The eastern part of Kraków consists of several districts, most known of which is Nowa Huta. It is east of the Old Town and north of Vistula River. Nowa Huta is a destination for tourists as a post-communist district with very typical socialist realist architecture.
The area of Nowa Huta was a fertile countryside landscape in the Middle Ages. In the 6th century a mound was erected there by the Vistula People, one of the Polish tribes. In the 12th century the monks erected a monastery in Mogiła. After Poland was liberated and occupied by the Soviet Union, the communists built the biggest European steel mill, called Nowa Huta (New Steel Mill), from 1949 to 1955. The new district was built around Plac Centralny (Central Square) and Aleja Róż (Alley of Roses).
Nowa Huta was a model city built to attract people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds to the region as a counterweight to the middle class of Kraków who had decisively rejected communism in the 1946 Polish People's Referendum. Nowa Huta became the largest steel mill in Poland but had little economic rationale: coal had to be imported from Silesia and iron ore from the Soviet Union, while most of the finished steel was shipped elsewhere as there was little local demand.
It is one of the best examples of socialist realist in Europe. Nowa Huta became the first atheist district in Poland, and it was not until the 1970s when the first church was built there and sanctified by then-Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, later Pope John Paul II.
Andrzej Wajda's film Man of Marble shows the life of bricklayers building Nowa Huta in the 1950s and also the use of propaganda during the Stalinist period.
The easiest and cheapest way to get to Nowa Huta is to take tram number 4. It leaves from the stop Dworzec Główny, which is in a tunnel below the main railway station (Krakow Glowny) and is kind of tricky to find for non-locals. It's easiest to locate when you're coming from the Old Town: walk through the Galeria Krakowska mall and just when you enter the doors to the railway station, there are the stores Saturn, CCC and then Express on your left hand side, and McDonald's on you right hand side. Pass the doors to the train station and there's a McCafe (McDonald's) on the left and right in front of you are stairs, an elevator and escalator that go down to the tunnel.
Tickets for the tram can be purchased at ticket machines both at tram stops and inside the trams. At the ticket machine you can choose how long your ticket is valid. The trip from the city centre to Nowa Huta takes about 30 minutes, so it's best to get a ticket for 45 minutes.
Architecture of the central part of Nowa Huta
The original complex of apartment buildings is built around axis which radiate out from the Central Square (Plac Centralny, which was re-dedicated to US President Ronald Reagan). Architects of the first apartments blocks mixed Renaissance style with Soviet Realism. Buildings constructed after 1956 are Modernist (of this period an interesting example is so called Swedish block at os. Szklane Domy nr 19c) while those built in the 1970s and 1980s are mainly 'plattenbau', a technique which used prefabricated concrete plates and was common in Eastern Bloc. The first buildings in Poland which were built using big block technique, one that later evolved into 'plattenbau', can be seen at os. Stalowe.
- 1 Wanda Mound (Kopiec Wandy). Built around the 6th or 7th century for unknown reasons. Considered a burial place of a legendary princess Wanda.
- 2 Krakow Historical Museum - The History of Nowa Huta Quarter (Muzeum Historyczne Miasta Krakowa - Dzieje Nowej Huty), os. Słoneczne 16, ☏ . Shows temporary exhibitions about the history of Nowa Huta before and after 1949.
- 3 PRL Museum (The People's Republic of Poland Museum), os. Centrum E 1 (the old Światowid cinema building), ☏ . 09:00-15:00. Museum is under construction so it's often closed, check the website before visiting.
- 4 Museum of Armed Deed (Muzeum Czynu Zbrojnego), os. Górali 23. M-F 10:00-15:00. World War II tank IS-2 which stands in front of the museum is one of Nowa Huta landmarks. Free.
- 5 Nowa Huta Cultural Centre (NCK - Nowohuckie Centrum Kultury), al. Jana Pawła II 232. 08:00—22:00. Home to many modern art galleries, most famously a large exhibition of works by renowned horror-surrealist Zdzisław Beksiński.
- 6 Jan Matejko Manor (Dworek Jana Matejki), ul. Wańkowicza 25, ☏ . Tu-Su 09:00—20:00, M closed. Summer residence of one of most well known Polish artists - Jan Matejko. Today a museum. 7 zł.
- 7 Polish Aviation Museum (Muzeum Lotnictwa Polskiego), al. Jana Pawła II 39 (Czyżyny district), ☏ . Tu-Su 09:00—17:00, M closed. A museum consisting of a new pavilion (good contemporary architecture) and few hangars filled with over two hundred historic gliders, aircraft, helicopters and more. Among them is a collection of 22 extremely rare antique planes that once belonged to Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring of World War II infamy. The museum stands on the grounds of the Rakowice-Czyżyny airfield, one of the oldest military airfields in Europe. Tuesdays free.
- 8 Garden of Experiences (Ogród Doświadczeń im. Stanisława Lema), Polish Pilots Park, al. Pokoju (Czyżyny district), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. April - October. Named after the most famous Polish science fiction writer Stanisław Lem, the Garden is a place where kids (but not only them) can learn about optics, physics and astronomy using free standing installations like Newton's cradle, gongs, liquid vortexes, etc. There's also a spherical cinema with educational films. 8 zł, 5.50 reduced.
- 9 St. Venceslaus' Church and Cistercian Abbey, Klasztorna 11. Built in 1266 by the bishop Prandota for the Cistercians who came to Mogila in 1220 invited by duke Leszek the White and bishop Iwo Odrowaz. The crossway was founded by Casimir the Great in the 14th century. The interior is painted by Stanislaw Samostrzelnik, considered to be the best Polish Renaissance painter, who himself was a Cysterian. It also has beautiful stained glass windows and a late gothic altar form 1514 by Szczodrowa. The stalls have fine baroque portraits. Inside the early baroque chapel of Stefan Żółkowski is the wonderful gothic Cross of Mogiła. The facade is late baroque.
- 10 St. Bartholomew's Church, Klasztorna 11. Stands opposite to the Cistercian Abbey. It is one of the oldest surviving examples of Polish wooden sacral architecture from the 15th century.
- 11 "Lord's Ark" Church, Obrońców Krzyża 1. The church built during the 1970s. Considered somewhat of a symbol of defiance against communist government.
If you are looking for professional private tours of the former Communism District take Crazy Guides or the Communism Guided Tour of Nowa Huta in original cars from the communist times. With the reference of the Historical Museum of the City of Kraków and official Guides of Kraków.
- 1 Teatr Ludowy (People's Theater), Osiedle Teatralne 34, ☏ .
- 2 Teatr Łaźnia Nowa, os. Szkolne 25.
- 3 Kino Sfinks (Sphinx Cinema), os. Górali 5, ☏ . One of the smaller, forgotten cinemas in Krakow. Films usually arrive here a month after their premiere, but it's definitely not a multiplex experience.
- Nowa Huta Lake. Artificial water reservoir right next to Huta centre. Place for sports, rollerskating, a sunbath and swan feeding (don't do the last one, it's forbidden).
- 4 Com-Com Zone, ul. Ptaszyckiego 6. Sport centre close to Hutnik stadium: training halls, football pitches, climbing wall, swimming pool, sauna. Swimming pool 12/9 zł, halls & gym & sauna 20 zł.
- 5 GOjump Trampoline Park, ul. Centralna 41A, ☏ . 33 zł per hour
- Tomex. Daily 08:00-18:00. Probably the biggest bazaar in Kraków is located in Nowa Huta next to Kocmyrzowskie roundabout. Food, cheap clothes, electronics, everything.
- Bar Północny, os. Teatralne 11. Typical local milk bar. See milk bars.
- Bar Na Żółto I Na Niebiesko, os. Teatralne 3 (entrance from al. gen. W. Andersa). The name In blue and in yellow derived from 1970s hit song is also the key to interior design which is pretty scary. Still, food (typical Polish fare) is cheap and OK. Pierogi: 6 - 10 zł.
- Łancafe, os. Centrum E 25. Cosy place with coffee and home made cakes.
- Stylowa, os. Centrum C 3, ☏ . Located close to the Central Square, it is the oldest restaurant in Nowa Huta (opened in 1956), and is considered 'cult' by some. Remodeled in the 2000s but still has some 'communist' flavours. Very cheap compared to other upscale restaurants in the Old Town.
- Klub Kombinator, os. Szkolne 25, ☏ . coffee, beer, vodka and board games. open till midnight.
- C-2 Południe Cafe, os. Górali 5. Mondays closed.
- 1 Hotel Santorini, ul. Bulwarowa 35b, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Budget hotel with 27 rooms. Restaurant, bar, sauna. Free WiFi and parking. B&B double 230 zł.
- Ibis Styles is along the street at 35a.
- 2 Hotel Centrum, os. Centrum E 12 (off al. Jana Pawła II), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Four stars. 28 rooms, cold in winter, curtains don't keep out the light in summer. Free WiFi, TV, AC. 5 km east of Old Town on tram route. B&B double 250 zł.