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Kraków is Poland's second largest city and covers both banks of the Wisla river. At the foot of the Carpathian Mountains, the metropolitan area has more than 1.4 million inhabitants if you include the surrounding communities.
There are four definite seasons to Krakow - summer being hot and humid (around 30-35°C), winter always sees Krakow under a blanket of snow with bitingly cold days (-5°C to -20°C). Recently, Krakow is suffering from extremely high levels of air pollution, that affect especially children and people with respiratory problems.
There is an English language monthly paper called Krakow Post available for free in clubs and culture venues throughout the city, where you can check the news, events taking place and new bars that opened in Krakow any given month.
Kraków Airport (KRK) is the main airport, located in Balice, about 12km to the west of the centre. It is the second biggest airport in Poland.
See Exchange rate scam below, this is also operating at the airport. Two ATMs can be found on the ground floor of Terminal 1, one next to the information desk, the other right across the hall between a car rental agency and a bakery.
Dworzec Główny PKP is the Central Train Station in Krakow, and is located just outside of the Old Town. It's well connected to other cities in Poland.
There are Europe-wide coach services operating into Kraków, like Eurolines(from France, Italy, United Kingdom, Scandinavia, Central Europe), Ecolines (from Russia, Baltic states, Central Europe and Balkans). The journey time by coach from London, for example, is around 24 hours. It's pretty uncomfortable, and not recommended for anybody other than the desperate or environmentally conscious.
Depending on your level of fitness, you can see the whole of the city centre without needing any transport. There are some beautiful walking routes, try the Royal Way or the Planty park that surrounds the old city all the way from Florian's Gate to Wawel castle. It is very relaxing. There is also a well cared for river bank next to the castle to stroll around.
What to see
Most of the popular tourist attractions are located in the Old Town. See the separate article for complete listings.
Kraków's historic centre, which includes the Old Town, Kazimierz and the Wawel Castle, was included as the first of its kind on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1978.
The district of Kazimierz whith its Jewish heritage is very interesting. The synagogue of Remuh, for example, was built in 1557.
The district of Nowa Huta was built during the Communist Era, and was made for the people working in the huge steelworks there.
Travellers who come to Krakow often visit Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. Not many know that in Krakow there was also a Nazi concentration camp located in Podgórze district. You can visit Schindler's Factory there.
Krakow, the old royal capital, is acclaimed for its many precious architectural monuments and a unique friendly atmosphere. There are many things to do:
Walk the entire Royal Way, from St. Florian's Gate, down Floriańska, across the Rynek Główny, down Grodzka to the Wawel castle.
Listen to the Hejnał Mariacki (Trumpet Signal) while sipping a coffee in the Rynek Główny. The signal is played live every full hour from the tower of St Mary Church. Legend has it that the tune is cut suddenly in memory of a trumpeter shot and killed by a Tatar arrow in 1241, but local tour guides say that this is a false story started as a joke to someone who found the tune strange.
Take a cruise down the river, it's perfect way to admire the Tyniec Abbey and Bielany Priory. In summer there are several ships harbored next to Wawel Castle.
Take a ride around in dorożka horse carriage. There are always several parking on Rynek Główny.
Visit Nowa Huta and lose yourself between the apartment blocks, doing your shopping in the very poor markets of the district.
Visit the district of Kazimierz, losing yourself in the tight streets and searching the tracks of the Jewish past of Krakow.
The Old Town district offers excellent shopping, especially for clothes, jewelry, and art. You can wander all around the Old Town and Kazimierz, where antique stores abound. The center of this all is the Rynek Główny ("Rynek" also means "market"), where you will find some of the city's top stores.
In the middle of the Rynek Główny stands Sukiennice (Cloth Hall), a center of trade in Krakow for hundreds of years. The entire ground floor is a market, where local artists sell their wares.
There are two shopping malls in the central area, which include vast array of clothes shopping and eateries, sprought up:
Galeria Krakowska, immediately next to the Main Train Station and a 5-minute walk from the Main Square.
Galeria Kazimierz (ul. Podgórska 34) located at the southern tip of Kazimierz, on the Vistula River bank offers 36,000m2 of stores and an Alma gourmet supermarket.
In Poland one typically eats pretty large breakfast, large dinner and a light supper. Many people do eat "lunches" etc but these are not native.
Kraków's cuisine has been influenced by the cultures that have inhabited central Europe, as well as the Austro-Hungarian empire.
The most important dish from Kraków is obwarzanek (bagel). You can buy it in many stall on the streets. Another local specialité is oscypek - cheese from Tatra Mountains.