Some of the buildings in Krakow date back to 1000 A.D. and feature a variety of architecture, including Renaissance, Baroque and Gothic styles. Walking through the city, you will be able to view large pieces of Poland’s rich history. Krakow’s temperatures rarely get above 70 degrees, so make sure you have an extra sweater for your little one before you set out.
The main square
Krakow’s Old Town district was the political center of Poland until the King moved to Warsaw in the 1500s. Now, it is the literal and metaphorical center of the city—the Main Square is constantly filled with music spilling out the doors of nearby restaurants and the laughter of local teens as they wander the town. Visitors flock here to see the oldest medieval town square in all of Europe.
The Cloth Hall, or “Sukiennice” in Polish, is the most recognizable building in the square. Historically a center for trade, it is still a large part of the city’s commerce. The inside of the building is lined with two rows of stalls from which locals sell souvenirs. Stroll down the aisle to pick up gifts for friends back home. It is not your typical souvenir shop—you will find cloth and leather items, hand-carved wooden boxes and amber jewelry created by residents of Krakow. Your baby will love to listen to the chatter that echoes off the ceiling in the building as well as look at all of the colorful items for sale.
If you head down below the Cloth Hall, you will find the Rynek Underground Museum, which traces Krakow’s history from the Early Middle Ages to the present. The museum was able to combine modern technologies with ancient artifacts to bring visitors a fantastic view of life in Poland. Projections and screens are used to display day-in-the-life scenarios for different time periods. Babies can watch the “people” on the screens lighting fires or working in workshops. There are pieces of jewelry, clothing, shoes and combs dating back to medieval times, as well as part of a medieval street that has been preserved.
Across the square is St. Mary’s Basilica; this beautiful church has two uneven towers. A Polish legend says that two brothers were building the towers, and when one decided to make his tower taller, the other killed him out of rage. The knife he used to kill his brother currently hangs from an arch outside the Cloth Hall. The inside of the building is intricate with endless crosses and figures covering the polychromatic walls and rows of wooden pews. Tours of the sanctuary and main altar are very inexpensive so take advantage. You can also visit the section that is reserved for personal prayer, but it is a very active place where many Polish residents come to pray daily so if your baby begins to cry, it’s best to step outside.
Near the front entrance of St. Mary’s, you can catch a horse-drawn carriage that will take you on a tour of Old Town. The magnificent horses will delight babies and the carriage is a magical way to see this part of the city.
While in the area, you have to try some traditional Polish food at a “bar mleczny,” which translates to milk bar. These restaurants have been popular in Poland since the 1930s because they offer fantastic prices. You can find one in Old Town on Grodzka Street. The menu is full of Polish foods, such as dumplings, sausages and pierogis. There are also soups available and you can choose from sides like cabbage, beets or carrots. This is a great place to stop if you think your baby is getting cold or hungry. After you order at the counter, seat yourself at one of the wooden tables and they will bring your piping hot food out to you. These bar mlecznys are known for their homemade-style food, which will give you a unique dining experience and allow you to really get into the spirit of the city.
Another landmark that is worth stopping by before you leave Old Town is “Eros Bendato,” a sculpture of a head created by Polish artist Igor Mitoraj as a gift to the city. The artist’s interest in Greek and Roman sculptures inspired this piece—however, he added his own twist, creating only a part of the god Eros. This bronze head lies on its side and makes for a one-of-a-kind photo opportunity. Grab your baby and climb inside to have your picture taken through one of the eyes.
Although the Old Town district has a lot to see, the history does not stop there. The whole city brings visitors a medieval feeling that will leave them wanting to learn more.