We visited Krakow in March 2016, and this is what we did in our short time there …
Wieliczka Salt Mine
The largest mining museum in the world and one of Poland’s largest tourists attractions. it is believed to be built in 1280. The UNESCO listed mines include cathedrals, chapels, churches, salt sculptures, chandeliers, lakes, health spas, cafes … you name it! The microclimate in the mines is supposedly beneficial to those with asthma or allergies.
I was blown away by this place! You must go! Here’s some photos, including one of my mum tasting the salt walls 🙂
The tour only shows you 1% of the entire salt mine, which is impressive as we were in there a while (1.5 hours). We went down as far as 140m, but it goes down much further (305m I believe). Tickets/Tours cost approx. £15.
We grabbed lunch outside the salt mine. There was a small traditional styled café on the street facing the entrance called Halit restaurant. We ordered soup and were pleasantly surprised to see it arrive on a bowl made of bread (including lid). Why can’t all soup be served like this?
We organised the salt mine/Auschwitz tour with our Air BnB host. I’m used to organising and planning every trip by myself. My mum suggested we book with the Air BnB as we were very short on time with this trip. I’m so glad we did in the end. The Salt Mines and Auschwitz are both out of the way and I imagine quite hard to get to. Auschwitz is 60-90 minutes away.
The guide picked us up in the morning and drove us to salt mines. At 12pm he picked us up and took us to Auschwitz. He also came in with us and gave us a tour explaining everything. We were able to jump a huge queue and by passed all the crowds. I would recommend a tour guide for the two concentration camps.
Auschwitz and Birkenau
I don’t really know what to say about Auschwitz. It something you just have to experience for yourself. I had been to the concentration camp near Berlin before this trip, so I had a fair idea of what to expect. Some people hate that these places have become ‘touristy’, but I personally think it’s important to go and see it for yourself. It is important to remember those who experienced the horror first hand.
Rynek Glowny (Main square)
The old town survived World War 2 and is now a UNESCO world heritage site.
St Mary’s Basilica church
- Built in the 1200’s, this church lives in the main square (free entry).
- 100 steps unto a panoramic view of the main square.
Rynek Underground Museum
A.K.A ‘the Dirt Museum’.
When they began construction work on the main square, they found old remains of existing buildings, streets, and possessions under the square, 4m below the surface. The square became an archaeological site for five years and you can visit the remains of the largest medieval market square in Europe below. I loved it! I found it all fascinating, but my sister named it ‘the Dirt Museum’ and wasn’t as impressed as I was! Go on and decide for yourself. (entry approx. £3.20)
The grounds are free to walk around, but you have to pay to go inside. We arrived quite late and didn’t make it inside. I believe there is Davinchi painting in the castle, and Polish kings in the crypts in the cathedral.
Grodzka street in the original kings road which leads from the main market square to Wawel hill.
The urban legend of Krakow …
A prince called Krak/Krakus built a castle on Wawel Hill and named the city after himself. It was a great city except for the dragon who devoured sheep, cattle and men. The prince ordered a sheep hide near his cave filled with sulphur. the dragon took the bait , rushed to the river to drink, and finally exploded providing a firework display for the city. the dragon monument, smok wawelshi is placed where the dragon once lived.
Kazimierz is the Jewish quarter. Spielberg shot most of Schindlers list here. You can visit Schindler’s factory and get a tour. I wish we had time to do this.
Slightly different to the Main square Rynek Glowny more calm and unique atmosphere. Lots of famous pubs, best burgers, delicious Ice creams, river bank with restaurant, ships and pedestrian bridge which connects Kazimierz with Podgórze.
We walked around until we found the Jewish ghetto chair memorial. The memorial commemorates the lives lost during the organised Jewish youth resistance against the Nazi’s on the 22nd December 1942. Most fighters were captured and murdered.
“From our path there is no turning back … we are fighting for three lines in history, if only to show that Jewish youth did not go like sheep to the slaughter.”
Banksy Street Art
Ulica bozego ciala (the street name)
Vegetarian/Vegan food spots
When we arrived in Krakow we had only just decided to try vegetarianism and were aspiring to eventually go vegan. We were discussing if we should be ‘travel vegans’. This means we would be vegan, but we would try the local food when we are travelling. However, when we got there and realised the food consisted of a lot of greyish stodgy meat dishes and we couldn’t bring ourselves to do it. It made us actively search for some vegetarian/vegan restaurants and I’m so glad we did.
I love food. I eat and think about food all day long, but for some reason when I’m travelling, it falls down the list of priorities. We tend to squeeze as much into the day as possible and eat when we have time or a need a rest. The nearest café we can find is where we often end up. Our first trip as vegetarians (and aspiring vegans) made this trip a different trip to all the rest. We planned our meals and cafés into our sightseeing schedule. I didn’t realise how much fun this could be. Veggie and especially vegan food is all new and exciting to us and so were the cafes and menus. Here’s some we found and tried. I also enjoyed the hunt for some of these places. They took us off the beaten track, and that’s how we found the Banksy street art.
if you are looking for more vegetarian/vegan friendly restaurants use http://www.happycow.net.
Krakow currently has 11 vegan restaurants and 21 vegetarian restaurants. As well as a list of veg-friendly restaurants and stores.
What we missed…
- Schindler’s factory
- Plac Nowy – markets in the heart of Kazimerz Jewish quarter
- Brama Florianska – gateway to Krakow’s old town.
- Church of St. Peter and St. Paul
- Wierzenyk – oldest restaurant in Poland, opened 1364.
- Whiskey corner – pub in an old cellar in the old town
- Bonarka shopping mall
- Tyniec – Benedictine Abbey
- Plac Szczepanski – musical fountain
- Wisla boulevards – Wisla river
- Kopiec Kraka – free ancient mound/pagan tomb and views of the city
- The mounds of Krakow (found this after our trip)
- Cmentarz Rakowicki – cemetery monuments sculptures November first – candlelit
- Plaza Krakow – a man made beach on the river. you can see it from Wawel hill.
- Zakrzówek + Skałki Twardowskiego – an old stone quarry now filled with turquoise water. An oasis near the city centre. Rent bikes and cycle there. You cannot swim there, but you can book and go scuba diving. Many hiking trails around the area. Our host told us its theoretically forbidden, but no one cares. You’ll see people jumping off the 20m high cliffs into the deep clean water.
- Kryspinów lake – 2 lakes with beaches and water sports and different attractions.
- city bike tour
- city walking tour – free walking tours are approx. 2 hours, and begin in the main square at 10.30.
- Clubs – Shine (biggest and newest), Fashion Time and Taawa (best in kazimierz).
Things we discovered …
- If you believe urban legend Kraków has the highest density of bars in the world. Simply hundreds of bars can be found in cellars and courtyards stretching from the old town, Kazimierz and beyond.
- The opening hours we list are flexible. If people are drinking, the barman is pouring.
- Punctuality highly valued! Be on time!
- The polish are firmly religious, formal and polite.
- The polish claim they invented Vodka/Wodka. It is drank straight in one swig.
- Krakow is fairly flat making it quite accessible.
- Very cheap £1 = 6 zloty
- Average spending per day = £22.
Where we stayed …
Apartment • Entire home/flat • 3 Guests
Morsztynowska 5, Kraków, Lesser Poland Voivodeship 31-029, Poland
Check out my Pinterest Boards for Krakow …
Check out my travel blog for more travel tips.
If you have any comments or travel tips on Krakow, I’d love to hear them!
I hope you enjoy your trip and return safely,
the wandering boomerang 🙂