World Youth Day in Krakow is just around the corner. As you know, I was there a few weeks ago and finally have a little time to more of the many photos I took, pictures I hope will give you some idea of the pulsating heart of this beautiful and ancient city that perhaps a million – maybe more – young people will experience at the end of July.


Kraków is a wonderful pilgrim city with a walkable Old Town and major shrines within the City. The Krakow official World Youth Day website says, “While you are there, be sure to visit these points of interest”:

Main Market Square (Rynek Glowny)

It’s the center of Kraków’s community life, bustling with activity and festivals. Within this main market square you will see:  St. Adalbert, St. Mary’s Basilica, Cloth Hall, and the Town Hall tower.







St. Mary’s Basilica

The current basilica, with stunning Gothic architecture, is from the 14th century, although a church stood on the site more than 100 yrs even before that.  The top left tower has a crown, representing royalty and Mary as the Queen of Heaven and of Poland. Listen for the Hejnal, a bugle song, which is played from the tower every hour.  It commemorates the watchman who long ago sounded this song to alert Krakow during a Tartar invasion. His alarm was broken midway as an enemy arrow pierced his throat.  Every hour it is played by firemen who man the tower in 24-hour shifts, and it always ends abruptly mid tune, in remembrance of the watchman who gave his life. Look at how WYD and number of days to its start are indicated on the basilica façade.



St. Adalbert

This is the oldest church in Kraków, dating from the 10th century.  It may look crooked to the square, but it is not.  It is built facing east as all churches traditionally were.  In that time the priest led the faithful in Mass, all facing east toward the rising sun, looking toward the Second Coming of the Son and our final judgment day. In this estimation, it is the square that is crooked, not the church.


Cloth Hall

This is a great market for traditional Polish wares, and a prime place for souvenirs, tourists, and pickpockets alike.  It has been a permanent structure since the 14th century, as a place for merchants. This structure however is from the 16th century built after a fire leveled the previous one.  The “S” in the entry gable is for King Sigismund the Old, who built this “new” structure in the Italian Renaissance style.  You can see marks of his renovations throughout the nation in the same style.



Town Hall Tower

This is all that remains of the 14th century town hall after the fire that also leveled the first Cloth Hall (in background of last photo).

The old and the new:


An office just before entering Market square – if you know your history, you know what Solidarnosc is!


Some of the fascinating architecture in Krakow:


Off the Market Square (no photos):

Wawel Hill

A symbol of Polish royalty and independence, it is the most visited site in the nation.  A castle has stood here since the beginning of Polish history, and was the seat of the kings for over 500 years. The Wawel Cathedral was the site of most of the royal coronations and funerals for the last 1000 years.  It houses the tombs of nearly all of Poland’s most important rulers and historical figures, including the tomb of the first Polish Saint, St. Stanislaus (directly beneath the altar).

The cathedral is very eclectic with centuries of additions, unique to the style of the times. There is 12th century Romanesque, 14th century Gothic, 16th century Renaissance, 17th century Baroque, and 18th/19th century Neo Classical.  One can still see bits of the original Romanesque structure made of white limestone.

Much of this area is free to enter, including the main level of the Cathedral, the inner courtyard of the castle, and the field of ruins from earlier structures. There are also several areas and museums for which there is an entrance fee, such as: the crypt and the John Paul II Cathedral Museum, the Sigismund tower, and the castle interior and exhibits.

Campus Misericordiae – the final site for WYD Events: World Youth Day Vigil on Saturday and the papal Mass on Sunday will be held at “Campus Misericordiae,” (Field of Mercy), a special site designed specifically for these events: It is about 15km southeast of central Krakow in Brzegi, Poland, between Nowa Huta and Wieliczka. This site was chosen to facilitate travel from the city of Krakow and outlying areas where youth and their leaders will be lodged, busses parked etc.