Cracow and region of Malopolska ( Small Poland )
Numerous surveys confirm that Cracow and the Malopolska region receive more foreign visitors than any other part of Poland. With numerous attractions to its credit, the high position of the region and its 3.5 million people on the tourist agenda is strengthened by the easy communication access to the region.
Cracow, considered the best known Polish city in the world, is a real gem of the region.The city is famous for its splendid historical architecture and unique atmosphere. The number of foreign visitors to the city, which is rightly held to be the cultural capital of Poland, increases by about 20% every year. Thanks to the kindness of history and the concern of Cracovians a great many relics of the past, the oldest of which date to the 10th century, have been preserved in good condition, and the medieval urban layout of the city remains intact to this day. Millions of tourists are delighted by St Florian’s Gate, the Barbican, the Church of St Mary with the famous altar made by Veit Stoss, the busy Main Market Square with the building of the Cloth Hall and the imposing Town Hall Tower, the streets and nooks of the Old Town, including the picturesque ul. Kanonicza, the Romanesque Church of St Andrew, the cathedral, the Royal Castle on Wawel Hill and the former Jewish district of Kazimierz. Many wonderful masterpieces of art, including paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, are to be seen in the museums and galleries of the city.
Cracow is also a city of young people. About 150,000 students, many of whom are foreigners, study at several prestigious schools of higher education, the best known of which is the over 600-year-old Jagiellonian University. The city is literally vibrant with life. Many cultural events are held here all year round, starting from those addressed to connoisseurs, such as festivals of old music and court dancing, to open-air rock concerts, which can attract audiences of up to 150,000.
Cracow is a great place for all-night partying. The medieval basements of the Old Town house several hundred restaurants, clubs and pubs, which offer dishes from all over the world, and a wide range of live music.
And the region of Malopolska, which surrounds Cracow, also has numerous attractions to offer. In Wieliczka, which lies very close to Cracow, there is a 750-year-old salt mine, with breathtaking sculptures conjured up from salt rock in the underground corridors and chambers. Visitors to the former Nazi concentration camp in Auschwitz, which is situated in the western part of the region, are sure to be deer’s- moved.
The rocky ridge of the Cracow-Czestochowa upland, with its exposed chalk rock and ruined medieval castles must not be missed. The Pieniny Mountains are an exceptionally charming range, and an added attraction is the River Dunajec forcing its way trough the rocky valleys. The most attractive part of the gorge can be viewed from traditional rafts floating down the river steered by local highlanders.
Zakopane is another popular tourist destination in the region, second only to Cracow. Often referred to as the winter capital of Poland, the town is surrounded by mountains of the Tatra range, which are full of interesting hiking routes. The forest slopes are still inhabited by brown bear, while higher up along routes running above the mountain lakes there are peaks exceeding an altitude of 2,500 m. Zakopane is a place which enchants with unique regional wooden architecture, its full of energy popular culture and the atmosphere of a mountain tourist station. In winter it is packed with lovers of skiing, who come here to enjoy downhill skiing on the high-mountain runs situated on the slopes of Kasprowy Wierch (almost 2,000 m), as well as at several other big skiing stations (Gubalowka, Polana Szymoszkowa, Nosal) and plenty of shorter ski runs scattered all over the area. Zakopane offers a great number of accommodation options, from inexpensive, but tidy and well equipped small guest houses to luxury hotels offering the highest standard of service.
Podhale, which lies south of Zakopane, does not lack its own attractions. There Bialka Tatrzanska, with several kilometres of ski runs and modern chair-lifts, has recently become a popular skiing station. Tourism is flourishing also near the artificial lake in Czorsztyn and skiers are also attracted by the facilities in Kluszkowce.
The Poprad Valley and the River Poprad, which flows along the border with Slovakia, offers many attractive views. There are several skiing stations in the area, including Wierchomla, Rytro, and Szczawnica and Jaworzyna Krynicka, which boast a 2.5 km gondola lift. The valley itself is covered with beautiful forests, has charming small towns, a scenically attractive rafting trip down the river and several health-resorts offering treatment of many ailments.
It is very easy to get to Malopolska. Aircraft servicing regular connections between Cracow and forty destinations in Europe and the U.S.A. and Canada take off from and land at the airport in Balice near Cracow. The region is also directly connected to the west-European system of highways.