Encircling the famous Old Town of Kraków, this pleasant and quiet park is a veritable sea of green in the summer months, awash with flowering beds and towering pines that sway in the breeze.
The eight separate gardens that comprise the park, all merge seamlessly to create a circular walking route that’s peppered with some of the city’s most interesting and less popularised sites, all punctuated with pleasant little spots of urban greenery. On the hundreds of benches that line the labyrinthine pathways that course the route of the Planty like veins, you’ll spot coffee sipping locals, book reading tourists, dog walking Cracovians and whole interesting cross-section of Polish folk that will keep you busy, even if all you’re doing is people watching.
Planty’s north side the stretch, that runs the length of the Old Town from Galeria Krakowska (the main shopping centre and central station), to Bastowa Street on the west, is home to the formidable Barbican fortification, and a series of hilly pathways that transverse the bridges and ponds that make up the gardens here. Every so often there’s a neat Kawiarnia tucked under the tall trees, and, while this side of the park tends to be the busiest section, it’s also one of the best places to sit and watch the world go by. Don’t forget to check out the statues of Jadwiga and Jagiello, a small but impressive marble statue that commemorates the historical relationship between Poland and Lithuania.
The stretch of Planty to the west, running along Podwale and Straszewskiego Street, down to the foot of the castle, is littered with road crossings that pierce their way into the Old Town from the encircling roads. However, they aren’t busy, and Planty’s charm is still the dominant feature here. On this side, the treeline thickens, and in its shadows you can spot the beautiful fronts of some of Krakow’s university buildings, including the Collegium Medicum, along with a series of Romanesque-cum-Renaissance churches that are adorned with some meticulously crafted sculptures.
The focal point of the park on the south side is the Wawel hill, where the east and west paths intersect, and one central route heads off towards the Central Square. Stay in the park and head north again, on the third stretch on the southeast side of the park. Here, the city-side border of the park is less accessible, being dominated with high walls that give the series of tree-filled lawns a more private and quiet feel.
On the northeast side, cafes spill out onto the main path, and serve coffee all day under the silhouettes of the classic Cracovian street lamps. There are a series of fountains and sculpted monuments in the section too, an apt historical preamble to the northeast corner, where the magnificent baroque Juliusz Słowacki Theatre has stood since the late 19th century.
The Planty Park works well to neatly enclose Kraków’s Old Town historical centre, but is something of a veritable attraction in itself. It’s riddled with impressive monuments, from the Polish-Lithuanian statue of Jadwiga, to the Grażyna statue that pays homage to Poland’s bardic and prophetic national poet, Adam Mickiewicz, and tells one of the central stories of Krakow’s past. The park itself only dates from the early 20th century, where in its place were the dramatic moat and wall fortifications that had made Krakow such a powerful Middle Age player, and today this urban haven of quiet is a great place to sit and ponder that very past.