I love bike riding, and I love Krakow. That’s why I was more than happy to take the Krakow Bike Tour with the Cruising Krakow. Sure, you can rent bikes all over town. But only Cruising Krakow has Brian, the Canadian tour guide who’s been giving bike tours for 13 years and knows Krakow like the back of his hand.
It goes without saying that a bike tour requires a good level of physical endurance. If you’re not much of the active type, I’d probably recommend a walking tour. Then again, Krakow is the only city where I had a bad experience on a walking tour. And four hours on a bike seeing all the history, architecture and art really isn’t that bad.
Highlights of the Cruising Krakow Bike Tour
I never like spoiling a tour. Luckily that would be really hard to do on this one, considering how much we saw. Like I said, Brian really knows his stuff. I could probably write a book with all the information he gave us and everything we saw. In fact, when he trained as a guide in Krakow, the communism-influenced government required that he take an eight-month training course about tourism in the city! So yeah, even though he wasn’t Polish, he was qualified. Here are some highlights of the tour, and of Krakow in general.
The Kraków Barbican
The first stop on our tour was a monument to the Battle of Grunwald in 1410. That’s a story which could get its own chapter, but instead I’ll let you learn about it on the tour. Personally, I found our next stop at the Barbican more interesting. The Barbican was one of the original fortresses guarding the city center of Krakow. The large park which surrounds the center used to be a moat and the Barbican was the effective northern gate. Brian told us about the defensive tactics that were used, which happen to be more Arabic in style.
I really liked hearing about the festivals that occur in and around the Barbican. One that really caught my interest is the Dachshund festival in autumn each year. The event has become international since its inception in 1994, and now thousands of wiener dogs turn up to march and get judged for their costumes. Last year it was even an Italian woman and her dachshund who took first place. Talk about a good Polish sausage.
Jadwiga and Jagiello Monument
The story of Jadwiga and Jagiello is rather interesting. Władysław II Jagiełło was originally the King of Lithuania. He married the princess of Poland in 1384 when she was only 11 years old, unifying the two countries. That’s a horrible oversimplification, but one other interesting fact about it was, supposedly, she was much taller than him. Urban myth?
This 14th-century building is the oldest part of the Jagiellonian University, founded by the aforementioned King and Queen. It has since been turned into a beautiful museum, although the rest of the university is still functional. Perhaps their most famous student was none other than Nicolaus Copernicus, the revolutionary mathematician and astronomer. There’s a ton of cool facts about the courtyard, the blue door which opens for a special occasion once a year, the dragons…you’ll just have to do the tour to get the full scoop.
The Dragon of Krakow
I remember the first time I was in Krakow, walking around in the park behind the castle when I looked up to see a fire-breathing dragon. Yup, Krakow has a dragon living in a cave beneath Wawel castle. He has been immortalized outside his cave on a rock, and every 10 minutes he belches a fireball. The castle itself is worth exploring. Some of its attractions include the gorgeous Wawel Cathedral, the Cathedral Museum, the remains of an ancient civilization on the castle hill, and Sandomierz Tower with great views of the city. Each part has a small entrance fee to enter. The bike tour skipped them all, as there were so many more places for us to get to.
Ghetto Heroes Square
This monument was an interesting one. Located in the old Warsaw Ghetto which was controlled by the Nazis in World War II, it’s a collection of 33 old chairs spaced around the square. It’s a chilling reminder of the atrocities that occurred within the ghetto, including how 22,000 inhabits were crammed into a district designed for 3,000. Nearby are other landmarks including Schindler’s Factory and the Eagle Pharmacy which was managed by the only non-Jew in the ghetto during the war.
The New Jewish Cemetery
This was a really unusual cemetery to see. Unlike the usual organization of Jewish cemeteries, this one looked like it would fit perfectly in a southeast Asian jungle. The tombstones were just tossed about, and everything was covered in a thick vegetation. It dates back over two centuries, but was desecrated by the Nazis who would sell the tombstones for their stone and metal, or use them as paving stones! It has since been reconstructed, and now contains many tombstones of Holocaust victims.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site
I could just go on and on. After all, all of Krakow’s historic center is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In fact, it was one of the original twelve back in 1978. This post could easily turn into a book talking about all the other spots we visited. The Kazimierz District which includes the Jewish Quarter has dozens of attractions in itself. But rather than trying to list out every stop we made on our four-hour tour, I think it’s time to get Krakow and see them for yourself, if you haven’t already. I’m willing to bet you’ll fall in love with Krakow as much as I have.
Booking the Cruising Krakow Bike Tour
- Meeting location: Sławkowska 6a, 31-014 Kraków, Poland
- Meeting time: Everyday 12 p.m. off-season; 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. summer season
- Price: Adults – €20; students – €17; children – €12
- Phone: (+48) 12 265 8105
- Email: email@example.com
- Website: Cruising Krakow
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- Click here to read about my first adventure in Krakow back in 2015.
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Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.