Poland, Krakow: City of Culture
January 1, 1970
by Daisy Dawdles
Poland is an often overlooked gem of Europe and Krakow is a real diamond. This medieval city filled with churches, cobbled streets and beautiful architecture is like something from a fairy tale. It’s also very cheap and everybody likes cheap.
What To Do
Explore Schindler’s factory
Krakow, like all of Poland, is steeped in so much history and as a result has some wonderful museums. Many of these museums explore life in Nazi occupied Poland, one of the most famous of these museums in Schindler’s Factory. The exhibits are very detailed but also interactive, there’s even a small cinema which shows a fascinating documentary about the man himself. It’s really mind-blowing to stand in a place of such international historical significance. Although it isn’t the most cheerful of places, it is absolutely worth a visit to pay your respects.
Visit St. Mary’s Basilica
If this sounds a little too heavy then perhaps a visit to the gorgeous St. Mary’s Basilica is in order: perfect for if you’ve drunk too much and need some absolution or you just want a bit of peace and quiet from the hustle and bustle of the city centre. There are some brilliant legends about the church so it’s well worth bribing a local to hear them all. The Basilica is in the main square of Krakow and as a result there are always loads of events going on just outside, be it dancers, choirs or drama performances, you can find a full list of events here. The main square is a visual feast so after a visit to the church it’s great to just find somewhere to sit and watch life happen around you.
Enjoy Wawel Castle
A trip to Krakow wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Wawel Castle. The castle sits majestically overlooking the river so even if you don’t go in, it’s still an excellent walk with stunning scenery. Inside the castle you can see a lot of the finest Polish culture on display, from the architecture to the vast collection of Renaissance paintings. Wander through the different rooms and day dream that you’re the ruler of Poland! Wawel is also home to the royal graveyard where generations of kings are buried, get your goth on and check it out.
Auschwitz Concentration camp
There’s so much to do in Krakow but the most popular place to visit is Auschwitz Concentration Camp. The camp isn’t in the city but it is close, there are a number of tours that run there daily from a variety of tour companies so be sure to shop around. Make sure you treat the place with the respect it demands, it may seem like a rather grisly place to visit but it’s an important part of Polish history and important to understand how it has impacted society, both then and in more modern times.
What To Eat
The food in Poland is unbelievably good and even better is the very low cost of it. You can easily eat out 2 or 3 times a day without breaking the bank.
Pretzels to Go!
For breakfast or snacks hit up any of the many little Pretzel Stands. You will see these everywhere! Locals love to grab breakfast from them on the way to work, they appear early in the morning and tend to close up around 5 pm. You can get lots of varieties but the salted pretzels are particularly good and they’re available on every street corner.
Lunchtime in the Main Square
Lunch is a very important meal for many in Krakow, its a big part of the culture! One of the nicest places just off the square is Pizzeria Cyklops they do a brilliant array of pizzas with really fresh, very delicious toppings. They also serve pasta and other Italian dishes so sit out on the terrace in summer and enjoy a nice cool Tyskie beer and you’ll feel at one with the world.
Another option of Lunch is Chimera which is super healthy. You pay for a plate and then go through the canteen and choose which fruit, veggies, meat or salad you want. They do phenomenal smoothies and you will leave feeling like you’re glowing from the inside!
Drinks and Dinner in Alchemia
Deep in the heart of Kazimierz (AKA the Jewish quarter) lie some of the best restaurants and street food. Swing by Alchemia and you will not be disappointed. This cosy bar offers so much great food and they also cater to vegetarians and vegans. The halloumi burger there is to die for and later in the evening it becomes delightfully lively and is the perfect place to drop into for a beer with friends. Just be sure to get there early, it does get very busy!
Where To Stay
Have a Beer at Greg & Tom’s
A lot of people go to Krakow because it has such amazing nightlife! Dancing the night away is one of the best parts of Polish culture. If you’re a party person then Greg & Tom’s Beer House Hostel is your mecca. They do guided pub crawls, have a lovely restaurant and bar as well as neat little courtyard filled with deck chairs. The hostel is centrally located, has nice rooms, super friendly staff and just an all around great vibe.
Take it Easy at PŚŻ
If you’re more of a chilled out type and want some nice quiet nights then PŚŻ Hostel is the place for you. It’s slightly further out of town meaning there are fewer revellers and it’s very light and airy which is delicious when you wake up in the morning. The staff really go above and beyond to help you out, their beds are so very cosy and they’ll store luggage for you.
Krakow is one of my favourite cities in Europe because everyone is so friendly and smiley. It’s steeped in culture and history, it’s also really safe apart from the odd pick pocket. It’s small enough to easily navigate and nights out are cheap as chips. No matter where you go or what you do you’re bound to have a magical time and it’ll be an experience to remember. So, come on then, what are you waiting for?