Day 1 in Krakow
Welcome to Krakow! Upon arrival, you will go through customs and immigration. Should you opt to purchase a transfer to your hotel; a representative will be waiting for you as you exit immigration. Arrive at your hotel, check in and do not give in to jet lag! There is so much for you to see and do!
Begin your trip by taking in the massive Main Square (Rynek Glowny in Polish). The large building in the middle of the 430,000-square-foot public square is The Cloth Hall, an important trading outpost which permitted Krakow to thrive as one of Europe`s most influential cities. Adjacent is St. Mary`s Basilica, home of the nationally-known trumpet call and internationally-known hand-carved wooden altarpiece.
Learn about contemporary art in Poland today at the Bunkier Sztuky gallery. Note the façade: it is one of the only examples of Brutalist architecture in Krakow. Continue your afternoon with a visit to Collegium Maius and see how students attended university in the time of Nicolaus Copernicus. Speaking of the famous astronomer and mathematician, a statue dedicated to him is located just outside the Old Town in Planty Park. End the day with a leisurely stroll through this 2.5-mile-long park which took the place of Krakow`s medieval walls in the 1820s.
Day 2 in Krakow
Venture outside the city center to the Polish Aviation Museum, built on the site of an old Austro-Hungarian airfield dating from 1912. Nearly two dozen pre-World War II German aircraft are housed here, having been saved from destruction by having them relocated to Krakow en masse. You cross back into the Old Town at St. Florian`s Gate, a large Gothic tower which served as a watchtower in the time Krakow`s Medieval walls were in existence (14th to 19th centuries).
Take a break for lunch at one of the many restaurants and cafés around Main Square. Either before or after lunch, visit the Historical Museum of Krakow, which tells the stories of the multiple citizen uprisings that have shaped the city`s character into what it is today. On the southwest side of the square sits one of the most detailed pharmacy museums in the world, the Pharmacy Museum at Jagiellonian University.
Stroll through the Old Town until you reach the Church of Saints Peter and Paul. (Note: If you arrive on a Thursday, you may get a chance to see Poland`s largest Foucault pendulum in action!) Wrap things up with a visit to Wawel Cathedral, where kings were crowned and the late Pope John Paul II was once ordained Archbishop of Krakow. Perhaps Krakow`s most famous son, the late Pope has a museum dedicated to him next to the Cathedral, although in reality the John Paul II Cathedral Museum showcases more artifacts relating to the Cathedral and the city than ones relating to the Pope.
Day 3 in Krakow
Start at the National Museum, which is one of just fourteen buildings around town that showcases the arts, culture, history and traditions of the Polish people. The Ethnographic Museum in Kazimierz (the traditional Jewish area, and where the Jewish ghetto was constructed during World War II) chronicles the folk culture of Poland and other Eastern European nations. The City Engineering Museum tells two distinct stories: the history of public transport in Krakow and the history of the Polish automobile industry. The local Jewish history museum, the Galicia Jewish Museum, operates with the help of UNESCO, which named portions of Krakow to their World Heritage Site list. End your trip to Kazimierz with a respectful stop at Remuh Synagogue, which is over 450 years old and still seats a congregation today.
Cross the Vistula River and visit Oskar Schindler`s enamel factory, which has now been converted into a museum which relays the human experience during the Nazi occupation of Krakow, and how the occupation impacted the Jewish community. Explore the rest of Kazimierz from the vantage point of Ghetto Heroes Square, where thousands of Jews were sent off to their deaths in concentration camps in 1943.
Additional Days in Krakow
If you only have a half-day available for a trip, consider visiting the Kosciuszko Mound, approximately three miles west of Krakow`s Old Town. Shaped to resemble one of Krakow`s prehistoric mounds, the mound is a tribute and a monument to national hero Tadeusz Kosciuszko. A serpentine path winds up the mound, which reaches its highest point at over 100 feet from the base. The views of Krakow and the Vistula River are magnificent!
Approximately 70 miles west of Krakow is the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial, which is made up of the Auschwitz I and the Auschwitz II-Birkenau concentration camps (Auschwitz III-Monowitz is not open to visitors). Auschwitz I in particular became a key site in the Nazis` Final Solution plan, as over one million Jews were killed in the gas chambers. One in six Jews killed during the entire Holocaust died in Auschwitz. The memorial is free to enter and consists of a permanent exhibition, which tells the story of the horrors of Auschwitz I and II; and national exhibitions, areas operated by various national governments, telling the stories of their own citizens who were shipped off to Auschwitz.
To the south of Krakow about 70 miles is the city of Zakopane, nestled in the foothills of the Tatra Mountains. If you are looking to vacation as the Poles do, Zakopane is the place to be. In the winter this resort town is known for its winter sports, ski lodges and `Zakopane-style` chalets. In the summer, it`s a great base to start a hiking tour of the Tatra Mountains. Zakopane has grown to become an internationally-known resort town, and food, drink and accommodations can be found to suit every taste.
Your Last Day in Krakow
Depart your hotel for the airport for your return home. We recommend that you purchase a private transfer; if so, a representative will meet you at the hotel in time to take you to the airport for your flight out.