As an erasmus student I was fortunate enough to live 5 months in Krakow, Poland, a city that truly stole my heart! It is only such as shame that the rest of the world seems unaware of this amazing city and it potential as a fantastic city trip. So hereby my tips for a super city trip.
Krakow is an upcoming destination, this means fortunately that it is becoming easier to fly with a low cost airline to this city. Easyjet, Wizzair and Ryanair all have frequent flights to Krakow from all overEurope. If no flights to Krakow are offered you can always opt for Katowice, a little over an hour from Krakow. From the airport you can either take the train to the city (about 20 min, you can buy the ticket in the train, 15 zloty one way) or opt for one of the shared minibuses in front of the airport.
When it comes to areas to find accommodation I can recommend two areas: the old town and Kazimierz, the former Jewish quarter. These areas have most attractions, bars and shops and are within walking distance from each other. Both areas have miraculously survived the second world war, whichputs it architecturally up with cities such as Prague. Especially the Jewish quarter makes an impression considering that before WWII 100,000 people lived in this area, and only 400 returned. A variety of hostels, hotels, and apartments can be easily booked before departure. (check the article on how to book a hotel/hostel abroad for tips).
There are many sights in Krakow; the city is literally packed with churches, as it has the highest % of catholics after Vatican City. The heart of the city is the main square; Rynek Główny, also the most touristic place in town. The second touristic highlight is Wawel hill, the former royal castle and very popular with tourists as well. However, I always prefered to wander through the little streets around the main square, and toward Kazimierz, the former Jewish quarter, known for the abundance of synagogues, to get a good impression of the city. The city has countless restaurants and other worth wile buildings to visit, but I would like to recommend an alternative place to visit: the zoo. Krakow is the proud owner of a little zoo up a hill slightly outside the city. The zoo offers an amazing variety of animals and the entry is around 5 euros. (take bus 134 from hotel Cracovia).
Restaurants, cafes and nightlife
But what makes Krakow really into a fun city trip is the amount of restaurants and bars around town. I try to give an overview of the places we visited a lot, but many, many, many more places are out there.
In Kazimierz the most bars are located around Plac Novy, inthe centre of Kazimierz. The most famous bar around here is probably Alchemia, a candle-it bar full at atmosphere and a mix of locals and tourists. The neighbor is a bar called Le Scandale, a slightly more upscale bar with a very nice atmosphere. At the same square you find bar Singer, where every table is actually is a singer sowing machine. In the streets around Plac Novy you can find some of my favorites: Eszeweria, a dark bar with antique furniture which is perfect for a night with friends. I had my farewell party here, and keep definitely warm memories thinking back on all the good evenings we had here. Other favorites are Mleczarnia, a cute little bar perfect for coffees with a massive summer garden if the weather permits it. I just mentioned a few bars, but just walk around and you will soon realize there areunique bars everywhere around you!
Food is also easy to come by, depending on your preferences. In the centre of Plac Novy there is a little stall that sells Zapiekanka, a favorite Polish dish in the evening hours. On Miodowa street you can find the cute Dorothy’s restaurant; a small Polish restaurant serving authentic food such as pierogi, bigos and various types of meat. We had many dinners here if we felt we were not up to cooking that evening, since it is actually cheaper to eat here then to cook yourself. Additionally traditional Jewish restaurants and a variety of international restaurants are around.
There is also no shortage of bars, restaurants and clubs in the city centre. There are many nice cafes that make an excellent coffee break. One of my favorites is Cafe Camelot, a large variety of tea’s an amazing apple pies. Another good place for coffee or lunch is cafe Botanica, with a friendly vibe and a large variety of lunch dishes.
One of my favorite places is an English bookstore slash cafe called Massolit. To enter the bookstore you need to go past the bar to enter a living room like area where people read and drink coffee between walls stacked with a variety of books. The apple pie is absolutely to die for! A popular international hang-out is the Irish Mbassy, a pub with a popular pub quiz on Thursday evenings in English, where teams of internationals compete against each other. We tried hard, but unfortunately never beat the resident team….
In general I would say if you are in the mood for a nice beer with friends, head over to Kazimierz, as most places in the city centre are more geared towards clubbing. My own exception is Pauza, a non-advertised bar on the street and therefore popular with local people. Just look out for the little alley next to the jewelry store six and go up the stairs one floor. This place is a bar and art gallery in one with good coffees during the day and beers and cocktails in the evening. When it comes to clubbing an old favorite is Carpe Diem. There are two clubs out there, unimaginatively called Carpe Diem 1 and 2. These places are big students bars with good prices on Monday and Wednesday evenings. The most infamous club around used to be Kitsch, a camp gay-friendly place. Unfortunately an accident happened and they had to close down, however, I saw recently that they opened on a new location. My favorite restaurant for a quick lunch or dinner in the centre is U Babci Maliny, a restaurant in old Polish style, where you order downstairs, get a number and wait downstairs at shared picnic tables until your number appears on the screen.
Of course there are many places to do some serious shopping in Krakow as well. There are several big shopping malls (Galeria Kazimierz, Galeria Krakowska and Bonarka, one of the biggest shopping malls in Europe). However, these shopping malls are similar to everything offered in any random city. Therefore it is much nicer to find some alternative places. I place where I loved to shop was the Sunday morning market at Plac Novy in Kazimierz. Here you can find amazing vintage deals and leather bags and other unique findings. Another good place to shop are the enormous amounts of second hand stores where you buy clothes per kilo rather than per item. I once found an amazing leather winter coat for 13 euros! Finally, for the shoe fanatic I recommend Dluga street. This entire street is lined with small shoe stores selling leather shoes at amazing prices.
The easiest way to get around is simply by foot. The walk from the old city to Kazimierz will take about 20 min and you will pass the planty, the green area around the old town. Alternatively you can opt for a public transport card, a 72 hour pass is about 7,50 euros and a 7 day pass about 10 euros. Don’t try to go without a ticket, as controllers are in normal outfits and fines are quite steep! Taxi’s are a good alternative as well and prices in the city are very affordable.
Day trips from Krakow
Probably the most impressive day trip you can make is to Auschwitz-Birkenau, the former concentration camp. This place is very intense; I had many friends staying over that wanted to go there for a day and party in the evening, but the place makes such an impression that nobody made it to the bar in the evening. The town of Zakopane is about 2 hours from Krakow and is THE place to be for skiing in Poland. the prices are low for any European standard, but the slopes are most suited for beginners.
I know this article turned out to be extremely long, and I am very sorry for that. It is just once I start to explain the must sees in Krakow I can’t stop and more places pop into my head. I hope this article gave your some inspiration and it hopefully convinced you try something else for a change, since Krakow is definitely a city trip that you will remember!