The next destination – 10 places to visit in Krakow
The #CEE17 SME Banking Conference for the Central and Eastern Europe region will take place in Krakow, the main city in the Małopolska Voivodeship, on November 23-24, 2017.
If you decide to stay for the weekend following the conference, here are 10 places that we recommend visiting:
10 places to visit in Krakow
The residence of Polish Kings from the middle of the 11th century until the end of the 16th century. The first Polish King crowned at Wawel Cathedral was Władysław the Short (1306-1333) on January 20, 1319, beginning a tradition that would see a further 35 royal rulers crowned there. All of these rulers used the Castle as a residence, and all of them added their own architectural details to the building. The relocation of the capital to Warsaw in 1596 and Poland’s subsequent decline and partitioning saw the Royal Castle fall into a state of disrepair.
After Poland lost its independence in 1796, the Austrians took over the Castle and turned it into military quarters. During the German occupation in World War II, the Castle was used as the headquarters of the Nazi Governor-General, Hans Frank.
Today’s Castle complex is a beguiling muddle of styles, including Medieval, Romanesque, Renaissance, Gothic and Baroque. The inner courtyard, with its delightful colonnades, is a true architectural masterpiece.
Leonardo da Vinci’s Lady With an Ermine
One of Leonardo’s undisputed masterpieces, his portrait of the beloved mistress of Ludovico Sforza, “Il Moro,” Duke of Milan, will be on display at the Wawel Royal Castle through May 7, after which it will be moved to the main building of the National Museum.
Krakow’s main market square (Rynek) is the natural starting and finishing point for any tour of the city. Originally designed in 1257, the Rynek ranks as one of the largest medieval squares in Europe, and is surrounded by elegant townhouses, all with their own unique names, histories and curiosities. Through the centuries, Krakow’s Rynek was where allegiance was sworn to the king and public executions were carried out.
Taking center stage is the Cloth Hall (Sukiennice). Built in the 14th century, this huge hall was effectively the first shopping mall in the world. To this day, it is still crammed with merchant stalls selling amber, lace, woodwork and assorted tourist items.
In 2010, Rynek Underground (website: http://www.mhk.pl/branches/rynek-underground), a 4,000 m2, hi-tech museum tracing the history of the Cloth Hall, and that of the entire city, opened underneath it.
On the second floor, the Cloth Hall hosts the 19th Century Polish Art Gallery (website: http://mnk.pl/branch/gallery-of-the-19th-century-polish-art-the-sukiennice-the-cloth-hall).
Completed in 1307, the Floriańska Gate is one of the few surviving parts of the ancient defense walls that once circled the Old Town. Topped with a Baroque roof that was added in 1657, the gate stands 34.5 meters high and was the city’s main entrance in medieval times. The original starting point for what was dubbed the Royal Road, it was through this gate that visiting kings, queens and nobility would enter the city on their way to Wawel.
The district south of the Old Town between the Vistula River and ul. Dietla was the center of Jewish life in Krakow for over 500 years, before it was systematically destroyed during World War II. Now it’s Krakow’s most exciting district, a bustling, bohemian neighborhood packed with historical sites, atmospheric cafes and art galleries.
Schindler’s Factory (Fabryka Schindlera)
The story of Oskar Schindler and his employees was popularized by Steven Spielberg’s 1993 film Schindler’s List (which was shot almost entirely in Krakow), and while that story is covered in detail at the original site where many events took place, the museum actually casts the city of Krakow in the starring role in its permanent exhibition titled, “Kraków During Nazi Occupation 1939-1945.”
Founded in 1364 by Casimir III the Great, Jagiellonian University is the oldest university in Poland, the second-oldest university in Central Europe and one of the oldest surviving universities in the world. Notable alumni include mathematician and astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, Polish King John III Sobieski, Pope John Paul II and Nobel laureates Ivo Andrić and Wisława Szymborska.
Jagiellonian University is made up of several campuses and academies all over Krakow, but the main points of interest for tourists are all clustered around ul. Św. Anny and ul. Jagiellońska, just minutes from the Market Square. Collegium Maius, the university’s oldest building and home to its museum, shouldn’t be missed. Adjacent is the picturesque Professors’ Garden, and around the corner you’ll find the beautiful Collegium Novum, beside which stands a monument to Copernicus.
Krakus Mound (Kopiec Krakusa)
The Krakus Mound is a tumulus located in the Podgórze District of Krakow that is thought to be the resting place of Krakow’s mythical founder, the legendary King Krakus. It is located on Lasota Hill, approximately 3 kilometers south of Krakow’s city center at an altitude of 271 meters, with a base diameter of 60 meters and a height of 16 meters. Together with nearby Wanda Mound, it is one of Krakow’s two prehistoric mounds and the oldest manmade structure in Krakow. Nearby, there are also two other non-prehistoric manmade mounds, Kościuszko Mound, constructed in 1823, and Piłsudski’s Mound, completed in 1937. Together, they make up Krakow’s four memorial mounds.