Kraków is a Polish city that needs no introduction. Nearly everyone has heard of it, and many have visited it. Yet it is worth saying something of the magic that the city has radiated since the early Middle Ages. Europe’s oldest and one of the most beautiful medieval market squares teems with life to the small hours. And it’s not corporate life, full of hustle and bustle and people whizzing to and fro. On the contrary: it’s a place where time flows to a different, slower rhythm. Florists’ stalls offer fragrant plants in fabulous colours, couples in love wander here and there… Meanwhile, gazing from on high at all of this is one of the greatest Polish poet-prophets: Adam Mickiewicz. On the hour, the din of the crowd yields to the bugle call played from the taller tower of St Mary’s, which always breaks off too soon. The bugle call is a reminder of a Tatar (Mongol) raid in the early Middle Ages. Such memories are plentiful in the city, whose history holds far more than dramatic sieges and onslaughts, and heroic defences. Kraków has always been a city with an artistic soul: a home to painters, poets, and musicians. Passing muses may brush any tourist with their wings, and show him or her an entirely different world.
For centuries it has been the residence of the kings, and the atmosphere of the royal court still lingers in the narrow streets of the city. It can be experienced in the beautiful horse-drawn cabs in the Market Square and the majestic pealing of the royal bell from Wawel tower. Kings also feasted here: the banquet that King Casimir the Great held at Wierzynek’s in the Main Market Square of Kraków has passed into history and legend. It is place where you can still dine like a king today.
Kraków is a city with many options, and you can organise all sorts of activities here, from team building city games, via exceptional state-of-the-art business meetings, to peaceful and relaxing incentive trips.
Standing in the middle of the Main Market Square of Kraków is an exceptional commercial centre. The beautiful arcades invite us to step inside the Cloth Hall and do a spot of shopping. This is where fabrics used to be sold, and today the hall offers among others beautiful trinkets made from Baltic amber, transported via Kraków along the ancient amber route to the south of Europe. You can also find plenty of produce by local Małopolska craftsmen. The picturesque stalls were set up below the cross vaulting bearing the coats-of-arms of Polish cities that for centuries had the freedom to sell their produce on Kraków’s Main Market Square. The upper storey of the building houses a branch of the National Museum presenting works of Polish 19th-century painters and sculptors.
For centuries, Wawel was home to the kings of Poland. The residence is truly worthy of supreme rulers. Beautifully situated on a hill overlooking the Vistula, the castle towers over the city, offering beautiful views. Continuously revamped and redeveloped, it radiates an exceptional atmosphere that embraces you from the moment you start climbing the castle hill. The Royal Castle hosts one of the most important branches of the National Museum of Poland. Yet what you experience here besides contact with art is something far more unique: the incredible atmosphere, sharing true, frequently turbulent and tragic, history and the magic of legends. It is from the castle’s walls that Wanda, the king’s daughter, cast herself down into the river as she did not want to marry a German monarch; and the hill once shook from the roar of the Wawel Dragon that lived in the caves at its foot. The walls of Wawel have seen the triumphant processions of knights returning from victorious wars, welcomed kings, and witnessed royal weddings in Wawel Cathedral, whose Sigismund Chapel is a true gem of the renaissance. Yet the beautiful galleries also resounded with the clattering of Hans Frank’s jackboots, as the Nazi oppressor of the Polish people made the place his headquarters. Today, the most momentous events in Poland are accompanied by the sounds of the castle’s bell, the Sigismund. Great Polish heroes were also buried alongside kings in Wawel, notably Tadeusz Kościuszko and Marshal Piłsudski. Therefore, it’s little wonder that Wawel Hill is an exceptional place for the whole nation. Its unique atmosphere and overwhelming peacefulness will certainly be conducive to relaxation during incentive trips and help participants of business meetings to unwind.
Nowa Huta was to be a modern, beautiful city, providing an alternative to ‘conservative’ Kraków. In the days of the People’s Republic of Poland (created after the Second World War, and enduring to 1989) it was a living testament to the grandeur of the urban development in the spirit of socialist realism, with broad streets, extensive parks, and people living in huge compounds. The new city developed around the steel mills that operate to this day. A trip to Nowa Huta offers an uncanny excursion into a time and reality that may provide a shock to the people of the West. Here is an opportunity not only to become familiar with what was hidden beyond the Iron Curtain for decades but also for a look deep into yourself to see what a great power is vested in the community, whether national or professional. A perfect exercise in team building, a trip to Nowa Huta also provides a great way of showing a different face of Kraków to business meeting guests.
This mound standing high over Kraków is a man-made hill, which commands a beautiful panorama of the whole city. Although there are similar sites, this one is unique: it is a monument that the people of Kraków put up to the leader of one of the most important uprisings that were launched to reclaim the nation’s freedom. Tadeusz Kościuszko was deeply connected with Kraków, hence the majestic form that its citizens chose to commemorate their hero. Raised at the foot of the Mound is an Austrian fort named Kościuszko: proof of the foresight of the military royal and imperial leaders of Austria in the 19th century. Today it offers a backdrop to numerous exhibitions on the history of the city, the uprising, and Tadeusz Kościuszko himself. The historical interiors of the fort offer an incredible atmosphere and are equally suitable for business meetings and indeed showing how the insurrectionaries once dined.
Kazimierz was once a Jewish city, and today it is a district of Kraków. Although hardly any of its previous inhabitants survive, they have left a permanent trace. The place still abounds with original shop signs, small craftsmen’s workshops, and stalls. The sounds of the city continue deep into the night, owing to Kazimierz’s numerous pubs, clubs, and cafés that have found comfortable nests among the old townhouses in cobbled streets. Peace and reflection are best found in the numerous beautiful synagogues, and the impressive churches – e.g. of Corpus Christi and St Catherine’s. Kazimierz is often unappreciated as a venue for business meetings or the organisation of team building events. Such treatment is unjust, as it is an extraordinary place brimming with an atmosphere that you will find nowhere else in the world.