Come to Krakow
The majority of visitors to Krakow will enter the Old Town for the first time through Florian's Gate at the beginning of Florianska Street. You will be instantly greeted with the spectacular view of the majestic towers of the Mariacki Church. You will arrive at the Main Market Square on its north-eastern corner, and the vastness of this great square will no doubt astound you. Day and night the square is buzzing with activity - musicians, street performers, street vendors and countless people soaking up the atmosphere. Dating back to the 13th century, the Krakow Rynek Glowny is the largest medieval town square in Europe.
Hear half a hymn
You may wonder at the trumpet call which is played 4 times, on the hour, every hour, from the top of the Mariacki Church's higher tower. The tune is the Heynal, or Cracovian Hymn, and you may notice it stops rather abruptly. The tragic tale tells how during the Mongol Invasion of 1241, the guard at the top of the church, spotting the Tatar warriors, sounded the alarm - the Heynal. A sharp-shooter struck the trumpeter in the throat mid-tune. So as your wonder turns to dismay upon being woken by the 4am trumpet call - be thankful for the lack of Tatar warriors.
Head for 'the Head'
It's hard not to notice the big ugly head lying body-less near the south west corner of the Main Market Square. You might think that such an audacious sculpture would have an interesting story behind it. In 2003 a work by the Polish sculptor Igor Mitoraj was displayed as part of an exhibition on the Main Market Square. Eros Bendato (Eros Bound) remains to this day, other body parts are dotted in various other cities around Europe..
Beware the Wawel Dragon
The oldest part of Krakow, Wawel Hill, is home to the monumental Wawel Castle. The Gothic castle was built in the 14th century and served as the royal residence while Krakow was capital of Poland, until 1596. The Wawel Cathedral has seen the coronation of almost all Polish monarchs. Wawel Hill provides spectacular views of the Vistula River and much of the city. The Wawel Dragon retains an important part in Krakow folklore. Rumoured to have terrorised the local populous until finally defeated by a lowly shepherd. The fire-breathing statue by the river outside the dragon's den reminds of darker times.
Visit a different world in Kazimierz
The district of Kazimierz was an island within the Vistula River, and was home to a Jewish community from the 14th century. The "Jewish island" ceased to be an island at the end of the 19th century when part of the river was filled in, and lost the majority of its Jewish population in World War II. In recent years the district has been radically transformed into one of Krakow's most vibrant cultural centres, with an abundance of atmospheric cafes, restaurants, bars and clubs. And of course there are synagogues, the oldest of which date back to the 15th century.
Disappear underground in Wieliczka
Until just a few years ago this enomous salt mine had been continuously providing salt since the 13th century. With a depth of over 300m and stretching for more than 300km the dimensions of the mine are staggering. The real wonders of the mine however are found within the 3.5km tourist route (covering less than 1% of the length of the mine). Known as the Underground Salt Cathedral of Poland, the Wieliczka Salt Mine includes statues of famous historic figures, chandeliers, and even an underground chapel - all sculptured out of salt!
Climb a mountain
Kopiec Kosciuszki (Kosciuszko Mound) is based on the old mounds (or tumuluses) of Wanda and Krakus. Unlike these mounds however Kosciuszko is not buried beneath his hill (or even reputed to be buried there), rather Kopiec Kosciuszki was built by Cracovians in commemoration of the Polish military leader. Standing between the Wolski Wood and Krakow Old Town the mound provides one of the best views available in Krakow.
Move off the tourist trail to Nowa Huta
A district with the name the New Steel Mill might not appeal to many tourists. And this name is not a coincidence - the Vladimir Lenin Steelworks, opened in 1954, quickly became the largest steel mill in all of Poland. So why would anyone want to visit such an area (apart from steel lovers of course)? Nowa Huta began in 1949 as a separate city, and was intended as an ideal organ for the communist propaganda. Here, more so than anywhere else in Krakow you can see the effect of communism on Poland, how it should have worked and why it failed. Begin your exploration in Ronald Reagan Central Square (that's right!) - an entirely different world from the extravagant Main Market Square you will no doubt return to shortly!
Courtesy - Andrew McConnell
There are lots more things to see in the region, if you have any specific ideas or requests email us the details and we can make all arrangements for you.