Kraków is Poland's second city and is a wonderful place of many contrasts. Medieval churches, castles and monuments create a backdrop for a modern commercial and tourism focused city.
Considering the events of the Second World War, it seems miraculous that Kraków emerged from the terrible conflict relatively unscathed…in terms of its buildings at least.
There are many human stories relating to Kraków in this period, most famously that of Oskar Schindler. A history tour here will include a visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau where the true horror of ‘The Final Solution’ becomes far too vivid…it is estimated that in excess of a million people died here.
The city itself is beautiful, retaining its medieval charm with the historic centre a UNESCO World Heritage site and the main market square being the biggest medieval square in Europe.
Wawel Castle adds even more atmosphere, a renaissance palace now divide into 5 museums telling many stories of both Krakow’s and Poland’s history. Within the walls of the castle you will also find Wawel Cathedral, the traditional coronation and burial site for dozens of Polish monarchs.
Further amazing ecclesiastical buildings pepper the city, St Mary’s Basilica which dominates the main square is the most famous. Now a university centre, Kraków has a vigour and youthfulness that is refreshing with a real buzz about the place, especially at night, pretty much all year round.
All visits are covered by our externally verified Safety Management System and are pre-paid when applicable. Prices and opening times are accurate as of May 2018 and are subject to change and availability. Booking fees may apply to services provided by Voyager School Travel when paid on site.
Our most popular excursion for schools in Kraków. You can choose a half day (4hrs) or full day (8hrs) tour with entrance to the various attractions in the city either included or not.
This striking church which dominates the central market square was first built in the early 13th century. With 2 towers of different height and ornament the basilica is by no means conventional, as you’ll discover when you go inside and see the stunning interior decoration and the impressive ‘pentaptych’ altarpiece.mariacki.com
Originally the site of a barracks for Polish troops, Auschwitz 1 first became a prison camp for political Nazi dissidents, until in 1942 it's purpose became something entirely more sinister. 2 further Auschwitz camps were built, and then Birkenau, 10 times bigger than the original Auschwitz and over the next 3 years in excess of 1.1 million people died here.
The Museum of Martyrdom includes a moving 15 minute film taken by the Soviets when the camp was liberated.
Auschwitz is located 60km west of Kraków and to complete a guided tour of the site will require at least 3.5 hours of your time (5 hours including Birkenau). Children under 13 are not allowed.auschwitz.org
On visiting the site of the Plaszow concentration camp, it is difficult to visualise what went on here, as unlike Auschwitz, the site is in essence an open and flat piece of land, pretty much as the Nazi's left it over 70 years ago when they dismantled the camp trying to cover up any evidence of it. It can be found within Kraków itself, and is significant particularly if you are following the Schindler story as many of the real-life events that formed scenes in the movie actually happened here.
Also known as the 'Camelot of Poland', the first legend associated with the castle and hill is that the cave on Wawel Hill is where the legendary dragon was supposedly slain by Krakus, a Polish Prince, who, according to the plaque, founded the city.
Today, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to a series of museums, including the State Rooms, Armoury and Art Museum.
In between, the castle was the seat of the Polish kings, and in World War II it became the home of Nazi Governor, Hans Frank.wawel.krakow.pl
Galicia was officially a former region of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and this museum traces the stories of the Jews in that region. This dates back to well before the 20th century, although there is plenty of content relevant to the Holocaust.
The permanent exhibition "Traces of Memory," is a comprehensive and impressive collection of photographs depicting Poland's once thriving Jewish community.galiciajewishmuseum.org
Kazimierz is now a borough of Kraków but in the 15th century was a separate royal city in its own right. The Polish King John I Albert moved all of Kraków's Jews here, and it has remained the Jewish Quarter ever since. During World War II, the Jewish Ghetto Quarter was home to some 500,000 Jews. Today it is renowned for its Synagogues, museums and its nightlife.
Built at the end of the 15th century the medieval Barbican is one of the best preserved of it's kind in Europe. Having survived intact to the modern day proves testament to the strength of it's build. Topped with seven turrets, it has 130 loopholes: the lower ones were used for artillery and the upper ones were used by archers and riflemen.
At the very centre of the city, you will find Europe’s largest medieval square, where among many features you will find both St Mary's Basilica and The 'Sukiennice', or Cloth Hall. Still a centre of trade today, in its heyday you would be able to find wonders such as spices and silks from the east, such was its reach and importance. The main square is older, in fact after the Mongol invasion of 1241 was completely re-built, pretty much on the footprint you see today.
The Wieliczka Salt mines are like a subterranean city; some 300km of tunnels and in excess of 2000 'caverns' make up this intriguing place. With salt being such a valuable commodity to this day, it's no surprise that the mines have been in operation for over 900 years, and at the time of peak production were one of the world's biggest and most profitable industrial stations.
This extremely popular excursion includes a museum dedicated to the salt mining industry and its history in Krakow, but the highlights are the caverns such as the Chapel of St Kinga, an underground church hewn out by one man over 30 years and as intricate and beautiful as many 'terrestrial' ecclesiastical equivalents.wieliczka-saltmine.com
'Katedra Wawelska' is over 1000 years old and as the main site for coronations and burials of Polish royalty, it holds a special place in the psyche of the nation. The current gothic-style church dates from 1364 and within are numerous chapels, tombs, altars and frescoes of various historical and artistic importance. From Gothic to Renaissance to Baroque to Classicist to Modern, there is a vast array of art to ponder.katedra-wawelska.pl
Made famous by the novel Schindler’s Ark and the subsequent Steven Spielberg screen adaptation Schindler’s List, the story of Oscar Schindler and how he shielded and saved over 1200 Jews during the holocaust can be explored in the original factory where the Jews worked, now a museum.oskarschindlerfactory.com
Pieskowa Skala is one of the highlights of the Malopolska region. Set in a lush valley 40 minutes bus-ride from Krakow, the castle is an arresting, fairytale concoction that was originally one of the 'Eagles Nests' that protected the region during the medieval era.
Altered and expanded many times over the centuries, the castle boasts a princely gateway and courtyard, whilst inside there is a delightful exhibition of art and artefacts culled from the Royal Collection at Wawel. The rooms follow chronological themes, progressing through Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque and Biedermeier. Several are undergoing what seems like an eternal renovation, but it's worth the trip nonetheless. The Ojcow National Park offers a wonderful display of fauna so make this day trip for the group.pieskowaskala.euojcowskiparknarodowy.pl
110km south of Kraków, Zakopane is visited by over 250,000 tourists a year. In the winter, tourists are drawn to Zakopane for its excellent conditions for winter sports: alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, and ski jumping. In the summer, tourists come to enjoy hiking, climbing, and spelunking. Many come to experience góral culture, which is rich in its unique styles of food, speech, architecture, music, and costume. Zakopane is especially popular during the winter holidays, which are celebrated in traditional style, with dances, decorated horse-pulled sleighs called kuligs and roast lamb.discoverzakopane.com
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