Krakow, Poland.

A Walking Tour of the Old City of Kraków

I love Krakow. It’s one of my favourite European cities. Stunningly beautiful, this walled city is rich in history, with splendid architecture and lovely squares, and a largely pedestrianised centre that’s a delight to stroll.

And it’s a city made for walking. This is one city where you definitely don’t need to use a hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus. Just grab a map and wander.

The historic centre is so compact, you could explore the whole lot in a day, but it’s so charming that it’s a pleasure to return again and again to explore the back streets, which is what we like to do. The more times we amble along a street, the more we appreciate the finer architectural details, such as the intricacy of the decoration and the splendour of the statuary.

Our apartment is just outside the city walls and from here to the main market square it’s only a five-minute stroll, but instead there’s a walk that we like to do that can serve as a introductory walking tour for first-timer’s to the city…

A Walking Tour of the Old City of Kraków

Hike up to Wawel Hill, home to a sumptuous cathedral and monumental castle, that was the residence of Poland’s kings. Here, we like to take in the sweeping views across the Wisla river and city, before wandering around the grounds and castle courtyard and arcades.

We leave by the entrance beside the cathedral and take the stairs down to the old town and enter the historic centre via the Royal Road, the main street of Grodzka or the charming parallel lane (one of Krakow’s prettiest) of Kaninicza, from which we can take a right at the end onto Grodzka to the main UNESCO World Heritage-listed market square.

Krakow’s main market square, Rynek Główny, is Europe’s largest medieval marketplace. Surrounded by handsome palaces and townhouses, it’s home to the splendid Cloth Hall, which houses shops selling handicrafts and souvenirs, the imposing Town Hall Tower that was part of the old city hall, the diminutive white St Wojciech Church, and one of Europe’s most beautiful churches, the majestic Basilica of the Holy Virgin Mary, built in 1287.

After kicking back in the square for a while, we like to head to the rear of the cathedral and slip under the archway to the smaller market square, Maly Rynek, where there is a busy market in fine weather. From here we’ll take Szpitalna street to admire the Planty and Slowacki Theatre with its wonderful statuary, before taking a left onto Pijarska and a right through the city’s main entrance, the Florianska Gate. Make sure you walk almost to the road to look back to admire the fairy tale Barbican Gate.

Duck back under the gates and turn right onto Jana, and continue past the men selling paintings to the splendid white Lord’s Transfiguration Church. Here we like to take a right onto Marka then left on Slawkowska all the way down to the square, and then onto Bracka, which is home to atmospheric cafés and one of my favourite shops (more on that in another post).

On Domikanska we turn left and walk a couple of blocks to the Basilica of the Holy Trinity, built at the turn of the 13th-14th century, where we exit the old town, and walk through the park, that practically surrounds the city. We can take a right turn and we’ll be home in a few minutes, but if you’re doing this walk for the first time, take a left to do a complete lap of the old city, finishing where we started at Wawel Castle.



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  1. Steph

    Sounds like you had a wonderful time there. I would also love to visit that place someday. I like to see medieval architecture like the ones I watch in the movies. It’s like you’re back in the past and I think it will be an awesome feeling. I will definitely be visiting Krakow.

  2. Kim

    I agree that Krakow is beautiful! We were underwhelmed with Poland in general, but Krakow was very nice. Wonderful lighting in your photos! I love the one with the birds.

  3. Lara Dunston

    We did – we loved it! Well if you love medieval architecture and ‘stepping back in time’, you *must* get in touch with our guide, Malgorzata Lubowicka, who we’re writing about in a post that will go up in a day or two – medieval history is her specialty. You’ll love Krakow. Come back and tell us how you found it after you’ve been.

  4. Lara Dunston

    Krakow is stunning, isn’t it? We’ve only been Warsaw, which we liked very much, and Zakopane (which we’ve just posted on for a few days), which we’re smitten with, but we’re dying to get back to explore more of the country. Next time in summer. We’re told the lakes region is magnificent and it does look gorgeous. Did you get there?

    On behalf of Terence, thanks for the kind words re the images 🙂

  5. Johanna Bradley

    Have had a wonderful time reading all your Krakow and Zakopane posts. I have family in Poland but didn’t meet up with them until 3 years ago. My Polish dad, who’s now 82, had lost touch with his family for 64 years so you can imagine some of the celebrations we’ve had since the reunion.
    Of my 26 cousins, 2 live in the Krakow area, and we tend to use it as a base when visiting Poland. I absolutely love it and your photos are very fine. I’ve never seen it in snow- did you have lots?
    Did you visit Kazimierz? I found that very moving.
    We were in Zakopane for a Silver Wedding celebration last Autumn. I found the town a bit too commercial but then we were staying in a lovely hill village in the Gorale, Poronin, so maybe it was the contrast. My Polish family all seemed to think it was great and there’s certainly something for everyone.
    I’m still trying to progress further with sightseeing in Poland, but we tend to get overwhelmed by the family stuff. Warsaw is a complete contrast isn’t it, but I loved the reconstructed old side. Wroclaw is on my must see list and we have folks there too. Mostly they live in Central Poland, in Belchatow near Lodz. Riotous times have been had there at Polish weddings.
    Sorry I’ve rambled a bit- I do on the subject of Poland!
    Enjoy your last bit of travelling.

  6. Lara Dunston

    Thank you for your kind words, Johanna – so glad you’re liking the posts. Wow, that must have been some reunion!

    There was tonnes of snow in Krakow! It was down to -10 C a few times! But it was absolutely lovely. The beauty of Krakow is that there are so many cosy bars and restaurants you can escape to.

    We did get to Kazimierz this trip and last trip – it’s the hipster area now and has changed extraordinarily since our last trip – overflowing with bars, cafes, art galleries, shops, etc.

    Someone else said they thought Zakopane was commercial, but we don’t get that at all to be honest. It’s only really the markets that make it so and they’re lovely – every town has some kind of markets. The thing we love about Zakopane is that it has such a rich traditional culture and the people have a strong ethnic identity that they’re very proud of and clinging on to, and we love that.

    We went to Warsaw last time and we did enjoy it a lot, but didn’t become smitten with it in the way we are with Krakow. Had some great meals there though.

    My dream is to return during summer and visit all the lakes and go hiking. I’ve heard that’s wonderful.

    No need to apologise at all – that’s what the comments are for – love chatting about places we love!

  7. Kasia Dietz

    Beautiful description and photos of what I find to be the most charming, historically rich, and romantic city of Eastern Europe. And where I was privileged to spend many days during my childhood enroute to Sanok. Happy you too enjoyed it!


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