If Kraków’s historic buildings are its heart, then its parks and green spaces are its lungs. They are places where both residents and tourists can breathe and observe nature – even those extremely wild and rare ones. Below are some of Kraków’s most important parks, which are worth a visit to take a break from the hustle and bustle or to relax during a busy sightseeing tour.

Kraków has as many as 72 parks and recreation areas. Each of these green nooks is worth its weight in gold to residents. This is evidenced by grassroots initiatives fighting for the revitalisation of parks, new planting or the conversion of wasteland into vibrant oases of life. Such activities are very popular, as the inhabitants’ awareness is also growing: only greenery will protect them from smog and heat. However, before the climate forced activists into action, Kraków had long developed a tradition of urban parks. The history of many of them dates back to the beginning of the 19th century, while others were and still are being created in newer districts and on the outskirts.

Planty. Greenery around the Old Town

The Planty is one of the most recognisable places in Kraków, surrounding the Old Town with a ring of vegetation. This park, about 4 kilometres in length, was created along the line of the former fortifications and moats. The Florian Gate and the Barbican are the surviving parts of the defensive buildings.

Where the charming alleys run today, sewage flowed, and waste piled up before 1822. Fortunately, the idea of the first city park was implemented with exceptional success. To this day, we can still enjoy the rich stand of trees. The mature trees are true witnesses to history.

While strolling through the Planty, you will come across flowerbeds, fountains, atmospheric bridges and sculptures. The latter are especially worthy of attention – among the 25 works and monuments are by renowned Polish artists. Surrounded by greenery, they blend in with the surroundings, but it is enough to sit down on a bench and give yourself a moment to pick them out with your eyes from the thicket of vegetation.

Jordan Park. Recreation in the centre

This is Kraków’s second iconic park. It neighbours Błonia, which is a recreational landmark in its own right: it is the largest urban meadow in Europe. Along its borders are two football stadiums and the gateway to Jordan Park. Its patron, Henryk Jordan, was a social activist and visionary who initiated the idea of physical education for young people. He was convinced that the intellectual development provided by the school had to be balanced with play and movement. Thanks to him, a park full of playing fields and space for gymnastics, running and walking was created in 1889. This bold concept was well received at the time, and subsequent parks created with this spirit were called Jordan Gardens.

Over the years, generations of Kraków residents have played in the famous park, and there is probably no inhabitant who, when spending their childhood in Kraków, would not have memories of playing on Sundays, swimming in a pedal boat on a pond or eating candy floss in the Henryk Jordan Park. However, it is not only children who enjoy being here – everyone can admire the variety of plants, including unique trees and bushes, or lie down on one of the meadows and relax.

Bednarski Park. Greenery on the rocks

On the other side of the Vistula, in the Podgórze district, which used to be an independent city, a limestone rock rises up. The trees towering over the tenement houses conceal the Wojciech Bednarski Park. To get there, you need to climb the charming Parkowa Street or the stairs over Zamoyskiego Street. This unique place was created in a former quarry where limestone had been extracted since the Middle Ages. How did it happen that an oasis of greenery was created in a rocky basin, at a time when the quarry was intensively exploited, long before the idea of revitalising post-industrial areas?

Wojciech Bednarski, a city councillor, came up with this bold concept. He pushed his idea for many years, eventually financing the construction almost entirely himself. Partly neoclassical and partly modernist, the park was very popular. In the middle of the previous century, it even housed an ice rink. The park has has recently been revitalised, based on archive photographs. It is now a family-friendly space, richly wooded and planted with an abundance of delightful shrubs and flowerbeds. More than 60 species of birds live here, and the local squirrels eagerly approach, hoping for a treat. While in the area, it’s worth letting yourself be carried further along the crags and rocks to see the TV tower, the old stadium and the wild corners of Krzemionki.

Park Bednarskiego

Vistula Station. Park(ing)

Let’s leave the old gardens behind and move on to a park that was created more recently, although the circumstances in which it was born had the same grassroots character. Zabłocie, a district neighbouring Podgórze, is an example of a place subjected to gentrification – the process of transforming a factory site into a fashionable, modern quarter. When the blocks of flats were built, the green area overgrown with tufts of weeds was used as an illegal car park. Meanwhile, it was the site of a former goods station. Local activists decided to save the site from oblivion and devastation and, as a result of grassroots efforts, won the battle to create a park.

Today, the green space is bustling with neighbourhood life. Herbs and vegetables are grown in crates. A playground using exposed tracks and old buildings emphasises the site’s former purpose. The platform of the local pub is used as a dance floor or simply as a meeting place for friends. On hot days, you can relax there on a deckchair under the crowns of old trees. The Vistula Station is located on Lotników Boulevard, so relaxing there can be combined with a stroll along the riverbank. Zabłocie is often visited by tourists heading to Schindler’s Factory and the MOCAK Museum of Contemporary Art, who “pass” these two points at the same time. Mirosław Bałka’s sculpture with the inscription ‘AuschwitzWieliczka’ in the Vistula Station park seems a significant commentary on this phenomenon.

Szymborska Park. Have a rest at the Nobel Prize winner’s place

Kraków’s youngest park is a real oasis of green in the middle of a busy city. The residents themselves fought for this place, and once again, the disfiguring car park was targeted. Thanks to the will of the people of Kraków, a unique relaxation zone was created on Karmelicka Street, at the back of the Regional Library. Its patron is the Nobel Prize-winning poet Wisława Szymborska. It is a place of two elements: earth and water. A stream flows among the colourful bushes and grasses, where you can cool down and calm down – the sound of the stream is very soothing. There is a fruit orchard, a lime avenue and sensory gardens with a variety of perennials. Lying on the grass, you can read a poem by the Nobel laureate, immortalised on the wall of the building in the form of a mural. This year’s spring will be the park’s second season – nothing to do but wait for nature to do its thing and grow beautifully.

Good to know
Good to know

Literary benches

Only in Kraków can you sit on a bench belonging to Czesław Miłosz, Wisława Szymborska, or contemporary women writers connected with Kraków. While strolling through Planty Park and Nowa Huta's Szwedzki Park, look out for benches bearing the authors' names. In your leisure time, sit down and scan the QR code to learn about the work of the person who hosts you on their bench.

Wild encounters

Among the numerous animals in Kraków's parks, one species in particular makes its presence felt. Wild boars - for they are the species in question - sunbathe on Zakrzówek, a body of water known as the "Maldives of Kraków", walk on the Vistula boulevards and dine in the park near Bronowice Fort. Their population numbers around 2,000 individuals. Encounters with wild boars can be risky - dog walkers in particular know this. Most often, however, the boars are preoccupied with their own business, namely ripping up the park lawn.