The Krakow Post’s resident photographer David McGirr shares some insights gained from 12 years of looking at the city through a lens.
I long ago stopped considering myself a tourist, but I still photograph the obvious, A-list locations almost weekly. It’s a compulsion – an addiction. The city always looks beautiful through the lens. It’s like living with a supermodel – you might get used to her, sometimes irritated by her, but it is so tempting to whip out the camera for just one more shot.
As someone who is equally passionate about Krakow and photography, I can assure you that there is no better time to enjoy the delights of photographing Krakow surrounded by the inspiration of so many wonderful exhibitions.
You can, of course, go for the ‘postcard’ shots – Mariacki, the Sukiennice, Wawel, the horse-drawn carriages in the square – but the exhibitors at Photomonth didn’t get there by taking the same shots as everyone else. Below is a list of novel locations to help you squeeze the most out of your time here.
Don’t forget to submit your favourites to the Krakow Post, we would love to see your best pictures and present them to our readers on our website or in our pages
Krakow from Above
Krakow looks good at ground level, but its true splendour is revealed from on high. There are several places to get above those grand town houses for a new point of view.
Academy of Music
(Akademia Muzyczna), ul. Tomasza 43
Take the lift to the rooftop cafe for splendid views over the city’s rooftops. Free
A 10-minute flight in a tethered balloon to an altitude of 186m provides panoramic views of Krakow and far beyond. 38zł (9am–8pm)
Jubilat Roof Terrace,
Al. Krasińskiego 1
There is a choice of rooftop cafes on the roof of the Jubilat department store with views across the Vistula to Wawel. Browse the department store itself for a shopping experience from days gone by. Free
St Mary’s Basilica Tower
Climb the 239 steps to 51m above Rynek Główny and look down on the hustle and bustle below. Time your visit to reach the top on the hour and witness the Hejnał bugle call up close. 6zł
A selection of routes that take in less obvious, but highly photogenic, sides of the city.
A ring of parkland surrounding the Old Town, formerly a moat, that is a welcome escape from the busy centre and features numerous photo opportunities.
Widely agreed to be the prettiest of Krakow’s streets, ul. Kanonicza leads from Wawel castle towards the Rynek Główny. Rather than following the crowds, turn left onto ul. Senacka to find a surprisingly quiet corner of the Old Town.
The little cousin of the grand Rynek Główny, the Mały Rynek (Little Square) is often overlooked even though it’s just around the corner.
Along the Vistula
Start in front of the Sheraton Hotel and head downstream to the startlingly modern footbridge that links two of Krakow’s most historical districts, Kazimierz and Podgórze.
The former Jewish district of Krakow has been reinvented as one of the trendiest parts of the city. The interiors of cafes such as Alchemia, Singer, Mleczarnia and Eszeweria are fabulous examples of ‘shabby chic.’
Cross the new footbridge to find atmospheric and evocative Podgórze. Don’t be put off by the crumbling facades, a legacy of decades of neglect. Podgórze was the site of the Jewish Ghetto and this is where you can find highlights such as a fragment of the ghetto wall (ul. Lwowska), the former Schindler Factory, now a museum, and its near neighbour the Museum of Contemporary Art Krakow.
Four man-made mounds (kopiec) surround the city. Kopiec Kościuszki is the best known, dominating the skyline above Błonia and providing fine views across the city and to the distant mountains. Less well known, but well worth seeking out, is Kopiec Krakusa. Located on the edge of Podgórze between the former Ghetto and the site of the Płaszów concentration camp, it is much smaller than Kopiec Kościuszki, but more than a thousand years older.
Krakow has many open-air markets stocked with photo opportunities as well as a giddying array of objects old, new, beautiful and hideous.
The Flea Market in and around Hale Targowe (ul. Grzegórzecka).
Stary Kleparz (Rynek Kleparski) and Nowy Kleparz (ul. Długa)
Two busy places to taste real Krakow life.
Second Hand Clothes Market Plac Nowy, Sunday mornings.
If snapping people on the street is your thing, you will not be disappointed. Krakow is alive with opportunities for candid shots –street performers, kids chasing pigeons, chess players by the river, sleeping drunks on the Planty or a thousand other eccentric characters.
Seek out aspects of Krakow life that are slowly disappearing – the kiosks, the pretzel (obwarzanki) sellers, the Communist-era buildings, and quirky shop window displays.
Photography is a long-established and appreciated art form in Krakow. Here is a handful of places where you’re bound to find like-minded souls.
The Museum of the History of Photography (Muzeum Historii Fotografii)
ul. Jozefitow 16 (www.mhf.krakow.pl).
ul. Floriańska 18
Great exhibitions in the main bar and in their upstairs gallery. Better still, they have a great selection of quality international photography magazines on the bar.
Krakow once had many Foto Komis – shops selling a huge variety of vintage or second-hand cameras – where you could pick up a bargain. One of the few survivors can be found at ul. Zwierzyniecka 16.
Foto-Bielec (Pl. Inwalidów 6) is a traditional photographers dating from 1938, where they still use wooden box cameras and traditional techniques. In 1938 they photographed a 19-year-old student who later became Pope John Paul II. The image is now internationally famous.
All photos: David McGirr