittal) sealed Kraków's transformation from a university city to an industrial centre. The new working class, drawn by the industrialisation of Kraków, contributed to rapid population growth.
In an effort that spanned two decades, Karol Wojtyła, cardinal archbishop of Kraków, successfully lobbied for permission to build the first churches in the new industrial suburbs. In 1978, Wojtyła was elevated to the papacy as John Paul II, the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. In the same year, UNESCO placed Kraków Old Town on the first-ever list of World Heritage Sites.
Kraków has an oceanic climate (Cfb) according to the Köppen climate classification system, one of the easternmost localities in Europe to do so. A mere 100 km (62 mi) north-east of Kraków (east of Tarnów, and north of Kielce), the January mean dips below −3 °C (27 °F) and thus becomes continental (Dfb) in nature. The Kraków climate is also influenced by its far inland position, with significant temperature differences between seasons. Average temperatures in summer range from 18 to 19.6 °C (64 to 67 °F) and in winter from −2.0 to −0.6 °C (28 to 31 °F). The average annual temperature is 8.7 °C (48 °F). In summer temperatures often exceed 25 °C (77 °F), and even 30 °C (86 °F), while winter drops to −5 °C (23 °F) at night and about 0 °C (32 °F) at day; during very cold nights the temperature can drop to −15 °C (5 °F). Since Kraków lies near the Tatra Mountains, there are often occurrences of halny blowing (a foehn wind), causing temperatures to rise rapidly, and even in winter reach up to 20 °C (68 °F).
Climate data for Kraków (1981–2010)
|Record high °C (°F)||15.0|
|Average high °C (°F)||1.0|
|Daily mean °C (°F)||−2.0|
|Average low °C (°F)||−4.9|
|Record low °C (°F)||−29.6|
Kraków lies in the southern part of Poland, on the Vistula River (Polish name: Wisła), in a valley at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains, 219 m (719 ft) above sea level; half way between the Jurassic Rock Upland(Polish: Jura Krakowsko-Częstochowska) to the north, and theTatra Mountains 100 km (62 mi) to the south, constituting the natural border with Slovakia and the Czech Republic; 230 km (143 mi) west from the border with Ukraine. There are five nature reserves in Kraków, with a combined area of ca. 48.6 hectares (120 acres). Due to their ecological value, these areas are legally protected. The western part of the city, along its northern and north-western side, borders an area of international significance known as the Jurassic Bielany-Tyniec refuge. The main motives for the protection of this area include plant and animal wildlife and the area's geomorphological features and landscape. Another part of the city is located within the ecological 'corridor' of the Vistula River valley. This corridor is also assessed as being of international significance as part of the Pan-European ecological network. The city centre is situated on the left (northern) bank of the river.
Kraków is the most popular tourist destination in Poland and this supports much of the local economy. However, the University and numerous local colleges mean education is an important employer as well.
The service and technology industry is strong, with many banks and Internet companies, such as Google, being located here. There is a large manufacturing sector as well, especially in steel (owned by Mittal), pharmaceuticals and tobacco, mainly as a legacy of the communist era.
Unemployment is lower than average (5%) for the rest of the country (9%) and it is considered an attractive investment opportunity, especially for those buying real estate. A new financial and business district is planned along with a new sporting complex in the Nowa Huta borough on the Vistula river. This is for the regeneration of the Nowa Huta area, the poorest district of Kraków.
Kraków consists of 18 districts. The historic Old City is situated in District I Stare Miasto. Even though the words Stare Miasto mean 'old town', it should not be confused with the historic old town of Kraków itself, as the medieval old town is only a small central part of District I Stare Miasto. Some of the communities around the edge of Kraków can show you real Polish life away from the tourist-focused economy of the centre.
|Stare Miasto (I)||41,121||559.29 ha (5.5929 km2)|
|Grzegórzki (II)||30,441||586.18 ha (5.8618 km2)|
|Prądnik Czerwony (III)||46,621||638.82 ha (6.3882 km2)|
|Prądnik Biały (IV)||66,649||2,370.55 ha (23.7055 km2)|
|Łobzów (V)||34,467||538.32 ha (5.3832 km2)|
|Bronowice (VI)||22,467||957.98 ha (9.5798 km2)|
|Zwierzyniec (VII)||20,243||2,866.9 ha (28.669 km2)|
|Dębniki (VIII)||56,258||4,671.11 ha (46.7111 km2)|
|Łagiewniki-Borek Fałęcki (IX)||15,014||573.9 ha (5.739 km2)|
|Swoszowice (X)||20,641||2,416.73 ha (24.1673 km2)|
|Podgórze Duchackie (XI)||52,522||1,065.24 ha (10.6524 km2)|
|Bieżanów-Prokocim (XII)||63,270||1,846.93 ha (18.4693 km2)|
|Podgórze (XIII)||32,050||2,516.07 ha (25.1607 km2)|
|Czyżyny (XIV)||26,169||1,229.44 ha (12.2944 km2)|
|Mistrzejowice (XV)||54,276||547.82 ha (5.4782 km2)|
|Bieńczyce (XVI)||44,237||369.43 ha (3.6943 km2)|
|Wzgórza Krzesławickie (XVII)||20,234||2,375.82 ha (23.7582 km2)|
|Nowa Huta (XVIII)||58,320||6,552.52 ha (65.5252 km2)|
|Total||760,700||32,680.00 ha (326.8000 km2)|
area located really close to the Old Town, independent city in medieval times with a Christian quarter in the West and a former largely Jewish quarter in the East.
includes Zwierzyniec (the greenest area in Kraków with Błonia, Las Wolski forest and the Kościuszko Mound), Krowodrza, Grzegórzki and several other districts.
interesting areas include Podgórze, on the southern bank of Vistula river, where a Jewish ghetto was located during the Nazi occupation; and Dębniki, a green area to the South West of the Old Town, which includes the Tyniec Monastery.
with Nowa Huta, "The New Steel Mill" area built in the communist era.
Prices in Krakow
MARKET / SUPERMARKET
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||$0.70|
|Bottle of Wine||1 bottle||$4.70|
|Dinner (Low-range)||for 2||$14.00|
|Dinner (Mid-range)||for 2||$32.00|
|Dinner (High-range)||for 2||$|
|Mac Meal or similar||1 meal||$4.20|
|Beer (Imported)||0.33 l||$1.65|
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||$1.65|
|Coctail drink||1 drink||$4.50|
|Men’s Haircut||1 haircut||$7.50|
|Mobile (prepaid)||1 min.||$0.06|
|Pack of Marlboro||1 pack||$3.50|
|Toilet paper||4 rolls||$1.10|
CLOTHES / SHOES
|Jeans (Levis 501 or similar)||1||$54.00|
|Dress summer (Zara, H&M)||1||$32.00|
|Sport shoes (Nike, Adidas)||1||$64.00|
|Local Transport||1 ticket||$0.85|
34 € per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- meals in cheap restaurant
- public transport
- cheap hotel
103 € per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- mid-range meals and drinks
Transportation - Get In
Kraków Airport (IATA: KRK), also known as John Paul II International Airport Kraków - Balice, is the main airport, located in Balice, about 12 km to the west of the centre. It is the second biggest airport in Poland.
The following airlines operate service to/from Kraków:
- Aeroflot (Moscow)
- Air Berlin (Berlin)
- Austrian Airlines (Vienna)
- EasyJet (Belfast-International, Bristol, Edinburgh, Liverpool, London-Gatwick, Paris Charles de Gaulle)
- Eurolot (Amsterdam, Zürich)
- Finnair (Helsinki)
- Germanwings (Stuttgart)
- Jet2.com (Newcastle upon Tyne)
- Lufthansa (Frankfurt, Munich)
- Norwegian (Bergen, Copenhagen, Oslo-Gardermoen, Stavanger,Stockholm-Arlanda)
- Ryanair (constantly changing list of west European destinations)
The airport in Kraków is known for its foggy days, which make the flights diverted (to Katowice, Warsaw, Rzeszów or even Brno!) or canceled. The most foggy months are November, December, February and March, and during those times many of the early morning and evening flights are rescheduled somewhere else.
To travel between the airport and the city:
- A train, operated by Koleje Małopolskie, runs between the airport (stop: Kraków Lotnisko) and the main railway station in the city center (stop: Kraków Główny). It takes about 20min and a single ticket costs 8 zł (return 14 zł). It runs every day, generally every 30min. The first train from the airport leaves at 05:17, the last one at 00:17. The first train from the city centre leaves at 04:04, the last one at 23:42. There are power outlets, Wi-Fi and ticket machines on the trains.
- Bus #292 and Bus #208 run from the airport to the city centre every twenty minutes and about once per hour respectively. If you need to get to the Central Train Station, get off at the stop Dworzec Główny Wschód. This bus stop is located next to shopping centre Galeria Krakowska, approximately 100 meters from the entrance of the central train station (Dworzec Główny PKP). The ride takes around 40 minutes.
- Single-ride tickets from Balice Airport to the city centre cost 4.00 zł (or 2.00 zł for ISIC/EURO 26 holders). Make sure you buy the "agglomeration ticket", this type of ticket is valid in two zones, so also in the area where the airport is located. Tickets can be bought from one of the newsagents or from a ticket machine at the bus stop or at the bus. Make sure you validate your ticket immediately after boarding the vehicle. For additional types of tickets, see the ticket information of the operator MPK.
- At night, you can catch Night Bus #902 which leaves from the airport to the city centre late in the evening. For a journey from the city to the airport, the bus departs from the Central Train Station. There is no difference between night and day tickets.
- Kraków Airport Taxi is the official taxi corporation under the supervision of Kraków Airport. Those taxis are available in front of the international terminal (T1). The price of your journey depend on the distance. You can estimate the price by yourself by checking distance on Google Maps or any other service. The journey to city centre should not cost more than 70 zł.
- Transportation companies: There are many transportation companies in Kraków which offer private, door-to-door airport transfers. Big advantage of this service is that the price of transfer is settled on the booking. Also its quality is very often better than the average taxi service.
Katowice Airport (IATA: KTW) is an alternative airport located about 100km from Kraków that has direct connections with over 30 destinations across Europe and Asia. The airport is a base of Wizzair and has strong network of Wizzair flights. It's also the only one in southern Poland having a direct connection with Barcelona, Kiev, Georgia , Glasgow or Israel which makes it a good airport for passengers who cannot buy direct flights to Kraków.
Kraków Główny (Dworzec Główny PKP) is the Central Train Station in Kraków, and is located just outside of the Old Town. It is connected to other cities in Poland and the rest of Europe.
International trains arrive daily from Hamburg, Berlin, Leipzig, Prague, Vienna,Bucharest, Bratislava, Kosice, Lviv, Kiev, and Odessa with connections to the rest of Europe.
The station has a left-luggage service, waiting room, small cafes and shops. However, the food is not the best, and you would be better advised going out of the station to buy from the shops nearby. There's a shopping centre (Galeria Krakowska) located next to the station with some fast-food restaurants. The station staff are not always the most helpful to foreigners who don't speak Polish as they often speak no English and you can spend an awfully long time waiting in line only to be told to join another long line. If you get confused, try asking someone young to help you as most young Polish people speak communicative English and are very helpful. Staff at the international ticket counter speak English.
Every hour between 6 AM and 8 PM there is a train between Kraków and Warsaw every hour or so. Some of them are Express InterCity (EIC) with journey time of ~2h40. It is by far the most convenient way of traveling between Kraków and Warsaw. The ticket costs 120 zł per adult. First class tickets are about 25% more expensive, and offer greater leg room. Other trains throughout a day are classified as Express (116 zł) TLK (55 zł) or Interregio (47 zł). They vary in comfort mostly, time of travel is similar, maybe Interregios take slightly longer. Some of them have discounts for people <26 years old, ask at the counter.
There are Europe-wide coach services operating into Kraków, like Eurolines (from France, Italy, United Kingdom, Scandinavia, Central Europe), Ecolines (from Russia, Baltic states, Central Europe and Balkans). The journey time by coach from London, for example, is around 24 hours. It's pretty uncomfortable, and not recommended for anybody other than the desperate or environmentally conscious.
You can get to Kraków from Budapest by bus, it is safer to purchase tickets from a genuine company that operates from the Népliget bus station, where you could then get assistance if anything happens to affect your travel plans. Buses may be full in summer so book in advance. Please be careful of scam bus companies like Orangeways - they will cancel the bus without prior notification to passengers and leave people stranded, keeping the money. Eurobusways and Polskibus are said to provide alternative routes.
Bus connections to other cities in Poland can be found on the website of the Regional Bus Station in Kraków. Additionally:From Warsaw and several other Polish cities you can get to Kraków with Polski Bus and Link Bus. Polski Bus accepts on-line reservation only and their prices can be much lower if booked a few days in advance.
From Wrocław you can get to Kraków with:
- Lajkonik - another company that rides to Wrocław and back (with a stop in Katowice). Three runs everyday each direction. One way ticket is 43 zł (and there are some small discounts for students).
When traveling between Kraków and Zakopane it's recommended to take a bus Transfrej, Szwagropol, Polski Bus (2 hour journey) instead of train (3,5 hour journey). Buses leave every 30 minutes from the Regional Bus Station.
The Polish government has completed the A4 motorway from the German border (where it meets the Autobahn A4) to Kraków. This makes travel from the west fairly easy. The speed limit is generally 140 km/h, and there is a 18 zł toll each way between Kraków and Katowice. Beginning on the 1st June 2012 a 16 zł toll is also levied on the A4 between Wrocław and Katowice. Driving to or from Warsaw (300 km) is more difficult as the A1 has not yet been completed. The easiest route is the Route 7/E77 road, which should take less than five hours.
Transportation - Get Around
Depending on your level of fitness, you can see the whole of the city centre without needing any transport. There are some beautiful walking routes, try the Royal Way or the Planty park that surrounds the old city all the way from Florian's Gate to Wawel castle. It is very relaxing. There is also a well cared for river banks next to the castle just to stroll around.
However, be aware that in winter snow is sometimes not removed from the sidewalks, resulting in a mixture of snow and mud. Be sure to bring waterproof shoes if you plan to travel by foot in the winter.
By bus and tram
During the day, there is an excellent system of public transportation consisting of trams and buses managed by MPK (Miejskie Przedsiębiorstwo Komunikacyjne). On their website you can check routes or stops and find best connections between them. Rush hours are mostly between 7AM-9AM and 3PM-5PM and you can spend a lot of time in traffic jams.
It's best to buy tickets before you get on board in a kiosk or ticket machine on the tram/bus stop (these are present mostly in the city centre and provide help in few languages). Those trams and buses that are equipped with ticket machines are marked with large "A" sign above the entrance. As the last option, if there is no ticket machine on board you can buy the 5 zł ticket from the driver but you have to pay him with exact change (driver will not accept a higher amount than the ticket price). If buying a ticket after mounting the vehicle try to be fast. Ticket controllers are fairly common and fines are quite high (250 zł) and a hassle.
As soon as you get on, punch the ticket in the validation machine. Tickets need to be punched only the first time you get on, don't do it again after changing a tram/bus. You can use a single ticket for multiple rides as long as its time period hasn't expired.
Ticket prices: single-fare/40-minute 3.80 zł, 20-minute 2.80 zł, one-hour 5.00 zł, 90-minute 6.00 zł, 24-hour 15 zł, 48-hour 24 zł, 72-hour 36 zł, 7-day 48 zł, family ticket (Sat-Sun only, unlimited daytime traveling) 16.00 zł.
ISIC and Euro26 student holders that study outside Poland can use 50% discount tickets which means: 20-minute 1.40 zł, single-fare/40-minute 1.90 zł, one-hour 2.50 zł, 90-minute 3.00 zł, 24-hour 7.50 zł, 48-hour 12 zł, 72-hour 18 zł, 7-day 24 zł.
When traveling to neighbouring villages or to the airport you need an agglomeration (zone) ticket. All buses that go outside the city limits have 2 at the beginning of their line number. Keep in mind you need zone ticket even if you have any sort of valid time pass mentioned above (as they cover just the city area). Zone tickets are slightly more expensive than city ones and follow similar time system.
Night bus and tram lines start with 6 (or 9 when zone) at the beginning of their line number. Ticket prices during the night are the same. 24 / 48 / 72-hour tickets are valid on night buses.
Tram and bus stops show routes and most kiosks will be able to advise you on route numbers. Modern trams and some of the modern buses also display the route inside on the screens and announce each stop.
Don't bother driving in the city centre. There's often a lot of traffic, parking spaces are scarce and can be expensive, and Polish driving takes a lot of getting used to. There are also rules around local 'driving zones', that ban non-resident's vehicles from entering them. The taxis are cheap and it makes more sense to use them.
Taxis, reliable and fair play taxi drivers from the airport or for a longer transfer should be booked in advance by the Internet. For instance Kraków airport transfer to Kraków costs around 70 zł. During the day, most fares will be around 20 zł. All taxis should have a 'Taxi' sign on the roof and a sticker on the rear passenger window with prices. There is an initial charge of about 5-7 zł, plus 2-3 zł per kilometer. Price list should be shown on the passenger side door.
Car services such as iCar [www] or ZlapTaxi app [www] are almost always less expensive than taxis, and will quote you the prices in advance (based on the real distance between you and your destination). An 8 km ride will run you about 22 zł. Uber is also a great option as it can be cheaper than the local taxi services.
There are instances where drivers will overcharge tourists, especially those who don't speak Polish. Check on a map in advance how much it should be and if it goes much above that, debate the price.
It is easy to get around the centre on two wheels, as there are some bike lanes, including through the 'Planty' that surround the Old Town. Some bike rentals also provide city and country tours.
- Bike Rental, ul. św. Anny 4, , e-mail: [email protected]. In summer from 9:00AM till dusk. They have a tandem. 7 zł for 1h, 40 zł for 24h.
- Cruising Kraków, ul. Basztowa 17, , e-mail:[email protected]. 9:00AM-8:00PM. 20 zł for the first 3h, 40 zł for 24h.
- Happy Bike, ul. Mogilska 51, , e-mail:[email protected]. 40zł/24h.
- Amsterdamer, ul. Koletek 9, . Amsterdam style bikes.7zł/h, 50zł/24h.
- Two Wheels, ul. Józefa 5 (Kazimierz), . 10:00AM - 6:00PM. 50 zł for 24h.
- BEST RATED -
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The Old Town district offers excellent shopping, especially for clothes, jewelry, and art. You can wander all around the Old Town and Kazimierz, where antique stores abound. The center of this all is the Rynek Główny ("Rynek" also means "market"), where you will find some of the city's top stores.
In the middle of the Rynek Główny stands Sukiennice (Cloth Hall), a center of trade in Kraków for hundreds of years. The entire ground floor is a market, where local artists sell their wares. Look for amber jewelry and sheep skin rugs. A great place to check out if you want to bring an authentic piece of Kraków back home.
If you're addicted to shopping, be sure to check out the Royal Way (Floriańska - Rynek Główny - Grodzka) and the streets surrounding Plac Nowy in the Kazimierz district.
Luckily you can still get basic food supplies in the centre in independent and chain grocery stores but they start to give way to luxury hotels and bank agencies. Alcohol can be easily found in groceries and common 24/7 shops.
There are two shopping malls in the central area, which include many clothes shops and eateries:
- Galeria Krakowska (ul. Pawia 5). Immediately next to the Main Train Station and a 5-minute walk from the Main Square.
- Galeria Kazimierz (ul. Podgórska 34). Located at the southern tip of Kazimierz, on the Vistula River bank offers 36,000m2 of stores and an Alma gourmet supermarket.
Plenty of other international chains (Carrefour, Real, Tesco, Lidl) are located in the outskirts/suburbs Kraków, i.e., Bonarka (ul. Kamieńskiego 11) the biggest but quite far from centre.
Kraków's cuisine has been influenced by the cultures that have inhabited central Europe, as well as the Austro-Hungarian empire.
The most important dish from Kraków is obwarzanek (bagel). You can buy it at many stalls on the streets. Another local specialité is oscypek - cheese from Tatra Mountains.
If you want to try Polish cuisine for outstandingly good-value prices (a big lunch for one person for about 8 zł) then find a 'Bar Mleczny' (a milk bar - a kind of cafeteria very prevalent in Communist times so called because it serves no alcohol). You can find one on the right side of ul. Grodzka (if you are going from Rynek Główny). They're not very posh and decorations are rather humble, but they offer classic Polish home food such as 'krokiety' at it's best. An English-Polish dictionary is recommended when ordering.
- Żurek is a soup based on fermented rye - it's sour and creamy and often has slices of kielbasa sausage or a hard-boiled egg added.
- Barszcz is a soup made with beetroot—very savory.
- Chłodnik is another beetroot soup, served cold as a refreshing summer dish. It makes use of the beetroot greens as well as the roots, and is flavoured with gherkins, dill and sour cream.
- Pierogi are dumplings that are most often filled with "ruskie" ("ruskie" meaning "Ruthenian" - with curd cheese and potato), meat, cabbage, mushroom, bilberries, apples, and strawberries. The fruit Pierogi are usually served with cream and sugar.
You won't see this in most guides, but one of the true joys of a trip to Kraków is a visit to the kiełbasa van. Basically, it's these two gruff Polish men who, every night from 8PM-3AM, set up a fire grill outside of their van (parked in front of the market east of the Old Town near the train bridge) and grill kielbasa. For 8 zł, you get your sausage, roll and a squirt of mustard, stand at the perch nearby and chow down with the locals in-the-know. It is delicious, especially after a night of exploring Kraków's bars. A fun experience free of the usual tourist crush and off the main path (ul. Grzegórzecka, opposite ul. Blich)
By far one of the most popular street foods in Kraków is the zapiekankawhich is a large open-faced baguette with baked toppings (traditionally cheese, mushrooms, and a lot of condiments like ketchup or garlic sauce). The best, and most popular, location for zapiekanki is on the Plac Nowy market in Kazimierz. It is busiest at night on the weekends where you can purchase them until the early hours of the morning.
In Kraków you can also buy one of the best Polish sausages - Lisiecka.
Coffe & Drink
- A tatanka is a unique (and delicious) Polish beverage made with apple juice and a special kind of vodka called żubrówka, which is flavored with bison grass. It is also often referred to as a szarlotka, or apple cake. Tatanka is a Native American term for bison.
- Wódka miodowa is a honey vodka, often served chilled in shots. Some of the better Polish-themed restaurants will have house brands.
- Śliwowica, a plum brandy, is worth watching out for. There are two main variants: an 80-proof (40%) yellow tinged one and a 140-proof (70%) clear variety. While the 80-proof variety is often smooth and flavorful, some have compared the 140-proof to drinking gasoline. A good way to drink it is to deal with it like with an absynth. Take a small spoon with sugar, put some Sliwowica on it and fire it. Let the sugar melt down for a while (10–30 seconds). Then, mix the flaming sugar with the rest of the drink. Let it burn for 5–10 seconds, then blow it and drink it. Watch out and don't burn your lips! You can also let it burn longer, but then use a straw to drink it to avoid burning your fingers or lips.
- Grzaniec, a sort of heated wine with cloves and other spices, very popular around Christmas when sold on Market Square.
- Wściekły pies, a shot of plain vodka with tabasco and rasbery sauces in the bottom. Must be drank in one gulp. The name can be translated asmad dog. Definitely worth trying.
- Kamikaze, a set of several shots of vodka-based alcohol sold usually in clubs. It usually contains equal parts of vodka, blue curacao and lime juice. Should be drank in one gulp, one shot after another.
Warning: If you party with Poles you should be aware of the fact that some of them can consume without bigger harm to their health a dosage of alcohol considered to be lethal. Don't try to keep up with your Polish friends and make sure you have plenty of breaks when drinking.
Kraków is not only full of cozy cafes, but is also said to be the place of the first cafe founded in Europe. Most cafes offer good espresso and something to nibble at a very reasonable price. As a rule, international-looking places are much more expensive.
Sights & Landmarks
Most of the popular tourist attractions includingWawel Hill with Royal Castle and Wawel Cathedral and Main Square with St. Mary's Basilica and Sukienniceare in the Old Town.
District of Kazimierz is very interesting for those who want to see Jewish heritage of Central Europe. The synagogue of Remuh, for example, was built in 1557 and, also if it's not so well-conserved and the entrance costs 5zł, it has a great atmosphere with its old walls and its ancient vestments. Beside it, there is its cemetery. It was created in 1511 and has been restored recently. The atmosphere is very melancholic there, and it deserves a visit.
The district of Nowa Huta was built during the Communist Era, and was made for the people working in the huge steelworks (5 times larger than the Old Town of Kraków) that are located there. The architecture of the district is typical socialist; huge buildings surround green parks. The district now is poor, and you can touch the real uneasiness of those times there.
Travellers who come to Kraków often visit Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. Not many know that in Kraków there also was a Nazi concentration camp located in Podgórze district.
Museums & Galleries
Kraków's 28 museums are separated into the national and municipal museums; the city also has a number of art collections and public art galleries. The National Museume stablished in 1879, which is the main branch of Poland's National Museum with permanent collections around the country, as well as the National Art Collection on Wawel Hill are all accessible to the general public and well patroned. Meanwhile, the Czartoryski Museum features works by Leonardo and Rembrandt.
The National Art Collection is located at the Wawel, the former residence of three dynasties of Polish monarchs. Royal Chambers feature art, period furniture, Polish and European paintings, collectibles, and an unsurpassed display of the 16th-century monumental Flemish tapestries. Wawel Treasury and Armoury features Polish royal memorabilia, jewels, applied art, and 15th to 18th century arms. The Wawel Eastern Collection features Turkish tents and military accessories. The National Museum is the richest museum in the country with collections consisting of several hundred thousand items kept in big part in the Main Building at Ul. 3 Maja, although there are as many as eleven separate divisions of the museum in the city, one of the most popular being The Gallery of the 19th Century Polish Art in Sukiennice with the collection of some of the best known paintings and sculptures of the Young Poland movement. The latest division called Europeum with Brueghel among a hundred Western European paintings was inaugurated in 2013.
Other major museums of special interest in Kraków include the Manggha Museum of Japanese Art and Technology (at M. Konopnickiej 26), Stanisław Wyspiański Museum (at 11 Szczepanska St),Jan Matejko Manor in Krzesławice, – a museum devoted to the master painter and his life, Emeryk Hutten Czapski Museum, and Józef Mehoffer Manor.
The Rynek Underground museum, under the main square, is an evocative modern display of Kraków's 1000+ years of history though its streets, activities and artifacts. This followed the massively extended excavations which started in a small way in 2005 and, as more and more was found, ran on eventually to 2010.
A half-an-hour tram-ride takes you to the little-heralded Polish Aviation Museum considered eighth world's best aviation museum by CNN and featuring over 200 aircraft including a Sopwith Camel among other First World War biplanes; a comprehensive display of aero engines; and essentially a complete collection of airplane types developed by Poland after 1945. Activities of small museums around Kraków and in the Lesser Poland region are promoted and supported by the Małopolska Institute of Culture; the Institute organises annual Małopolska Heritage Days.
Things to do
Kraków, the old royal capital, is acclaimed for its many precious architectural monuments and a unique friendly atmosphere. There are many things to do:
- Walk the entire Royal Way, from St. Florian's Gate, down Floriańska, across the Main Market Square, down Grodzka to the Wawel Castle.
- Listen to the Hejnał Mariacki(Trumpet Signal) while sipping a coffee in the Rynek Główny. The signal is played live every full hour from the tower of St Mary Church and is cut suddenly in memory of a trumpeter shot and killed by a Tatar arrow in 1241.
- Walk around the Planty, a large park that surrounds the entire Old Town.
- Lounge and take in the sun on the banks of the Vistula river. See theDragon's Lair and see the dragon breathe fire.
- Take a cruise down the river, it's perfect way to admire the Tyniec Abbey and Bielany Priory. In summer there are several ships harbored next to Wawel Castle and there's also city owned water tram but it's harder to find.
- Early on Sunday, go shopping at the open air flea markets at Plac Nowy and Hala Targowa. 7:00-13:00
- Participate in a Mass in St.Mary's Church. The church is impressive and the devotion of the believers will bring you inside of the real religious spirit.
- Take a ride around in dorożka horse carriage. There are always several parking on Rynek Główny.
- Visit Nowa Huta and lose yourself between the apartment blocks, doing your shopping in the very poor markets of the district.
- Visit the district of Kazimierz, losing yourself in the tight streets and searching the tracks of the Jewish past of Kraków.
- Take part in a city game which combines sightseeing of the city with adventure, integration and fun. You'll find them advertised in hostels.
- Foreign visitors can find locals eager to practice speaking English and other languages at the English Language Club on the second floor at ul. Sienna 5 (i.e. two floors above the ground floor at ul. Sienna 5, 100 metres from the Main Market Square) on Wednesday evenings from 6 to 8 pm.
See a football game. There are two first league teams in Kraków (and obviously their fans hate each other) - Cracovia Kraków and Wisła Kraków, both have recently finished new stadiums located on two sides of Błonia park. To buy a ticket you need to present a document with a photo (passport, driving license etc.) There are discounts for women, school kids and students aged under 26. Do not display any team colors, jerseys, or the like. Rival gangs associate themselves with the Wisła and Cracovia teams. Of course, this is a minority of football fans, but it's best to be safe, especially as an out-of-towner.
You can also play on one of the golf courses located near the city:
Festivals and events
- Jewish Culture Festival (Festiwal Kultury Żydowskiej). A classic, one the biggest Jewish culture festivals in the world. A week of tours, concerts, workshops on cuisine, dance, music and calligraphy topped with a huge final show on Saturday evening. June/July
- Bajit Chadasz (New Home in Hebrew) Another Jewish culture festival, organised by Jewish Cultural Centre in Kazimierz [www] with concerts, exhibitions and lectures. November
- Krakow Film Festival. One of the oldest film events dedicated to documentary, animated and short fiction films in Europe. In a week over 200 films are shown in around six cinemas (10 screens) around the city and in an open air one next to Wawel castle. May
- Off Camera. International Festival of Independent Cinema. April
- Etiuda&Anima. International film festival built around animations and short films. November
- ArtBoom Festival. Street art. In 2012 participants include Ai Weiwei and Russian collective Voina. June
- Photomonth. One month long festival with around forty different photography exhibitions around the city. May
- Live Music Festival. Typical summer opeair music fest. Stars that appeared past years include: Kanye West, Muse, The Chemical Brothers, 50 Cent. second half of August
- Unsound. World renowned experimental music and art event. October
- Sacrum Profanum. Music fest with concerts of such stars as Steve Reich, Aphex Twin or Kraftwerk taking place in unusual places like churches, museums and factories. September
- Wianki. St. John's Night (Midsummer) celebration. An evening of concerts finished with a fireworks show taking place on Vistula river banks next to Wawel castle. A booze-up. June
- Christmas Market Oldest Christmas market in Poland. Held every year from the end of November to the end of December on Main Market Square. December
- Krakowskie Noce (Krakow Nights). Five nights (one in each month from May to September): Night of Museums (free museums), Night of Theatres (free theatres), Night of Jazz (free jazz concerts), Cracovia Sacra Night (free concerts of church music) and Night of Poetry (free poetic evenings).
Bars, pubs, and cafes in Kraków are one of its biggest attractions. Not just their number or quality, but close proximity. It has been said that there are more than 300 eating and drinking establishments in the Old Town alone.
Thanks to their proximity to each other, Kraków's watering holes are ideal for bar hopping. Many locals and tourists have spent nights partying from the Old Town all the way to Vistula River at the end of Kazimierz. Walk down ul. Szeroka or head over to plac Nowy for streets full of bars.
In the warmer months, Kraków's nightlife moves outdoors into hundreds of sidewalk cafes and beer gardens. When winter comes around, it moves underground into cellars all around the city.
Things to know
There is an English language monthly paper called Kraków Post available for free in clubs and culture venues throughout the city, where you can check the news, events taking place and new bars that opened in Kraków any given month.
Safety in Krakow
Like the rest of Poland, Kraków is generally a very safe city with strong police presence. Violent behavior is rare and if it occurs it is most likely alcohol-related. While pubs and clubs are generally very safe, the nearby streets may be scenes of brawls, especially late at night. Try to avoid confrontations. Women and girls are generally less likely to be confronted or harassed since the Polish code of conduct strictly prohibits any type of violence (physical or verbal) against women.
Follow standard city travel rules: don't leave valuables in the car in plain sight; don't display money or expensive things needlessly; know where you're going; be suspicious of strangers asking for money or trying to sell you something. Pickpockets operate, pay attention to your belongings in crowds, at stations, in crowded trains/buses (especially to/from the airport), and clubs. In any case, do not be afraid to seek help or advice from the Police (Policja) or the Municipal Guard (Straż Miejska). They are generally helpful, polite and in most cases speak at least basic English.
As a result of German and Soviet terror, modern Poland is a very homogeneous society. Even though quite a few Asian and African migrants have settled in the larger cities (including Kraków) in the last couple of years, it is still quite rare to see non-Caucasians on the Polish streets. If you are a non-white traveller do not be surprised (or alarmed) if some people (especially young children) stare at you with curiosity. The overwhelming majority of Poles is composed of warm, hospitable people who are often curious to learn more about other cultures. Racist incidents are extremely rare, but, just like anywhere else in Europe, have taken place. If you are unfortunate enough to experience racism or too much curiosity, it is important not to get yourself involved in a confrontation. Walk away instead.
As in any major tourist city there are people trying to take advantage of travellers. Generally, use common sense and follow simple precautions. Below is a list of the most common scams.
In line with its reputation as an inexpensive all-male trip destination, Kraków is unfortunately notorious for the bar scams typical of many popular tourist destinations. The scam, in short, involves being chatted up by attractive women and invited to join them in a club for drinks. The bill for the drinks then turns out to run up multifold of what one might have expected to pay. Two establishments notorious for pepetrating this are Saxon Club and Hard Candy, but you may be asked to follow your newly acquired company to nondescript premises not appearing to be a publicly open club as well.
A few Kraków visitors have been victim to the hotel scam. After a long day of travel, the victim is awakened when their hotel room phone rings. It's the receptionist apologizing for the late hour but asking to verify credit-card details. The victim reads them out and drifts back to sleep. As Kraków guides know, there is a growing black market for stolen credit card numbers, and the chances are that even before the victim remembers this late night conversation there will be high charges to contest, possibly even ending their vacation early.
When using a taxi always ask for a price for your journey before you leave. Scam taxis have been found to operate near to the main railway station. They are legally registered as "transportation services" and charge €20/1 km. With regular taxis prices are limited by law, and the pricelist is easily visible. It should be around 2,30 zł per kilometer, with an initial fee of 7 zł (first kilometre included in price). Reliable licensed taxi companies include: Taxi Barbakan, Taxi Dwójki, Lajkonik Taxi and Taxi 19191. While it is legal for "transportation services" to charge people as much as they like, their prices must be clearly displayed and must be clearly stated when you ask the driver. If you do not agree with the price, do not use the service. The best way to get a reliable taxi is to call them by phone (you can do it by yourself or ask hotel staff to do it for you).
Currency exchange scam
Look very closely what the buy rate is when you exchange your currency into PLN, and ask for the exact rate in writing. Do not let the clerk point on the chart with rates; insist on their quoting the rate for you beforehand on a piece of paper. Very often the rate is displayed not on an electronic board, but with digits on small tiles; it may happen that a small tile with a zero is partially slid right under the comma in the "buy" rate, so e.g. instead of 3,45 zł the actual rate is 3,045 zł. This is difficult to notice and the clerks do not accept any complaints after you receive your money. Victims may lose up to 20% of the exchanged amount. This practice is definitely unfair and on the verge of legality. It has been described and condemned in local press. However, if the tile with 0 is visible at least in half, the booth owner may escape responsibility, as your acceptance of the rates is assumed. Remember the rule of thumb - spread between the "buy" and "sell"rates should not exceed 2-3% of the "buy" rate on the main currencies (EUR, USD, GBP) and 5% on secondary currencies (CHF, JPY, SEK, NOK). Stick to banks (even if the rate is slightly worse, it is still perfectly acceptable) or large currency exchange points.
The currency exchange point at the railway station usually operates at rip-off spreads. Avoid at all costs, unless you are in a big hurry or selling złoty. Also avoid the exchange points at the airport, or exchange only the amount for the ticket to the city center.
Best rates are available on Sławkowska street, extending from the northwest corner of the Main Market Square.
Jaywalking is enforced in Kraków. If you're jaywalking (crossing at a red light for pedestrian, outside of a zebra-crossing), even if it was perfectly safe (you looked on both sides, there was no car coming, etc.), there are chances that a police officer will wait for you on the other side of the street, and give you a 100 zł ticket for doing so: tourist or not, you will have to pay for it.