Of course, you could easily find enough to see and do in both, Krakow and Warsaw, but how to choose if you only have few days to enjoy Poland? Warsaw is a bigger city, often a top destination for museums, art galleries, shopping, unique architecture and traditional Polish cuisine. While Krakow is more compact and famous for its medieval castles, monuments, and UNESCO World Heritage Sights. Read about these astonishing, yet very different Polish capitals, and decide which one should be included in your tour to Poland first!
Why Visit Krakow
Krakow is one of the most prominent and magical cities in Central Europe. It has been the capital of Poland until the end of the sixteenth century. Having escaped destruction during World War II, the city retains its charming medieval shape and is now actually referred to as the country’s cultural capital and the pride of Poland. Much of Krakow’s history is steeped in legends, and the most famous one tells that Krakow was founded on the defeat of a dragon. Whether you believe legends or not, this charming town has a mythical atmosphere that can be felt in its every street and square: majestic architecture, monuments, courtyards, gardens, cellars, and of course, sculptures of flame-spitting dragons.
How many days to stay? Here at Firebird Tours, we all adore this historical and very walkable city and suggest our travelers spend at least 2 full days in Krakow.
What to see? There are many places to visit in Krakow and around it. Find a short list of our suggested places below. You can explore the city on one of these Private Tours to Krakow.
The Main Market Square
The Main Market Square, locally known as Rynek Glówny, is the world's largest medieval market square! It is Krakow’s gravitation center, alive and bustling with locals and travelers throughout the year. In the heart of the square, stands one of Krakow's most distinctive buildings, the famous 14th-century Cloth Hall, which was once the main focus of Krakow's trade. Opposite the Cloth Hall is the St. Mary's Cathedral, a fascinating ancient church built in the early 13th century, known for its altar carved by Wit Stwosz, and two towers of different design and height.
The Wawel Castle
The Wawel Castle was built on Wawel Hill and served as a residence of Polish Kings from the second half of the 11th century to the beginning of the 17th century. Today it plays a significant role in Polish consciousness, history, and culture.
A definite highlight of the hill is Wawel Cathedral, one of the most impressive examples of Renaissance architecture in Europe.
"Wieliczka" Salt Mine
“Wieliczka" Salt Mine is a must-see of Europe's underground wonders. Everything in the labyrinth of tunnels has been carved by hand from salt.
The showpiece for which people flock here is the Chapel of St. Kinga. Every single element is made of salt in this unique temple. Another showpiece worth checking out is the salt lake in the Erazm Barącz Chamber.
Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum
If you want to learn more about World War II, then you should definitely visit Auschwitz. It is a difficult place, a symbol of terror, genocide, and the Holocaust, that stings to the quick, ruffles feelings and leaves no one unfazed.
We know that Auschwitz is filled with sadness, nevertheless, it should be put on your bucket list to immerse yourself in the pages of European history.
Why Visit Warsaw
Unlike Krakow, today’s cosmopolitan Warsaw was almost completely destroyed during World War II, and now has very little original architecture. Nearly everything in Warsaw is a 20th-century rebuild. Once a place of sadness, it grew to be a very charming, colorful and positive city to visit. If we compare it to Krakow, it is more business-like, with a number of western-style malls, designer shops, antique stores, and business centers. Warsaw pulses with energy, there are many bars, restaurants, and parks, but most of our travelers agree, that wandering Warsaw’s Old Town was the most enjoyable experience. If thinking whether or not to include Warsaw in your itinerary, it’s a definite YES from us.
How many days to stay? It all depends on your interest, but 1 full day is a must to enjoy at least the major sights of Warsaw.
What to see? Find a short list of suggested places to see below. You can explore the city on one of these Private Tours to Warsaw.
Warsaw's Old Town
We could say, that discovering the Old Town of Warsaw is not even a highlight, but a must of your Poland tour. The Old Town's long and painful history permeates its cobbled streets and squares, and it has so many magnificent sights! Escape the labyrinth of cobblestone streets and head to the Royal Castle, massive brick edifice, which opens on the way to the Old Town. Head to St. John the Baptist Cathedral and Jesuit Church. Don’t forget to stop at the Market Square for a cup of coffee in the open-air cafe, and visit the National Museum.
After your visit to the city center of Warshow and the old town, we advise you to explore one of the greatest of Poland’s national treasures, Wilanow Palace. It is also known as the Polish Versailles, you will have no doubt about that the moment you visit it. Once a residence of Polish royals, now it is a beautiful monument of the Polish Baroque architecture and a museum of interiors and rich collection of artworks. It also contains a variety of landscapes, where you can enjoy a peaceful walk. If the weather is nice, it is easy to forget yourself and spend the entire day there!
Poland indeed has a heavy historical baggage, so it is no surprise that Warsaw boasts some wonderful and significant museums: The National Museum, Museum of Modern Art, the Warsaw Uprising Museum, Museum of Independence, POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, the Copernicus Science Centre.
Going to any of them is a great way to spice up your stay in Warsaw. A highlight that we recommend is the Fryderyk Chopin Museum, in honor of this world-renown Polish composer.
Summing up, visiting Poland makes a great trip to Europe. Check out our collection of private tours to Poland, which include both Krakow and Warsaw and feel free to contact Firebird specialists for more information on touring Europe, we will be glad to help you plan an unforgettable journey.