This morning your guide will meet you in the lobby of your hotel and will take you on a walking city tour of Old Krakow. Well preserved through the ages, Krakow is a city of medieval architecture delighting visitors with beautiful manor houses and splendid squares. Your guide will take you to the famous Florian Gate, the Main Market Square, the Cloth Hall, and the Town Hall Tower.
Begin your tour of the Old Town with the beautiful Florian Gate, built around 1300 on one of the streets laid out according to the town plan of 1257. The Gothic houses of the 13th-century burgesses still remain, although they were rebuilt and given Renaissance or neoclassical facades.
The medieval Sukiennice, rebuilt in the 1550’s, is one of the most distinctive sights in the country – a vast cloth hall, topped by a sixteenth-century attic dripping with gargoyles. Its commercial traditions are perpetuated by a covered market, which bustles with tourists and street sellers at almost every time of the year. The tall tower next to the Cloth Hall is all that remains of the original, fourteenth-century town hall, pulled down in the 1820’s. It’s worth the climb for an excellent overview of the city.
Later your guide will take you to Wawel Hill to visit the Renaissance Royal Castle and Cathedral. Converted from a Gothic style in the early 1500’s by a Florentine architect, the tiered courtyard of the castle is reminiscent of an opulent Italian palazzo. Inside the castle view the Komnaty Krolewski (State Rooms), which feature the splendid assembly of Flanders tapestries, scattered throughout the first and second floors. The oldest tapestry in the castle is the mid-fifteenth-century French “Story of the Swan Knight” displayed in Sigismund the Old’s first-floor bedroom.
The Skarbiec (Royal Treasury and Armoury) with its display of crown jewels and lesser royal possessions including rings, crosses, the coronation shoes and burial crown of Sigismund August are not to be missed. The Armoury rooms of the castle contain a variety of items including finely crafted weapons, shields and helmets. Items of serious warfare are also on display with weapons captured over five centuries from Poland’s host of foreign invaders.
The cathedral, as in few cathedrals of the world, speaks the history of Poland. Evoked by former Archbishop Karol Wojtyla of Krakow, as with Westminster abbey or St. Peter’s, the moment you enter Wawel Cathedral, you know you’re in a place resonant to the core with national history. Adorned with a mass of side chapels, endowed by subsequent Polish monarch s and aristocratic families too, the present brick and sandstone basilica is essentially Gothic, dating from the year 1306. Look for the collection of prehistoric animal bones as you enter the cathedral – as long as they remain, so legend maintains, the cathedral will too.
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Later this afternoon, back in Old Town, step into one of Krakow’s local restaurants for a private lesson in making pierogi – Poland’s national dish! Don your apron and learn the tricks of perfect pierogi, while you create memories that will last a lifetime. After your lesson, you might wish to stay on for dinner (payable locally) at this very traditional and rustic restaurant.
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