Krakow- The Home of the Wawel Dragon
January 1, 1970
by Aanchal Bindal
Krakow is probably one of the dreamiest and gorgeous cities you’ll ever step into. There is magic everywhere- be it the streets, the castle or the small cozy bars. This dragon’s city is a perfect mix of the ancient- with its medieval architecture and design- and the new- with its young student population! Happy and friendly, the locals were some of the coolest people you will see around Central Europe. I explored Krakow over a day and a half- and I promise, Krakow by the day is magic and by night, it is a dream. The minute you enter the Old Town post sunset, the entire place seems like a fairy-tale set up! There are castles, churches, beautiful pointed structures and white horse carriages!
Transportation: Krakow on Foot
I stayed a simple and cheap youth hostel with my friends and walked to pretty much everywhere I could. The transportation system here seems standard and easy to get a hang of. Depending on the duration of your stay, you may or may not decide to take a weekend or a month ticket. There are comfortable trams and buses available. However, if you are active and love exploring, I’d recommend gallivanting across this city on foot! There is so much to see and such scenic beauty to capture. You might enter a wrong lane, but you wont be disappointed. I walked into this tiny alley, quite lost, honestly, only to turn up in front of a wall which had poetry being projected on it!
Quick Tip: Pick up a map from a store or a tourist walk, they are accurate, very easy to figure out and it even might lead you to a treasure!
Night Life and Food:
The night life of Krakow is exciting and full of new experiences irrespective of what day of the week it is. Being a student city, one can find innumerable cheap and fun bars, clubs and karaoke bars. Florianska’s Gate street is the best place to start while looking for a perfect place. It is full of small kebab and burger stalls as well as youth bars. You might find many discount cards which guarantee beers at a very affordable price. ‘Bar Hopping’ in less than 20 zloty is very common and a great way to meet locals and backpackers. The Jewish Square is another place where one might find old and traditional cafes and bars as well as street food stalls with different types of meats barbecued right in front of you! It is an experience worth having.
What to see: Let’s get our tourist on!
Krakow is full of tourist-y things. Be is about culture, food, history, architecture, or well, dragons and mystery!
The Cloth Market
Krakow is the old capital of Poland (and lost this title to Warsaw eventually, Poland’s current capital). The Cloth Market was the center for trade and business in the medieval ages. Tradesmen and craftsmen would meet here from time to time and carry on business. It is a beautiful long building which stands out in the city’s Old Town. Perpetually crowded with people, it has a very local feel to it. You might find interesting food vendors outside this place and all for less than 10 zloty which is about 4 AUD! Inside the building, you will see walls and ceilings creatively decorated with emblems of the various cities in Poland. This area is full of small shops and ideal for souvenir shopping! Right from ‘I love Krakow’ caps to coasters, postcards to small games and scarfs, this place has a lot to see.
The Wawel Castle
With a history and architecture so grand, I promise you will leave this castle feel a little too happy and very satisfied with the beauty around you. I visited this place twice- first, on a light rainy day with a free walking tour group and again, on the very next day to enjoy its serenity by myself. This castle has a few strange yet interesting stories attached to it and my favorite one was about a dragon! It involved a princess (of course!), a shepherd who saved her life and a very dangerous dragon with an affinity towards young girls! And thus, the symbol of Krakow came to be of a dragon in a castle. The castle faces a huge lake which adds to the mesmerizing feel while strolling down the roads. The Wawel Castle is a must visit.
St Mary’s Basilica
A Gothic architecture church, this one stands tall adjacent to the Main Market Square of Krakow. Consisting of two towers of different heights, this church has its fair share of stories and myths attached to it. Open to worship for all, there is no entry charge for the st Mary’s church. One cannot miss the hourly ‘hejnał’ or the trumpet call from the taller tower. It is an anthem played on the trumpet at the strike of every hour, four times in succession in each of the four directions! It is an ancient tradition that creates great excitement among the tourists in the vicinity.
Krakow Barbican and St Florianska Gate
This brick structure is hard to miss and marks a very important landmark for tourist. Built in the 15th century, the Barbican was constructed for defense purposes and marked the boundary of the city and thus was important from the trade and business point of view. It was connected to the Florianska Gate with the surrounding moat. Today, the Gate marks the primary entry into the Old Town and the Market Square. The Barbican is a monumental building which is used for special event and can be visited as a museum between April and October. A pretty site to see, one can spend time strolling around this area for some interesting food joints and enjoy the nature!
Overall, Krakow is a brilliant city to visit in Europe. This city promises to impress and satisfy the artist, the culture enthusiast, the traveler and the party hopper in you. Affordable hostels, gorgeous environment and great touristic monuments are sure to leave you spellbound.