Kraków is, to date, one of my favourite European cities that I have visited, and its heart-warming culture and atmosphere made me want to go and punch everyone who voted for Brexit in the face.
I would love to return to Kraków one day, and to explore more of Poland, but for now, I shall focus on convincing you on why you should visit if you have the chance.
First and foremost – it’s cheap! If you’re from the UK like me, or pretty much any other Western country, you will be pleasantly surprised at how far your money will stretch in Kraków. The vodka was never much more than £1, and you can dine at a nice restaurant with a good meal and drinks for around £6 or £7 per person. It actually got to the point that throughout our trip, cocktails for the equivalent of £4 appeared mega expensive to us. We mainly walked to get around the city, aside from our pre-booked tours, but from the sounds of things the bus and train systems are also very inexpensive. Of course, the inexpensiveness of Kraków is just an added bonus, as this city has a lot of amazing things to offer.
You can stay at quaint little guesthouses, such as Globtroter Guesthouse, where we stayed when we visited. It’s located in Plac Szczepański in the Old Town of Kraków. We found this little gem on booking.com and it really is as beautiful as the pictures. (If you book something through this link then both you and I get £15 credit off our next bookings!) My favourite thing about Globtroter is how, to get there, you have to go through a door which looks like it leads into a normal building, walk down a short hallway, through another door and… ta-da! You’re in the courtyard of Globtroter, in what feels like your own secret hideaway. It’s so magically peculiar how, for being located in such a popular area of the city, this guesthouse is tucked away from the hustle and bustle in its own little area.
It really is precious and the staff were lovely and so helpful, so I would definitely recommend staying there during your visit to Kraków.
THE FOOD. Oh my god, the food in Kraków is definitely worth trying. I really didn’t think there would be much vegetarian-friendly food in Kraków, but I was very wrong indeed. From the Milk Bars which serve cheap yet delicious dumplings, to the Zapiekanka (a huge baguette/pizza/monstrosity) which you can pick up from pretty much any food stall or kebab shop, the vegetarian options for food in Kraków definitely did not disappoint. Of course, if you’re not a vegetarian, you have an even larger selection of food to sample – Polish sausage seeming to be one of the most popular delicacies. There are many authentic Polish restaurants and cafes where you can go for great food and to experience some of the local culture – such as the widely recommended Morskie Oko, where the food is incredible, the flavoured vodka is delicious and a live band plays each night.
The main square at night time will make you feel as if you’re in a fairytale. On our last night in Kraków, Shaun and I sat outside a cafe drinking mulled wine and hot rum, being kept warm by the fire lit beside us and just looking out onto the square. Looking over the lit-up square with a slight buzz from my mulled wine, the sights of the women sitting in their horse-and-carriages waiting for people to jump in for a ride, with St Mary’s Basilica in sight and the medieval architecture of the buildings around us really made our surroundings feel dream-like.
Sticking with the theme of Kraków being undoubtedly a magical place – Wawel castle and its grounds will amaze you. Wawel castle was first built as a residency for King Casmir III, who reigned between 1333 – 1370. Today, many people come to Kraków to visit it and explore its grounds. It is free to explore the castle’s grounds and to enter the chapel, but a fee applies if you want to go inside the castle or up the tower, and for accessing certain parts of the chapel once you’re inside it. If you choose to pay to enter the castle, you can take a tour of it with an audio guide which will allow you to learn lots about the history of Poland.
We spent a good couple of hours exploring the grounds of Wawel Castle, and it really is worth seeing. It is absolutely stunning and you won’t believe that you’re not on the set of a fantasy film.
You will fall in love with the charm of the Jewish Quarter. Kazimierz, the old Jewish district of Kraków, is a truly unique area of the city. It will draw you in with its quirky street art which is dotted all around the district, and keep you there with its monuments, paved streets, and its collection of cheap bars and cosy cafes. Exploring the Jewish Quarter was probably one of my favourite areas of the city to walk around, as it felt like I was getting a real insight to another side to the culture of Kraków. It’s a very historical district of the city, and you have the option to take a guided walking tour of it if you decide to visit, if you fancy adding to your knowledge of Kraków’s culture and history. We decided to walk around on our own to get a personal feel for the area and to be honest, I often prefer to do this over taking a tour, as we can saunter round ourselves and check things out at our own pace.
Kazimierz also boasts a local market – Plac Nowy. Plac Nowy has a collection of antique and craft stalls and many, many food stalls, where I had yet another delicious yet fattening Zapiekanka and where Shaun had the best sausage of his life.
You can visit truly astonishing places, like Auschwitz and the Salt Mines. If you’re staying in Kraków, it is fairly easy to book a tour to either Auschwitz or the salt mines, be it in advance or when you arrive through your guesthouse or hostel. Or, of course, you can venture out yourself and explore these places at your own pace. We had separate tours for both of these places booked in advance as we felt that the extra information we would get from a tour guide would be really useful and would help us understand our surroundings much better.
Auschwitz really was a goosebumps-invoking experience. It was saddening to see it up-close and personal and to learn about the horrors that took place here, and I would definitely recommend that you take the time to go and experience it for yourself if you decide to visit Poland.
The Wieliczka Salt Mines are a popular tourist destination for people visiting Kraków, which are also 100% worth visiting. With a history of around 700 years, the Salt Mines boast a very spiritual aspect of Polish culture as well as incredible monuments made from the salt, which you can stare upon in awe after making your way deep underground through the mines. The Salt Mines are definitely something you need to go and see for yourself, as I can’t possibly convey just how incredible they are.
Kraków is truly a magical city, and the amount of exploring you can do is endless.
So long for now, Kraków, hopefully one day I shall return.