Wadowice is a nice town, with the typical charming old town organized around the Main Market Square, colorful town houses, and a beautiful church.
What makes Wadowice really interesting, however, is not its architectural wonders, which are actually quite modest, but the fact that this is the birthplace of Karol Wojtyła, the future Pope John Paul II.
Wadowice, once a quiet and sleepy country town, has now become an important pilgrimage destination, attracting both Catholics (the locals are quite fond of Pope Karol Wojtyła) and travelers curious to know more about the history of this extraordinary man.
What you will find in this Travel Guide to Wadowice:
- Wadowice: where is it and why is it worth visiting?
- Things to Do and See in Wadowice
- Things to see around Wadowice
- Top 3 Restaurants in Wadowice
- Top 3 Hotels in Wadowice
- How to get to Wadowice from Krakow
Wadowice: where is it and why is it worth visiting?
Wadowice is located 50 km south-east of Krakow, in the Małopolskie voivodeship, at the foot of the Beskid Mały mountains, right in the heart of a wonderful valley crossed by the Skawa River.
Wadowice is easily accessible with a day trip from Krakow, perhaps combining it with a visit to the magnificent sanctuary of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska (UNESCO World Heritage Site), but you can also get there easily from Zakopane or Oświęcim (Auschwitz).
Wadowice is nowadays one of the most visited cities in Poland, as it is here that Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II, was born on 18 May 1920. Today the city has one of the most important museums about the life of the former Pope, and allows visitors to discover the places of his childhood and adolescence.
Things to Do and See in Wadowice
Holy Father John Paul II Family Home in Wadowice
Probably the best place to learn more about the incredible story of this man, who became one of the most beloved popes in the world, and later declared a saint.
His family home is located in the heart of Wadowice, at Kościelna Street 7, right next to the Minor Basilica of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Karol Wojtyła was born in this house on May 18, 1920, and here he spent all his childhood and youth. At the age of 18, he moved to Krakow with his father to continue his studies.
This house was later inhabited by other families, but in the early 1980s, following the election of Pope John Paul II, the catechist of Karol Wojtyła, a certain Don Edward Zacher, decided to create a museum dedicated to the Pope. The tenants of the house were then moved to new housing.
In 1984 the exhibition “The Holy Father John Paul II’s Family House” was opened for the first time. Over the years the museum was enlarged and renovated until it occupied the entire building, to now house the Museum of the Holy Father John Paul II’s Family House.
This museum, organized in a very modern style with beautiful multimedia exhibits, allows visitors to learn about the whole story of Pope John Paul II, from his birth and youth in the city, to his religious beginnings in Krakow, up to the Vatican.
Inside are preserved objects, photographs, souvenirs, clothes and parts of the furniture that belonged to the Wojtyła family. The reconstructions of the Holy Door of the Vatican, the crypt of St. Leonard’s Crypt and the stone quarry of Zakrzówek, where Karol Wojtyla worked during World War II, also deserve particular attention.
The ticket office is located inside the Catholic House, next to the Basilica, right on the square. The lines for tickets are usually quite long, so it’s best to book them in advance or go there on one of the guided tours from Krakow, which include tickets.
The visit to the Museum lasts about 70 minutes, the number of tickets is limited, and the price of the tickets is 30 PNL (reduced 22 PNL).
The opening hours are 9.00 – 19.00 (in high season) and 9.00 – 16.00 (in low season).
Karol Wojtyła Route: The foot trail to discover the places of Pope John Paul II
To facilitate the visit to the places where Pope Karol Wojtyła was born and raised, a tourist route of about 4.5 km has been established, so that you can easily visit the 13 most interesting places to see in Wadowice on foot.
To help visitors, each place has been marked with a descriptive panel, also in English. The route, in addition to the main attractions of the city such as the House and the Basilica, also includes smaller attractions, which allow you to learn more about the history of the Pope and his life.
Along the way we find the schools attended by the Pope: the elementary school, which was located in what is now the Town Hall, and the middle school, which is still a high school today.
The itinerary includes a visit to the Church of Saint Peter the Apostle, built as thanks for the election of the Pope and for his miraculous survival from the 1981 attack. Inside, the main altar recalls the shape of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Afterwards, the route takes you in front of the barracks of the 12th Infantry Regiment of the Polish Army, built during the Austrian occupation of the city, and then continues to the Convent of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, a place where Wojtyła spent a lot of time when he was a child.
Here today the nuns run a house of charity, an orphanage and take care of the churches in the city.
Finally, the old building of the “Sokół” association, where today the Culture Center and the Cinema Center of Wadowice are located, but in the past there was a large gymnasium and a stage where cultural and artistic activities were organized, such as concerts, shows or meetings with famous artists, poets and actors.
Wojtyła, who had a great passion for the theater, participated in many of these activities and acted in several plays.
Municipal Museum of Wadowice
The museum is located in front of the Family House of the Holy Father John Paul II, in one of the oldest buildings in the city.
This is where the Tourist Information Center and the Muzeum Miejskie City Museum are located. The permanent exhibition “Wadowice: the city where it all began” tells the story of the city in the period between the first and second world wars, showing the atmosphere and local life of the time.
The museum features an exhibition of objects, documents, postcards and maps that tell the history of the city. There is also a small workshop where visitors can be involved in practical activities, such as putting a wax seal or writing with a quill.
The ticket price is PNL 5 (reduced PNL 3).
The opening hours are from 9.30 to 15.30, closed on Mondays.
Minor Basilica of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The basilica is located right in the Main Square of Wadowice. It is famous for being the place where Karol Wojtyła was baptized and received his First Communion.
Inside it houses precious altars decorated with paintings and four side chapels, one of which was dedicated to the Pope and consecrated by his successor Benedict XVI.
Inside is kept the reliquary containing a drop of his blood. In the other chapels the painting of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the baptismal font of Karol Wojtyła and the relics of some saints are exhibited including St. Pio of Pietrelcina and Father Maximilian Kolbe, who died in the nearby Auschwitz Concentration Camp, after a terrible agony.
Wadowice Catholic House
The building was built in 1935 and became the new center of cultural life for the whole city.
At that time, several theater groups had been created in the city and various performances were staged within this structure. Here Karol Wojtyła made his debut as a co-director and actor, playing some main characters. Today it houses the ticket office of the Museum of the Holy Father John Paul II Family House.
John Paul II Square: the Main Square of Wadowice
The heart of Wadowice Old Town is the Main Square which, as usual in Poland, was the old market square.
In the past this was the place where the locals met and spent time together, the same was also for Karol Wojtyła. In fact, his whole youth took place here: here was his house, church and school, as well as the place where he used to meet with friends.
After the election, the square also became the place where the Pope met the citizens, during his various pilgrimages and during the times he returned here to Wadowice. Since 1995, the year of the 75th anniversary of Wojtyła’s birth, the square bears his name.
Former Confectionary of Karol Hagenhuber
On the Main Square of Wadowice you can see the building that for many years housed the old K. Hagenhubera pastry shop.
Run by a pastry chef from Vienna, it was one of the most elegant places in the city. It represented the meeting place for intellectuals or military officers, but also the place where the local youth went to celebrate their maturity.
During one of his trips to Wadowice, Pope John Paul II told an anecdote about his childhood: once in this pastry shop they organized a competition to see who could eat the most slices of cream pie. Wojtyła took second place!
The pontiff also revealed that at the time he was crazy about that cream cake, called kremówka. Since that day this cake has taken the name “kremówka papieska”, that is the pope’s cream cake.
The K. Hagenhubera pastry shop has been closed since 1945, but today it is possible to taste the delicious kremówka papieska in every pastry shop in the city.
Monastery of the Discalced Carmelites
This beautiful complex, consisting of the Monastery of the Discalced Carmelites and the Church of the Sanctuary of St. Joseph, was built between 1897 and 1899.
Inside the church it is possible to admire an altar with the precious depictions of Saint John of the Cross, Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint Joseph, decorated with the papal ring of John Paul II.
This convent was a very important place for Karol Wojtyła, as it was here that he received the first elements of his spiritual formation.
Things to see around Wadowice
Wadowice is an interesting town, but the surroundings are even more so. In fact, in the area there are some of the most important sanctuaries in Poland, surrounded by the beautiful Polish countryside.
There are interesting day tours that depart from Krakow, which allow you to easily visit Wadowice, its main attractions and some of the must-see places in the surrounding area, such as the wonderful Kalwaria Zebrzydowska Park, located just 15 km from Wadowice. This park, also known as the Bernardine Monastery, is one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in Poland, as well as being an important example of 16th century Mannerist architecture.
In the village there is a complex of 42 chapels and churches, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999.
Of particular interest is the late Baroque style basilica and the convent of the Franciscan friars, all immersed in a truly wonderful natural landscape.
Also very interesting is the impressive Jasna Góra Sanctuary, the main pilgrimage destination in Poland, visited every year by over four million people.
The Jasna Góra Shrine is located in the town of Częstochowa, about 130 km from Wadowice, and is famous for hosting the sacred relic of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa. The Gothic style painting depicts the Virgin Mary and many miracles are attributed to it. It can be visited on a guided day tour from Krakow, which also includes a visit to Wadowice.
Top 3 Restaurants in Wadowice
It is a café and pastry shop located in front of the Basilica and right in the main square. It offers excellent cakes and pies, including the famous Pope’s cream pie “Wadowicka kremówka papieska”.
Great for breakfast and for a snack!
Restauracja Pestka Wadowice
This restaurant is located in the heart of the town, near the Main Square. The setting is quite elegant and the menu boasts a good choice of local specialties, soups and main courses of meat or fish.
Bar Pod Kluczem
This is our choice in Wadowice! This is a no-frills counter-service restaurant, located about 5 minutes walk from the Main Square.
If you like to try something authentic, then don’t be put off by the inelegant look or the Polish-only menu. Here you can taste real, home-style Polish cuisine, including specialties such as Pieroghi, Zurek or Goulash. Plus it’s pretty cheap. The atmosphere is old-fashioned, with counter service and shared tables.
Top 3 Hotels in Wadowice
Barwald Hills Hotel Wadowice
Located 7 km from the center of Wadowice, Barwald Hills offers comfortable en suite rooms. Guests have access to free private parking, a wonderful garden with barbecue, an outdoor swimming pool and a sun terrace. The reception is open 24 hours a day and a shared kitchen is also available.
Modern Apartments in Centrum
The Modern Apartments offers clean and comfortable apartments, conveniently located in the city center of Wadowice, about 5 minutes walk from the Main Square. The property has private parking and free wi-fi for its guests. The apartments are very spacious, featuring a well-equipped kitchen and private bathroom.
Młyn Jacka Hotel & Spa
Młyn Jacka Hotel & Spa is located 3.7 km from Wadowice in an old mill, which has been renovated and modernized.
This charming hotel offers 4-star accommodation and private parking. The rooms are spacious, clean and comfortable, have private bathrooms, air conditioning and are equipped with all amenities.
Guests can make free use of the enchanting spa and wellness center, with saunas, whirlpools, swimming pool and massage rooms. The hotel also boasts an excellent restaurant serving gourmet European cuisine, and in the morning serves a rich breakfast buffet.
The Młyn Jacka Hotel & Spa is our choice for a trip to Wadowice: the opportunity to spend an evening here in total relaxation is worth the trip.
How to get to Wadowice from Krakow
Wadowice is easily accessible from Krakow via the DK52 road, which also passes through Kalwaria Zebrzydowska. There are excellent guided day tours from Krakow, which include visiting Wadowice and Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, as well as round-trip transport and entrance fees.
Otherwise you could choose to rent a car and go on your own. Here you’ll find a guide to the Best Car Rentals in Krakow.
You can also go from Krakow to Wadowice by bus, there are quite frequent departures from Krakow Main Bus Station. The bus station in Wadowice is quite conveniently located, about 10 minutes walk from the city center.
Useful Tips for Your Trip
Many people choose to visit Wadowice on a day trip from Krakow, so here you can find the best useful tips to better plan your trip to Krakow and the wonderful region of Southern Poland: