The top 5 attractions not to be missed with phone numbers, entrance fees, and working hours.
1. Rynek Glowny and St Mary’s Basilica
At the heart of the Old Town is Rynek Glowny, the massive medieval market square that is still the city’s social hub. Soak up the atmosphere, and the appealing hodgepodge of architectural styles, from one of the many café terraces around its fringes.
On the north-east side is the magnificently over-decorated St Mary’s Basilica, almost 600 years old, with strikingly mismatched brick towers.
There’s a trumpet call every hour from one of them, supposedly to commemorate a bugler who was shot through the throat by a Tartar archer in 1241. Inside, no surface has been left unembellished, from the blue ceiling dotted with gold stars to the colourful stained-glass windows, though the Gothic altarpiece is the real showstopper.
Rynek Glowny 4
00 48 12 422 05 21
Mon-Sat 11.30am-6pm, Sun 2-6pm
2. Wawel Hill
No ordinary hill, this limestone outcrop on the banks of the Vistula is the site of both the former home of the Polish kings and the cathedral where they were crowned and buried.
Every part of Wawel Castle’s state rooms and private apartments has painted ceilings, tapestries, fine art and antiques to marvel at. It’s a triumph of the restorers’ art: battered by marauding armies – the Swedes half burnt it and the Austrians used it as barracks – the mainly Renaissance building needed 100 years and some generous donors to get it back to its former good looks.
There’s more historical splendour in the next-door 14th-century cathedral, from glittering shrines to intricately carved choir stalls, Baroque side chapels to the Royal Tombs.
00 48 12 422 51 55
Mon 9.30am-1pm (closed Nov 1-Mar 31), Tue-Fri 9.30am-5pm, Sat-Sun 11am-6pm
State rooms £3.50, Royal private apartments £4.70
Mon-Sat 9am-5pm, Sun 12.30pm-5pm
Free; ticket for Royal Tombs, the Zygmunt Bell and Cathedral Museum, £4.50
3. Czartoryski Museum
Jewelled Turkish shields captured at the Siege of Vienna, miniature amber altarpieces from Gdansk, a mural from the tomb of Seti I: this rich collection founded by one of the country’s leading noble families more than 200 years ago is an eclectic delight.
The painting gallery includes Mantegnas, Rembrandts and Bruegels, but the undoubted highlight is Leonardo da Vinci’s compelling Portrait of a Lady with an Ermine, which managed to survive being looted by the Nazis. Even the haphazard labelling – in French and Polish if at all – can’t detract from the exhibits.
ul. ?w. Jana 19
00 48 12 295 55 00
Tue-Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 10am-4pm
4. Kazimierz and the Galicia Jewish Museum
Once an independent town, Kazimierz was Krakow’s vibrant Jewish quarter until the Second World War changed everything. Recently, however, the long-neglected buildings have been restored and the area’s Jewish heritage rescued from near oblivion.
Two disused synagogues have been turned into museums; two others – still in use by the tiny remaining Jewish population – can also be visited. However, the most touching memorials to a vanished community are the photographs at the Galicia Jewish Museum: haunting shots of abandoned cemeteries, derelict synagogues and extermination camps throughout southern Poland.
ul. Dajwor 18
00 48 12 421 68 42
5. Ethnographical Museum
Thanks to its location at the unfashionable end of Kazimierz, furthest from the Old Town, this superb museum is rarely as busy as it should be.
Housed in Kazimierz’s former town hall, an impressive 14th-century building with a fine Renaissance façade, it includes colourful regional costumes, pottery, paintings and scary festival masks. The full-sized recreations of 19th-century cottage interiors from around Poland are particularly interesting.
ul. Krakowska 46
00 48 12 430 60 23
Tue-Sat 11am-7pm (9pm Thu), Sun 11am-3pm
£2 , Sun free.
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