Even though I only had 48 hours in Krakow, it instantly became one of my favorite cities in Europe. Within the two days my friends and I spent there, we had met some of the kindest people, eaten incredible food, stayed in a lovely apartment and learned so much about the dark times Poland went through during World War II. Krakow was such an extraordinary city to visit and even though my time was limited, I want to share some of the things I recommend doing there.
Poland (and Eastern Europe in general) is a great inexpensive destination since the dollar is so strong there. We by no means traveled in a budget way but still managed to barely spend any money. We booked an apartment through Krakow Living on AirBnB. The beautifully furnished apartment was in walking distance of everything. I highly recommend staying in one of their apartments if you choose to go to Krakow. Monkia (the C.E.O.) was super accommodating with having 3 people staying in a two-bedroom apartment as well as sending someone at five in the morning to help us check out. The best part is that we got all of this amazing service for $17 USD per person a night!
Here is the link to the AirBnB we stayed in: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/19302108
And to go directly to their website: https://aparthotel.krakowliving.com/en/homepage/
Main Market Square (Rynek Glowny)
Krakow’s Rynek Glowny is the Main Market Square of The Old Town. I thought that the beautiful and vibrant medieval architecture compared a lot to Prague’s, even though Krakow’s square is a lot larger (one of the largest in Europe actually). Here you can observe the stunning buildings, watch talented street performers, eat in one of the many restaurants or shop at the bazaar. Even though I typically have a strict no eating by touristy sights policy, we were super hungry and decided to try a restaurant in the square called Da Pietro. When we sat down I was a bit confused as why we chose to eat Italian food in Poland since we were living in Rome, but all that aside it was great. Eating delectable food, sipping wine and watching the lit up square was honestly breathtaking.
While in Krakow you should definitely check out the fantastic structures that stand on Wawel Hill. Located next to the Vistula river, this hill is home to the Royal Castle and Wawel Cathedral. It’s buildings are rich in history with residents from Mieszko I of Poland (the first historical ruler) to Hans Frank (Nazi Governor General). In my opinion, this place is most beautiful at night time. If you get the chance, go sit by the river when it gets dark, look at the castle all lit up and try to conceptualize all the history and events that occurred right before your eyes. It’s both eerie and spectacular.
Oskar Schindler Factory
The Oskar Schindler Factory is primarily famous due to the movie Schindler’s List. I am sad to say we didn’t get a chance to tour it, but we visit it late at night to get a look. The large windows outside the factory hold pictures of all those that Oskar Schindler saved during World War II. It was amazing to see all the people that were fortunate to survive but also made you think about how many perished in the death camps. If I do ever find myself in Krakow again, this will be one of the first places I visit.
Kazimierz (Jewish Quarter)
I try to seek out the Jewish Quarter in every European City I visit. Jewish Quarters are filled with some of the best food, trendy shops and a deep history. I especially wanted to see Krakow’s because it’s one of the most well known in all of Europe with it dating back to 1495. It is home to a plethora of extraordinary synagogues like the The Remah, Temple, High and Old Synagogue. You can also visit the Jewish Cemetery which spans over 11 acres. This area has a very bohemian vibe and is worth taking a few hours to explore.
When we were meandering around Kazimierz we stumbled upon a restaurant called Hamsa. I’m not quite sure why we chose it since it didn’t have a large presence along the quiet street we were walking down, but I am glad I did. Hamsa is officially tied with the best meal I have ever had in all of Europe (the other is rabbit in Paris). The Israeli restaurant preaches making hummus and not war. We began with 10 appetizers (yes, that is excessive and yes we ate them all) that arrived in a hamsa shaped hand plates. Each finger of the plate will filled with vegetables, cheeses or dips. We also ordered a bottle of wine and two things of kefta lamb with bread and salad. All of this food wound up costing us a little over $22 a person. While a $22 meal is outside a typical budget traveler’s range, I couldn’t even imagine how much this would cost in the U.S. Treat yo self!
(taken from http://hamsa.pl/menu-en/)
After touring Dachau in Germany two summers ago, I really wanted to visit another concentration camp to see how they differed. One of the main reasons I went to Poland was to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau, one of the largest death camps during World War II. Even though it may be hard, it’s so important to visit sights like these. The history and events we learn about in school becomes more than words spoken by a teacher or read in a textbook. Though I will never truly understand what the prisoners at Auschwitz went through, visiting the camp made it more real to me.
When booking your tour, I would go with Cracow City Tours. You meet in front of the company’s office which is located in central Krakow (15 minute walk from our apartment). Your group then gets on a bus and they play an information video about the camp on the hour long ride it takes to get there. When you reach the sight, your group is paired with a tour guide and they take you on a tour of both Auschwitz and Birkenau. The trip cost us $36 and was well worth it.
Here is their website: https://cracowcitytours.com/
When in Poland you must try perogies! Perogies are dumplings that have endless types of fillings. You can get anything from steak and cheese to salmon and cream cheese (traditional ones have fillings like potato, sauerkraut and meat). Barbara from Krakow Living guided us to a wonderful place that I have no idea what the name is (oops). I’m sure if you ask a local they will point you in the direction of a great place!
I wanna thank my friend Garrett for once again providing some quality pictures as well as my Polish friends Karolina and Dominika for exploring with us!