KRAKOW KRAKOW - THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO TRAVEL TO POLAND ON A BUDGET; PART 1 - KRAKOW

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO TRAVEL TO POLAND ON A BUDGET; PART 1 – KRAKOW

A trip to Poland exceeded all my expectations. What do I mean? Look, I expected to see the usual ex-Soviet country, where you can take a break for a few days and with a small budget. BUT! In the end, I visited not only a highly developed democratic country with European values but also one of the tourist gems of Europe.

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I went on this trip with my travel companion and boyfriend D-Papa. During the planning of this trip, I only had 5 days and I wanted to see as much as I could. Therefore, I chose a route with an arrival in the old capital – Krakow and departure from the new capital – Warsaw . I found that there is a convenient train connection between the cities.

SOME USEFUL GENERAL INFORMATION BEFORE THE TRIP

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Because of the many unique architectural and historical monuments, palaces, castles, and old squares, Poland is rightly considered as the “Land of Churches and Castles.

Religion in Poland occupies a rather significant place in public life. According to various estimates, the adherents of Roman Catholicism in the country are between 75 and 95 percent of the population. Did you know that the 264th Pope John Paul II was Polish? Poland is also among the most mononational countries in the world. About 98% of its population are Poles.

Poland’s climate is characterized by a non-permanent nature. Wet and cloudy periods are often replaced by dry and clear. January is considered the coldest month, although when we were there at the end of January, the weather was frosty and sunny. Therefore, even in winter, visiting Poland is very comfortable. High tourist season in the country from May to the end of September and on New Year’s holidays.

Poland’s time zone is Central European Time – CET (GMT + 01)

Since March 12, 1999, Poland became a member of NATO, and since May 1, 2004 – a member of the European Union, and on December 21, 2007, the country entered the Schengen zone. Before the trip, be sure to check whether you need a visa and what you need to issue it. For example, I did not need a visa while living in Greece.

In Poland, many people do not speak English, even in tourist cities. So be patient and take a translating book or download a translating app to help you. Even though I speak Ukrainian, which is a bit similar to Polish, it was difficult for me to understand them.

Polish currency is zloty. In Poland, money is changed not in banks, but in separately located exchange offices, which are called “Kantor”. You can find them at train stations and in the central places of cities. It is also important that the exchange rates are set by the offices themselves. It is not fixed and can depend on the days of the week and the city. It turned out to me that it is more profitable to pay with my European card than to change the euro to zloty on the spot.

Tap water in Poland is quite ok to drink. Sometimes it tastes strange (in Krakow it has more Ca) but it’s not dangerous at all. Everything depends on you.  We have preffered to buy water in the store.

Poland is full of hotspots and you can also find public Wi-Fi signs in big cities. In Poland, a popular solution for mobile Internet is a prepaid starter card of one of the four major cell phone networks (Orange, Play, Plus, T-Mobile). And again with the Greek phone card, I had my mobile Internet without any problems.

FIRST STOP – KRAKOW

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Krakow is one of the most visited cities in Europe. The past and the future of Poland are harmoniously intertwined here: medieval Cathedrals, the largest square in Europe and theater in modern style peacefully coexist with modern clubs, pubs, restaurants and other places of entertainment. The whole center of this beautiful city, the Old City, is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Register.

HOW TO GET TO KRAKOW FROM AIRPORT

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From Kraków Airport im. Jana Pawła II it is very easy to get to the city center, there are several options:

  • By bus. During the day, buses No. 292 and 208 go from the airport to the city, and at night No. 902. It takes about 40 minutes and a cost of around 1 euro.
  • By train. The nearest train station, called Krakow Airport (Kraków Lotnisko), is located opposite the main airport building. The road takes less than 20 minutes with a cost of about 2 euro. Comfortable wagons are equipped with air conditioning, Wi-Fi and sockets for charging mobile devices.
  • By taxi. By European standards, taxis are pretty cheap here, and it was not far from the city center. Therefore, we took advantage of this option and paid about 12 euros.
  • Rent a car. Another good option is not only to get to the hotel but also travel around Poland by car.

WHERE TO STAY IN KRAKOW

So where is the best place to stay in Krakow? Of course, in the Old Town – where we booked our apartment. By the way, in Krakow, there is a very big variety of good and cheap apartments, even more than hotels.

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Our apartment “Krakow For You” was located in the heart of the Old City, within walking distance from the main city attractions and near a lot of good restaurants and cafes. We had a lovely 1 B/R apartment “Moon” on the 4th floor with a magnificent view of Grodzka Street and Main Market Square and on the other hand, it was very quiet. The apartment was large enough (45 sq) with a comfortable King size bed and a living room (with a door between them, which is also very convenient). It is combined with a well-equipped kitchen (tea and coffee complimentary) and a large bathroom (with a jacuzzi) at the end of the corridor. They provide quick free Wi-Fi and breakfast is served for a small extra cost. There is no elevator, so it was a bit of an exercise to get to our room. The staff was very polite and friendly, and most importantly knew English.

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If you travel by train, you can also stay in the vicinity of the railway station. I advise you, first of all, to look at modern hotels, because in new hotels that are being built near the railway station in recent years, they usually provide better sound insulation. In this area, I recommend checking hotels such as Hotel Europejski, Andel’s by Vienna House Cracow and Hotel Atrium.

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You can stay near the Wawel Hill if you are a fan of impressive views and certainly want to admire the castle from the windows of your room, otherwise, it will be a pity to overpay for the panorama and noise. In the area of Wawel Castle, I prefer such hotels as Hotel Jan, Boutique Aparthotel & Apartments or Apartamenty Grodzka 21.

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Kazimierz district, a few years ago it was a rather neglected area with dilapidated buildings. Now, this is probably the most fashionable place in the city: there are nightclubs, and shops with original products, and authentic guesthouses and hotels. Many Kazimierz hotels actively exploit medieval themes: antique rooms, wooden floors, and ceiling beams are often found in the design of rooms. Here, however, I advise you to choose not the central streets but quieter alleys. Check such hotels as Rubinstein Residence, Crystal Suites Chez Helena, Kazimierz Secret.

WHERE TO EAT IN KRAKOW

Since we stayed in the center, we had a great choice of places for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Little Britain on the main square was our favourite spot for breakfast. They have a rich breakfast menu available till 12:00.

Another great place for breakfast in Old Town is Milkbar Tomasza. I had scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and my boyfriend tried the Irish breakfast; everything was delicious.

Czarna Kaczka The Black Duck here you can taste the famous Zurek in the bread for lunch. A little restaurant in the centre of the Old City with excellent Polish cuisine. Try also their famous potato pancakes and duck.

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Be sure, at least once, to visit a cafe or restaurant that specializes in traditional dumplings (Pierogi). During our walk through the historic centre of Kazimierz, we found a delicious place – Pierozki u Wincenta. They have so many flavours, so my advice to try several. For example, boiled pierogi with potato and fried pierogi with cabbage and for dessert sweet with home cottage cheese or frits with honey.

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For our last dinner, we chose the restaurant Szara Ges,near our hotel and it was just PERFECT! Everything! The restaurant is located in a historic building with an aristocratic design. The service was top notch. The dishes were not only delicious but also beautifully served. When we were given our favourite mushroom soup, we first thought, that this is a cup of cappuccino, but it turned out to be the softest sour cream. Duck and beef just melted in the mouth, and the dessert was the perfect end of the evening. I would include this restaurant in the top places where you should definitely have dinner in Krakow.

Be sure to check out my post TRADITIONAL POLISH FOOD: WHAT YOU REALLY SHOULD TRY for more delicious Polish tastes.

WHAT TO SEE IN KRAKOW

But, in Krakow, we arrived not only to eat delicious foods, but also to explore the local sights. Our first day began with a tour of the Old City area.

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We started from the Main square of the Old Town of Krakow, next to which we lived. Previously, there were numerous shops, but today this is one of the places where citizens and tourists go for a walk, make appointments and just relax. We started the walk from the Cloth Hall, the Town Hall Tower and the St. Mary’s Church, which are located here.

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TRAVEL TIP
Get a ride in a carriage with the coachman and explore the evening Krakow. I felt like a real princess in a fairy tale. You can easily find them in the central square.
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The Kraków Cloth Hall – Krakow’s oldest market (and perhaps the whole of Europe), was built in 1257. Today’s Cloth Hall is a mecca for tourists who want to buy real Kraków souvenirs and guess what?!; we didn’t leave empty-handed either.

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St. Mary’s Basilica – is a Krakow business card. It is imperative to visit – if not for the radical architecture, then to see the magnificently carved altar by Vita Stvosh. And, of course, to hear the famous melody, which sounds four times a day from the tower of the church.

TRAVEL TIP
The entrance for tourists is paid, but we did not find it in the beginning and came with parishioners from the main entrance, so it is possible to visit the Basilica for free.
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The next stop was the Kraków Barbican. This watchtower served to protect the city from the attacks of enemies and in turbulent times was the only way to get beyond the city walls. Well, today the Barbican is one of the treasures of the city and a living piece of its history, which is worth seeing in Krakow (with entrance fee). Today, there is a branch of the Historical Museum inside, held tournaments in fencing and historical reconstructions.

Having passed a little towards the railway station, an impressive the
Collegiate Church of St. Florian appeared in front of us. One of the jewels of Krakow, this Collegiate church played an important role in the life of the city. The Royal Road began from here, along which all solemn and mourning processions passed. Today it is worth visiting the church to admire the rich and elegant interior, as well as to see a picture of the patron saint of Poland, painted in 1686.

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Want to feel like a medieval student? Go then to the Collegium Maius. It is the building of the Jagiellonian University, which is the oldest university building in all of Poland. We walked through the Gothic stone corridors, looked into the courtyard with the arched gallery and visited the most real alchemical room where the tools of Copernicus are stored.

If you are at Jagiellonian University, be sure to go to the local Botanical Garden. For only € 2, you will find yourself surrounded by magnificent nature: here are the “inhabitants” of tropical forests and the pine and fir trees. Try to find the old-timers garden – Jagiellonian oak, which is already 200 years old.

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At the end of our day, we walked through the park “Krakow Planty”. This is a great place for everyone who wants to relax from the hustle and bustle of the city: the wide and shady alleys, beautiful local nature and the freshness of the fountains. I can imagine it is the favourite spot for all during the summer.

On the second day we were ready for new adventures and went to the most famous castle in Poland.

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The Wawel Castle – one of the most interesting places in Krakow. In the old days, the Wawel Castle served as a royal residence, and today it receives tourists and everyone who wants to plunge into the unique atmosphere of antiquity. Buy a ticket with a audio guide. By the way, we also tried to fly our drone to make a beautiful video, but, unfortunately, we were told that it is not allowed.

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Our next stop was Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory, which you probably know from the Spielberg film. Although the story is rather ambiguous (for example, to get on the list, it was necessary to pay a tidy sum), it is difficult to overestimate the contribution of the owner of the “enamelware factory” in the salvation of the Jews.

It will take you about three hours to learn more not only about the factory itself but also about this bloody period in general. The ticket is € 4.9, but on Monday you can pass for free. If you prefer a guided tour check HERE
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Not far from the factory you will find another important place dedicated to the events of the Second World War – the Ghetto Heroes Square (Plac Bohaterów Getta). Large bronze chairs in the square symbolize waiting for death (mostly all Jews from this square were sent to the death camps of Belzhets and Auschwitz). If you look closely, most of the chairs on the square are turned towards the pharmacy under the eagle of Tadeusz Pankevich, which is not accidentally located here. The pharmacist and his staff were the only Poles who stayed in the ghetto to help the Jews. If you move away from the square and the pharmacy about 10 minutes in the direction of the centre, you will see a fragment of the ghetto wall – it is made in the form of Moses’ tablets (sarcasm from the Nazis).

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Since we were in the Jewish district of Kazimierz, we decided not to think only about the sad moments of history connected with the Second World War, but to go to walk around this atmospheric quarter, where they make movies almost every day, to learn more about its legends (our favourite is about the Jewish Jew Maximilian Factorovich, who emigrated to the States and created the MaxFactor cosmetics empire) and look at some synagogue (but be prepared to pay a couple of euros for curiosity).

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You can finish your acquaintance with Kazimierz at the New Jewish Cemetery (Nowy Cmentarz Żydowski), but we decided to skip this place.
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I really wanted to get to the National Museum, where we went next. In May 2017, in the main building of the National Museum in Krakow (Aleja 3 Maja 1) you can see one of the most valuable paintings of the Renaissance in the world and, of course, the most valuable in the Polish collection – “The Lady with an Ermine” written in 1490 by Leonardo Vinci.

It was the only museum we visited in Krakow, but if you are a “museum fan” I recommend visiting definitely the following museums: Ethnographic Museum of Krakow, Krakow Witkin Gallery, Museum of the History of Photography, Manggha Museum of Japanese art and technology, MICET (Interactive Museum).

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If time allows (tour duraction about 7 hours, check HERE), go to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp (Wiezniow Oswiecimia, 20). The one where the inscription is Arbeit Macht Frei and 1,400,000 victims. It cannot be called an entertaining trip, of course, but the place is worthwhile your visit: walking around the buildings of the concentration camp and reading about the Holocaust in books is two big differences.

Pay attention: you can visit the complex only as part of a group – registration is required.

TRAVEL TIP
Pay attention: you can visit the complex only as part of a group – registration is required.
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Be sure to go on a trip to the Wieliczka Salt Mine. The duration of the tour is about 4 hours and you can check the schedule HERE. In fact, this is a whole underground city and not just a salt mine. In the dungeons of Wieliczka, everything is surrounded by salt, you can go deeper by 2 kilometres, admiring the grottoes and lakes. The mine has its own chapel, sculptures of salt, an underground sanatorium. The chapel is illuminated by a salt crystal chandelier. In the chapel is a salt sculpture of John Paul II.

If you want to explore Krakow with a guide, then I advise you to take a 4-hour “Krakow in One Day Sightseeing Tour” or you can take a tour by bike “Sightseeing Bike Tour

WHERE TO SHOP IN KRAKOW

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Having walked and having seen all the sights, we decided to go on a quick shopping spree. We started shopping in Krakow from the Old Town: the mass of small shops focused on Florianska and Shevskaya streets, Grodzka street and Slavskovskaya street. There are often fairs at the Market Square where you can try traditional Polish dishes and buy local delicacies.

Then we went to the Galeria Krakowska shopping mall, which is located near the railway station. In this shopping centre there are more than 270 stores (both exclusive and inexpensive brands), and later we sat down in a cosy restaurant for a snack and a cup of coffee.

If you like flea markets, there are several of them in Krakow. Plac Targowy Unitard on Grzegorzecka Street and Plac Nowy Flea Market in Kazimierz area.

Kraków’s biggest souvenir point is, of course, the Cloth Market, but there are quite a few interesting shops beside it. At Cepelia stores, you can purchase products made by local craftsmen. Lovers of antiques should visit Platan area – here are collected the most popular antique shops of the city. It is better to buy a sweet souvenir in the store Wavel (we also visited this cafe for a cup of hot chocolate) – a variety of chocolates, gift sets and chocolate figures will not leave anyone indifferent!

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The next day, we were expected to travel to Warsaw. We decided to use the ultra-comfortable train (check the time tables and prices HERE ) and got to the train station on foot in about 15 minutes from our apartments. I chose between the first and second class in the high-speed train (there are several types of trains) and realized that the difference basically is only in a meal during the trip. In the second class, we had two comfortable seats, the Internet and snacks.

A few hours later (the fastest train) we were in Warsaw. ..

SHOP MY STYLE FOR KRAKOW

This is not a sponsored post. All the websites and companies I have included here are based on my personal travel experiences. Please note that some of these links are an affiliate, and with no extra cost to you.  I may earn a small commission that helps me run this website and helps me share my adventures and travel tips which can help you. 

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