City centre walk - based on

Walking route of The Visitor free city guide - KRAKÓW OLD TOWN

We start our walk at the place where probably most of you arrived in Kraków. So if it was by bus or by train - remember the place. You’ll probably return there often.

1. The Main Railway Station - is located in the very center of the city and is an ideal orientation point for walks and sightseeing. Behind the railway station is the Bus Station with national lines and plenty of private ones (buy a ticket from the driver) which will take you to Oświęcim (Auschwitz), Wieliczka (salt mine), Zakopane or Rabka. Some short distance buses may be not as comfortable as you would like, but it’s the best, cheapest and fastest way to get around. The area in front of the station is changing rapidly and is a construction site called New City. The first element, The Kraków Gallery, was opened in September 2006. (Mon-Sat 09.00-22.00, Sun 10.00-21.00). There are around 300 shops inside with many restaurants and cafeterias and service points. After a look at the new face of Kraków, which is rather similar to dozens of others in Polish cities, let’s start our visit of those places which make Kraków the so called most beautiful of Polish cities.

With the station behind you walk to the left corner of the square towards the Słowacki Theatre. Cross the street, (the underground passage is under construction) and you are at Planty.


2. The Planty Park

Planty is a huge park, or rather the green belt surrounding the city center. This park was created in 1822 and replaced the defense walls and the moat around the old city. These days it’s a spot where you can shelter from the hot summer sun. (In winter it has a different appeal of course).

Walk through the park and round the old town, it’s very pleasant for a picnic or just a short rest, though we have just started. Turn right and walk along Basztowa Street (on your right) to the Barbican. On your left you will pass the Floriańska Gate belfry, something to see later.

3. The Grunwald Battle Monument
This monument to the Battle of Grunwald was funded by Ignacy Paderewski in 1910. At the unveiling of the monument to the battle of 500 years ago (one of the biggest and most important in European history) when Polish and Lithuanian forces defeated the Teutonic Knights, a vast crowd of nearly 150 thousand, inhabitants of Krakow and its environs, attended.
The ceremony was transformed into a manifestation of Polish patriotism during which along with the President of Krakow, Paderewski gave a speech. For obvious reasons, at the very beginning of World War II the monument was vandalized and later blown up.
A resolution for its reconstruction was taken on 28th January 1945 but for many years, in place of today's monument there was only a memorial plinth. This was replaced on 16th October 1976 by a copy, by Marian Konieczny, of the monument.
 On the top of the monument is an equestrian sculpture of King Wladyslaw Jagiello. On the front dais is the Lithuanian Prince Witold and at his feet, defeated in battle, the Teutonic Grand Master, Ulrich von Jungingen.

4. The Barbican
The Barbican was built between 1498-1499 and paid for by King Jan Olbracht. It is Gothic in style and used to be surrounded by a deep, 26 meter wide moat. There were two gates, one from Kleparz and the other from the city walls. The west gate used to be supported by 4 pillars. The Kraków Barbican is the largest and best preserved building of its kind in Europe. It is circular in construction, with 3 meter thick walls.
The next attraction on our route is just next to you. Turn and walk to the defense walls and the Floriańska Gate.

5. The Floriańska Gate

The Floriańska Gate - the main city gate, built at the end of XIII century to protect the northern entrance to the city. It became an important feature on the Royal Route, leading from the Sukiennice to the Wawel. The roof, built in the Baroque style, was constructed in 1660 by Jan Zaleski. An interesting part of the gate is the altar to the Holy Mother of Piaski (inside the gate). On the first floor is the chapel constructed in 1885-86 by Władysław Czartoryski. The elevation shows the Polish eagle, symbol of Poland’s first rulers, by Jan Matejko. From Floriańska Street we can see the XVII century Saint Florian frieze. On both sides of the gate are the Medieval city walls. Nowadays they are covered by paintings and handmade artifacts - have a look, perhaps something will catch your eye as a souvenir.

Turn right and walk alongside the city walls to The Czartoryski Museum located on the left on the corner of Św. Jana St., Nº 19.

6. The Lord's Transfiguration Church
The Pijar monks, present in Poland since the XVII Century, decided to move to Krakow and settle there to educate their future teachers who were needed to develop Pijar monastery schools.
The church you are visiting now started in 1704 with establishing first funds and ended in 1728 with the consecration of the altar.
The interiors are a wonderful example of trompe d'oeil murals, a false perspective giving a 3 dimensional illusion.
The church seems larger and has a splendor and monumental character typical of the Baroque period.

7. The Czartoryski Museum
The Czartoryski Museum (tel. 012 422 55 66) is one of the oldest museums in Poland. The exhibits presented today come from the private collection of Princess Izabela Czartoryska and were originally shown in the city of Puławy which hosted the first museum (opened in 1801). The troubles during the November Uprising (1831) threatened the safekeeping of the collection and it was moved to Paris. Thanks to the efforts of Prince Władysław Czartoryski the collection finally returned to Kraków in 1876. The collection was saved again from WWII destruction and theft and after the war in 1950 all the exhibits came under the protection of the Polish State and the collection was incorporated into the National Museum of Kraków. In 1991 the Czartoryski Foundation was established and now manages the Czartoryski Museum and it’s masterpieces. This rather unimpressive building, from the outside, contains remarkable masterpieces of European paintings from the XIII -XVIII century, examples of European and Islamic skilled craftsmanship (trophies of war from King Jan III Sobieski’s victory over the Turkish army at Vienna in 1683), hundreds of illustrations, military equipment and ancient works of art. The most important piece in the museum and the only example of a painting by Leonardo Da Vinci in Poland is, ’The Lady with an Ermine’. An equally important painting on view is, ’Landscape with Merciful Samaritan’, by Rembrandt. The museum also contains an interesting ancient Egypt exhibition with mummies first presented to Polish viewers in the 19th century.
Visiting times: TUE 10.00-16.00, WED, FRI, SAT 10.00-19.00, SUN 10.00-15.30, THU- 10.00-16.00. Adult ticket 9 zł, reduced 6 zł. THU entry free. Reserve about 2 hours.

To get to the Main Market, leave the Museum, turn left and walk till the end of Św. Jana St. But you can also go back to the Floriańska Gate and take a stroll along Floriańska St. - one of the most popular pedestrian streets in Kraków with many shops and restaurants (recommended).

8. The Main Market
Floriańska Street leads to the largest market area of any city in Europe. The Main Market, planned in 1257, is 200 x 200 m square. It used to be a place of trade, divided into zones, with many small shops called ‘kram’, the official municipal scales, food storage warehouses the fish market, coal depot, even a chicken market. This remarkable square with its tourist attractions and places of great interest competes well with the Old Town in Warsaw or Długa Street in Gdańsk. At the end of Floriańska Street is one of the most important churches in Kraków - The Church of the Holy Virgin Mary with its two impressive towers. It was built in 1287-1320, on the vestiges of a former Romanesque church destroyed by the Tartars. Its present architectural style is a result of restoration at the end of the XIX C. It was built originally in the Gothic style, with (inside) Baroque chapels and altars. Today it contains remarkable frescoes by Jan Matejko and stained glass windows by Stanisław Wyspiański and Józef Mehoffer. You may notice that the two towers of the church are not equal in height or style. The higher one is 81 m and at one time was an important city building not under church but municipal authority. It was the city guard tower where lookouts could watch out over the countryside. A horn was blown and this signal was a warning to shut the gates against enemies. This horn is called the Hejnał. Today it is heard at midday across Poland and around the world (the magic of national radio broadcasting). The horn stops suddenly in mid call in remembrance of the guard struck by an arrow when warning the people of Krakow of the approaching enemy. Undisputedly, the altar piece, the triptych, by Wit Stwosz (Veit Stoss) 1477-1489, is the most important of the interior devotional decorations. It is in fact the largest wooden Gothic altar in Europe. The three parts are, the centre piece, representing the Virgin Mary asleep and the right and left wings, six scenes from the life of Mary. When the triptych is closed twelve carvings representing the life of The Holy Family can be seen.
The Wit Stwosz altar: MON-SAT 11.30-18.00 (altar opens 11.50), SUN 14.00-18.00. Ticket 6, reduced 3.
In the centre of the Main Market Square is The Cloth Hall (Sukiennice). It is one of the most important buildings in the city. It has been reconstructed many times and does not resemble the original plan of the building. It used to be a street crossing the market from north to south with shops on both sides. The street was then roofed. The brick Gothic Sukiennice was destroyed in the fire of 1555. It was rebuilt in the Renaissance style by Italian architects living in Kraków - Jan Maria Padovano, Santi Gucci, Jan Frakstijn. Decorations and loggias similar to the Wawel court arcadeswere added at this time. The last reconstruction by Tomasz Pryliński dates back to 1875-1879. On 7th of October 1879 a decision was taken to open the National Museum in the Sukiennice. In September 1883 the museum became the first Polish public institution in a country divided and ruled by Russia, Prussia and Austria. Today the museum contains Polish XIX century paintings by such famous Polish painters as Matejko, Chełmoński, Gierymski, and Podkowiński. Unfortunately it is now closed for reconstruction. Reopening is planned in spring 2008.
Not far from the museum, just opposite Sienna Street, there is a monument to the celebrated Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz. He in fact never visited Kraków during his lifetime and 35 years after his death, in 1890, his remains were brought from Paris and buried officially in the Wawel. This was the occasion for a tremendous popular demonstration against the three occupying countries. The monument was unveiled in 1898, the 100th anniversary of the death of Mickiewicz. In 1940 it was destroyed by German soldiers and was not seen in the Main Market until its restoration in 1955.
Let’s take a stroll to the right of the Mickiewicz monument to another attraction in the market place. The small church of St. Wojciech is one of the oldest churches in Kraków. It was built on the site where, it is said, St. Wojciech preached his sermons. The church was reconstructed in the Baroque style between 1611-1618. During the summer there is an exhibition in the crypt devoted to St. Wojciech.
Another point of interest in the Main Market is the vestiges of the Town Hall situated close to the Cloth Hall. Written evidence relating to the Town Hall goes back to 1316. It has been reconstructed many times. Between 1817-20 it was demolished leaving only the belfry, covered by a Baroque roof. The tower is one of the symbols of Kraków. During the summer the belfry is open and from its summit there is a beautiful panorama of the city.
Visiting the Main Market and its monuments will take the whole day, if you want. It’s a place to return to for a coffee, tea with lemon or a beer.
 But let us not linger too long. Go to the cross-roads at Wiślna and Św. Anny Streets (look out for the Galeria Centrum Store as a guide point). Now down along Św. Anna St. and after 100 m turn left into Jagiellońska. On your right you will see the entrance to the Collegium Maius. Go inside.

9. St. Ann Church
The history of the church of St. Ann is connected with the Academy of Krakow, which held the patronage of this parish from 1418. The original building burnt down in 1407, and in its place a small Gothic church was built, which survived till 1689. The current Baroque church designed to the plans of the church of St. Andrew in Rome was built in the years 1689-1703 according to the Tylman from Gameren design.
The beautiful interiors, full of splendor characteristic of Baroque art, are classified as one of the most important in Poland. The church contains the tomb and relics of St. John Kant, patron of Krakow, and of academics, young people and students.
Leave the church and walk back a little now and turn right into Jagiellońska Street. Watch out for the little entrance to Collegium Maius.

10. Collegium Maius
The Collegium Maius, (15 Jagiellońska St.) is the oldest building of learning in Poland. The corner building was given to the University by King Władysław Jagiełło in 1400 and became the first element of today’s Collegium. The University was funded by King Kazimierz The Great in 1364 and that same year the Papal Bull of Pope Urban V confirmed its status oficially. Over many years new properties were purchased and added with the resulting size we see today. There were three faculties originally: law, medicine and the arts. In 1397 the theological department was founded thus placing the Kraków school on equal terms with all European universities at that epoch. The Kraków Academy very quickly became one of the most important schools in Europe. In fitting memory of its founder it was renamed the Jagielloński University in 1881. After the war the Collegium Maius was restored to its pre 1840 splendour and the Jagiellonian University museum was opened. The entrance to the courtyard is open every day and closed at dusk. A splendid hour or more can be spent here.
The Museum is visited in groups every 20 minutes: V-MON,WED, FRI- 10.00-14.20, TUE, THU-10.00-17.20, SAT-10.00-13.20. Tickets: normal 12 zł, reduced 6 zł.
TIP!: Book tickets in advance. Such is the demand it is sometimes difficult to get tickets to visit the museum: tel. 012 422 05 49.

Leaving the Collegium Maius turn right and walk to the end of Jagiellońska Street (Mhmm! Yes, you are back at Planty). Take the pedestrian route to your left for about 200 m to Franciszkańska St. Cross to the other side and turn left to the Franciszkanów Church.

11. The Greek Catholic Orthodox Church
The Greek Catholic church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross was built in the years 1636-1643 for the Norbertanki Sisters.
After the Order was disbanded (1808), on the 26th February of that same year the building was transferred to the parish Greek Catholics. By decision of the communist in 1946 the Greek Church was de-legalised in all Eastern Europe, and the building was given to the Saletyni priests, who had their headquarters here till 2001, when the church was returned to the Greek Catholic Church.
The renovated interior had its precious icons returned which had been stored since the late forties in the archives of the Museum of Jan Matejko, who was the creator of the icons.
The church can be entered only before or after the liturgy. However, the antechamber grate with a view of the interior is open daily from dawn.
 Go back to Planty, continue to walk along the park to Franciszkanska Street, cross the street and turn left.

12. 'Pope's Window'

Look up at the window just over the entrance gate to the yellow building. From this window Pope John Paul II talked to the thousands of people waiting to see him and to receive his blessing. This was a very symbolic place when he came to Kraków, a place linked with the Polish Pope, a place where he is remembered. The visit of Pope Benedict XVI changed some aspects of this feeling amongst Polish people when the new Pope appeared at the same window. They had to accept that their Polish Pope was no longer with them. Here, during two nightsat the window, the new Pope spoke to the gathered crowds and in some ways Pope Benedict XVI became a Polish Pope as well. Many now look at the window remembering John Paul II but now they also look forward to seeing Benedict XVI here again, soon.

13. The Franciszkanów Church

The Franciszkanów Church was built in XII century. The original building was burnt by the Swedes 1655. Rebuilt it was destroyed again in the Great Fire in Kraków in 1850. Today it is in the Gothic style with Neo-Gothic traces. The paintings and stained glass windows are by Stanisław Wyspiański and are very well-known in Poland. In the Chapel of Christ’s Torment is the Way of The Cross by Józef Mehoffer. The chapel contains the Holy Mother painting from the XVI C. Around the nave there are representations of the Bishops of Kraków from the XV C to the present day. Inside (left nave) you will find a copy of Christ’s funeral shroud (original is located in Torino, Italy). The church is open 06.00-19.45. Allow 20 minutes here.

Turn right into Floriańska Street. 100 meters further you are on Wszystkich Świętych Sq. Turn right into Grodzka Street and walk 2-3 minutes to the church of St. Peter and Paul on your left.

14. The Basilica of The Holy Trinity
The Dominican Basilica of the Holy Trinity was built at the turn of the XIII and XIV Century, but since then has been repeatedly destroyed and reconstructed.
The major destruction was a great fire in 1850, which consumed a large part of the old city, not sparing the house of the Dominicans. Rebuilding the church and monastery lasted until the beginning of the XX Century. A great Neo- Gothic interior with impressive presbytery with a slender altar and the original stalls are included in one of these, the most beautiful churches in Krakow.
On the left side of the presbytery is the important tombstone of Leszek Czarny (King of Poland 1279-88). Of great importance inside the Basilica is the XVI Century chapel of St. Jacek (climb the stairs on the left) with the altar, B. Fontana (1700), and marble coffin with the relics of a saint - the first Dominican, who died in 1257.
Just by the stairs leading to the chapel there are doors to enter the monastery cloister, capitulary and refectory built in the place of the original pre-Romanesque XIII Century temple. A walk in the cloister, cool on hot days, is a definite journey in time.
There is the silence of the ancient walls, the shade and light coming from the internal courtyard and numerous headstones set in the walls, all make a deep impression. Inside the church on the right side, is the XVII Century Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary, a wellknown image with many graces and attributed miracles. After leaving the church walk back a little and turn left to Grodzka Street. Walk about 300 metres.

15. The Church of St. Peter and Paul
The Church of St Peter and Paul was constructed between 1596-1619 and founded by the Jesuit Order during the reign of King Zygmunt III Waza. It is similar to the Il Gesu church in Rome. Built in Baroque style, it has one nave surrounded by a number of chapels. The entrance doorway is decorated with the sculptures of the 12 apostles created by David Heel. The present sculptures are copies by Kazimierz Jęczmyk. In the monumental interior there is a late Baroque Main Altar constructed in 1735 by Kacper Bażanka with the painting, ’Granting the Keys to St. Peter’, Józef Brodowski - 1820. Most of the decorations are from the 1st half of XVIII C. The crypt contains the remains of the Polish priest, Piotr Skarga.
Open 09.00-17.45. Of interest inside is the 46,5 m high FOUCAULT pendulum which demonstrates the rotational movement of the Earth (THU only at 10.00, 11.00, 12.00).

The next place worth a visit is a church too. And it’s only 20 meters away, the church of St. Andrew.

16. The St. Andrew Church
The St. Andrew Church was built between 1079-1098 and its present architectural facade is from the XII and XIII century. It used to be of importance in the defense of the city. Built in Romanesque style it is one of the oldest buildings in Kraków. From 1320 it was owned by the Order of St. Klara. The Baroque interiors (decorations by Baltazar Fontana, paintings by Karol Dankwart and gilded altars) are in marked contrast to the cruder defensive facade of the church. MON-SAT 09.45-16.15, SUN 13.15-16.15
Leaving the church we go to Św. Marii Magdaleny Square (with the statue of Piotr Skarga located centrally). Turn left into Kanoniczna Street. After 2-3 min you will reach the most important monument in Kraków, and what is more, the most important edifice in Poland - The Royal Castle on Wawel Hill. If you have walked our route following the guide you will be feeling just a little bit tired but equally filled with impressions of Krakow. So let’s finish here with a short walk around Wawel Hill and the banks of the Vistula. To see the castle you need a full day. Go to Wawel section for details. Thank you for walking with The Visitor.
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