In the last few weeks, I’ve heard much ado about the Polish Christmas markets held in Krakow and Warsaw.
I cannot wait to experience them firsthand!
We are planning to take a weekend trip down to Krakow later this month to visit the city’s Christmas market, held in the Rynek Glowny (Main Market Square). The market opened this past weekend and will be open daily through December 26. Krakow generally ranks as one of the top 10 European Christmas markets as mentioned in this Mirror UK article and this article by The Guardian.
Though we’ve already visited Krakow twice this summer, I’ve been told Krakow’s Christmas market is simply splendid and offers up dozens of stalls selling traditional Polish cuisine and mulled wine (grzaniec), locally made Christmas decorations and more. You’ll need the hot, spiced wine to stay warm especially since snow is expected to be falling here soon.
|A view of Krakow as seen from the Wawel Royal Castle.|
If you haven’t visited Poland’s “Little Paris” yet, here are my Top 6 Reasons to do so for its Christmas Market or honestly, anytime of the year.
1. Rynek Glowny (Main Market Square) dates back to the 13th century, and is surrounded by many historic townhouses, restaurants and churches in its large, open space. This is where you’ll find most of the city’s activity around the clock and its Christmas stalls as well as old-fashioned horse-drawn carriages that will make you feel like you are Cinderella. To top off its magical ambience, you’ll find street performers dressed as a Mary Poppins look-a-like, the Devil himself and other colorful characters.
|Take a horse-drawn carriage ride from Krakow's historic Rynek Glowny.|
2. The Cloth Hall (Sukiennice), also originally built in the 13th century, is located in the center of Krakow’s square. The hall once was a major center of international trade dealing in textiles lead and salt from the nearby Wieliczka Salt Mine and exports from the east such as spices, silk and leather. Today, the hall houses numerous stalls that sell Polish pottery, amber jewelry, wool slippers and other handicrafts.
|Left, Krakow's old Town Hall Tower, and right, the Cloth Hall.|
|One of the numerous stalls selling Polish pottery and amber jewelry.|
3. Wawel Royal Castle (Zamek Królewski Wawel), perched proudly on a hill overlooking the city, is undoubtedly, Krakow’s shining jewel. The castle served as the seat of Poland’s royalty from the mid-11th to the early 17th century. The castle ground’s has about 10 exhibits and rooms open to the public, but advance reservations are highly recommended. I’ve only visited the Dragon’s Den and Sandomierska Tower because of the long lines and a limited number of tickets are sold each day. For reservation information, check the Wawel Royal Castle’s website.
|The Wawel Royal Castle and its cathedral.|
4. Historic Catholic churches, such as St. Mary’s Church and the Church of Saints Peter and Paul, also serve as some of Krakow’s well-known landmarks. It seems like you walk by a pretty, historic church every few blocks here! The St. Mary’s Church is Gothic in design and boasts a highly decorative interior including a 15th-century wooden, gilded altar.
I honestly liked the Church of Saints Peter and Paul more, mainly because we enjoyed a lovely classical concert here one night. This Baroque church, built between 1597–1619, is adorned by life-size sculptures of the 12 apostles.
|Sculptures and an ornate pipe organ at the Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Krakow.|
5. Polish food is hearty fare and so good! In Krakow, you’ll find the always popular pieorgies at restaurants and the modern day Milkbar on Tomasza Street. Also, many of the city’s street vendors seem to sell a Polish version of Turkish simit called obwarzanek, small, crunchy bread rings seasoned with poppy seeds, sesame seeds or salt.
Of course, don’t forget to have a Polish kielbasa or two! We enjoyed ours along the riverfront behind the Wawel Royal Castle as well as a pint of piwo.
6. Jewish history – you can’t come to Krakow and not explore the city’s rich Jewish history as well. In Kazimierz (The Jewish Quarter), named after the Polish King Kazimierz the Great (Casimir III of Poland), you will find several historic synagogues, Jewish cemeteries, a Jewish museum, a market center and a myriad of narrow streets and tenement houses to explore. Following WWII, the old Jewish district fell into ruin, but today it has been revitalized with a Bohemian feel from the small cafes and coffee shops that exist.
|We stumbled upon this funky flea market in Kazimierz.|
|Inside the Jewish Museum in Krakow.|
Have you visited Krakow? If so, what did you enjoy most about this historic Polish city?
How to get there
From Warsaw, you’ll find trains running nearly every hour from Warsaw Centralna to Krakow. The ride takes a little over 3 hours, and tickets can be bought in advance online through the PKP Intercity website. You can find one-way second class tickets for as little as 51 PLN ($16.50) per person.