Drenched in history and brimming with culture, not to mention the abundance of cheap food and drink – it’s easy to see why Krakow has become such a popular European city break in recent years.
After spending 4 days exploring everything this wonderful city has to offer, here’s 7 things that are not to be missed during your trip to Krakow.
KRAKOW’S ‘ROYAL ROAD’
We spent a lot of time exploring the main market square of Krakow – probably the most visited place in the city, and for good reason.
It’s one of the largest and oldest medieval squares in Europe, rich with history and filled with amazing architecture, not to mention it’s simply beautiful.
Save yourself the hassle of trying to figure out where everything is and join a free walking tour of Krakow’s ‘Royal Road’ with Cracow Free Tours.
The tours run twice a day at 10:30AM and 14:00PM, look out for the guides with red umbrellas in front of St Mary’s Church in the main market square.
In just two hours (that really did fly by) we visited St Mary’s Church, The Cloth Hall, St Peter and Paul’s Church, The Town Hall Tower and a number of other attractions.
The tour was brilliant and a great way to get our bearings with the help of our guide who was full of knowledge when it came to the city’s history.
Travel Tip: The walking tour is completely free, the guides do not get paid a wage but make a living from the tips that they receive. At the end of the tour you can give your guide whatever you feel is a reasonable amount.
AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU CONCENTRATION CAMPS
‘Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’
If you’re visiting Krakow, in our opinion there is no excuse not to visit Auschwitz-Brikenau, a sobering but very necessary lesson in European history.
Auschwitz-Birkenau, known as Auschwitz I and II are the largest of the concentration camps and have now become a UNESCO World Heritage site.
It’s a difficult and heart-wrenching place to visit, but a vital reminder of why something like this can never happen again.
The two concentration camps are located very close together, about an hour and a half away from the city.
We arranged our trip through Go Krakow, which included return transport to the camps, a pre-booked timed entrance and guided tour around both camps. The guided tour really is vital if you want to truly understand the horrific history of the camps.
Travel Tip: If you’re on a budget, you can take the bus instead and general entrance will be free (although we 100% recommend taking a guided tour which are available in various languages.)
WAWEL ROYAL CASTLE
The last stop on the Royal Road walking tour is the beautiful Wawel Castle.
The castle is over 900 years old is without doubt one of the must-see attractions of the city.
We enjoyed spending time exploring the castle’s stunning grounds and marvelling at the incredible architecture.
The whole Wawel region is incredibly beautiful, with the cathedral and castle being the main focal points.
THE JEWISH QUARTER
The Old Jewish Quarter, known as Kazimierz is an effortlessly cool labyrinth of quirky streets filled with hidden bars and restaurants.
It’s hard to believe that this now trendy part of Krakow, so popular with students and tourists, has a dark and upsetting history.
It was in this relatively small confined area of the city that the Jews were forced to live under Hitler’s cruel Nazi regime.
Once again, you can join a free walking tour of Jewish Quarter where you’ll be guided through a number of sights such as Kazimierz Market Square, Szeroka Street, Isaac Synagogue and various Schindler’s List filming sites.
Whilst you’re in Kazimierz, be sure visit Schindler’s Factory which is the last stop on the walking tour.
Schindler’s Factory is the original factory and filming location for Schindler’s List film which has now been transformed into an interactive museum documenting the war in Poland.
Poland claims to be one of the best manufacturers of vodka in the world, so it’s only polite to put this theory to the test whilst in Krakow, right?
Hidden on one of the backstreets of the old square, Wodka is a small and charming vodka bar home to hundreds of flavoured vodkas from salted to caramel to horseradish.
Ask the barman to put together a ‘tasting board’ for you, where you can pick 6 vodkas yourself or simply ask the barman for his recommendations.
It’s a great way to try different flavours and will certainly warm you up if you’re visiting during the Winter.
Be sure to check out a medieval cellar bar during your trip. Set deep under the cobbles throughout the city, cellar bars are cosy and cramped but have an awesome atmosphere and a wide array of alcoholic drinks on offer.
WIELICZCKA SALT MINE
Whilst in Krakow, don’t miss your chance to visit Wieliczka salt mine.
Measuring over 250km, Wieliczka salt mine is the oldest salt mine in the world.
Once again we arranged our trip through Go Krakow, which included our transport to the salt mine, a pre-booked timed entrance and guided tour.
You must walk down 350 stairs to reach the starting point of the tour, which is 135 metres below the surface.
The main attraction of the mine is the chamber of St Kinga, which is made entirely out of salt.
The food scene in Krakow took us by surprise; it was hearty, delicious and unbelievably cheap.
Some of our must-try dishes are pierogi (polish style dumplings), kielbasa (sausages served with grilled onions and pickles) and bigos (a hot stew made from cabbage and meat.)
Read our post on 11 Delicious Dishes You Need To Eat In Poland.
For an authentic eating experience, be sure to visit a milk bar (bar mleczny.) There’s no milk on offer, instead you can get yourself a three-course meal for less than £5 per person.
These canteen-styled restaurants became increasingly popular after WWII, serving up traditional Polish classics for an unbelievably cheap price.
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