Royal Krakow - Poland’s Cultural Capital

Prices from £1,690


8 Jun 2020 - 12 Jun 2020
Duration: 4 nights
Ref: 20KRAK
With: Thomas Abbott


Prices from £1,690
Single Supplement: £240
Deposit: £200

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With the exception of Prague, Krakow is the only metropolis in eastern Middle Europe to have survived wars and regime changes unscathed. Despite the rise of Warsaw from the 17th century, Krakow has remained Poland’s secret capital, the cradle of Polish statehood. Political significance, cultural riches and intellectual charisma manifest themselves in the cathedral and castle on the Wawel hill, residence of Poland’s kings from the 11th century to 1609. They are also reflected in the university, founded in 1364, and in the main market square, dominated by the brick Gothic church of St Mary and the enormous Renaissance Cloth Hall, both testimony to the kudos of Krakow’s merchant burghers.

Inscribed into UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 1978, long before the fall of the Iron Curtain, Krakow boasts over 5,000 listed buildings and is home to a staggering two and a half million works of art. In recent years this abundance has been distributed to various branches of the National Museum throughout town: from Leonardo da Vinci’s enigmatic Lady with an Ermine to ‘Młoda Polska’ – modernist art of ‘Young Poland’. Krakow’s churches are equally plentiful, with treasures such as Veit Stoss’ carved tour de force Altar of the Virgin or the luminous art nouveau stained glass designed by the playwright, poet and painter Stanisław Wyspiański.


“Warsaw may be Poland’s capital, but Krakow is without doubt the city’s capital of culture – being home to a staggering two and a half million works of art and over 5,000 listed buildings.”

Tom Abbott is an independent art and architectural historian. He graduated in Psychology and Art History at Carleton College, Minnesota, and studied at the Louvre School of Art History in Paris. He is a specialist in architectural history from the Baroque to the 20th. In 1987 he moved to Berlin leading tours mainly in Germany, specialising in the German capital.


Morning flight with British Airways from London Heathrow to Krakow. Coach transfer to your hotel and dinner in the hotel restaurant.


Morning walk up the Wawel Hill. The tombs and chapels of the cathedral, site of the coronation of Polish kings until 1734, is a wondrous ensemble of styles from Byzantine to Danish Neoclassism, while the royal palace combines German Gothic and Florentine Renaissance architecture. A highlight of its eclectic collection are precious tapestries from Brussels. One of the many handsome palaces flanking Kanonicza Street will be our lunch venue, while the early 16th-century residence of Bishop Erazm Ciołek, houses icons and religious art from the 12th to the 18th centuries. The abruptly ending hourly bugle call from the belfry of St Mary’s commemorates a trumpeter who was shot by a Tatar archer during the Mongol siege in 1241. Inside the church, Veit Stoss’s Altar of the Virgin is the greatest of all late mediaeval wooden polyptychs, comprising nearly 200 figures, carved over a period of twelve years.


Morning coach excursion to Wieliczka, known in the 11th century as ‘Magnum Sal’. For centuries its mines’ salt provided a third of the Polish state’s revenue. Explore this World Heritage Site’s vast subterranean halls and chapels, embellished with salt sculptures and illuminated by crystal chandeliers. Return to Krakow for lunch in Kazimierz just south of the Wawel. From its beginnings in the 14th century to the early 19th, Kazimierz was an independent royal city, but from c. 1500 it became a thriving ‘Oppidum Judaeorum’. A walk through its streets will take us back to our hotel.


Morning walk through the 14th-century Floriańska city gate to the main market square dominated by the 16th-century Sukiennice, the Cloth Hall, hub of the city’s commerce. Continue to the Franciscan church whose eight Art Nouveau stained glass windows by Stanisław Wyspiański are among the most beautiful anywhere. Krakow’s university headquarters, the Collegium Maius, are nearby: its collections include a globe of 1510 – the first to delineate America. In the afternoon, return to the Cloth Hall whose upper floor halls house Polish art of the 19th century – the period of Polish Partitions between Habsburg Austria, the Russian Empire and Habsburg Austria. There will be some free time after this visit.


Our final visit will take us to the National Museum’s main building, now dedicated to applied arts from mediaeval silverware to Art Nouveau pewter and glass objects, and to Polish art of the 20th century. Our study of the latter will focus on Polish modernist art of ‘Młoda Polska’, c. 1890-1918, including trends of Neo-Romanticism, Symbolism, Impressionism and Art Nouveau and also explore Leonardo’s ‘Lady with Ermine’ which now hangs in this museum. At midday coach transfer to Krakow airport for an early afternoon flight back to London Heathrow.


Please note that this tour involves a fair amount of walking across uneven ground. You must be fit and surefooted to make the most of this tour. If you would like to find out more about the physical ‘difficulty level’ of the tour, please ring or email us.


Twin/double share: £1690 per person
Double room for sole use supplement: £240
'No flights' price: £1490 per person
Deposit: £200


  • Scheduled return flights (economy class) with British Airways to Krakow From London Heathrow
  • Private coach transfers and excursions in Poland
  • 4 nights’ bed and breakfast in the 4* Hotel Amadeus, Krakow
  • 2 dinners, 2 lunches
  • Guided visits to sites listed in the programme
  • Services of a lecturer and tour manager
  • Detailed programme and study notes
  • All entrance fees, taxes and gratuities for coach drivers and waiters


The four-star Hotel Amadeus is conveniently situated in the historic centre of Krakow. This traditionally furnished, comfortable hotel has a restaurant, café and bar, as well as a small fitness centre and sauna.


  • Tea and coffee making facilities
  • Safe
  • TV
  • Minibar
  • Air-conditioning
  • Wi-Fi