The well over 290 square kilometer city of Wroclaw in the south-west of the country is the fourth largest city in Poland after Warsaw, Krakow and Lodz. 635,000 people live in the five city districts. The special thing about the big city in Lower Silesia is its location on four tributaries of the Oder, namely the Olawa, Sleza, Widawa and Bystrzyca. The urban area is spread over a total of a dozen islands through which these rivers flow. Several hundred footbridges and bridges are spread across Wroclaw. This is the reason why the city is often referred to as the “Venice of Poland” among tourists. As an independent city, Wroclaw is also the capital of the Lower Silesian Voivodeship and the historic Silesian region.
impressive testimony to Polish history
The Wawel Hill is located in the middle of Kraków and rises south of the old town. Wawel literally means “dry limestone heights between moors and river landscapes”. Due to its favorable location on the Vistula, the hill was already inhabited before Christianization and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Numerous legends of dragons and monsters surround the hill.
Wawel Hill – historical place of worship
By the end of the 10th Century it was the center of the Wislanen tribe, who had built a church here. According to research, eight churches have stood on this site over the centuries. King Ladislaus Ellenlang was crowned in the first Romanesque cathedral in 1320. The oldest traces of places of worship are the Felix and Adaukt rotundas from 950 and the remains of a Romanesque cellar vault. On the hill stands the imposing Wawelburg, which is still an impressive structure and sanctuary of the nation today. The former residence of the Polish kings is one of the main attractions of Krakow. Polish kings ruled their country from Wawelburg for over 500 years. They lived in the adjoining castle from the 16th century.
Krakow Castle – residence of the Polish kings
The Wawel Museum is located in the castle, which clearly presents the churches reconstructed using computers for visitors. On a trip to Krakow, they shouldn’t miss the Wawel Collection, one of the most beautiful art-historical collections in Poland. The royal apartments and the treasury of the castle are just as fascinating as the ambassador’s hall with its famous wood-carved Wawel heads. The tapestry collection from Brussels, called Arrazi, is also a magnet for visitors. As many as 37 Polish kings were crowned in the cathedral and most of them are also buried here. The crypts also house graves of other famous Polish citizens, for example J. Piłsudski, Tadeusz Kościuszko and A. Mickiewicz.
Europe’s largest medieval market square, the Rynek Glowny, is located in the heart of the Polish city of Krakow. The largest city in the Lesser Poland administrative district leaves nothing to be desired among study travelers. The market square with a size of 200 by 200 meters was built in 1257 and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is surrounded by town houses of the most varied of styles, with a large selection of restaurants and cafes. It is also the venue for numerous events that attract travelers from all over the world.
The center of the Rynek Glowny is formed by the Cloth Hall, a Renaissance building adorned with arcades that originally served the trade in English and Flemish cloths. Today the 108-meter-long hall is used to sell folk art and souvenirs. The Kraków National Museum runs a gallery of 19th century Polish painters on the upper floor. Next to the Cloth Hall, in a branch of the Historical Museum of the City of Krakow, there is an underground museum with the remains of lost buildings from the Middle Ages. The town hall tower, located directly behind the Cloth Hall, offers a wonderful view. The tower is the 70 meter high remnant of the town hall, built in the 13th century, which fell victim to demolition due to its dilapidation.
One of Krakow’s landmarks is St. Mary’s Church with its two different towers. The Roman Catholic basilica has the largest altar of its kind in Europe with its high altar by Veit Stoss. Every hour on the hour, a firefighter rings the hour bell in the north tower by hand. Then he plays the typical Polish trumpet signal “Hejnal”, which always stops abruptly on the exact same note, according to legend in honor of the trumpeter who was killed in a Tatar attack in 1241.
The oldest building on the square, the Adalbertkirche, whose stone predecessor dates from the 10th century, houses a small archeology museum in the basement.