Kraków, Poland – What you can fit into a long weekend!
Kraków, pronounced KRACK-off, should be on your list!
You can’t go past visiting the once capital, Kraków. It is a busy city filled with unique arts, local cuisines and a massive range of history. In 1979, Kraków was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site mainly due to the fact that it came through WWII pretty much untouched. Because of this, it makes it the perfect spot so submerge yourself in WWII history, surrounded by original architecture and just imagine what it would have been like back in the day.
We spent a long weekend in Kraków and found it long enough to see the city plus the must do day trip to Auschwitz and Birkenau.
4 day itinerary
Day 1: Arrive on Friday evening and check into your hotel. Head out for some local dinner and drinks
Day 2: Day tour to Auschwitz & Birkenau and the Wieliczka Salt Mine
Day 3: Explore Kraków old town and Jewish Quarter and jump on a free walking tour
Day 4: Walk around the old town at your own leisure
We arrived on the Friday evening and after checking into our hotel, we made our way into the old town and grabbed a few night-time shots of the incredible architecture and found an interesting bar for a few drinks!
The bar happened to be a Vodka bar where everything was only €1, shots, water, coke – everything! We’ll get to that bit later.
The most fascinating part of Kraków is of course the history. You should definitely book a full day tour to visit Auschwitz & Birkenau and the Wieliczka Salt Mine.
To read in detail our experience at Auschwitz, click here. It was without a doubt, one of the most emotional tours we did in Europe.
The last part of the day tour was to the Wieliczka Salt Mine. It was an interesting finish to the tour as you have just been through such an emotional morning, it felt a bit weird to go through a salt mine, but nevertheless it was a good tour and pretty interesting! The tour starts by descending into the mine (around 380 steps). Be sure to look down the small gap at the top of the staircase to give you a good indication of how deep down you have to go.
Make sure you lick the walls of the mine to taste the salt!!
The mine itself actually has 12 objects that are on the UNESCO’s World Cultural and Natural Heritage List so it is pretty incredible. It was fascinating to how it was done ‘back in the day’ and to walk the same route the miners did. It is hard to imagine what it must have been like, especially those tiny lifts at the exit (you’ll know what I mean once you’ve been there!).
It is time to pick up a free walking tour of Kraków, yes FREE!!! We managed to squeeze in two walking tours in the one day, it was a tight squeeze, but we did and it was fantastic!
The first tour we did was the Old Town Tour. I won’t go into detail as you can see from the website what sights are included. It is a jam-packed couple of hours so wear your walking shoes so you’re comfortable.
The second tour we did was the Kazimierz Jewish Quarter Tour. This tour was particularly insightful, especially if you have seen Schindler’s List prior to visiting Kraków. The tour takes you down the streets where the movie was filmed and also to Schlinders factory.
These tours are free, and you don’t need to pay anything to participate. However, at the end of the tour, you can tip your guide as much as you feel the tour was worth. This is perfect for everyone, whether you’re a student, travelling for a few months without a job – this is perfect for your budget!
We loved walking around and enjoying the old town at our own leisure. You can re-visit things you saw on your walking tours, or simply just sit down and relax! The old town has such beautiful cobblestone streets, shops and restaurants. We would recommend checking out…
Main Market Square: The Polish name for this square is the Rynek Glowny and happens to be the largest medieval square in the whole of Europe. It is surrounded by plenty of bars, restaurants and shops and is often used to hold Kraków’s festivals and large public events.
The Cloth Hall: Interesting name isn’t it? The hall is in the centre of the market square. Once upon a time, the hall was used to house the medieval clothing trade! Now it is used for locals selling touristy souvenirs and crafts. We picked up our Christmas decoration (our tradition!) and a recorder.. yep, a recorder! It has been so many years since I’ve seen one of those, Jenna even remembers how to play it! Upstairs you will find the National Museum of Kraków.
St Mary’s Basilica: Well, you can’t miss this church! It is by far the most stand out piece or architecture in the main market square. You will notice the two towers are different heights, there is a very interesting story behind this which I won’t tell you – you’ll have to jump on a walking tour to find out! It was built-in 1220 but was later destroyed and re-built.
Wawel Castle: This would have to be one of the most unusual castles I think I’ve come across. It is located only a short walk from the main market square. The castle was rebuilt in the 16th century in the renaissance style and has a large courtyard off to the side.
We visited the castle on two separate days. As you can see from the above photo, the weather was amazing. In the below photos, it was so hazy, but gave it an extra special look in my opinion.
Where to stay in Kraków
We stayed at the Novotel Cracow Centrum hotel. The hotel is well presented, a lovely bar down in the foyer to relax and unwind after a late flight, or a busy day sightseeing. It is less than a 20 minute walk to the main market square so it depends on what you’re after.
We are loyalty members of Accor and receive benefits by staying at these hotels (such as room upgrades, welcome drinks as we are platinum members) which is why we chose to stay at this hotel. The walk didn’t bother us too much, we visited in November, so the weather was cool so the walk was nice to warm up a little bit!
Where to eat and drink in Kraków
Pijalnia Wódki i Piwa: Not to be missed!
This was our first stop in Kraków! Although we didn’t eat here, we certainly enjoyed their extensive vodka shot menu! Jenna doesn’t really drink, but even she enjoyed a few of the flavoured vodka shots, including raspberry vodka with coke. My favourite was the hazelnut vodka with fresh milk – just like a Ferrero Rocher! Needless to say, I ordered two of every item on the vodka menu and we polished them off pretty quickly! And at €1 shots – it is so ridiculously cheap!!!
Bar NaMaxa Kraków: We were told by our guide that this is the BEST spot in Kraków to get the local dish called Zapiekanki.
If you’re not sure what a Zapiekanki is (don’t worry, neither did we) then it is basically an open-faced sandwiched made on a half baguette. It is then topped with sautéed mushrooms and cheese and then toasted. It was so incredibly popular with the locals which is how you know it is good food.
Alchemia: Oldest pub in Kraków!
Alchemia is located in the old Jewish quarter and we were told it was the oldest pub in Kraków so of course we had to stop in for a drink!
“Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.” – Anonymous