This guide to churches in Krakow is all about showcasing the finesse of the city’s religious architecutre, and making it just a little easier for you to seek out the top-draw churches in a town that’s packed with them!
There are more churhces in Krakow than you can shake your plate of onion-topped pierogi at. Mhmm…from the legendary spires of St Mary’s in the middle of the UNESCO area to more off beat Neo-Gothic gems in the areas south of the river, there’s plenty in the way of Christian sites to get through here. This guide has whittled down the list to just five, so you can get your fill of spires and domes and altarpieces in just a single afternoon…
St. Mary’s Basilica
It’s easily recognizable due to its two uneven towers. Legend has it they don’t match because they were built by fueding brothers. One ended up murdering the other in the process of the construction and he wasn’t able to top it out.
The church is best known for the trumpet call that’s played every hour. Gather under the main spires and wait for the sounds to echo out. It’s a tradition that started back in medieval times, when a trumpeter warned the people of Krakow of incoming Mongol Hordes in the same way!
The interior of St. Mary’s Basilica is also breathtaking, with a stunning blue ceiling studded with stars and the large Gothic altarpiece made by Veit Stoss. We have a complete guide to everything you can expect to find within right here.
To sum up: If you have time to see just one of the top churches in Krakow, make it this one!
The Wawel Cathedral, officially known as the Royal Archcathedral Basilica of Saints Stanislaus and Wenceslaus, is 100% another of the most iconic churches in Krakow. It is an emblematic symbol of Poland’s national identity and a sanctuary of Polish Catholicism to boot. The cathedral, nestled on the Wawel Hill, has played a pivotal role in Poland’s history, serving as a site of coronation for Polish monarchs and as a mausoleum for several of its illustrious leaders.
Constructed primarily in the 14th century, the cathedral’s architectural style is an eclectic fusion of Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque, a testament to its evolution over centuries. Its hulking structure is adorned with a multitude of chapels, each bearing a distinctive style. The most famous is the Sigismund Chapel, known as ‘the pearl of the Renaissance north of the Alps,’ due to its exceptional dome, golden roof, and exquisitely detailed interiors.
Upon entering, you’re greeted by an awe-inspiring sight. The richly decorated interiors, encompassing elaborate altars, tombstones, and sarcophagi, emanate a reverential aura. Remarkable is the ornate tomb of St. Stanislaus, Poland’s patron saint, sculpted by an Italian artist, Veit Stoss.
Arguably, one of the cathedral’s main draws is its 70-meter tall Bell Tower. Home to the famous Sigismund Bell, it offers a panoramic view of Krakow after a strenuous climb. Another key feature is the cathedral’s crypt, final resting place for numerous national heroes.
It’s just one part of the must-see complex of Krakow Castle.
St. Peter and Paul Church
The St. Peter and Paul Church stands as a remarkable testament to the Baroque architectural style, being the oldest Baroque structure in the country. Constructed in the early 17th century by Italian architects, it was commissioned by Zygmunt III Waza, a Polish king with a keen interest in Western culture and aesthetics.
The church’s exterior is notably grand, featuring a splendid facade flanked by the statues of the twelve apostles. Atop the facade, an imposing sculpture of St. Peter stands, symbolically holding the keys to heaven. The entryway, with its intricately crafted iron gate, showcases scenes from the life of St. Peter and St. Paul, subtly inviting visitors to discover the church’s storied past.
Inside, the church unveils an equally impressive sight. The ornate interiors reveal a distinct Italian influence, adorned with a rich display of frescoes, stucco decorations, and gilded elements. The main altar features a moving depiction of the martyrdom of St. Peter and Paul. Notably, the church’s acoustic properties make it a popular venue for classical concerts.
This pick of the churches in Krakow is right on bustling Grodzka Street, one of the main arteries of the Old Town. There are stacks of great bars and places to eat in the vicinity, including one or two cafes that have seats overlooking the church itself.
Corpus Christi Church
The Corpus Christi Church is the first on our list to make it’s home in the old Jewish Quarter, also known as Kazimierz. It’s an exceptional example of Polish Gothic architecture. Built in the mid-14th century, the church showcases a stunningly designed exterior with a tall, slender tower that rises majestically towards the sky.
However, it is within the walls of Corpus Christi Church where the true splendor lies. Stepping inside, you’re greeted by a beautiful blend of Gothic architecture and Baroque decoration. The interiors are ornately decorated with breathtaking frescoes, sumptuous gilding, and impressive sculptures. The main nave, side altars, and chapels each reflect a different artistic and historical period, presenting an eclectic mix of styles that still maintain an impressive harmony.
The highlight of the church is undoubtedly the large wooden altarpiece. This masterpiece was created by Veit Stoss, the same artist who crafted the acclaimed altarpiece at St. Mary’s Basilica in Krakow. It’s an exquisite work of art, richly decorated and teeming with religious symbolism.
St. Joseph’s Church
St. Joseph’s Church is an architecturally stunning Neo-Gothic church located in the Podgórze district of Krakow, Poland. Built in the early 20th century, this church is a more recent addition to to the most incredible churches in Krakow.
The exterior of St. Joseph’s Church is impressive, with its robust facade and towering 80-meter spire, one of the tallest in the city, which serves as a landmark visible from various parts of Krakow. The church’s facade is adorned with numerous sculptures and intricate detailing that are quintessential of the Neo-Gothic style.
Upon entering the church, you are met with an incredibly ornate interior. The nave is adorned with beautiful stained-glass windows, elaborate frescoes, and an array of religious art that gives the church a vibrant and rich aesthetic. The high altar, made from marble and alabaster, stands out with a stunning depiction of the Holy Family. The church also houses several beautifully crafted side altars.
Check out the lovely, quiet park just behind if you need some down time afterwards – it’s one of the best in the city for sure, and not really known by most visitors.