Sitting in the southern part of Poland, Krakow is one of the oldest cities in the country. This medieval city dates back to the 7th Century and is filled with a range of architectural styles – Gothic churches, Renaissance Courtyards and Baroque buildings. It was left largely untouched during the war and is the leading city for academia, culture, artistic life and is the economic hub of Poland. Not far from Krakow is the Auszhwich concentrate camp, something well worth visiting and the Salt mines are also a nice half day visit. A visit to Krakow will be filled with history, culture, great Polish food and lots of walking!
Auschwitz and Salt Mine
I always try to plan the long days at the start of a trip, you are full of energy and once it is done, you can slow down and go at a more gentle pace. What better way than waking up early to join the half day tour to Auschwitz. After meeting at the main square of Krakow, the mini bus will take you along the countrysides of Poland towards Auschwitz.
Between 1940 and 1942, Auschwitz functioned predominately as a concentration camp, with around 10, 000 people imprisoned here in 1941. Between 1942 and 1944, the camp functioned as a place for the mass killings of Jews in gas chambers. The tour will take you around the facility and into individuals buildings where you can see the living conditions and also to the gas chambers. Your half day will be guided and spent walking around Auschwitz I and Auschwitz-Birkenau.
The tour concludes back in the old town of Krakow, where you will have a bit of time to grab some food before heading back on the bus for the Salt Mines. The Wieliczka Salt Mines opened in the 13th century and produced table salt even up till 2007 and is one of the oldest Salt Mines in the world. The deepest underground level is at 327 meters and the tunnels itself are 287km long! The mines now are predominately a tourist destination with tours along the tunnels, where you will get to see some very grand chambers and salt statutes!
Nowa Huta Tour
For those who are interested in Communist Krakow, then a tour of Nowa Huta would be perfect! Start the tour off with a tram ride to the social realist settlement, an example of deliberate social engineering. Think large building blocks with entrances only from the indoor courtyards (for safety). The tour gives you a great understanding of living in a model communist city, built in a socialist-realist style, for the ideal communist citizens. This is a journey of how the communist state tried to ‘create’ homo sovieticus – people who follow the party without questioning – and how their perfect regime was overcome and fought against by homo sapiens – people who think.
Krakow Old City
As an advocate of free walking tours around the world, we no doubt joined the Old Town Krakow Tour. Starting every morning at 10am, this is a tour of a beautiful old city; one that was not destroyed in the Second World War, pretty much left unchanged since the Middle Ages and its beauty reflected as an UNESCO Heritage Site. The tour gives a detailed overview from the Middle Ages to the glories of the 15th and 16th century, to the struggles and declines experienced in the 17th and 18th century and the stories up till now. Krakow Old City is a beautiful town to walk around and the information and detail given by the tour guide makes it very worth while!
Sites Visited: Main Market Square with St Mary’s church, Cloth Hall and Townhall Tower, remains of medieval city walls with Barbican and St Florian Gate, St Francis Church, Bishop’s Palace and papal window”, Wawel Hill with Cathedral and Wawel Castle, Wawel Dragon
Footie fans rejoice. Watching a game in Poland is exciting, fun and full of atmosphere. There are two main teams in the city, Wisla and Cracovia. The latter’s stadium is about a mile from the edge of the Old town. Head to the game early as you will have to queue to register to their system and then queue again to buy a ticket. Ticket prices were really cheap with their new joiner offers. I paid less than a pound for a ticket, sitting in the family section. The game itself wasn’t exciting, but the atmosphere was incredible. It’s hard to believe how loud the fans can get, especially when half the stadium was empty! A worthy experience!
The cuisine in Poland is very different and interesting and Krakow offers some of the nicest restaurants and cafes! From Milkbars to hidden restaurants and perfect breakfast places, here are a few delicious spots.
The first milk bar was set up in 1896 as workers’ canteens, serving quick and filling meals. The ‘milk’ in the title refers to the dairy-based contents in the menu, which often were vegetarian because of the cost of meat. Milkbars in Krakow have been revived recently and offer simple menus in old-style interiors.
When people travel, they always forget to start the day with a good breakfast. It’s important to get your day going with a nice big meal and Krakow has just the right places for that. Camelot is a cute cafe serving great coffee, omelettes and large bowls of oats. Or try Charlotte, whose French feel matches the high ceilings, croissants, granola and homemade jam. Great places to start your day!
Hidden restaurants are definitely my thing and U Babci Maliny is not only hidden but offers a great place for dinner. You will need to find it first though! Hidden inside the cellar and through a courtyard of the Polish Academy of Sciences, you will enter into a very cabin like atmosphere. The food here includes traditionally cooked meats, fishes and of course more pierogis!
Alternatively, Klezmer-hois in the centre of Kazimierz (Jewish District) is in an amazing 16th-century building, formerly a ritual bathhouse. The design and decoration here is unique and the food on offer is very traditional. Head over for some of their live music while you tuck into some hummus and great food!
A place full of history, culture and fine cuisine. Perfect for a long weekend!
Also published on Medium.