If You Like
Artworks of all kinds in record-breaking numbers are found in Kraków—not only in museums, but also in its natural surroundings: the royal castle, churches, and even restaurants, cafés, and on the street. Highlights include the Wit Stwosz (Veit Stoss) altarpiece in Kościół Mariacki, the arras tapestries and Leonardo's Lady with an Ermine in the Wawel castle, and Stanisław Wyspiański's stained-glass windows and wall paintings in the Franciscan church. More than 100 years ago, Polish artists decorated Jama Michalika café, a gem of Art Nouveau style. Modern art can be found in numerous galleries, located mostly in and around the Rynek and in Kazimierz quarter.
Traveling Royal Style
It's certainly possible to live like a king or queen in the royal city of Kraków, where you'll find a number of luxury hotels with truly regal fixtures and fittings: the Gródek, Copernicus, Grand, and Amadeus hotels are all highly recommended. Monarchs often choose the Sheraton Hotel, perhaps due to its location at the banks of the river, near the Wawel Royal Castle. To dine in style, head for Wierzynek, which was the site of a famous feast of European monarchs in 1364. Royal pleasures could include a concert in the castle (in the series called Wieczory wawelskie) or an opera in the historic Słowacki Theater—choose a box seat to feel like a VIP.
If you are interested in Jewish History, try to plan your journey around the Jewish Culture Festival, which usually takes place in the first week of July, when dozens of events are scheduled. The Kazimierz District was the traditional home of Kraków's Jewish community; check out its synagogues, particularly Remuh, Isaac's, and Tempel, and visit the cemeteries, especially the one next to the Remuh Synagogue. You can stop for some Jewish dishes and tunes in one of the restaurants on Szeroka Street. Do not miss Podgórze district with Fabryka Schindlera, now a Historical Museum.
Kraków's time is measured by the tune played from the tower of St. Mary's on the hour, and you will find music everywhere: in the streets, bars, churches, and concert halls. Check the schedule of musical events—regular concerts are held from September through June, and the procession of festivals continues throughout the year. You can listen to classical music at the philharmonics and catch a concert by Sinfonietta Cracovia or Capella Cracoviensis; look for organ music and religious theme concerts in Kraków's historic churches.
If you ask Warsaw's elites to name their favorite places to go out on the weekend, they will tell you to visit some of Kraków's clubs and pubs—after all, they are just a 2½-hour train ride away from the capital. It is not just on weekends that tourists and locals come out to party; many weeknights are just as busy. Clearly, the 200,000 university students do more than study. In the winter, social life descends underground—many bars are hidden in the vaulted cellars around the Old Town. In summer, the Market Square becomes the country's largest open-air café.