Why Visit Krakow?

Krakow is one city that secured a place in my heart.

Some cities are too big, some are too small, some are too congested or noisy bla bla bla. I am probably no  the only person who has places they love dearly but hate certain aspects of them, however Krakow is slightly different. I love everything about it.

Layout Capture

First of all, the layout of Krakow is the best I have experienced. Stare Miasto (Old Town) is the centre of the city  which begins with a picturesque open plan Main Square named Rynek Glowny and filters out through easy to navigate streets to its park border, suitably named Planty. If you are like me and like to get really drunk and stumble home then you will agree this is a fantastic city as you can just keep yourself within the planty and stumble around until you find home.

The whole centre is pedestrianised meaning there are very few vehicles passing through the centre apart from the horses and carriage which you can ride around the city at a reasonable price.

Outwith the main square, you have Kazimierz (Jewish District) which was an area inhabited by the Jewish people for over 500 years until World War II. This area is great if you wish to get out the main area and find somewhere a little more niche.

The other notable aspect of Krakow is the Wisła River (pronounced “Viswa” – translated to Vistula)  which is the largest river in Poland. It runs along the edge of inner Krakow centre by Kazimierz and by Wawel Castle (“Vavel”) making it ideal for a walk, jog or relaxing bike ride along. You can hire bikes at low cost with Cruising Krakow Bike Tours & Bike Rentals –  I broke my bike and they gave me a replacement without questions plus the bells on the bikes are hilarious. It only costs like 25pln (£5) for 3 hours.

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Adam Mickiewicz Statue  (Main Square, Krakow)

Culture & History 

The history of Krakow and Poland in general is unbelievable, it’s the sort of thing you do not need even realise you have a great interest in until you learn about it. Named European Capital of Culture in 2000 by the EU, this city has so much to offer.

Firstly and probably the most famous thing to see is Auschwitz & Birkenau Concentration Camps. It goes without saying what happened in these camps was nothing less than evil but I feel it is something you need to visit whilst in Krakow, to pay your respects and understand the extent of what went on. I can’t recommend to go enough, it opens your eyes to what some people are capable of and no words are needed, you can see the emotions in peoples eyes. Its okay to cry, it means you are human!

The camps are located one and a half hours away by bus and less by train. The camps can usually be accessed by visitors individually which would help save a little bit of money. Usually I would recommend to go for the cheaper option but in all honesty, the tours in Krakow to Auchwitz-Birkenau are great value and only cost around 120-150pln (£25-30). For this, you get picked up and dropped of at a hotel near you and a guided tour of each camp. You can easily pre-book tours online with Viator 

Has anyone seen Schindler’s List – The film about an ethical German businessman, during which he saved the lives of more than a thousand mostly Polish-Jewish refugees from the Holocaust by employing them in his factories.(wikipedia).

Well, Schindler’s factory is on the outskirts of Krakow and you can easily visit it. It is a must see whilst in Krakow – plus you  can easily walk there or get a taxi and I’m pretty sure it’s still free entry on Monday (limited). What’s not to like?  If you are however the type who prefers a guided tour, you can easily book online. I highly suggest to watch the film before you go for added effect. For me, I set my expectations to high for this attraction but it is still a must and you should not miss it. I got in trouble for sitting at Schindler’s desk, don’t be like me.

The leftovers of the horrible atrocities from World War II  are not all that Krakow has to offer though, Krakow Old Market Square is on the UNESCO World Heritage List and the city itself is one of the oldest in Poland. You can easily fill a day by just exploring the Old Town on foot. I would suggest the following places

  • Wawel Castle
  • The Magnificent Churches
  • Jagiellonian University
  • Rynek Glowny (Main Sqaure)
  • Mały Rynek (Small Square)
  • Cloth Hall
  • St. Florian’s Gate and Barbican
  • The Pope John Paul II places
  • Art deco stained-glass windows in Franciscans Church

These places are beautiful just to see and explore but for a full experience, I suggest buying a guidebook such as Lonely Planet  or joining one of Krakow’s many walking tours which are great value for money and can be booked in advance. If you want to add some more excitement, you can also do these tours on a Segway (unbelievably cheap) or a bike if you are clumsy like me. P.s. 3 days is usually more than enough for most cities but Krakow has so much to offer that you should stay longer if you can.

DO NOT leave Krakow without taking a stroll to Kazimierz district, as mentioned, it was inhabited for over 500 years by Jewish people and although once a dodgy neighbourhood, it is now a bustling epicentre of art and culture with an amazing atmosphere. If you do nothing else, visit Plac Nowy (“plats novy”) and eat Zapiekanka – you will thank me later. Unbelievably I ended up being featured in an art exhibition in Kazimierz for being a professional drunkard. I do not have a copy of the photo but it was very similar if not more professional than this.

but I’m very surprised this did not win…

I am not ashamed, but to cleanse your memory, here is a picture of my favourite thing in the whole of Krakow – Zapiekanka.

Zapiekanka from Plac Nowy – Kazimierz, Krakow

Sorry about the tangent there.

If you have more time on your hands however and want to explore Kazimierz further, you should visit some of the many hipster bars and cafes or even an art exhibition. It truly is an amazing place to be and should not be missed. If you like to learn more about the history of it, the small group Walking Tour is most likely the best option but for a full experience, you need to check out the Kazimierz Food tour on which you will gain a full stomach and receive helpings of craft beer and polish vodka. Maybe I’m just a greedy Scottish borderline alcoholic but the second one is my favourite.

Last but not least on the Culture & History list is Wieliczka Salt Mine. It’s one of the largest tourist attractions in Poland never mind Krakow and its also registered on UNESCO World Heritage Site. Basically these mines are like 200m deep and miles long. You pay approximately 120-150pln (£25-30) (I cant remember) for a guided tour at a particular time and learn about the history of the mines. The most unreal part is the Chapel of St. Kinga, which is a large grand room in the centre of the mine with with beautiful carvings and chandeliers.  It is absolutely OUTSTANDING to look at and I seriously mean that.

The atmosphere and beauty is unreal and I will tell you now, if and when I get married I want it to be there. See below for a stolen photo as I did not take any. Wieliczka is a must and you will be daft to miss it.

To see the salt mines you can either make your way there and buy a ticket on site  or book online and get transported to and from the mine (recommended).

 

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Nightlife 

Regardless of who you are, Krakow has something for everyone and for me that something is the NIGHTLIFE. I came to Krakow when travelling for 6 weeks with the last stop being Krakow however, I enjoyed myself so much that I ended up staying to work on a pub crawl for two months as a professional drunk. Literally, I was drunk the full time.

So if you believe anything, make sure it is this.

If you are hipster or unique or expressive or love nifty little cool artistic bars, get yourself to Kazimierz and create your own little pub crawl. I would wholly love to recommend some bars in Kazi but I dont remember…like seriously. Every time I have been though, I have never fully left Plac Nowy so start there and see where it takes you. It is a seriously great night out.

There are two types of people, you have the people who enjoy socialising a little and having a couple of drinks then heading off to bed, and you have people like me who gett extremely drunk and stumble their way to a perfectly located  KEBAB shop like a bee finds it way to pollen.

The nightlife is split into two sections to be truthful, one is the Old Town (Stare Miasto) and the other being that of Kazimierz.

My tips for Old Town (Stare Miasto) would be as follows. If you are sensible, go to Bania Luka (one of Szewska and one on Tomasza) or Pijalnia (Tomasza) . I would try suggest more but if I was not in either of those, I was lost. I suggest you find a small bar near the main square and move a couple of times until you find the perfect place. I highly recommend Bania Luka as the go to bar for every occasion. You can relax, socialise and do the shot menu if you are crazy enough.

If you are a complete party animal, there is good news and bad news. The bad news is that to find the best pubs and clubs in Krakow, you have a hard task on your hands. Firstly, it can be difficult to identify if a place is even a bar or not, the language is nyon impossible and forget trying to work out which club is the best on your selected day of the week. This sucks.

However, the good news is that Krakow has a number of pub crawls which take away the hassle of having to decide where to go and when. I would rate Krawl through Krakow  the best pub crawl in Krakow and therefore the best in Europe. I know this is a bold statement but after you join you will understand.

Its reasons for being the best are basically the city, the price and the deal. The city is just perfect and could well have been designed for pub crawls from the start. The pub crawl only costs 60 pln (£12) and  they genuinely have a cracking deal without the usual catches and clauses (or BS). Here is the breakdown:

  • Meet at 9pm in the most obvious place in Krakow
  • 60pln for men and 55pln for women
  • Free entry to 3 bars and the best club on the night
  • Free welcome shot at every bar
  • Drinking games that could win you t-shirts
  • Guides that drink with you and want to show you an amazing time
  • FREE DRINKS FOR THE ENTIRE FIRST HOUR (No catches)

Whether you decide to join this the first night to get to know Krakow nightlife and meet people or do it every night you are there, I cannot recommend it enough. I promise you will have an unforgettable night…and if you don’t I will genuinely write you a written apology.

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3 Professional Drunken Guides – Krawl Through Krakow

If there is anything else you would like to know, feel free to ask at graeme@letsbackpack.co.uk