London Stansted to Krakow Airport
Krakow is arguably Poland's finest city. Situated on the Vistula river, the origins of Krakow date back to the 7th century when, according to legend, Prince Krak outsmarted the local dragon and founded the city. Due to its location at the intersection of two major European trading routes, Krakow thrived and became the capital of Poland in the 11th century and remained so for around six hundred years. Fortunately Krakow emerged from the Second World War virtually unscathed and has since been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Flights between London Stansted and Krakow John Paul II Airport are operated by Ryanair and Sky Europe. The airport is around 11km (7 miles) from the centre of Krakow. Bus services 192 and 208 run frequently from the airport to the city centre. Journeys take around 30 minutes, single tickets cost about 2.70 PLN (£1 is approximately equal to 5.6 PLN), although there may be a small additional charge for bulky luggage. Taxis to Krakow city centre from outside the passenger terminal cost around 40 PLN.
Places of interest in Krakow include:
- Old Town (Stare Miasto). The largest market square in Europe, Rynek Glowny, is at the centre of Krakow's Old Town. Surrounding this square are some impressive multicoloured houses, while at its centre is the Cloth Hall (Sukiennice) with market stalls set within its vaulted passageways. Close by are two important churches, St Mary's, from where the Hejnal trumpet call is sounded every hour, and the 10th century St Adalbert's Church.
- Wawel Castle. The castle dates as far back as the 10th century but was extensively remodelled in the 1500s. Today, the castle is home to a collection of Flemish tapestries from the 16th century, the Crown Treasury and Armoury, the Royal Private Apartments and the Dragon's Den which pays homage to Prince Krak's battle with the dragon.
- Wawel Cathedral. Situated next to the castle on Wawel Hill, the cathedral has witnesed the coronation of most of Poland’s monarchs. Ascend the tower to see the gigantic 11-tonne Sigismund’s Bell and admire the stunning views over Krakow. The Royal Tombs are an underground maze of passageways containing the graves of monarchs and important military leaders. A small museum displays a number of artefacts from the cathedral’s treasury.
- Czartoryskich Museum. Highlights of this museum include Rembrandt's 'Landscape with a Merciful Samaritan' and Leonardo da Vinci's 'Lady with an Ermine'. Historians are divided as to whether the subject of da Vinci's painting is the Duchess of Milan or Cecilia Gallerani, the Duke of Milan's teenage mistress.
- The Old Jewish Quarter (Kazimierz). Close to the Old Town is Krakow's Jewish quarter. King Jan Olbrecht moved the city's Jewish population to this district in the late 15th century. During World War II the Nazis forced many of Kazimierz's Jews into the Podgorze ghetto before sending them to the death camps in 1943. Sights in Kazimierz include the Galicia Jewish Museum, the Old Synagogue which dates from the 16th century, and Isaac's Synagogue from the 17th century with its moving Holocaust exhibition. The Jarden Bookstore organises guided tours of Kazimierz and the Plaszow death camp situated south of the city.