Europe > Poland
New Page 1
It will seem like no time once you wander the half-mile to Wawel hill and the royal castle sitting on top. Everyone goes to the castle during his or her visit in Krakow. And why shouldn't you? First traces of inhabitance on the hill date back to 50,000BC. In the 10th century Krakow already stood as an important base of power.
It became the capital shortly thereafter. Admission is free to the castle and cathedral. However, it is necessary to purchase a ticket for the museum, tombs, and the Lost Wawel exhibit. Everything is free on Sunday. Get there early.
Also known as St. Stanislas Cathedral, this eclectically styled building may not resemble a house of God from the outside, but its Baroque, Renaissance, and Gothic interior
are striking. The Cathedral houses many tombs of Polish kings, queens, and heroes. Also inside are accesses to the royal tombs and Sigismund's Bell. Visitors who want more detailed information can purchase the guidebook
for a few cents. Pope John Paul II was ordained into the priesthood here in 1946.
The Cathedral Museum (Muzeum Katedralne)
2 Wzg√≥rze Wawelskie
More artifacts from the Cathedral, including some of Pope John Paul II's personal objects. Open 9AM-3PM. Noon-3PM Sundays.
The wooden staircase may seem a little antiquated, but that is because it
has been in place for many years and will remain so for many more generations. The bell is too large to ring on a regular basis. The last time
it rang was during the Pope's visit. The tower offers wonderful views of the old city and an interesting perspective of the suburb Nowa Huta. Touch the hammer of the bell for good luck. Open 9AM-3PM. Noon-3PM Sundays.
These are not to be confused with the coffins in the Cathedral. You
know you've reached the tombs by the cold subterranean air. Inside are several
well known personages: St, Stanislas (the Patron Saint of Poland), Queen Hedwig (Jadwiga), and several historically important figures, including Pilsudski. Open 9AM-3PM. Noon-3PM Sundays.
Wander through the living quarters of the various kings and queens. The throne room is the grandest of these rooms. Be sure to look at the ceiling, which is covered with carved faces of
members of the general public. Other rooms display furniture, paintings, and huge tapestries in various states of restoration.
Often there are medieval-style bands playing thoughout the exhibit.
Treasury and Armory
The museum houses over 1000 artifacts that no self-respecting Renaissance man would
want to be without. The exhibits include weapons, armor, and the spoils of various "explorations." Open Tuesday-Thursday and Saturday 9.30 - 3PM, Friday 9:30 - 4PM, Sun 10:00 - 3PM. Like many museums in Eastern Europe, the treasury and armory is closed Monday.
An exhibit exploring the unearthed ruins of the original structures on the hill. Begin with the models illustrating the development of Krakow, and end up taking the elevated walkway around the first church in Krakow, the 10th century Rotunda of the Virgin Mary. Open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday 9:30 - 3PM, Fri 9:30 - 4PM, Sunday 10:00 - 3PM. Closed on Tuesdays.
The National Museum (Muzeum Narodowe):
Budynek Gl√≥wny (Main building)
1, 3-Maja Ave.
This large, building houses the much more interesting Gallery of Decorative Art,
The Gallery of 20th-Century Polish Art, and displays arms and uniforms of Poland.
Gallery of Painting at the Cloth Hall (Galeria Sukiennice)
1/3 Rynek G√≥wny
Just to the side of the East entrance of the Cloth Hall is a heavy iron-studded door. Pass through and climb up the winding marble staircase to view some of the best 18th and 19th century large-scale paintings. Admission is free on Sunday.
The House of Jan Matejko (Dom Jana Matejki)
ul. Florianska 47
Few people outside Poland are familiar with this artist and writer, but this biographical museum allows for another opportunity to view classic Polish art and architecture.
The Historical Museum of the City of Krakow (Muzeum Historyczne m. Krakowa)
35 Rynek G√≥wny Sq.
Head down the long hallway and take the stairway on your left. This museum
offers the best opportunity to understand the complex but fascinating history of
the development of Krakow. A combination of original paintings, weapons,
furniture, and detailed models make it so easy to understand that you won't even need the English translations.
The Museum of Polish Aviation (Muzeum Lotnictwa Polskiego)
al. Jana Pawa II 17
You won't find this museum in any guidebook. In fact, few of the natives even know of its existence. It
is only a 15 minute tram ride from the center, but the complicated path to the entrance
can be confusing, so be sure to check your map. The Museum houses hundreds of original aircraft, from pre-war (WWI!) observers to a field full of MIGs to a one-of-a-kind jet-powered cropduster.
ul. √öw. Jana 19
Poland was a powerful and wealthy kingdom that held its own for centuries against the Prussians, Swedes, and Turks. The proof lies in this museum, with displays of ornate personal items, weapons, a huge room with Egyptian and Roman artifacts, Rembrandt's "Good Samaritan" and Leonardo da Vinci's "Lady with an Ermine." Open 10 - 3:30. Friday until 6. Closed on Monday. Admission is free on Sunday.
Archidiocesian Museum (Muzeum Archidiecezjalne)
ul. Kanonicza 19
Have you already seen all the churches in Krakow? Well, take a break and visit where the Pope lived, twice. Before he became John Paul II, Karol Wojtyua lived here first as a young priest, and later in a much grander room after he became bishop. This is not to be missed during your pilgrimage. Open 10 - 3PM. Closed Sunday and Monday.
Jewish Museum - Old Synagogue (Muzeum Judaistyczne - Stara Synagoga)
ul. Szeroka 24
Located in Kazimierz, this 500 year-old synagogue includes both displays of ceremonial objects, personal effects, and the period of Nazi oppression. Miraculously, the synagogue survived the occupation.
Jagiellonian University Museum
ul. Jagiello√Īska 15
This is one of the original buildings of the University founded by King Kazimierz in 1364. Nicolas Copernicus enrolled here in 1492 and, ironically, began his own studies of the Earth's rotation. The museum houses many of his astronomical devices and the World's oldest globe to depict the American continents.
Open 11 to 5PM. Closed Sunday.
Wieliczka Salt Mine (Kopalnia Wieliczka)
ul. Danilowicza 10
Approximately 12 miles from the center of Krakow, this mine has been in continuous use for over 800 years. Tours through this UNESCO world heritage monument last 3 hours, allowing visitors to see the salt sculptures that miners have carved over the
years. The tour also includes a visit to the underground lake, the room used by
the Germans during WWII to build aircraft, and the 600 seat capacity ballroom.
The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum (Panstwowe Muzeum Auschwitz-Birkenau w Oswiecimiu)
ul. Wiezni√≥w Oswiecimia 20
This museum is one hour from Krakow, with frequent tour groups and trains leaving everyday. This is no doubt a once in a lifetime experience that changes many people's lives. Added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1979, and the final scene in "Shindler's
List," it was the site of 3 million murders between 1941 and 1945. Admission is always free, but you may pay for a tour guide if you prefer. A bus takes you between the original Auschwitz prison and the huge Birkenau concentration camp. Until a few years ago, no one under 13 was allowed admittance. Parents, however, are still cautioned. The museum is open everyday from 8AM, but closing times vary from 3PM in the winter to 7PM in June, July, and August.