As one of the few Polish cities to escape bombing during the Second World War, compact Kraków retains a strong connection with its historic past. Ancient churches, fairytale castles and evocative neighbourhoods combine with a vibrant cultural and nightlife scene to make this the perfect destination for a weekend break from Glasgow Airport.
The land of monarchs and myths
The city is named after King Krakus, who allegedly slayed a dragon in his cave underneath Wawel Hill, a limestone outcrop on the banks of the Vistula River that overlooks the city. Here too is the royal Wawel Castle (Wawel 5), the seat of the ancient monarchs for thousands of years, with stately rooms boasting period furniture and priceless art. The Gothic Wawel Cathedral (Wawel 3) is where the majority of monarchs were crowned and later buried, along with many of the country’s national heroes and leaders.
The focal point of the city’s Old Town, the medieval marketplace, Rynek Główny, is surrounded by elegant townhouses; underneath is Rynek Underground (Rynek Główny 1), a museum tracing the city’s history through recently excavated underground tunnels paired with hi-tech displays. Wander around the surrounding streets and stumble upon art galleries, cafés, shops and the charming cellar bars that Krakow is famed for; a large university population ensures a vibrant nightlife scene.
Jewish culture and history
Venture further afield and explore Kazimierz, a charming district celebrating Jewish culture and filled with historic sites, antique shops and nightlife. Just over the river is Podgórze, at one point an independent city that became a Jewish ghetto during the war. The opening of Schindler’s Factory (Lipowa 4F), which hosts a multimedia and contemporary art museum, has revitalized the area, and it’s now a hip district with clubs, cafes and wine bars.