“ Free walking tour in Krakow, Poland. „
Royal Krakow Walking Tour, Krakow.
A few weeks ago I had a friend coming to visit me in Krakow. At the time I was at a bit of a loss for things to do as even though I've been living here I've not actually done many of the tourist things and had no idea what to recommend for her to do. Thankfully, I was walking through the main market square a few days before she was due to arrive and saw a lady holding a board which read "Free Walking Tour, Join Us!" so I went over and had a chat with her about what was included in the tour and if it was really free.
After only a couple of minutes she had convinced me that the tour was worth taking and that yes, it was totally free of charge and we didn't need to book in advance.
I am reviewing the tour, however I don't want to spoil it for those of you who may take the tour so I will try not to give away too much of the history we learnt on the tour and you can learn it for yourself!
The Royal Walking Tour
Meeting at 11am outside Saint Mary's Church the tour begins with some brief introductions from your tour guide and a bit of hinting for tips as they like to make it clear that they receive no wages for doing this job and work entirely for tips. At this point I was thinking "uh ohh, maybe we should escape now if they're gonna go on about tips for the whole tour!"
The tour will take you along the path that Kings and Queens would have followed on their travels to the Wawel Castle and the Dragons Lair. In order to fit as much as possible in, the tour is divided into sections, the first being The Main Market Square. This is where the meeting point is, you can't miss it, the church is the tallest building in the Market Square and the tour guides will be standing near it with their 'Stick of Power' also known as a pole with a board advertising the tour.
In the Market Square you will be told a little bit of history about the church as well as the other large building known as the Cloth Hall, which runs through the centre of the square. I particularly liked that our guide was very honest with us and told us not to buy any souvenirs from inside the Cloth Hall as they are overpriced and we could get them cheaper outside the main square. Included in our mini history lesson was a rather amusing Polish lesson where she (the guide) went around each person in the group and gave them a word to say in Polish, this is apparently how they used to decide if you would grow up speaking Polish or German in Krakow. If you could pronounce the Polish word then you would speak Polish, if you couldn't then you were 'lost' and would have ended up speaking German. This story dates back to the 16th Century when the borders of Germany were closer to Krakow and there was a lot of conflict between the two countries. I was really surprised to learn that there was a time in Krakovian history where it was frowned upon to openly talk in Polish in public!
From the Market Square you will walk towards the City Walls and the Barbican, along the way our guide was really chatty and pointing out other buildings of interest and filling our heads with lots of information, when we arrived at the City Walls we were given another interesting and entertaining little history lesson about why only part of the walls remain and how the Barbican came to be and why it is still standing today.
From here we took a nice walk through the gardens surrounding the city walls and headed for the "Most Famous Window in Poland". This is the window where the Pope used to address the people from and has since had a photo of him placed in the window which now makes it a slight tourist attraction more than a 'window of worship'. The window is near a nice looking small church, one of over 100 in the city!
Next we walked towards Wawel Cathedral and onto the Castle. On the way to Wawel we walked along the street which was featured in the Schindlers List film and had a brief stop by what used to be the most expensive hotel in Krakow where the President of the USA once stayed on a visit to the city.
Upon reaching the Cathedral we had a chance to take a seat and once again listen to some more history from our tour guide. Again she managed to keep everything she was saying interesting and made jokes about the history while also trying to keep interacting with us and asking if we already knew anything about what she was talking about.
From the Cathedral we took a short walk up a very steep hill to Wawel Castle. I have to admit that I kind of zoned out from what our guide was talking about here as I was fascinated with the amazing panoramic views of Krakow and the mountains in the South. My attention was drawn back to the tour when she announced that we would be visiting the most 'dangerous' part of the tour... The Dragons Lair!
I actually already knew what the Dragons Lair is as I have been there quite a few times and it is one of my favourite parts of Krakow, however I didn't know the history behind the dragon and why his lair is sitting alongside the Wisla River, so I found this really interesting and again very funny the way it was told to us. Getting to the Dragons Lair involved walking down another very steep slope and round a corner, once we were there we had our talk of the history of the Krakow Dragon and we watched him breathe fire!
After the Dragons Lair the tour came to an end with a brief summary of everything we had seen as well as a few recommendations on good places to eat traditional Polish dishes and also directions on how to get back to the Market Square from where we were.
My Tour Summary
For a free walking tour I would say this was a fantastic use of 2 and a half hours! Our guide was very knowledgeable and spoke almost perfect fluent English. She kept the tour interesting and she was always making an effort to interact with everyone as well as making light hearted jokes about the history and occasionally about Polish mentality.
The tour does involve a lot of walking at a moderate pace and I would say that due to the uneven terrain and walking up and down steps the tour isn't suitable for wheelchair users. I would say lightweight pushchairs could be taken around if you are travelling with someone who is willing to help you on the stairs parts.
The tour is totally free and although there are a few hints about tips they never push you or make you feel as if you have to give them something, although in all honesty I think they deserve it as I found it to be a great tour and I learnt a lot about Krakow and why things are the way that they are here!
The Royal Walking Tour operates everyday and starts at 11am outside Saint Mary's Church in the Main Market Square. Just look for the person holding a stick with a Free Walking Tour sign attached to it!
Overall, I cannot fault this tour and I would definitely recommend that you fit it into your day if you visit Krakow.
Thanks for reading :)