Now a tourist hot spot, I was excited to see what Krakow had to offer us in our latest adventure as we tick off our tour of European capital cities. We flew Ryanair for less than £100 return between us and stayed at the centrally located Queen Boutique Hotel.
Krakow is split into two main quarters – The Old Quarter and The Jewish Quarter. The Old Quarter is where you will find most of the sights including Wawel Castle, Market Square and St Mary’s Basilica. The Jewish Quarter is smaller and full of wonderful bars, cafes and street art. I’d recommend getting lost and just stepping into whatever bar takes your fancy – the smaller and more ramshackle looking, the more interesting we found they were inside.
Food and Drink
It wouldn’t be a visit to Poland without a stop at a bar or five… Beer is cheap (£1-2) and plentiful, plus there’s more than likely a wider range of choice than you’re used to back home. Food is cheap too and there’s a variety of cuisine available with Italian being very popular. A good pizza and a couple of beers will set you back around 60 zloty / £12 for 2 people. I’d recommend Ti Amo Ti which is an authentic Italian restaurant on the outskirts of the Old Town.
We did a bit of bar hopping and found that – in breaking news – Krakow has great pubs. We enjoyed a flight of 6 vodka flavours in the Wodka Cafe, beers in Alchemia and hot cider in Dawno Temu Na Kazimierzu.
Tours in Krakow
There’s one tour that is associated with Krakow and that’s Auschwitz. I’ll not lie – I deliberated about whether or not to go as it’s not exactly a fun day out but it is important to learn about history in a hope to not repeat the same mistakes (especially significant given the current political happenings in America and indeed in the UK). We booked with Discover Cracow and opted to do the salt mines on the same day. This cost €69 and we were able to organise a pick up from our hotel at no extra cost.
Doing both tours in one day is a long day but as we only had 3 days in Krakow I wanted to try and fit everything in. Starting at 7.30am the drive to Auschwitz takes about an hour, the tour takes about 2 hours then another tour of Birkenau (a 3 minute drive) took another hour or so. You will then drive back, have about an hour for lunch and then head back out to the salt mines. Yes it is harrowing, yes it is worth going.
The Salt Mines are about a 20 minute drive out of Krakow and are now purely used as a tourist attraction. These are not for the unfit, it starts with 400 steps down into the mines and is followed by a 2.5 hour walk which takes you 135 metres under the surface. It starts off fairly basic but once you pay for the privilege of taking photos – shit gets real and you’ll be treated to a feast for the eyes. I’ll not ruin it for you – I was borderline bored until the point I was asked for 10 zloty, what came next was a substantial surprise. It’s definitely worth the £2.
Getting around Krakow
Krakow is a relatively small city and as long as you’re based fairly centrally you’ll find nothing is more than a 10-20 minute walk. Should laziness strike you however (and it frequently did for us) Uber is really REALLY cheap. We never paid more than 12 Zloty for a trip (£2.50ish). Be warned though – there is no standard of car for Uberpop – I’m pretty sure one of our cars was as old as me. They’re clean, cheap and fast so I would recommend them for weary feet.
Our flight landed very late in the evening so we opted for the private transfer offered to us by the hotel for 90 Zloty. I’d recommend this in particular to larger groups as split between four or so it’s only a few pounds. Returning to the airport however we got a train from Glowny (the main station and a 15 minute / 11 zloty Uber). Tickets are only 9 zloty each and there’s a train every half hour and takes approximately 20-25 minutes. Krakow International airport (KRK) is very busy so give yourself plenty of time, security queues took us over 45 minutes. It also has very little in the way of food once through security so I’d advise grabbing something before you leave.
- Toilets are nearly all paid for unless in bars so the likes of tourist attractions and train stations will charge. Expect to pay 1-2.50 zloty.
- If you can, exchange your money once in Krakow for better rates. Shop around, there’s plenty of ‘Kantor’s about – aim for 5 zloty to the pound. The best rates we saw were in and around The Old Market Square.
- There are TWO exchange rates for the UK. This really p*ssed me off. After finally finding a Kantor that offered a good exchange rate I was shocked to discover my good ole Ulster Bank notes were worth less than the Bank of England notes! The first Kantor I went to wouldn’t even except them. I could rant about this for a while (all sterling etc.) but basically if you can, bring English notes.
- There is a Sephora in the Main Square – this isn’t exactly a tip, more a word of warning for your purse. Don’t get too excited though, prices are fairly standard.
- Layer up – Depending on what time of year you go, Krakow can get pretty cold. If you’re out walking about all day you’ll need comfortable warm clothing. Layer where you can as bars, shops etc. are much warmer and you’ll soon feel like a hot little potato.
- As always TripAdvisor is your friend. Use the app to find restaurants near you.
- Never underestimate how helpful Google maps can be. For those with roaming data create your own in advance and drop pins for locations you’d like to visit. For those without, download an area and use it once you’re there to get about!