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Kraków – jewel of Polish culture


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Introduction

A city of kings and saints, a city of professors, scholars and students, a city of Christians and Jews, a city of rich merchants and artists. John Paul II said: „Those who wish to hear the beating of the Polish heart must come to Kraków” 

Day 1: Kraków

Arrival in Kraków. Your driver will meet you at the airport and take you to the hotel. In the afternoon we invite you to a traditional Polish restaurant in the Old Town, where you will have a chance to try Polish cuisine. Overnight stay in Kraków 

Day 2: Kraków – sightseeing tour

In the morning we will take you on a sightseeing tour of the Old Town during which you will discover the beauty of magical Kraków. As you walk along the Royal Way you will observe how Polish culture has been shaped over long centuries. You will marvel at the Market Square, the biggest of its kind in Europe, the Sukiennice Cloth Hall, St. Mary’s Church, the Jagiellonian University and Wawel Hill. At noon exactly you will hear the Kraków Hejnał (bugle call) played by a fireman trumpeter, who can be seen in a gothic window in the highest tower of St. Mary’s Church. On the other hand, from the tower of Wawel Cathedral, where you can touch the largest bell in Poland, the Sigismund Bell, there is a wonderful view of the Old Town.

After your tour finishes, you will have the time to enjoy the charms of this bewitching city and have lunch in a garden restaurant in the medieval Old Town. Overnight stay in Kraków. 

Day 3: Kraków – optional day trip

After breakfast you can take either a day trip to charming Zakopane in the very heart of the Tatras or, alternatively, go on one of a number of equally attractive excursions in the area around Kraków. In Zakopane, the capital of the Polish Tatra Mountains, you will be able to learn about Polish handicrafts and buy some hand-made souvenirs. During your visit you can have lunch in a traditional Highlander restaurant to the accompaniment of a folk troupe. After this veritable feast for the palate your guide will take you by mountain railway up Mount Gubałówka, where you will be able to marvel at the whole Zakopane ensconced among the peaks of the Tatras.

You will return to Kraków in the afternoon. Overnight stay in Kraków. 

Day 4: Kraków

Departure. 

Kraków

When you visit the city you will find yourself going back into the past as it is one of very few cities in Poland that have preserved its historic shape. The city also offers a wide spectrum of festivals, cultural events, museums, art galleries, theatres, historic cellars, clubs, bars and restaurants with live music. It is an excellent destination for all the travellers: those who want to drop by just for a weekend and those keen to spend more time in the Małopolska region.

Having escaped destruction during World War II, the city has uniquely retained its charming medieval shape. The central Market Square (largest in Europe!) offers several  architectural and cultural landmarks.It is also the city heartbeat. The Cloth Hall (Sukiennice, 13th century) stands in the middle of the square and today houses a gallery of Polish paintings on the first floor and a market selling local artefacts and souvenirs on the ground floor. Opposite the Cloth Hall there is St. Mary’s Church, world-famous for its altar carved by Veit Stoss. Kraków is also a seat of higher education. It is the home of the Jagiellonian University founded in 1364 and thus one of the oldest in Europe. Collegium Maius, the University’s oldest building and today the University Museum, is located near the Market Square. The Royal Route leads along Grodzka Street up to Wawel Hill from which the Royal Residence and Cathedral overlook the River Vistula. Wawel Castle, which houses one of the largest collections of tapestries in Europe, is also an interesting example of Renaissance architecture. The Cathedral was the coronation place of many Polish kings, and also their final resting place. Other must-see monuments include the Barbican, Floriańska Gate, and numerous churches, each steeped in history.

South from Wawel Hill lies the district of Kazimierz, which, beginning in the 16th century, became the principal cultural centre of the Jewish community with its own exotic flavour. Its soul perished during the traumatic events of the Second World War, but many of its buildings, some still with Yiddish inscriptions, survived. Today Jewish life and culture is undergoing a revival in Kazimierz, as it is visible in the number of restored buildings in the district and in fashionable cafes, restaurants and bars filled with tourists from all over the world, curious to learn more about Jewish culture. Highlights include Szeroka Street where “Schindler’s List” was filmed, Isaac, High, and Old Synagogues, Remuh Synagogue and Cemetery, and the Pod Orłem (“Eagle”)  Pharmacy.  

Wieliczka Salt Mine (half day tour)

This incredible place was once described as being ‘as remarkable as the Pyramids and more useful’! Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most famous attractions in the Kraków area. Guided tours of the mine commence 65m underground and lead through rooms, passages and great chambers to a depth of 135m. Major curiosities include the underground lake with its stunning colours and the beautiful St. Kinga’s Chapel, a remarkable underground ‘cathedral’ where every feature has been carved out of solid salt! There’s even an underground post office made out of salt, too! 

Auschwitz-Birkenau – Museum of Martyrdom (half day tour)

Experience one of the most memorable lessons of modern European history. You will see a film showing the camp’s liberation, the flower strewn Death Wall, national memorials, the railway line and ramp and the remains of hundreds of barracks, all of which form a moving testimony to the number of lost lives as a result of Nazi atrocities across occupied Europe. 

Zakopane mountain resort (full day tour)

Zakopane is one of Poland’s prime tourist destinations and retains a charm which also attracts thousands of foreign visitors. The town is located in stunning scenic surroundings. It is nestled in the Tatra National Park in the heart of the magnificent Tatra Mountains. It offers numerous walking and hiking opportunities in the nearby valleys and peaks. Zakopane is also well known for its unique wooden architecture, decorative style and tasty regional highlander dishes. 

Dunajec River Gorge – raft trip (full day tour)

You can enjoy a gentle raft trip set against a wonderful backdrop of forests and sheer limestone crags. Starting from Sromowce Kąty, you will embark on wooden rafts navigated downstream by local raftsmen in traditional regional costumes. The journey takes 2 to 3 hours depending on the water level and ends in Szczawnica

Jasna Góra („Bright Mount”) Monastery in Częstochowa (full day tour)

Jasna Góra, a place of pilgrimage for thousands every year, is the most important Marian shrine in Poland. The focal point is the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin with its miraculous icon of the Black Madonna. The Museum, Treasury and Arsenal are also well worth a visit. 

Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, Wadowice and Łagiewniki (full day tour)

Three places of great significance to Poles. Wadowice is the birthplace of Karol Wojtyła, Pope John Paul II and Kalwaria Zebrzydowska is a major pilgrimage centre and itsBernadine Monastery, the Church of the Virgin and Via Dolorosa together form a unique complex in a marvelous hillside location and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Meanwhile, the Basilica of God’s Mercy and the Congregation of the Sisters of Lady Mary of Mercy in Łagiewniki are the two most important sites for those following the route of St. Faustina, as she lived and worked there for many years. She also died in the congregation house and was buried in a nearby cemetery. In 2002 a new Basilica and pilgrimage centrewere opened during the Pope’s visit to Kraków

Pieskowa Skała Castle and Ojców Valley (half day excursion)

PieskowaSkała Castleis the best-preserved castle on the Eagles’ Nest Trail. It is beautifully located in the Ojców Valley, which is a perfect hiking area. The castle’s museum offers two main exhibitions: one covers the history of the building and the other illustratesthe development of European arts from the Middle Ages to the 19th century. 

Pszczyna Castle and a visit to local brewery (full day tour)

This castle is often called the ‘Silesian Versailles’ and today houses an extensive collection of furniture and interior decorations. Pszczyna has close connections with many aristocratic European families and hosted visits from European royalty, including the future King Edward VII. The residence is surrounded by a park with a fascinating and delightful system of ponds. You can enjoy a different view of the magnificent surroundings from one of the boats available there.

After your visit to the castle you will be taken to local brewery with a tradition stretching back to the early 17th century. During your visit to the brewery you will also have an opportuninty to try local beer.  

Nowa Huta (half day tour)

Nowa Huta, meaning "New Steelworks", is a suburban district of Kraków. However, with more than 200 000 inhabitants it is virtually a city in itself. It was planned as a separate town and a huge centre of heavy industry near Kraków. The communist authorities wanted it to be a “model” town populated mainly by workers employed in the associated industries. The Lenin Steel Works was opened in 1954 and over the next 20 years grew to become the biggest steel mill in Poland. The city itself expanded rapidly in the 1960s. The monumental ’Rennaissance’ style of the Central Square (Plac Centralny) is surrounded by huge blocks of flats and this mammoth core is seen as an icon of the architectural school of ’Socialist Realism’. However, one building that lacked the communists’ vision of Nowa Huta was a church. A campaign to establish one gained pace after the election of Cardinal Karol Wojtyła as Pope John Paul II and the rise of Solidarity. The latter made the issue an important focus of its activities. A visit to Nowa Huta demonstrates in a real and powerful way the impact of Stalinist ideology on town planning and urban development in the 20th century and its redevelopment after the fall of communism. 

Benedictine Abbey in Tyniec (half day tour)

The Abbey at Tyniec is situated on a vertical rock above the beautifully meandering Vistula River near Kraków. Just like centuries ago, pilgrims and ordinary travellers make their way across the river by ferry. They continue along to the old monastery, drawn by its beautiful Romanesque towers.

The church has retained the atmosphere of medieval temples, even though it was rebuilt in the 18th century. We involuntarily lower our voices upon entering, especially if we arrive during the hour of prayer by the monks, because Tyniec is a living abbey. For nearly 1,000 years, the monks of St. Benedict have been praying and working here in accordance with the motto “Ora et labora”. Surrounding the abbey, there are extensive gardens where they grow fruit, vegetables and herbs. You can learn the secrets of the cuisine with one of the monastic cookbooks or buy ready-made products in the monastery shop.

In the Benedictine scriptorium, they no longer copy books manually, but they search for and translate rare medieval texts and even modern works by Christian thinkers. The Benedictine Institute of Culture at the monastery organises a series of lectures, days for gathering and retreats, workshops of former crafts and theatre meetings. Throughout the centuries, the monks of St. Benedict have tried to combine spirituality with work for others.  

Museums in Kraków

JOHN PAUL II CENTER KRAKÓW

The JohnPaul II Centre "Do not be afraid!" in Kraków-Łagiewniki is the most important centre in Polandand the world dedicated to the living memory of the figure and the work of the Polish Pope. The Centre continues the work started by the John Paul II Institute. It was established to commemorate the great heritage of the person and pontificate of the Servant of God, Pope John Paul II, so that his example and words can be passed down to future generations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UNDERGROUND MARKET

The first underground museum in Poland … and unique to the world. The exhibition entitled “Following the Traces of European Identity in Kraków” is a multimedia spectacle, a journey through time. Not only do visitors get to see, but also they touch the history of the origins of this legendary city. In this archaeological site, located more than 4 metres below the surface of the market, you can see an unparalleled in Europe cross-section of a large, vibrant, medieval Kraków. The monuments discovered here testify to a tradition of trade, which had been carried out in this place for over 800 years.

 

SCHINDLER'S FACTORY

This is a new branch of the Historical Museum of Kraków,, where you can visit the exhibition “Kraków, Under Nazi Occupation 1939-1945”, which has been set up in the former administrative building of Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory at 4 Lipowa Street. The exhibition is the story of Kraków, and the fate of its Polish and Jewish citizens during World War II, but it is also about the German occupiers, who arrived here on 6 September 1939 and brutally interrupted the centuries-old history of a Polish-Jewish Kraków,. Here, the grand history of WWII intersects with everyday life ... private life – a tragedy that affected the entire world. The exhibition has been implemented using means that go beyond those used in traditional museum exhibitions. The creators of this artistic arrangement have given the exposition a nature of theatre-film stories.

 

POLISH AVIATION MUSEUM

The Museum is located within the former area of the Rakowice-Czyżyny airport and gathers items related to the history of aviation. The number of aircraft here currently exceeds 200. Most of the exhibits transferred to the Museum have been decommissioned by the military or state authorities, and a part of them have come here via an exchange with other museums around the world. The Museum issues its own publications and organises educational events. It is also a participant and organiser of conferences on the history of aviation and museology.

 

MUSEUM OF THE PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF POLAND

On an area of approx. 3,000 m² in the former Świadowid cinema in the district of Nowa Huta, a modern multimedia museum has been created, dedicated to the history of Poland from 1944-1989 (estimated time of opening in 2013). The story of the People’s Republic of Poland is designed to be a reminder and a warning against totalitarianism and oppression. It will show the different aspects of life during this period. Within the Museum, there will be everyday objects, advertisements, prints, photographs as well as recordings from radio, television, newsreels and clips of feature films and documentaries. Currently, a variety of temporary exhibitions are being organised.

 

GALICIA JEWISH MUSEUM

The Galicia Museum was established to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust and to present the history and culture of the Jews in a new light. The Museum is located in Kazimierz, the heart of the former Jewish district. Its aim is to revise the traditional stereotypes about the Jewish history of Poland and to help both Poles and Jews understand their own history. The permanent exhibition, “Traces of Memory”, has gained recognition in the eyes of visitors and critics from around the world. The Museum also organises temporary guest exhibitions. The Multimedia Education Centre has a continuously expanding collection of unique films about Jewish culture and the Holocaust, and the Museum bookshop is one of the largest of its kind in Poland.

 

MUSEUM OF CZARTORYSKI PRINCES

 

The Czartoryski Museum, the oldest museum in Poland, is associated with the name of one of the most distinguished old Polish magnate families. It was founded in Puławy in 1801 by Princess Izabela Flemming Czartoryska. Since the inception of the Museum, it has had a national character, and it was established for future generations of Poles in order to preserve the monuments of culture and art saved by the Princess. The Museum, along with the Library and the Czartoryski family Kraków residence, are located in a group of buildings along Św. Jana and Pijarska Streets. The Museum buildings include: the former city Arsenal, the palace building (called Klasztorek) and three tenements bought by Prince Władysław. Some of the greatest masterpieces of painting are in the possession of the Czartoryski Museum, including paintings by Leonardo da Vinci – Lady with an Ermine, and Rembrandt – Landscape with the Good Samaritan. A lengthy modernisation of the Czartoryski Museum in Kraków began on 11 January 2010.