Krakow is an irresistible city. The cobblestone streets, historic squares and underground bars give Krakow and atmospheric quality. Krakow boasts the biggest medieval square of any European city. The food and drink is excellent. You can discover local cuisine and also a range of international restaurants. There are also many options for vegetarians and vegans. Bagels were invented in Krakow! There are also many cafes with all the coffee options a Brooklyn dwelling hipster could ask for.
There’s so much history to discover in Krakow. Poland has had a long and turbulent history. From the Mongol invasion to Nazi occupation, it has often lost its independence and seen its cities razed to the ground. Many of Krakow’s most historic buildings withstood the bombs and you can catch a real glimpse of Poland’s heritage as you wander the streets.
The seat of the Polish monarchy for many centuries, Wawel Castle is Poland’s most historically significant building complex. Wawel Hill was once believed to be the home of a mighty dragon – he lived in a nearby cave. A mythic Polish prince eventually slayed the dragon. The first historical ruler of Poland used this area as a residence. From the dawn of Polish history until 1795 – the year it lost its independence – Wawel Hill has been the centre of political gravity in Poland.
Located on top of a hill overlooking the Old Town, it’s a sprawling complex of courtyards, towers and gardens. You can visit the castle, the cathedral, the state rooms and view the crown jewels. Even if you’re not a history buff you should definitely visit Wawel Castle. All of Poland’s monarchs have been crowned in the cathedral.
Stare Miasto (Old Town)
Remarkably, much of Krawkos survived the devastation of WW2. Poland was hit particularly badly by German occupation. As Krakow wasn’t considered to be strategically important it wasn’t heavily bombed. The Old Town therefore can meaningfully be considered an old town. In Warsaw the “Old Town” had to be rebuilt from scratch.
The Old Town of Krakow is full of character. Many of the most historic buildings in this area are UNESCO-attested landmarks, such as St Mary’s Basilica. It’s towered over the Old Town for a long time. It’s said that a guard at St Mary’s was the first to give the signal when the Mongols invaded.
You can go on a bar crawl around Stare Miasto. As the buildings are so old some are located down narrow steps in dreamy cellars.
Once the Jewish Quarter of Krakow, Kazimierz was razed to the ground during WW2. During the Soviet era it was considered to be the roughest part of the city. Since Poland emerged as a democracy with a growing economy, Kazimierz has become the coolest part of the city. It has a bohemian vibe. You’ll find many cool bars, cafes and antique shops to explore.
You can see many traces of Kazimierz Jewish heritage. There are several synagogues and the annual summer Jewish Culture Festival attracts thousands of people to Kazimierz. This part of Krakow is full of character and charm. A good spot for an Instagram moment.
The latest addition to Krakow’s gay scene is Club Papuga. It has two bars and two dancefloors. This is a good place to explore the local gay scene, especially at weekends when it gets very busy. Lindo is centrally located and it’s one of the best gay venues in Krakow. It’s welcoming to tourists and it has a laid back vibe. A good, safe place to start your gay night out in Krakow.
Poland has developed a reputation as one of Europe’s least gay-friendly countires. It is a socially conservative country. However, tourists are unlikely to encounter any issues in Krakow. Public displays of affection may be ill-advised if you aren’t in a gay bar.
The scars of the past are everywhere in Poland. They in no small part explain Poland’s struggle to keep pace with gay rights in Europe. Everyone has seen the movie Schindler’s List – or at least knows what it’s about. Oscar Schindler did exist. The factory he took over in 1939 is in Krakow and you can visit it today. You can see his desk and learn how he manipulated the figures to save the lives of Jewish children from the Nazis.
It’s not a pleasant trip but it’s something everyone should see once in a lifetime. You can get to Auschwitz from Krakow in ten minutes by train. Here Poland and Europe’s darkest chapter played out in the 1940s. You can join a tour and learn about what happened in Auschwitz. It’s said that the birds don’t sing around Auschwitz.
by Alex | On: Gay Krakow