Written by guest blogger, Michelle Keeley
I recently went on a mother-daughter trip to the beautiful city of Krakow. For me an my Mum, this trip was somewhat of a pilgrimage as my Grandfather was imprisoned in Auschwitz-Birkenau during WWII. Despite all of the sadness that Poland has been engulfed in as a result of the Nazi Regime, it remains one of the most wonderfully beautiful places I have visited.
It is no secret to friends and family that I love travelling. I try to go away a few times a year to explore different cities and get to know the world a little better. As such, I love a good deal and will always seek out a bargain when abroad. However, in Krakow, you didn’t have to look far…
I’ve compiled a list of places to eat and the top things to do and see when in beautiful Krakow.
Where to eat.
My usual rule of thumb for dining abroad is ‘get off the beaten track.’ On our first night we did however, think ‘screw it’ and opted to dine in the Krakow main square as a treat. When we got the bill, we were frankly gob smacked. We had a starter between us, a huge main meal each, a jug of cocktails, two glasses of Coca Cola, a desert each and then two more cocktails. The bill came to a grand total of £31 for the two of us. Not each…FOR THE TWO OF US.
The restaurants in Market Square (the main square in Krakow) are adorned with huge umbrellas, heaters and blankets in case you get cold. I would fully recommend dining al fresco when in Krakow, although the restaurants are so lavishly decorated inside, you have to eat at least one meal inside.
The other place I would highly recommend is a pizzeria! Bar Italiano is down one of the side streets directly off the square. It is tucked away past a little shop selling Gothic/alternative bags, badges and t-shirts! We paid the equivalent of £11 for two 12” pizzas and two classes of Coca Cola.
Oh and one more thing about eating out in Krakow…the staff don’t expect it but are grateful when you tip. The waiters and waitresses can’t do enough for you, speak about five million languages and are just generally awesome.
Must See, Must Do…
- Krakow Market – a beautiful example of architecture and a magical looking array of market stalls. The market is right in the middle of the square and is a great place to buy unique, handmade gifts.
- City Tour by what can only be described as a golfing cart – I would highly suggest this if you go in a group of more than two. There are plenty of sellers dotted around so you will never have trouble finding one.
- The horse drawn carriages – if you don’t go on one, even just watching them wander around the square is lovely!
- The city walls – This is a lovely example of medieval architecture and what’s especially lovely about them is the fact that they are covered in paintings that artists are selling!
- Jazz Bars – There are lots in Krakow so just go exploring. It’s like stepping back in time.
- St. Mary’s Basilica – An example of true extravagance and about the equivalent of £2 for entry. Almost everything inside is lavishly plated in gold leaf and has some of the most beautiful pieces of religious art I’ve had the pleasure of seeing. Also, you’re actually allowed to take pictures inside! (as long as the flash isn’t on!)
We found that the best place to buy and book our trips from was from one of the many tourist office’s dotted around the city centre! Both were cheap and we were picked up by coach (perfectly on time) directly outside of our hotel.
We took two trips outside of Krakow during our couple of days in Krakow. The first was the trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau. We took the four hour trip, but upon reflection, the six hour trip would have been far better! The camps are about an hour away from Krakow by coach and although an upsetting and harrowing experience, I think it’s one that everyone should do. The tour guide was wonderful and upon arrival everyone is presented with a headset so you can always hear what the tour guide is saying. This is at no extra charge.
Our second trip was to the Wieliczka Salt Mine! This was a magical experience after the trauma of the hundreds of steps (380 to level one alone) you have to descend to get down there. (This is so you experience what it was like for the miners every day on their way into the mine. I don’t envy them…) Inside, you are guided by a tour guide who explains each chamber and the healing benefits of the pure salt and as you descend further and further you can see the beautiful chapel and statues all carved out of salt!
Be warned though, because at the end of the tour is a lift that takes about 15 seconds to ascend hundreds of feet. Well, I say lift…it was actually more of a cage. It was cool though. Oh…and wear sensible footwear.
TIP: Remember your student I.D. For discounts on trips. I had an NUS Extra Card with me with the added ISIC status on it (it was around 3 pounds more expensive) so that I could use it abroad.
Top 5 best things about Krakow
- The people – of all of the places I have been in the world, I’d have to say that the people of Poland are the most welcoming.
- The History – I’m a trainee history teacher. I suppose I’m a bit of a history nerd too, but honestly, even if history isn’t really your ‘thing’, the city breathes it so take it in.
- The Food – Try the traditional Polish cuisine! Delicious, hearty and filling. But if that’s not to your taste, Krakow is full of all sorts of different types of food to suit all palettes
- Nice Surprises – by this I mean the fact that you can wander around aimlessly and always stumble upon something lovely and picturesque.
- The prices – Thoroughly impressive for the quality of everything there. Be it goods, food or drink, it is always excellent value for money. We lived like a king and spent like a pauper!
Thanks to Guest Blogger, Michelle Keeley.
To read more of her writing on various topics go to www.michellekeeleywriting.wordpress.com