Krakow Old Town

For reasons unbeknown to us we simply couldn't get a Flixbus from Berlin to Krakow at a reasonable time so we flew instead. We booked our flight for 8am thinking that that was early enough and we'd get in to Krakow at about 9:20am giving us the whole day to explore. But, we forgot about check in and actually getting to the airport etc and so we had to splash out and get a taxi to the airport at about 4am in the morning. It was a shock to the system to say the least. I was surprised as well actually at Berlin's Tegel Airport which me and Molly found a nightmare to navigate and was certainly one of the more stressful parts of our trip.         
       However, we boarded the flight and all was well... Until we reached Krakow which was another rather confusing airport. We couldn't find our way out! We did try using Uber but neither of us had used it before and it was a bit of an experiment- a failed one at that. It took us so long to find our driver that he eventually cancelled on us! After that debacle we finally found the direct train to Krakow city centre and were able to find our apartment and dump our stuff. Overall it was not the most seamless of transfers and I was glad to stop and take a breather.
     We decided to book an apartment for Krakow because it was halfway through our trip city-wise and we were staying a bit longer there than we had in either Amsterdam or Berlin (actually because of a mistake booking buses to Prague!). And I was really glad we had. The apartment in Krakow was only about £130 for 3 nights and 4 and a half days which was £20 cheaper than our Berlin hostel! It was quite a plush apartment as well only 10 minutes from the centre of the Old Town- it was wonderful. It was also nice to be able to spread our stuff out a bit and unpack properly without worrying about packing away each night. If you can stretch to it I would recommend staying in an apartment at east occasionally on your travels, it's so comfortable and I think gives you much more freedom- me and Molly cooked ourselves dinner a couple of times as well after a long day of sightseeing and then we spent the evenings watching TV in our PJs.
Church of Saint Adalbert, Krakow Main Square
     As for sightseeing I think we really packed it in which was quite easy because everything is quite concentrated within the Old Town. Over the few days we saw:

  • Krakow Barbican and Florian's Gate: Part of a 14th century fortification around Krakow's Old Town. Really impressive and quite pretty
  • The Cloth Hall: A huge hall right in the centre of the Main Square filled with stalls, mainly selling amber which is unbelievably cheap in Krakow. I thought it was beautiful and I bought quite a few pieces of jewellery whilst we were there.
  • Town Hall: A large town hall with a very tall tower providing beautiful views over the city. The climb up the steep stairs was a bit of a struggle though!
  • Church of St Adalbert: An 11th century tiny tiny church in the main square. We never actually got to go inside because every time we tried they were having mass. Poland is a very devout country.
  • The Jewish Quarter (Kazimierz): We had a walking tour around the Jewish Quarter visiting the synagogues, old ghetto area and the market place. I would really recommend a walking tour of Krakow because its so steeped in history and I found our Jewish specific tour very helpful in understanding the community there.
  • Planty Park: A huge park surrounding the Old Town, full of benches and little statues which makes for a peaceful walk.
  • Wawel Royal Castle and Cathedral: We didn't have time to go into either of these but their visages were stunning and they make very beautiful statements over the Polish city. Next time I would definitely find time to explore inside as well.
  • Wieliczka Salt Mine; the Salt Cathedral
  • Wieliczka Salt Mine: You could pay for private transport to the salt mine which is just over an hour away from the Old Town but we didn't through public transport which was quite easy and stress free in the main.Overall both Me and molly found the whole experience really disappointing. We had wanted to have a quick look around the famed Salt Cathedral but instead had to go on a 2 hour long guided tour which involved a lot of walking around and not much sightseeing. We eventually got to the Salt Cathedral but I found it a lot less impressive than the reviews and the guide had led us to believe. It took almost the whole day including the tour and travelling back and forth and I think for though the ticket and transport were relatively cheap, it wasn't really worth it.
  • Schindler's Factory: It took us two goes to see Schindler's Factory because whilst you don't need to book tickets, they're all sold out by 12 noon and so you need to get there really early if you want a chance of getting in. On our second attempt we got there for about 9:45am so we could go in as soon as it opened. The actual museum is colossal and covers more than just the factory in terms of size. It took us over half a day! In terms of content, we were left wanting as the majority of the museum covers the Nazi occupation of Krakow rather than Schindler's heroic acts. After we both came out we were left confused as to what Schindler had actually done and how he had managed to save all those Jews and we ended up Googling it on the way back so in that sense the museum was quite ineffective. Nevertheless it was very detailed and quite immersive and I certainly came away feeling I knew a lot more about what Krakow had suffered in WWII than I had previously but I wouldn't say it was a necessity when visiting Krakow.                                                                                                                  
    Molly and me with our cocktails one evening
    after a hard day's sightseeing
  • Auschwitz and Birkenau: Around krakow there were lots of people offering you 'deals' to see Auschwitz and me and Molly weren't sure how legit or reasonable they were so for safety's sake we booked our tour through the Krakow tourist information centre which is located righ off the main square. The tour included pickup in a minivan, being driven to Auschwitz, a guided tour, then being driven to Birkenau for another guided tour and then being dropped back off. I think for the level of care it was quite reasonable even though we had to get up really early to make the minivan-its about an hour and 45 minute drive to Oświęcim (the Polish name for the town nearest Auschwitz). It was a whole day experience and quite draining but the guide was really good and I came away feeling very informed if a little deflated. If you'd like to read a more detailed account of my visit to Auschwitz then check out my post here.

As well as much more. I think that overall Krakow was probably my favourite place. It was quite small and compact which was a nice relief after Berlin and so beautiful. There was so much to see since it was quite preserved, avoiding much of the damage inflicted on Warsaw in WWII. everyone was quite friendly and helpful and I found it very easy to navigate my way around and using public transport was simple. I think I could easily go back to Krakow and explore more. There's so much to see that really the 4 days we stayed there simply just wasn't enough- especially with all day trips like Auschwitz and the Salt Mine. 
     I think I would go back to the Jewish Quarter and explore around there without the constraints of a tour guide and make sure that I had fully explore every nook and cranny. Some places we saw a glimpse of on the way to somewhere else that I would've liked to go back to but simply did not have the time! Having said that we did make time for some shopping in Krakow but mainly because the weather there was quite erratic and on a particularly stormy day we headed fr the Cloth Hall markets and shopping centre where we were able to pick up quite a few bargains. I would go back to Krakow for the markets alone! Next time I think I would try and spend 5 days to a week to make sure I had fully seen everything.

Me eating the cheesy, mushroom baguette
thing in the Jewish Market
    Polish food was something quite new to me as well   that I tried a couple of times. In Amsterdam and Berlin we hadn't been able to find any restaurants offering the national cuisine but this was not the case in Krakow which was teeming with traditional restaurants! I tried a wild boar and dumpling stew which was rich and comforting but overall nothing too spectacular or mind blowing. I also tried traditional pretzels which were delicious and for breakfasts me and Molly tried a new pastry pretty much everyday. Mostly filled with a smooth marmalade and covered in sugar crystals. Sticky and delicious! I also tried a rather peculiar delicacy; half a baguette toasted, covered with fried mushrooms then melted cheese with a splash of ketchup to finish. One of the most delicious things I've ever eaten by far.
    If someone were to ask me for advice on where to travel for a short break then my immediate answer would be Krakow. I cannot speak more highly of it.

Have any of you guys been? If so what were your favourite parts?

Wawel Cathedral from the outside


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