Krakow Travel Guide: Poland’s Second City with a Mythical Feel

Krakow travel guide for first time visitors will prove beneficial in a lot of ways.

Most European cities bustling with life, have beautiful architecture and interesting stories to tell. However very few cities can so palpably transcend through time, like Krakow does. A city that has been the nucleus of myths from time immemorial, Krakow holds close to its beautiful traditions and tales.

While Warsaw is the capital of Poland, Krakow has always been the capital of kingdoms and their dynasties over the centuries, making it the cultural capital of the country. Since commercialization has not swapped the city from its tradition, Krakow has a lot to offer that distinguishes it from other European cities. Krakow also happens to be one of the only cities not decimated by Nazi Germany, unlike Warsaw, allowing it to retain most of its cultural edifices.

Historically known as the mythical city, its mystical power (hidden in a stone at the heart of the Wawel Hill) is said to have kept many invaders away. The myths don’t stop here. They resonate from every nook and corner, like the air is full of mystery dating back to centuries.

Krakow’s tourist spots are quiet safe for women as they constantly patrolled by police. There’s a lot you can explore in the city on your own or with a guide. However, racism (not more than that of any other European city) is present in pockets. It’s safe to tour the city quiet late in the nights, as long you’re on the main roads.

Krakow travel guide
A beautiful door at Old Town, Krakow. Photography by Tatianna S

Krakow Travel Guide: Budget Stay & Food Options

Airfare Rs. 50,000 (roundtrip)
Budget stays Approx Rs. 1500

Ibis Budget, Hotel Faust, Secret Garden hostel, High Life Hostel

Places to eat Starka restaurant (Polish vodka, pork roast, beef cheek) Pod Aniolami (fine dining- hazlenut vodka, mushroom soup, duck roast) Alchemia (American breakfast), Pizzatopia (vegan friendly-make your own pizza), Cheder (Israeli coffee/ Moroccan tea, baclava)
Overall expenses for a 3 day stay including food, transport, accommodation & misc Rs 13,000
Krakow travel guide
Beautiful pencil sketches on the walls of Starka Restaurant. Photography by Hannah Kinley

 

Krakow travel guide
A book shelf at Pod Aniolami. Photography by Jeanne Milbrath

 

Krakow travel guide
The red interiors of Alchemia. Photography by Vardges Hoveyan

 

Krakow travel guide
You can make your own pizza at Pizzatopia. Photography by Paul Gregory

 

Krakow travel guide
The best coffee serving place in Krakow – Cheder. Photography by Zuzanna Staniszewska

Top Travel Places to visit as per Krakow Travel Guide

Krakow Travel Guide Destination #1: Wawel Castle

This thousand year old medieval castle stands on top of the Wawel Hill in Krakow, on the banks of the Vitsula river. This UNESCO World Heritage site was the home for over 3 dynasties of Polish kings. Standing the test of time, the castle has a mix of medieval, Baroque and Renaissance architecture, a combination of one of the largest European architectural movements. Close to the castle, you’d find the crown treasury, with a collection of some of the most exquisite royal gems of the centuries. The bottom of the Wawel Hill also has the historical Dragon’s Den, where as guessed, legend has it that a dragon once lived till it was destroyed by a shoemaker.

krakow travel guide
The Wawel Castle. Photography by Eyener Ruben

Krakow Travel Guide Destination #2: Rynek Glowny (Market Square)

One of the largest plazas in Europe, Krakow’s market square was the hub of city life since medieval times, and it is even now. Climb the hall tower to get a panoramic view of the beautiful square. With sunny outdoor cafes, street artists and shopping centres, the square is a must visit during the day. You will also find quite a few amber products ranging from incense to jewellery, in the stores here, something Poland is quiet known for. Krakow Cloth Hall is sprawling with wooden toys, clothes, amber pieces and handicrafts. It’s an authentic Krakow shopping experience. The square is also your ideal location to taste some reasonably priced Polish cuisine while enjoying some live music. Krakow’s music culture is definitely worth a mention with city’s innumerable jazz bars (Harris Piano Jazz bar being one of the popular ones), Chopin concerts and performance venues. Head over to Stary Port, a one of a kind sailor bar, for some drunken sing alongs.

krakow travel guide
Rynek Glowny or the Market Square at Krakow. Photography by Alexsandra Swider

Krakow Travel Guide Destination #3:  Old Synagogue

Constructed in the 15th century, the Old Synagogue now hosts a series of exhibitions on Jewish culture and Judaism in Poland. You’ll get to witness a lot of traditional Jewish culture, including clothing, paintings and craft items along with Jewish artifacts like Torah adornments. While these are just the permanent exhibitions, there are a host of temporary exhibitions every week as well.

krakow travel guide
The Old Synagogue. Photography by Albert Reira

Krakow Travel Guide Destination #4:  Schindler’s Factory

Poland’s journey through World War II deeply affects the contemporary culture of Poland. Schindler’s factory has a series of exhibits regarding the Nazi occupation. The historical significance of the factory is actually quiet a positive one. Oskar Schindler, the Nazi factory owner had saved the lives of his Jewish workers. The museum, unlike a regular display of artefacts, also has a lot of artistic interpretation and creative representation in its exhibits. The factory turned museum, gives a theatrical experience as you amble through cobblestoned streets, through trams and inside ghettos. Be sure to try out their memory machines which give the visitors a stamp commemorating a historical event for you to take home. For someone who is really looking to experience the culture of a place quite genuinely, this place is a must visit. It is one of the most intelligently constructed museums, making history and memories tangible. The entry fee is 400 rupees.

krakow travel guide
Schindler’s factory has a series of exhibits regarding the Nazi occupation. Photography by Angelique De Ridder

Krakow Travel Guide Destination #5: Wieliczka Salt Mine

You would never think mines can look this breathtaking. With faint orange lighting and stunning chandeliers, it’s like a magical underground town. The mine has many chapels, salt lakes and alleys with some beautiful sculptures and interiors. A guided group tour costs around 2000 rupees.

krakow travel guide
The beautiful Wieliczka salt mine. Photography by Martin Garcia

Krakow Travel Guide Destination #6: Auschwitz and Birkenau Camps

The impact of the world war can not be ignored when visiting Poland. Just an hour’s drive from Krakow, are the concentration camps that killed thousands of Jews in genocide. The place is actually within a wooded area, seemingly beautiful for someone who doesn’t know its history. The railways tracks that led to the camps are still intact, making it all the more eerie. The Nazi quarters in this area have now been converted to World War II museums and are definitely worth the visit. A guided tour including transport costs around 2500 rupees.

krakow travel guide
Auschwitz and Birkenau Camps. They were once the concentration camps of the Nazis. Photography by Bart Van Luik

 

Happy wayfaring 🙂

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Krakow travel guide
Shravani Bheema
Shravani Bheema is a student of English Literature from Bangalore. An ardent lover of nature, she  can be found seeking quietude in corners and canopied streets of Bangalore that the city provides in secret abundance. Her biannual family trips since childhood have influenced what she seeks and finds in travelling along with a great interest for bird-watching. It’s always mountains over beaches and forest guesthouses over luxury resorts. She finds joy in experiencing a place as authentically as possible, and that she believes can never come through environments that are altered too much. Arundhati Roy, Samuel T Coleridge, Neil Gaiman and Paulo Coelho are among her most read authors.

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