A few weeks ago Grace and her friends took a trip to Karakow, Poland, and fell in love with it’s laid back nature. We thought we would pop together a little guide with a few places to stay, eat and see! As always, if you have any recommendations too, feel free to leave them below – after all, sharing is caring.
It may not be the 5* accommodation you are looking for but this accommodation has a great reputation in the city and a very respectable 3* rating. BlueBell’s Apartments has everything you could possibly need for a short city break; comfortable beds, an ensuite, extremely clean facilities and is in close proximity to the city centre and the train station. Yes, it may not be the prettiest to look at, but the view to the buildings across the street (pictured above) are pretty beautiful! This apartment was perfect for our stay and hardly cost us anything when split between three travellers.
Starowislna 22 Kraków, Lesser Poland, 31-032 Poland
One of the best way to see The Old Town is with a walking tour! We opted for two free walking tours with freewalkingtour.com that took us round The Old Town and The Jewish Quarter. We found that both of our guides, Jakob and “The Golden” Thomaz were both extremely knowledgeable about the area, and taught us a lot about the area that we would not have known otherwise – such as the fact that on the hour every hour a trumpeter play’s Krakow’s Bugle to the four corners of the world. However, the bugle cuts off half way through and legend says that this is in honour of a trumpeter who was shot in the throat while warning the Krakow people of an impending attack! (make sure you wave to the trumpeter from the main square, he will wave back!)
The main square itself in Old Town is very easy to get to. You wont miss is purely for the sheer size of the space that it takes up. It is home to the town hall, St.Mary’s Basilica, the underground market museum and a lot of other attractions, however, we found it more fun to explore the side streets around the square to find out more about the area. We walked around another area parallel to the Main Square and later found out it it was the old butcher quarter where all the meat in the city was cut and sold. Another street leads to the Barbican, which used to the the entrance to the city wall.
Planty is what I can only describe as a moat of trees. The Planty surrounds the whole of Old Town and is probably a lot more attractive in the Spring and Summertime when the leaves are out on the trees. Everyday we would take a stroll through the Planty with some pastries while walking past the locals – it was the perfect way to start the day.
Wale Castle is one of the most historically significant locations in Poland, with history dating from the 14th Century. In its history Poland has unfortunately been invaded many times and Wawel is now a great representation of how much the site was changed overtime because of invasions, fires and wars. Now the castle is made up of a number of mis-matched structures including Wawel Cathedral! It is such an interesting place to visit and is mostly free to walk around. When we visited a lot of the exhibitions were closed for the winter so we couldn’t go in any of the state rooms.
St Mary’s Basilica
What is probably one of the most Instagrammed Basilicas in the world, St Mary’s Basilica really is a lot more beautiful in real life than any pictures could portray. The majority of Polish are Roman Catholics which means that to the Poles this is a very sacred place and is one of the oldest in the world which could be why it was colder in the Basilica than it was outside (which in Poland in the winter is saying something). St Mary’s Basilica really is the definition of opulence with its dripping with gold and blue and gold ceilings which were only ever really reserved for royalty!
The Jewish Quarter
Whilst now, the Jewish Quarter is home to some of Krakow’s best loved restaurants and bars the area is steeped in history. The city has managed to re-build itself from some of the worst atrocities in man-kind and has come out stronger on the other side. Whilst on our walking tour of The Jewish Quarter we learnt of the Ghetto that used to be in the same area as the quarter during the second world war and housed most, if not all of the Jews from Krakow. In The Jewish Quarter you will find a lot of reminders of the past, which obviously should never be forgotten but should also be respected, especially at Getto Heroes square which is now a memorial to 1000 lives that were lost – mainly children – during the time of the Ghetto and is a very emotional place to reflect on the history of Poland. It is a very interesting place that has a completely different vibe to The Old Town – Definitely one to check out!
Auschwitz Concentration Camps
One of the main attractions for tourists and travellers visiting Krakow is the day trip out the Auschwitz. It makes for a very emotional day trip – and trust us, it really is something that requires a whole day. While the camps are close to Krakow, they are still an hours travelling away. Read more about our trip to Auchwitz here.
For us, the easier way to get around Krakow was to walk. It is a small enough city that you could probably walk most of its length in an hour. We walked A LOT during our three days – about 22,000 steps a day according to our iPhones – so make sure you are wearing sensible shoes! Another little tip we would give is to watch the roads. We never quite cracked the road crossing etiquette – sometimes cars would stop at the crossings and other times you would almost get run over.
The trams seemed to be one of the most popular modes of transport for the locals. Everyday we would see lines of people waiting for their daily trams. Again, it is very cheap and very simple to use, if you know the stop where you need to get on and off. Just get a ticket from a machine for the equivalent of about 50p and punch your ticket once on board – then you are good to surf those tram lines like a pro!
Getting the train to and from the airport is both very cheap and extremely simple. There are about 5 or 6 stops from the airport to the city and it takes about 15 minutes. Sit back and take in the agricultural sites of Poland that roll past the window.
It is also possible to get trains to other parts of Poland for day trips, for those interested in getting a train to Auschwitz – it’s around 1hour 40 mins and will cost you about 10 zloty.
Whilst we were in Poland it was a Polish holiday, Tłusty czwartek, a holiday which marks the last Thursday before Lent. Traditionally it is a day dedicated to eating large quantities of cakes and sweet things including paczki, types of doughnuts. The day is also called Fat Thursday for obvious reasons. We took full advantage of this and headed to House of Doughnuts, a cute small doughnut shop near the Main Square that had Pinterest-like interiors and amazing doughnuts – be fast though, the doughnuts practically fly off the shelves. We also wanted to check out Mr Pancake but didn’t have time – check out their Facebook page for pancake food porn.
Świętego Jana 2, 33-332 Kraków, Poland
Every morning that we were in Krakow we would grab pastries and coffees for breakfast and a snack for lunch before taking a stroll through Planty Park. Our pastries of choice came from Lajkonik, a bakery chain that sells everything from delicious sweet pastries and pretzels to sandwiches and cookies. Everything is reasonably priced and perfect for keeping you refilled throughout the day.
Dominikanski 2, Krakow 31-043, Poland (and many other locations across the city)
Although the service here was rather slow, the food and atmosphere really bought it up in our estimations. For a restaurant that is in the heart of the main square it is pretty hidden from public view. The restaurant itself is underground and has some rather dreamy decor. When the food arrived we all fell silent as we tucked into the most delicious pasta dishes. Speaking for myself, the spaghetti bolognese was almost perfecto *heart face emoji*.
Rynek Główny 17, 33-332 Kraków, Poland
Try and stay away from the well known branches like Costa and Hard Rock Cafe. All are extremely expensive tourist traps! Also the Poles seem to love a street seated cafes – employees will try and get you to sit at their restaurants tables rather than their competitors by showing you their menus.
Have you ever walked into a bar and just fallen in love with it? That’s how I felt walking into Tram Bar. Hidden in a side street, along an alternative, art covered alley, Tram Bar feels like it would fit in with the bars of Shoreditch. The bar, unsurprisingly takes it’s theme from trams and has tram memorabilia dotted round everywhere – artwork, seats, lights, signals – you name it they’ve got it! The cocktails, whilst a little more expensive were far too drinkable (they even had a Harry Potter themed cocktail) – We could have spent a lot more time in here!
Stolarska 5, 33-332 Kraków, Poland
The Poles are well known for their vodka and boy oh boy did we take advantage of how cheap it was during our time in Krakow. Wodka is a small but very popular vodka tasting bar where you can choose 6 flavours of vodka for your own tasting platter. We chose 6 sweet flavours and got to taste chocolate, cherry, caramel, honey, hazelnut and another that I can’t remember. There was a really cool vibe in this bar and if there weren’t loud drunk tourists annoying the barman, it would have been even better!
Mikołajska 5, 30-001 Kraków, Poland
Movida is one of the top cocktail bars in Krakow and we certainly found out why! The evening we went we had three different cocktails each which was a great way to sample what was on offer and have a great old time while doing it. The list of cocktails really is never-ending and includes classics like the Margarita and, for the more adventurous, there are cocktails like the Batman, made with rum, lime, grenadine and red bull.
We also heard that there are a lot of great bars in the Kazimierz District (Jewish Quarter) including Alchemia, which has a cellar for great live music and Absynt, which serves up classic Polish vodka shots in a rainbow of different flavours as well as a whole range of absinthe!