Vow2travel ventured to Krakow, Poland for 4 nights in a spur of the moment trip and we absolutely loved it. We already had a trip to Prague planned, with the hotel and return flights all booked for a 4 night city break but a couple of weeks before we were due to travel we decided to cancel the return flight home and instead booked transport to take us to Krakow. Despite the short notice we were surprised at how cheap it was, something that we’d come to realise was pretty standard in this Polish city.
With my family originating from a small village in Czech Republic (or Czechia as it is now known!) I thought we would like Prague more. While Prague was an amazing place, it pained me to say it but, Krakow had some charm that made us prefer it to the Czech capital that is swamped with millions of tourists from all over the world every year.
So we thought we’d share with you what exactly made us fall in love with this city so much. We’ve been on short breaks to a LOT of European cities and overall Krakow beats them all and that is why you should make sure you take time to visit this little gem in 2017!
First of all, there is SOOO much to see and do right in the centre of Krakow. The main square, Rynek Glowny, is situated in the Old Town and is one of the most picturesque squares you will find in any European City. In the centre of the square there is an indoor cloth market as well as monuments, the town hall tower and, probably the most famous sight there, St. Mary’s Basilica from which a trumpet sounds every hour on the hour.
There are various cafe’s and bars around the square where you could literally sit for hours watching the street performers and just generally taking in the nicest atmosphere we’ve ever experienced in a city like this.
The whole Old Town is surrounded by a leafy green moat, the Planty Park, which encases the whole old town in a beautiful sea of of trees, plants and benches. Again, you could spend hours taking a picnic and people watching in this really nice area!
A short walk from the main square, there is Wawel Castle + Cathedral, situated on top of the Wawel Hill where you will get some amazing picturesque views across the city and also see the fire breathing dragons!
History buffs, like ourselves, will be in Heaven when they visit Krakow as it is absolutely brimming with sights in every corner of the city! You should set a day aside for checking out the Kasimierz and Jewish Ghetto regions. These are a short stroll down the hill from the Old Town and Wawel Castle, where you will pass a lot more churches, monuments and generally stunning architecture along the way. Around this area you will see Heroes Square, and also visit and take a tour round the factory of Oskar Schindler, made famous by the war movie Schindler’s List.
Staying on the topic of history, a day trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau is a must for anyone that visits Krakow as well. Auschwitz-Birkenau is the infamous site where the Nazis slaughtered millions of people during WWII, for anybody that isn’t familiar with it. It was the biggest of the many Nazi death camps that were around during the war and really is a pretty harrowing place to visit, but such an important part in world history that we think EVERYBODY should see if they have the chance to. There are many tour companies that will pick you up from most central hotels in Krakow and take you there and back, as it is just over an hours drive, so it’s not difficult to get to at all.
We also did a tour to the Wieliczka Salt Mines, which again is outside of the main city centre so I would take a tour there for convenience. These salt mines are at a depth of 327 metres underground and stretch 178 miles long. Inside the tunnels there are some really impressive carvings and statues and even an underground cathedral made entirely from salt. As cool as they are to see, we wouldn’t exactly say it was an essential when visiting Krakow, but perhaps more worth doing if you have some extra time to kill and it interests you.
Perhaps a lot less publicised and you’re unlikely to have heard of, but we think is an absolute MUST when you visit Krakow is a haunted house called Lost Souls Alley. This is conveniently located literally 2 minutes walk away from the main square, down a little side street. Walking up to it we heard people inside screaming their heads off, and we thought it was a group of teenage girls, only for them to pass us on our way in and we realised it was a group of fully grown men.
It is so so scary, but amazing at the same time and gives you such an adrenaline rush that you feel buzzing for long after you come out. I won’t go into all the details to ruin it for you guys when you go there, but you just have to remember the people are props and will not harm you.. If you find it too much then you can also leave at any time, but seriously you HAVE to go there!
Value For Money
Poland is so cheap compared to most European countries and significantly cheaper than the UK and USA. Don’t fall for the tourist traps! You will find it more expensive if you sit in the main square for coffee and drinks so we would recommend going up a block and even then you will prices are pretty much halved. This isn’t just the case in Krakow, but generally across the board in most touristy cities.
You can easily go out for a nice meal and have 2 courses and a bottle of wine for about £15 – £20 a head, and in fact we did this a couple of times.. Big shout out to Moo Moo Steak & Burger Club*! There are loads of places to eat and drink so you will be spoilt for choice. If you’re looking for somewhere close to the main square for a drink then we highly recommend Piec Art* which is actually an acoustic Jazz Club just up the street from Rynek Glowny. It had a really nice decor inside, friendly staff, live music and was very reasonably priced for drinks.
*Please note we are not affiliated with any other companies and do not receive any incentives for recommending them. This is purely our opinion and an honest review of somewhere we liked to visit.
We spent the same amount of time here as we did in Prague and did not scrimp at all (going out for nice meals every night and drinking cocktails, beers etc.), but spent a whole lot less money. We usually initially splash out the first couple of nights and realise we have to reign it in a bit with our spending, but that wasn’t the case here. In fact it was the total opposite and in the end we couldn’t even spend all the Polish Zloty we took with us.
Our hotel room only cost us the equivalent of £13 per night as well. It was an Ibis Budget, so pretty basic but it did the job and we were out all day so it was really just somewhere to rest our heads til the next morning.
In terms of value for money Krakow is AMAZING which is better for you and your bank balance, and who doesn’t love a bargain?
This city just oozed charm in a way that appealed to both of us more and more the longer we stayed. It just had something about it that Prague didn’t, and felt a lot less tourist orientated, with a lot of local people about and they were all pretty friendly and happy to help you. It is a very clean place with such aesthetically pleasing buildings and monuments round just about every corner, and very walkable as well so there was no need for getting cabs, buses or trains round the main attractions in the city.
Sitting in the Rynek Glowny or Planty Park and taking in the relaxed atmosphere of the city is one of the nicest environments we’ve been in and tops all other places we’ve been on this kind of trip to. Everything about Krakow, from the architecture, value for money and things to do mean there is something for everybody here and that is why it is our top place in Europe for a City Break in 2017!