Believe the hype!
Over the past decades Krakow is consistently cited among the best destinations on the whole planet to visit by many different travel magazines and newspapers. Earlier this year The New York Times listed it as the #15 place in the world to see in 2020 (we hope we get a do-over for 2021!). For good reason too, as the capital of Lesser Poland voivodeship holds more things for you to discover than you may initially realize.
From a number of historical landmarks and neighborhoods to a variety of must-see museums, to places of interests located outside the city, that are also not to be missed. Add to it amazing polish cuisine, comfortable weather for most of the year, and not at all steep prices, especially compared to most Western European destinations, and it’s going to be hard to actually make a case why you shouldn’t visit Krakow at your earliest convenience.
Can’t top that view from the top
There are several ways to discover this amazing location, depending on your interests. I will show you a specific point of view. A perspective that you can easily discover and enjoy when visiting this former capital of Poland. You see, Krakow is a very picturesque place, so if you plan your time accordingly, you can enjoy what it has to offer, and give yourself the chance to snap some truly memorable vistas while you’re at it.
All around the city’s centre
The enchanting Old Town area with the imposing Main Market Square is where you’ll likely spend the majority of your time, and frankly, there is no reason why you shouldn’t. This part of the city has much for you to unravel. You will unquestionably want to browse through the historical Cloth Hall, that in a way divides the square in half. Looming over the square you will witness a spectacular Gothic church, St. Mary’s Basilica, and on the opposite side, another focal point of the plaza, Town Hall Tower.
To benefit from the great sight on the former, you may consider a stop at Cafe Szal, a quaint place on the Cloth Hall’s rooftop. Entrance is through the National Museum, and up the stairs on the left side (a bit hidden when you enter for the first time, but that’s part of its beauty).
The 14th century St. Mary’s Church itself also provides spectacular views, as you can climb two hundred thirty-nine stairs, all the way up to one of the towers, from where the bells ring every hour, and trumpeter plays the bugle call for two and a half minutes.
The second place mentioned above is the 70-meter Town Hall Tower, the only remaining structure from the original medieval Town Hall. Construction offers several views on the other side of the square, but they are slightly less impressive because the tower balconies are inaccessible, and leaning out of the open windows is the only way to take some pictures. Additionally, the Tower works as a branch of the Historical Museum of the City of Krakow and you will find inside of it a small exhibition of medieval costumes, black and white photos, and information about the clock at its top.
In the vicinity of this area, there are at least two other sites that lend themselves to taking amazing pictures.
The first is at the top of the Academy of Music building. Upon entering you will need to take an elevator all the way up to the last floor where you will encounter a small eatery called Metrum – Restobistro, very good for a midday lunch. Just step outside, to the balcony to face the incredible panoramic views.
Finally, if you happen to stay in the plush 5 star Hotel Stary, their roof terrace bar very nicely shows the Main Square from another side. This is a great place to enjoy a refreshing cocktail and savor delectable homemade desserts while watching the bustling crowds in the square below.
Where the river flows
Moving further away from the center some more amazing viewpoints await you. Particularly around the Vistula Boulevards, near Wawel Castle.
Cafe Oranzeria is situated on the top floor of “Hotel Kossak”. It’s a place good for dinner, lunch, or just a couple of drinks. Of course, you should also step outside on the terrace to delight in arguably, one of the best views of Wawel.
Similarly, you can also look at this historical residence of kings, from an even closer distance, when you enter Groble restaurant on the bank of the Vistula river.
Conversely, if you decide to visit the Wawel Royal Castle – a fortified architectural complex, which was one of the first places selected on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1978, you will notice that the hill on which it is erected offers marvelous vistas on boulevards and the surroundings.
Honorable mention in this part of town should go to the tethered balloon with viewing platform, located on the edge of the Vistula river in front of the former Hotel Forum. The balloon ascends to a height of around a hundred and fifty meters and stays there for about ten-fifteen minutes. By doing that, it provides an incomparable vantage point for stunning pictures like no other.
Over the hills and (not too) far away
Lastly, I will reveal to you a few pretty special places. As it happens Krakow has a number of mounds spread around the whole city, and each one of them offers a different perspective. There are at least five of them, but let’s concentrate on three that truly showcase picture-worthy landscapes.
“Kosciuszko Mound ” is probably the most famous one. This is an artificial formation in the style of the other, prehistoric, mounds. It was created in honor of Tadeusz Kosciuszko, the Polish army officer and statesman who gained fame both for his role in the American Revolution and for his leadership of a national rebellion in his native country. Climbing to the peak can be quite a workout, but the panoramic views from the summit are a worthwhile reward.
On the same side of the city, a little further west, you will come across the “Pilsudski Mound”. Built before World War II to commemorate our second national hero – Jozef Pilsudski. The mound was almost demolished by the Nazis, but eventually managed to outlast the tough times and stands to this day as the Polish symbol of independence. From above, if the weather is clear, you can even see to the south the Tatras Mountains. Its environment is also very relaxing, as it stands in the middle of the forest, just a few miles from the Krakow Zoo.
Finally, “Krakus Mound” should undoubtedly be commented on (and visited!). This one lies further to the east of both said hills and is the oldest of the three. In fact, it served as an inspiration to create the other two mounds. This construction is considered one of the oldest in Krakow. It has long been a source of legends and secrets. Related to the popular story of the mythical founder of Krakow, King Krak, it is said that the mound was erected in honor of his demise. Its sixteen-metre high peak provides truly sweeping views.