If you’re not sure what to do in Krakow, there’s no better place to start than the Old Town, or Stare Miasto. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site where you’ll find the central market square of Rynek Glowny, the largest of its kind in a medieval European city and still a lively centre. The area has charming sidewalk cafes and authentic Krakow restaurants where you can sample staples of Polish cuisine like pierogi stuffed with cheese, sour rye soup, and thick pink borscht. The Renassaince-era Sukiennice at the centre of the Old Town Square is an iconic market hall, with grand arcades and arches. On the upper level is The Sukiennice Museum, an offshoot of the National Museum containing a permanent collection of Polish paintings and sculptures from the 19th century.
You’ll notice St. Mary’s Basilica standing tall over Rynek Glowny. Pop in through the Baroque-style entrance to admire the intricately carved altarpiece, colourful wall paintings, and gorgeous stained-glass windows. The appeal of the market square isn’t all above ground: below the surface of Rynek Glowny is the Rynek Underground, a museum in subterranean tunnels. The exhibitions explore the medieval history of the site through audiovisual installations.
Wander down to the nearby banks of the Vistula River to see the 16th-century Wawel Castle, with ornate Italian-inspired architecture, reddish roofs, copper-green towers, and a large grassy courtyard. This is home to five separate museums: the impressive State Rooms, the ornate Royal Private Apartments, the Crown Treasury & Armory, The Lost Wawel history exhibition, and the Exhibition of Oriental Art. In the sprawling castle complex you’ll find the 14th century Wawel Cathedral, brimming with sarcophagi, altarpieces, and tombstones. This is the third church built on the site, with the only remnant of the previous structures being the 11th century Crypt of St. Leonard. Make sure to wonder at the Byzantine frescoes in the Holy Cross Chapel and soak in the city views from Sigismund Tower.