Last week I visited my 23rd country, Poland!
Krakow was a fascinating fusion of European architecture and culture and is one of my favourite cities to date. I’m so glad I visited in winter (though sadly missed the Christmas markets by a week), and wish I had a few more days to enjoy the sights and the atmosphere!
In true ’72 hours’ style, I sampled the food (and alcohol), tested out the public transport and of course did some sightseeing, for the purpose of the blog – my version of “do it for the ‘gram”. It was also the perfect opportunity to test out the dual camera on my new iPhone 11!
WHAT TO SEE & DO
- Auschwitz – I’ll be dedicating an entire blog post specifically to my experience at Auschwitz, as it was quite a difficult day and I feel that it needs its own focus. It is an absolute must-do while visiting Krakow as it is a 2 hour bus or train journey away and is free for independent visitors, or costs very little to join a tour.
- Wieliczka Salt Mines – we didn’t manage to visit the salt mines as we didn’t think to book early enough (oops, I’m a bad traveller) and the only free day was while we were in Auschwitz, which was our priority. I have heard really good things about the mines though so will definitely be going back to check it off my bucket list!
- Schindler’s Factory – instead of visiting the mines we decided to walk across the city and the river to Schindler’s Factory. Oskar Schindler was a businessman who saved 1,200 Jews from the Plaszow Concentration Camp in Krakow by employing them in his enamel factory. The museum here was interactive and really interesting as it focused on the impact of the war and Jewish extermination in Krakow specifically.
- Old Town Square – the Old Town is beautiful, and we spent hours wandering around the market stalls and sipping coffees (and the occasional vodka shot) in the heated cafe and restaurant ‘gardens’ overlooking the square. Our accommodation was only 5 minutes’ walk away so it was lovely being able to stroll through the town centre every day.
- Wawel Castle – about a 10 minute walk south of the Old Town square, Wawel Castle and cathedral is perched on a slight hill overlooking the river. It is possible to go inside, but we were happy to walk around the grounds and marvel at the higgledy-piggledy architecture.
- Market hall – it’s only small but the market hall is a beautiful building right in the centre of the Old Town square. There are a bunch of stalls selling Polish amber jewellery, so I ended up coming home with a gorgeous ring!
- Jewish quarter – further along the river from the castle is the Jewish quarter. There’s nothing pre-possessing about it visually, but holds a lot of historical significance and features some old synagogues, Jewish bookshops and quaint little cafes.
HOW TO GET AROUND
Krakow is a nice small town so it’s easy to walk from one end to the other. It also has a tram system so on our last day when it was bitterly cold and our legs were aching, we hopped on and went from Schindler’s Factory (across the river) to the Old Town and it cost about 70p (3.40 Polish zloty). There are also loads of tour companies operating segway, electric scooter and bike rentals, which we definitely would have tried out had we been visiting in the summer! Prices for these vary but are usually paid for by the hour and are probably not suitable for those travelling on a tighter budget.
Longer excursions, such as heading to Auschwitz or the Salt Mines, will require either a train or bus journey. The bus to Auschwitz took 2 hours and cost 12 zloty, so around £2.50. We decided to change it up a bit and get the train back to Krakow which took around 1 hour 45 minutes and cost 9 zloty, so just less than £2. Although we didn’t get to visit the Salt Mines, it is around the same price (if not less) using both of these methods of transport.
WHAT TO EAT & DRINK
I will be doing a more in depth blog post dedicated to what we ate in Krakow because WOW. Polish food is incredible! But just as a sneak preview, these foods are essential to try whilst in Poland…
- Bigos, a sausage and sauerkraut stew
- Pierogi, the most delicious dumplings ever with a variety of savoury and sweet fillings
- Kotlet schabowy, breaded/fried pork cutlet apparenty similar to German schnitzel
- Golabki, meat wrapped in cabbage rolls
- Pretzels, available on the street for about 40p!
- Beer. Polish beer is strong and tasty, even in winter! I can imagine it’s perfect for a scorching hot summer’s day
- Mulled wine, after all it is nearly Christmas!
- Vodka. Polish vodka comes in all flavours and is super cheap. My personal favourite was cherry Soplica – I brought a small 100ml bottle home with me for about £1.30!