I am having such a hard time recapping my recent trip to Krakow- I feel like there is just SO much to say, and sorting through the hundreds of photos I took is getting overwhelming. I absolutely loved Krakow, and am already trying to find a way to head back soon. It was one of the most charming, beautiful, and impossibly cool cities I’ve ever visited- and it is incredibly affordable and friendly for American tourists- something a lot of Europe can’t boast about. Krakow should be at the top of your travel bucket lists- and the gorgeous Krakow Main Square is one of the fantastic reasons why!
To get to the main square from Wawel Castle, you just need to walk up a few blocks of a partially pedestrian cobblestone street, past perfectly pastel buildings that showcase Krakow’s gorgeous architectural style.
As you find your way into the square, you’re greeted with tons of cafes spilling out into the main square space. I wish I had time to try them all- they are perfectly positioned to grab a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and people watch over the square. It was pretty chilly while we were there in late April, but all the cafes had generous heaters out on their patio spaces.
We did try Wesele one night- and it was fantastic. We each had three courses and a bordeaux that would have been more expensive than the whole dinner for under $80 USD. I didn’t take any photos of the dinner- but their stroganoff was epic- and their pierogies were great. Their sour rye soup served in a bread bowl made me a huge believer in the traditional Polish dish!
Standing tall over the square is Saint Mary’s Basilica- one of the most gorgeous churches inside, though sadly, photography was not allowed. If you stand outside every hour on the hour, you will get to hear the trumpeter of Krakow! They play the henjal, save one final note, as a tribute to an old Cracovian legend that a guard in the watchtower blasted out a warning that the Tartar warriors were invading the city. The trumpeter woke up the city, but was killed by an arrow- right before he blew the final note. My husband remembers reading the Trumpeter of Krakow book often as a child, and he loved standing out to listen for the trumpeter.
All over the square, you can find carriages ready to whisk you away throughout the old town area. We didn’t spring for one, but based on how affordable the rest of Krakow is, I have to assume they would be much more affordable than similar rides in the States. They also seemed to go for quite a while, all over town- unlike the tiny loop you can ride through Central Park, for comparison.
In the middle of the square, in front of Saint Mary’s Basilica, tons of vendors set up small flower tents, selling gorgeous blooms. I loved strolling past them, and wished I was staying in town long enough to make myself some beautiful bouquets!
One of the first thing’s you’ll see in the main square area after walking from Wawel is St. Adalbert’s Church. This gorgeous (and very small) church is home to string quartet concerts every other night. Many churches and museums around Krakow host classical concerts nightly or every other night- it is a city that is full of cultural activities!
We decided to catch one of the concerts at Saint Adalberts, and we were so glad we did. For about $15 per person, it was a fabulous treat! The church is extremely small and the acoustics were phenomenal.
And check out how gorgeous the views from the concert were! It was easy to gaze up at all of the beautiful adornments in this small church while listening to the fun program. They played a variety of music- from Vivaldi to the theme from The Godfather!
After the concert, we were getting pretty hungry, and we were called towards a delicious street fair full of food vendors. It was in the smaller square just off the main square, but my husband had hit it previously in the main square. I’m not certain which nights they set up where- but because we were there during the Krakow Marathon, it might have had to move to the side square for the race setup. Either way, it was nothing short of awesome!
We found a tent selling all kinds of keilbasa- and my husband’s favorite– blood pudding. I let him dig into the blood pudding while I tested out some of the pierogies they were serving up – and we washed it all down with hot mulled wine. It was so cold that night, the wine was a perfect addition!
Next, we decided to hit up an amazing Vodka bar we read about before visiting- Wodka. The bar itself is incredibly tiny- there are just a handful of tables next to a bar area that is just big enough for the knowledgeable bartender who poured us out 1 oz tasters of 6 different vodkas. He got us flavors like quince and cucumber- even a horseradish vodka that wwas possibly one of the most horrible things I have ever ingested- though my husband loved it and wants it for bloody marys.
While I steer myself away from most well-known flavored vodkas in the US as they taste incredibly chemical-like and weird- the flavored vodkas in Poland were smooth, incredibly complicated and naturally delicious. Some were spicy, some sweet, and some smoky. There was literally a vodka in this tiny bar in any flavor you’d imagine.
We decided to get another tray and discovered the holy grail of plum vodka- as well as some spiced vodkas similar to an herbal vodka our sister in law has brought us back from Belarus. We grabbed a big table in the back of the bar- up a small staircase- and got cozy on the couch, where we had front row seats to some entertaining tourists who were also busy tasting lots of different flavored vodkas.
I haven’t been to many vodka bars in the states- but here, a tasting tray of 6 1 oz premium vodkas would have a far bigger pricetag than the $4 and $5 USD we spent at Wodka. It’s a short walk off the main square- but totally worth it !
Of course, no trip to Krakow’s Main Square would be complete without a trip to the cloth hall in the middle of the square. There are tons of vendors selling polish painted ceramics, pottery, Catholic imagery, fur hats (at insanely low prices), and textiles. It is definitely geared towards tourists (versus some other markets we went to)- but still very worth a visit. You can find some fun, unique items there- and some of the vendors will haggle with you. Just look past the obviously tourist-marketed items deep into the stalls for some good stuff!