POLAND For the weekend – Our Krakow guide.
Our Krakow guide to the good bits, helpful information about where to stay, what to eat and activities to do. All you need to know when organizing your trip!
Krakow’s history is impressive and long. It Began as a stone age settlement and grew into Poland’s second most important city. Legends of Dragons in lairs under Wawel Castle and it’s beautiful Old Town really help Krakow stand out. Eastern Europe is crammed with amazing heritage and stunning cities and Krakow can proudly stake its claim among the best of those.
Krakow was our Polish destination of choice made up of a 3 day weekend stay in the city. We had heard plenty of good things from people we had spoken with and it had the added bonus of being super cheap.
First night we arrived full of energy and excitement, naturally we partook in the hostel pub crawl. We sat down next to a bottle of vodka coincidentally located next to a couple of boys from Cairns, Australia. Typical really, no matter the corner of the globe there will be a scraggly looking Austrilasian ready to share some booze and good old trans-tasman camaraderie. Nek minnit, old mate from Wellington strolls in followed by a couple from Alexandra. Small world.
We put on a brave face and spent the next day exploring. Almost customary for us we did a walking tour, choosing the Jewish Quarter tour. This was good although long and being spoiled by amazing guides in the past found this one a bit ordinary. Being hungover means this judgement might not be totally fair.
The same day we managed to fit in a visit to the salt mines. Two hours walking through the mines was amazing but by the end our little legs were buggered!
From the airport you have a few choices to get to the old town.
- Train – Costs 8PLN (£1.50) and takes roughly 15min to get to the city centre train station. Walking distance to the touristic old town.
- Bus – Cost 4PLN (£0.73) and is a 45min ride through some suburbs of Krakow.
If you can’t afford the train then mate, it’s time to go home.
Greg and Toms Beer Hostel = 9/10
We choose to be social this trip and stayed in a dorm room. It was a really good vibe in the hostel. Rooms were clean and beds comfortable enough. The hostel encouraged activities which helps to meet people and made booking tours really easy.
Free breakfast and free dinner was also included.
- Dinner was really nice with hearty meals and vegetarian options were also available
- Breakfast was from the restaurant attached to the hostel and was free provided you bought a drink. Cheap anyway. The banana milk shake was the best option. Delicious and made with real bananas.
- Polish Dumplings – Made with potato, cottage cheese and onion. We really enjoyed sharing a plate, but all to myself I imagine would be a bit much.
- Zapiekanki – It’s like a pizza stick made to
order. Half a baguette with loads of cheese, your toppings of choice and mayonnaise. Heavy, indulgent, delicious for the first half. But a perfect meal after a vodka soaked night out.
- Obwarzanki – Polish version of a Bagel, come with sesame seeds, cheese or plain. Really cheap and a good little snack. You can find them all around the city in little carts.
Must see & do
I know, I thought the same. ‘Salt Mines doesn’t sound interesting or exciting,’ maybe that feeling of being utterly surprised and amazed was what made the experience so much better. For that I don’t want to give much away. You will go down 150m underground, walk for 2 hours and are never bored. Who knew salt is so fascinating. It’s only half day and the ticket booked through our hostel also came with a free lunch at our hostel restaurant. Totally unmissable, hugely recommended.
This was a difficult one to sign up for. In the weeks prior to visiting I was thinking about the worthiness of a death camp being a ‘Tourist Attraction’. My thoughts were…
– I felt that it should not be a place people WANT to go visit. It should never be forgotten, but is it respectful for it to remain intact.
– It would desensitise me in a way. I thought I would have to switch off a part of me to be able to see it all and remain level.
– I didn’t want the experience to ruin Krakow as a destination.
– I felt like I had already paid respects to the victims in visiting Dachau, a concentration camp outside of Munich.
After visiting… I was glad we went.
The guide was very matter of fact and emotionless in her explanations about what we were viewing. Although it seems cold hearted, that helped. Its not something there are trying to extort for money. They realise we can’t hide from the past atrocities and understand it’s significance in making the world a better place. ‘Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ – George Santayana
Even after learning about the holocaust in school and visiting Dachau, It wasn’t until seeing the magnitude of the camp that I fully took in the scale of what the numbers meant. It’s difficult to quantify what 1.3 million people looks like, Auschwitz puts the numbers into perspective.
Lady with an Ermine – Leonardo Di Vinci
Any chance you get to see a Leonardo Di Vinci painting needs to be taken. Krakow boasts the ‘Lady with an Ermine’ painting. Painted 20 years before the more famous Mona Lisa, this piece is said to have defined modern-age portrait painting. Cost is 10 PLN to enter and is currently housed in the Wawel Castle.
Tips & Advice
- Try as hard as you may, Krakow has more vodka than you can drink.
- Plug sockets take standard European adapters.
- Wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to walk a lot.
- book tours through hostels as they often come with a bonus breakfast or lunch.
- In the salt mines it is quite dark which makes your camera struggle. You will need to boost your camera’s ISO to somewhere between 400 – 800* as you will be shooting hand held. Do some settings test shots at the start of your mine tour. Then remember to revert back once you resurface to daylight.