Set on the Vistula River, Poland's former capital oozes history. Its oldest sectors — including a medieval city center — are UNESCO-protected and chock-full of places to explore around every corner. The city's best attractions are walkable and there are loads of cafés to stop at for a local beer or shot of vodka between site visits.
What We Love
Excellent Museums: Among favorite cultural offerings is the interactive Rynek Underground Museum, positioned below the city's main square. The sprawling museum is dedicated to 1,000 years of the city's history. At the Czartoryski Museum, you'll find many art treasures; the most renowned is "Lady With an Ermine" by Leonardo da Vinci (displayed in Wawel Castle until 2017, during museum renovation).
Collegium Maius at Jagiellonian University: Poland's oldest university was founded in the 14th century and counts Copernicus as a student. Take a 1 pm English tour to explore an ancient lecture hall, gorgeous library, and many fascinating artifacts.
Wieliczka Salt Mine: Located about 8 miles from Kraków's Old Town, this UNESCO World Heritage Site has been a tourist attraction for hundreds of years, thanks to religious salt carvings and statues crafted by the miners. Room after room, it's a fantastical sight.
Best Known For
Wawel Hill: Home to Polish rulers since the 11th century, the Wawel includes a Renaissance-era palace and Gothic coronation cathedral. Several galleries hold art, armor, and treasures.
Old Town: The heart of Old Town, Kraków's main square is the largest in Europe. It is lined with the Renaissance-era Cloth Hall (now filled with souvenir stalls), Town Hall, St. Mary's Basilica, and St. Wojciech's Church. Wander the area, take a carriage ride, or people-watch at one of the many outdoor cafés perched on the square.
Kazimierz: The atmospheric Jewish sector dates to 1335; "Schindler's List" was filmed here.
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Who It's Best For
Cheap Eats: Traditional cuisine, folk food, and eclectic street offerings are all super-wallet-friendly.
History Buffs: From Medieval architecture and art to Renaissance and Baroque treasures, layers of history unfurl in this charming city.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Cheapo Airlines Bring Rowdy Partiers: The Old Town can get boisterous with visiting bachelor and bachelorette parties, especially on weekends.
Gayle Keck is a San Francisco-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times.