Ahh, Krakow! A really amazing city, now so far away from it’s war-torn image in WWII. There are lots of things to see here, and I have just the guide to get you started.
- The Old City. This is the absolute must-see in Krakow, and every tourist should begin here. It’s a fairytale-like quarter, with stone-paved roads and befitting architecture. One of its most famous stops is the St. Mary’s Basilica, which is famous not only for its architecture but also for the constant stream of giant bubbles floating around its grounds. For those seeking nature, check out the evergreen cascade of trees at Planty Park. Stroll or bike along it, and feel the soothing calm. Better yet, hire one of the handsome carriages and feel like royalty!
- The Jewish Quarter. Aside from the Old City, this area (also known as Kazimierz) is one you shouldn’t miss. It has all the coolest shops and bars, and it’s also the hub of Krakow nightlife! Don’t miss the Antique Market, too, with all sorts of relics. For a more historical bent, check out Schindler’s Factory, the actual filming site of the iconic movie Schindler’s List. It has been turned into a museum, and is a reminder of the great man’s sacrifice to save 1098 Jews from the Nazi regime. Speaking of Schindler, you should also pay a visit to Kazimierz, where the rest of the film was shot. Jewish Temple (Old Synagogue) is one of the most important spots here.
Aside from all these sights, make sure to drop by some of the best pubs in the area:
- Propaganda. Feeling like a rebel? Drink to communist decor!
- Hevre. A historical feel will greet you as you take in the remnants of fresco, high ceilings, and peeling walls.
- Pub Stajnia. Bold colors stand out here. Located in the same quarters where Schindler’s List was filmed!
- Alchemia. Quirky, weird, and downright unique!
- Le Scandale. Perfect for breakfast, with a buffet, no less!
- Opium. This music club has an outdoor setting, with great atmosphere.
- Singer.Candles and sewing machines? Check!
- Mostowa ArtCafe. Tasteful decors, close to nature, and a great selection of bottled beers!
- Walking Tours. For a historical experience you can go for one of the free walking tours in the city. This way you can get up-close and personal with the places you don’t want to miss.
- Plac Nowy street food. Hungry after your walk? Head over to this square and get the best zapiekanki in the whole country! There are lots of food, and lots of other products too, from fruits to antiques!
- Bunkier Cafe. One of the ways the city expresses its art is in its cafes. This one has a beautiful view and great hot almond chocolate!
- Cafe Camelot. A city institution and a haunt of both everyday citizens and minor celebrities alike, Cafe Camelot offers a romantic, old-timer ambience on top of an extensive menu. Have a brunch, coffee, or tea here and you won’t regret it. Swap it out for the ArtCafe or Bunkier on different days!
- Delicious Poland Food Tour. Since we’ve already talked about food, this is one of the more amazing things you can do in the capital. Try all the authentic local Polish dishes in three and a half hours! It’s perfect, and totally worth it!
- Wawel Royal Castle. This is both a cultural symbol and a monument to Polish patriotism. There are five different sections in the castle, and each of them requires a separate ticket. It’s a great cultural experience for those who love history, too! For the art buffs, you’ll get a kick out of the Da Vinci masterpiece in the castle, the Lady with an Ermine. You can read more about it here
- Plac Targowy Unitarg. This is the famous Sunday market, known locally as Hala Targowa. It’s open everyday, but Sunday is where all the fun is! Just make sure to bring lots of change, and you can get all the best deals in town.
- Main Square. This is a 10-acre square in the heart of the Old City. Also going by the name of Rynek Glowny, this is Europe’s biggest and one of the most beautiful. Don’t miss the Town Hall Tower, a monument from the 13th century.
11. Wódka Cafe Bar. This is one of the best vodka pubs anywhere, with almost every flavor imaginable. Despite its tiny interior, vodka sampling here is simply a pleasure!2
12.Auschwitz and Auschwitz II. These are the infamous camps, and you need to have absolute nerves of steel in order to complete a tour. Nothing can prepare you for the evil in the place, but it’s an essential part of any visit to Krakow. Reserve at least a full day for this alone.
13..Vistula River. Either stroll or bike along the river, which is one of the city’s natural gems! This pairs well with a visit to the Old City, too.
14.Wieliczka Salt Mine. Finally, there’s the salt mine which is a must-see! You can get there either by train or bus, or through a tour.
The salt mines can only be entered with a guide, so even if you go there by yourself, you will be grouped with other people. It’s more organized this way. The guide will explain everything, and since there are no two groups in the same area at once it’s easy to appreciate the tour.
The charm of the salt mine is simple — you see everything is made of salt! Statues, chapels, and a lot more! It used to be one of the oldest operating salt mines in the world, active from the 13th century to 2007.
For the more adventurous ones, there is the miner tour which takes you through darker passages. It also gives you an idea on how salt was traditionally mined, complete with workman’s clothes and hands-on activities! Unfortunately, I could not make time for this one, so I had to settle with the regular tour (which is just as awesome). Both routes costs 84 PLN for foreigners. However, this may change depending on the season. Check out the updated prices in their website.
Since I booked a tour, however, I paid 120 PLN (40 EUR). The price is inclusive of two-way transport to the mines and city center, aside from the entrance ticket. Students also get a discount at 90 PLN (23 EUR).
Krakow has something for everybody, from those who just wish to chill on a lazy afternoon to those who wish to embark on an epic journey. Come one, come all!