Krakow may just be one of my new favourite European cities. This Polish city offers something for everyone: culture, history, nightlife and delicious food! My motive for travelling to Krakow was to visit Auschwitz however, as soon as I stepped inside the city walls, I knew I was in for treat! We were welcomed through the city gates by young, talented buskers, drawn to the markets by delicious smelling food and excited by the horse and carriages that trotted through the main square. I immediately knew that four nights wasn’t going to be enough. Despite this, I was able to cram in all the essentials in just three days. Here’s how you can do the same…
Get Orientated with a Walking Tour!
The first thing I do when arriving in any new city is a walking tour and Krakow was no exception. In fact, we may have even got a little carried away and crammed two into one day. Our favourite was with Walkative tours. They offer a number of tours around Krakow, including the old town and the Jewish quarter. It’s a fantastic way of getting orientated and gaining a brief overview of Krakow’s incredibly interesting history.
As stated earlier, Auschwitz memorial site was the main reason for my visit to Krakow. I’m not going to sugar coat it – it’s hard to visit. It’s confronting. But, what happened at Auschwitz is a significant moment in the world’s history and is important for us all to learn and understand.
No need to pre-book before arriving in Krakow – there are a number of companies, which offer transport to and from the site, as well as a guided tour of two of the Auschwitz camps. If you prefer to take things slow, then I recommend visiting the site on your own. Although informative, the tours tend to be fast paced, meaning it can be difficult to digest the information. I would suggest leaving a full day for the Auschwitz experience; the tour alone is six hours and it’s likely you’ll need time to process afterwards.
You can read more on my visit to Auschwitz by reading my previous post, here.
Located in the former building of Oskar Schindler’s enamel factory is the exhibition, ‘Kraków under Nazi Occupation 1939-1945.’ The museum details Kraków’s history during WWII, where the German’s invaded and brutally disrupted the lives of the inhabitants, in particular the Jews.
In 1993, the story of Oskar Schindler was brought to life by Steven Spielberg when he created the film, ‘Schindler’s List.’ Since this time, tourists from around the world have been visiting the old enamel factory to visit the site where Schindler saved the the lives of over a thousand people.
In my opinion, the museum is incredible! It displays Kraków’s complex wartime history, as well as the story of Oskar Schindler and the life stories of the Jews he saved. I would suggest allowing approximately three hours to explore the detailed exhibition.
Lipowa 4F, 30-702 Kraków, Poland
Opening times: Mon 10am – 4pm, Tue – Sat 9am – 8pm
Cost: Adult 21 pln (approx. 5 euros), Concession 16 pln ( approx. 4 euros)
Book a Tour to the Wielickza Salt Mines
The Wielickza Salt Mine was founded in the 13th century and produced table salt until 2007. With miners working from generation to generation, this salt mine is one of the oldest in operation.
The entire mine consists of 300km of tunnels located over 327m below the ground. To visit the mine you must partake in a guided tour, which leads you through 22 chambers, 135m below ground. The tour begins by descending over 300 steps to arrive at the first layer of the mine. Here, you will make your first discovery: the salt isn’t white! No, with only 5% of impurities, these walls made of sodium chloride reflect a grey-ish colour, from which hundreds of tunnels, statues and chapels have been carved. The most impressive views inside the tunnel are provided by the Chapel of St Kinga.
Taking over 70 years to create, the chapel is absolutely incredible and completely took my breath away. The entrance of the chapel begins at the top of a grand staircase, allowing you to view its beauty from above. As I descended the stairs, I began to notice the carvings on the walls. There, surrounding the entire chapel, were detailed carvings of the stories of Jesus, including a 3D rendition of the Last Supper. But for me, the most beautiful of all, and lighting the entire room, were the grand chandeliers. Hanging in the centre of the room, these chandeliers made of hanging salt crystals were simply stunning!
The salt mine experience also included a 3D cinema, restaurant, and a gift store. Oh – and don’t forget to lick the walls for eternal good luck!
Danilowicza 10, 32-020, Wielickza, Poland
Open daily: 7:30am – 7:30pm
Cost: Adults 89 pln (approx 20 euro) ( plus additional transport costs if choosing to book with city tour companies)
Enjoy the Food!
I didn’t expect it however, Krakow has been one of my favourite places for eating out. As Poles transition towards a healthier lifestyle, the options for healthy eating and vegetarian restaurants are increasing. There’s even a few options for those vegans out there! Here’s a few of my recommendations:
Located in the centre of town, this burger joint is an absolute hit! Choose your bun, vegetarian patty (or slices of grilled vegetables), cheese and sauces, to create the ultimate healthy burger. Krowarzywa is well priced and popular and you can even upgrade to include roasted potatoes and vegan coleslaw.
Slawkowska 8, 31-014, Kraków, Poland
Open daily 12-11pm
We arrived at Café Mlynek when touring the Jewish quarter. With the option for outdoor seating, we basked in the sun as we enjoyed one of my favourite vegetarian lunches to date: a beetroot and goats cheese quiche. Although a little pricey for Polish standards, the extra dosh paid is well worth it. I accompanied mine with a honey, ginger and lemon tea and was begging for more by the end of my meal. They also served a whole range of smoothies, salads and traditional Polish meals – all with a vegetarian spin!
Plac Wolnica 7, 31-000, Kraków, Poland
Open Mon – Thur 9am – 10pm, Fri – Sun 9am – 11pm
Pierogi – various places!
When visiting Krakow, you must try the traditional Pierogi: a traditional polish potato dumpling, which you can enjoy steamed or fried. Try traditional meat flavours or go for the tasty vegetarian options – you will never be left disappointed! Pierogi can be found right throughout the city, but we were fortunate to stumble across a cute winter market that sold them by day and night. My favourites included the spinach and cheese, cabbage and mushroom and lentil flavours. You can even order sweet varieties, such as strawberries.
This sushi bar was just so nice we had to go twice! With the chefs located in the middle of the room, you can enjoy watching your meal be made right in front of your eyes. They do a killer ramen and have a wide range of speciality sushi to choose from. For good reason, Urara Sushi books up quickly, so I would recommend reserving a table in advance.
Swietego Tomasza 19, 31-022, Kraków, Poland
Open daily 12-10:30pm
As I said, Krakow has quickly become one of my favourite European cities and, if you’re planning a holiday to this side of the world, I recommend adding Krakow to the top of your list. Just make sure you allow plenty of time for all of your adventures. If I had had it my way, I would have stayed another week….at least!