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Found in the Malopolskie region in the south of Poland, Krakow is the second largest city in the country with a population of over 1 million. However the city is known as the historical and cultural capital of Poland making it the most popular destination in the country to visit. It is also home to one of the oldest universities in the world, Jagellonian University. In 2000, the city was name a European Capital of Culture and has also been chosen as a UNESCO City of Literature. Using a hire car Krakow lets you explore the wonderful historical city at your own leisure without having to stress about using public transportation.
Wawel Castle was originally built in the 11th century, however the current structure was built in the 16th century and is considered to be one of the most beautiful castles on the continent. It was the site of the coronations of the Polish monarchies for centuries and now is a national museum. Built on a hill, you will find an amazing limestone cave open to the general public and at the entrance you will find a Wawel state dragon. Next to the castle is Wawel cathedral, home to the tombs of past Polish monarchies, the current structure dates back to 1364. Found in the center of the cathedral is the stunning Shrine of St. Stanislaus, the patron saint of Poland.
The main feature of the market square, the Krakow Cloth Hall, was built in the 14th century in a Gothic style. The building has a museum on the upper floor and houses the largest exhibit of Polish paintings and sculptures in the country.
Krakow Barbican is an outpost of the old city wall fortifications. It is one of the last few remaining parts of the fortifications that used to be dotted around the city. Coupled with the Florian Gate, the only part of the medieval walls have survived, consisting of an arsenal and floor. Both these historic attractions are well worth a visit.
Czartoryski Museum founded in 1800 by princess Izabela Czartorski. It was the first historical museum in Poland and during the Second World War many art pieces were stolen. One of the highlights of the museum is the 'Lady with an Ermine' by Leonardo da Vinci. It also showcases many pieces of Greek, Roman and Egyptian art and weapons.
Historical museum of Krakow is made of many different buildings around the city, with the most interesting being the famous Factory of Oskar Schindler, the old Gestapo building Pomorska Street, the tunnels of the main market square and the old Synagogue Museum of Jewish history and culture.
Museum of Pharmacy is one of the largest museums of its kind on the continent and housed in a stunning townhouse. The museum showcases 22,000 pieces such as old laboratory equipment, medical books and pharmaceutical pieces.
For those interested in history, there is a trip to the death camp memorial in Auschwitz-Birkenau, documenting the events that happened in humanity’s darkest period. It is of great historical importance and should be visited if you have the chance.
Warsaw is also within driving distance if you wish to learn more about what happened during the Holocaust or other pieces throughout history.