You don't have to be fervently religious to appreciate the beauty, art and history behind the oldest churches in the world. Krakow is no exception, as you tour the city you will come across churches with architectural details that will leave you open-mouthed. If you are planning what to see and do in Krakow, I recommend you to include some of these 10 sacred sites in your itinerary.
1. Wawel Cathedral
It is located on the hill of Wawel and is home to the patron saint of Poland, St. Stanislaus. Its history exceeds a millennium and is a very special place for Poles.
According to historical records, the maximum temple of Krakow was built some time after the creation of the bishopric of the city, around the year 1000. There is more information about the successive Romanesque church of the 11th and 12th centuries, which was built during the reign of Duke Wladyslaw Herman.
- The crypt, burial place chosen for royalty and some national heroes.
- Mausoleum of St. Stanislaus, located in the center of the nave of the cathedral.
Useful information about Wawel Cathedral
For just over 4.8 euros, equivalent to 22 zlotys (Polish national currency), you can enter the Cathedral.
- From April to October, the cathedral is open from Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sundays from 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.
- From November to March, the cathedral is open from Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Sundays from 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Plan your visit and learn more by visiting the official website of the Wawel Cathedral.
2. St. Adalbert's Church
It is known by this name and also as the Church of St. Wokciechl. Its foundation dates back to the 10th century, which makes it a historical and architectural gem that you will not want to miss on your visit to Krakow.
Located next to what is now the Krakow Market Square, this is one of the oldest churches in the entire European continent.
In the crypt of this church you will find a small museum dedicated to the history of the Market Square. Also, if you are lucky, you can enjoy some of the classical music concerts that this church usually organizes.
Useful information about Wawel Castle
- Although the opening hours may vary, it is open from Monday to Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm and on Sundays from 1:30 pm to 6 pm.
- Entrance to the church is free and to visit the crypt museum you must pay 2 zlotys.
3. St. Andrew's Church
I love St. Andrew's Church because if you see it at first glance it may not look like much to you. Its simple exterior is deceiving, and unless you have informed yourself, you will not realize that it is another of the oldest churches in Poland, built in the eleventh century. A historic temple that served as a refuge during several of the invasions that Krakow suffered.
During the 18th century, St. Andrew's Church was remodeled in baroque style and visitors can appreciate an artistic decoration, where the pulpit in the shape of a boat stands out. Inside the church you can see a Foucault Pendulum.
Near this church, you can find the Archdiocesan Museum, the Archaeological Museum of Krakow and the Wawel Castle.
Please note that in many churches it is forbidden to take pictures or videos. Out of respect and caution always check the rules of each church before you enter.
4. St. Peter and Paul's Church
And just a few meters from the church of St. Andrew, you will find this other baroque building, built by the Jesuits between 1597 and 1619. With a dazzling facade, it will undoubtedly be a must stop on this tour of Krakow that I propose to you.
Upon entering the church you will find a simpler design than the facade and the door, where you will find detailed sculptures of the twelve apostles. It is located in one of the main streets of Krakow, Grodzka Street, a colorful and historic street that takes you on a very pleasant walk from the Market Square to Wawel Castle.
Undoubtedly one of my favorite churches, for its beautiful facade and its location. If you go to Krakow for a few days, I recommend you to visit this area, to enjoy this and other churches. I leave here details for you to organize an itinerary to see Krakow in 3 days.
5. Nowa Huta Church
I include the Nowa Huta Church in this list, not only for its abstract type architecture, but for its history. The Church of Our Lady Queen of Poland, also known as Arka Pana. It is located on the outskirts of the former socialist quarter of Krakow, Nowa Huta.
Its construction involved clashes, as the communist authorities refused to allow the project to be carried out. On the outside you can see a construction covered with more than two million stones, while inside you can see pieces of wood. In the middle of the temple stands a sculpture of the Crucifixion.
At a distance of approximately 6 kilometers you can reach the Oskar Schindler Factory and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow, two very interesting places to include in your tour.
6. St. Mary's Basilica
St. Mary's Basilica was built in the 14th century on one side of the Market Square. Its style is Gothic and is recognized as one of the most outstanding and of course visited monuments of Krakow.
The front of the church consists of two towers of different heights. In the highest of them, you can see a golden crown, which is known in Polish as Hejnalica. From there, many years ago, the announcement of the closing of doors was made, as well as any danger such as fire or enemy attacks.
If you want to appreciate a spectacular view of Krakow, during the summer you can climb this tower and enjoy the scenery. The Gallery of Polish Art of the 19th century is just a few meters from this church.
7. Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi
Another of the churches that I recommend in your tour is this one built in 1269, by the Franciscan monks who came from Prague. It was one of the first brick buildings in the city and is consolidated as one of the oldest in Krakow.
This church has been remodeled due to several fires, and therefore you can appreciate a mixture of various architectural styles, where Gothic and neo-Gothic details stand out. This church was also one of the favorite places of Karol Wojtyla, and you can see a plaque with his name on the place where he used to sit before he became Pope.
Itwas declared a Basilica in 1920. A must for Catholic believers who want to visit one of the most emblematic and symbolic places in relation to the memory of Pope John Paul II, one of the most charismatic and remembered in history.
8. Basilica of the Holy Trinity
Its history dates back to the 13th century and you can appreciate Gothic, Baroque and Romanesque details. It is also known as the Church of the Dominicans, and was built by Dominican monks after the Tatar invasion.
Inside the church you can appreciate different side chapels that were built during the 17th century by influential families. One of them is that of San Jacinto, one of the founders of the temple, and in which you will see a beautiful dome.
This and other churches that I have mentioned in this list are a few meters from the area known as Stare Miasto. This is the entire old part of the city, from where you can start your tour of the magical Krakow and discover everything you have to see in this city.
9. Basilica of Corpus Christi
Built in the 14th century, this brick building is a must-see, as it is also located in the Kazimierz district , the Jewish quarter of Krakow. It is one of the largest temples in the city and many people consider it also aesthetically one of the most beautiful.
The church was devastated after the Swedish invasion, which forced a restoration, which today shows architectural details that mix Gothic and Baroque styles. Some of its most outstanding details are the choir stalls, the Renaissance mausoleum of Vladislaus II and the pulpit in the shape of a boat. In this church you can also see the largest organ in Krakow.
If you visit this church I recommend spending a little more time touring the entire neighborhood of Kazimierz, where you will find 7 synagogues, the Jewish Museum Galicia, the Museum of Urban Engineering and the Ethnographic Museum. Undoubtedly, an area of the city full of history, culture and art.
I recommend you not to miss anything, because you have a lot to see and do in the Jewish quarter of Krakow.
10. St. Mark's Church
Last but not least in this list, this church is located on Slawkowska Avenue, which connects the train station with the Market Square, and is one of the temples of Krakow that represents very well the Gothic architecture.
The construction of this church began in 1263 as a tribute to St. Mark the Evangelist. Throughout its history it has suffered several fires, so it has been restored several times. This construction is included in the register of monuments of the city and is part of the Route of the Saints in Krakow.
Regarding this route, and since Krakow has the largest number of churches in Poland, many of these temples have relics of saints who were buried outside the city and faithful from Poland and around the world visit the city to visit these places, for them sacred. This trail begins at the Wawel Castle and during the tour you can visit 19 churches.
Holy Week in Krakow
With so many churches in Krakow you may wonder if the Poles celebrate Easter like the rest of the Catholic countries and the answer is yes. If you like this celebration, it can be a good plan to prepare your bags to live this experience in Krakow, because you will find a great weather and you will be able to connect with the traditional locals.
Some activities of interest during Holy Week in Krakow are:
- The Good Friday procession that starts at the Wawel Cathedral.
- You can enjoy the tradition of Easter Eggs, which will be easy to find all over the city.
- You can taste the typical Polish Easter cake, called Mazurek.
I hope you enjoy this selection of churches, where you can approach not only the different architectural styles, but also the memory of a city that has been rebuilt many times, making it one of the most interesting and attractive European cities to visit.