Few people know that Krakow isn't just a UNESCO World Heritage Site but also the city where Polish monarchs resided for over 500 years. The old town of Krakow was robbed by the Mongols in the 13th century and consequently, was rebuilt.
The city is known to be extremely powerful in the 1300s under the rule of Casimir III the Great. The king also laid the foundation for Krakow University which produced alums like Copernicus. He also founded the district of Kazimierz which was a separate city housing the biggest Jewish communities of Europe at that point.
The Main Square in the Old Town tells everything one needs to know about the city's power and wealth back in the Mediaeval period. On the other hand, the royal castle and cathedral on Wawel Hill showcase the flamboyance of the monarchy.
There are plenty of tourist attractions for one to visit, but let's start with the must-see ones.
1. Stare Miasto (Old Town)
The oldest quarter of the city was planned and built in the 13th century right after the Mongols ransacked the city completely. The entire city was surrounded by walls and the royal ensemble on the Wawel Hill was built on the southernmost point.
One can spend their time here hopping between churches and market squares to several museums and specialty shops. Tourists can soak in history by just going for a drink at the local bar. Visiting local bakeries and trying the obwarzanek krakowski is a must. It is a slightly sweet bun and not too different from a bagel.
There's also a tower of the former town hall which is now used as an observation platform.
2. Rynek Glowny (Main Square)
The city's main square is one of Europe's largest medieval squares. Not just this, but Krakow's central marketplace has been the commercial, social, and administrative focal point of the city since the 13th century.
The grand plaza stretches on an area of 200 meters by 200. It was constructed in the years following the Mongol invasion and is thus, an enduring piece of Medieval urban design.
One can visit other monuments as well while at the plaza as they're very nearby. The Cloth Hall and St Mary's Basilica are two of them.
3. Wawel Castle
It's not just a castle for the city's residents, it's a matter of national pride. Wawel Castle has been listed by UNESCO and completes an ensemble with the cathedral on its lofty perch above the Old Town.
The castle exhibits different kinds of architecture ranging from Romanesque to Baroque. It was also the residence of the King of Poland from the 13th century to the 17th century. Soon after, the capital of the country was moved to Warsaw and the castle was damaged by the Swedish army around the 1650s.
However, the government converted the castle into a national museum around the 1940s. It presents the history of the Polish monarchy by showcasing royal interiors, Véronese paintings, tapestries and a stunning treasury and armory.
4. St Mary's Basilica
The Basilica was constructed on the foundations of an older church which was also ransacked by the Mongols. Built in the beginning of the 14th century, the rework will continue for the next few decades.
In the memory of the city trumpeter sounding the alarm for the Mongols attack, the church plays the St. Mary's Trumpet Call from the top of the two towers every hour.
The most loved part of this Basilica by the tourists is the largest Gothic altarpiece in the world.
5. Wawel Cathedral
Finally, another monument of extreme national importance is the site of coronation and burial of numerous Polish monarchs, national heroes, and cultural figures - Wawel Cathedral.
The present building was completed in the 1300s as the previous two were destroyed.