If you love a travel destination that has plenty of history to dive into, then there are few places richer and more rewarding than Krakow, Poland. Right on the border of the Czech Republic, it’s not the capital of the country, but it is one of the most famous and that’s mostly due to its proximity to a huge host of historic sites, including some that shed a sombre light on the darkest periods of Europe’s history.
A neighborhood well worth hanging out at
UNESCO World Heritage sites are always worth a visit and, usually, it’s a particular castle or building that has been designated as one. However, the entire historic Jewish neighborhood of Kazimierz has been named as one, so you know it’s a place well worth checking out.
Aside from its involvement in WW 2, it’s a place of thriving culture with galleries, coffee shops, bars, and plenty of museums that look into how this neighborhood suffered through and thrived after a dark moment in the city’s history. They even throw a huge annual Jewish Culture Festival, which is a real triumph.
Take a walk around Old Town
After Mongol Invasions utterly ravaged the city, the planned city of Stare Miasto was put together and, to this day, is the oldest standing quarter in the city. While parkland might replace the walls that used to be around this city, it’s chock full of gorgeous architecture and city planning, including sweeping community squares and lovely old churches.
Definitely one of the coolest “Old Towns” in all of Europe and hosts a range of specialty shops and bakeries, so a great place to pick up a souvenir, too.
Take a look into Europe’s darkest chapter
There are few periods of history quite as sobering as the rise of the Third Reich’s concentration camps. There have been other periods of discrimination, conflict, and genocide but few are so well preserved and so well documented. An Auschwitz tour might not be everyone’s idea of a worthwhile trip, but it’s an important one. Much of the camp has been preserved, and displays at the museum give a harrowing look into the realities of concentration camp life.
Pay respect to the masters
The Czartoryski Museum is a fantastic place to catch some inspiring and jaw-dropping art, and the most famous art piece you’re going to see here, and in all of Krakow for that matter, is the Lady with an Ermine. One of the very few female portraits done by Leonardo da Vinci, it’s free to see. Other pieces in the museum include Landscape with the Good Samaritan by Rembrandt and Portrait of a Young Man, by Raphael. The royal collections also include a host of artefacts from battles and castles in Poland’s history.
If you’ve got a passion for learning and breathing the history of a place in, then Krakow is going to keep you full for sure. It’s more than just a historic site, however, it’s a popular tourist destination with all of the fun, dining, shopping, and the like you could hope for.