You can go on a free walking tour in Kraków. That’s right! You read it correctly! The walking tours are not only free, but they are informative, interesting and show you quite a lot of sites of the city in a short period of time.
The beauty of the free walking tours in Kraków is the fact that you can join it any time and at any place. If you see a person carrying a sign, saying ‘free walking tour’ and a flag of a language you speak (you can choose from Polish, English, Spanish, Italian) follow them straight away.
You can choose from many options: there is a tour around the Old Town, a photo tour and a street art tour. We chose the Jewish Heritage Tour and visiting Kazimierz, the Old Jewish Quarter to find out more about the history of Jewish people in Kraków, which (as you can imagine) has been quite grim.
Our walk started from Ulica Szeroka, which is now a place, where you can enjoy a real kosher meal and visit one of the synagogues. Jewish people have been living here from around 16th century. It has once been an area, where poor part of the Jewish society used to have their shops and businesses. Many famous people were born here, like Helena Rubinstein, well-known for her cosmetics and a saying that ‘there are no ugly women, there are only lazy ones’.
Most of the synagogues around Ulica Szeroka are opened to visitors. The walking tour stops outside of the Old Synagogue and the Remah Synagogue. It then circles around small cobbled streets to the back of the last building to sneak a peak at the oldest Jewish cemetery in Europe.
To get to any of the synagogues visitors need to pay around 10 złotych. Only the Isaac Synagogue will let you in free of charge, only if you join the Free Walking Tours. The company works with this particular place of worship to help people understand Jewish culture and history.
You will be able to sit down on one of the wooden benches in the synagogue, look at the ancient wall carvings and a very interesting, but quite ‘raw’ interior. The guide will tell you an amusing story about Izaak Jakubowicz, who built the synagogue. He was a very wealthy man and the legend says that he found a treasure after praying to God to allow him to spend his life meditating and praying.
The tour then goes to Plac Nowy – the centre of Kazimierz. This has been my favourite place to hang out in Kraków. After the II World War the Polish communist government gave it up to the poor part of the Polish society. However, after a while students and artists took an interest in it and now it is the place to be if you want to have a drink in a cool pub, meet friends, or eat the best zapiekanki (‘Polish pizza’) in town.
The most grim part of the tour starts on the other side of the river, in Podgórze, where Nazis created the Jewish Ghetto. Here you will stop a couple of times along the way to hear stories about cruelty and suffering. At the Heroes of the Ghetto Square you will see the street where Nazis killed children and old people and where they selected those fit to work, or those that were sent to death camps.
The tour also stops at the remains of the wall that once surrounded the Ghetto and then finishes outside of the Schindler’s Factory. If you’re not too tired then I recommend visiting this museum, which will give you even more information about Kraków’s history.
Free Walking Tour also organises paid for trips, including food tours, bike tours and communist tours. You can find out more on their website.