We travelled to Krakow from Sandomierz by bus which cost us 40zl each (approx £8) and took around 3 hours. The transport in Krakow itself is the same as most European cities. It has a direct train service, a bus station, airport and the all-important Uber. There are also some other fun ways of getting around the city such as electric scooter, segway (which we had a go on) and horse and cart which take you on a ride all around the main square. Depending on where in the city you stay and where you want to go to, you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting around by foot. We managed to find an AirBnB apartment which was perfectly located 10 minute walking distance from the old town and castle in one direction, and the Jewish Quarter in the other!
What to do
Auschwitz-Birkenau – I don’t think many people would go to Krakow without visiting Auschwitz. There are a lot of organised tours on Get Your Guide which organises transport as well as tickets and guides, as the town Oswiecim is about an hour and a half out of the city. Most of them don’t supply drinks or food but there is a cafe at the entrance of both parts of the camp if you need it (we would really recommend taking some water around with you as a lot of it is outside with no shade and it can get very hot). It is really emotional and in no way a ‘nice’ day out, but it’s so important to see and experience for yourself. Like I said – you don’t come to Krakow without visiting.
Salt Mines – The only way I can explain the salt mines is to say that it’s quite literally a little town, made up of salt, underground. You first start by taking 40 something flights of wooden stairs down underground. Once you’re down, you walk through corridors carved into the salt which lead to large rooms made of salt. There are old tracks down there, a chapel, a couple of small lakes and a great hall, complete with chandeliers and a grand staircase! It really is fascinating to see and learn about, so I would definitely recommend taking a trip. There are no tiny spaces that you have to crawl through like I imagine a ‘mine’ to look like; however you are 100m below the ground level so bear that in mind if you do suffer from claustrophobia.
Segway guided tour – This was a fun one for us because it’s something on Scott’s bucket list that we’ve looked to tick off in most European cities, but never quite get around to doing. I’ve been on a segway before but it was Scott’s first time. We were both excited to see if he was a natural or if I’d finally found something that I was better at him at. We chose to do a 90 minute guided tour which was a really nice way to do it because it meant we covered more of the city in a smaller amount of time than if we had gone by foot. It was a shaky first half for Scott but once he got used to it he was flying and loved it. It does make your feet and legs ache but it’s absolutely worth experiencing if you haven’t before.
We would recommend doing this at the very beginning of your trip because there are a lot of beautiful buildings and hidden areas that you can go and explore!
Visit the Jewish Quarter – ‘Kazimierz’ as it’s also known, is an area full of history and culture. There are lots of restaurants to try out, galleries, bars and quirky boutiques with vintage clothing. There’s a Jewish museum so that you can learn about the religious culture in the city, and synagogues all around.
Old Town markets – In the centre of the historic old town is the main square. Here, you’ll find LOADS of restaurants and cafés, boutique shops and market stalls. The stalls sell a variety of bits from ocsypek cheese and fresh bakery products to homemade crafts and souvenirs. This is actually where we got shot glass number 16 from!
Every hour, on the hour, the famous trumpeter leans out of one of the highest windows in St Mary’s church and plays his tune. We were told on the segway tour that this was a tradition dating back 700 years.
Hot air balloon – Sadly, we don’t think this was running when we visited due to pesky COVID. On the other side of the river to the castle, there is a hot air balloon. It’s one of those balloons which is attached to supports in the ground, and simply goes up into the air a little way and then comes back down again. You can see it from the castle and I’d imagine gives you some great views of the river and castle.
Krakow Castle – If you’re looking for something free to do, visiting the castle should definitely make your list. There are some lovely views of the river from the outside of the entrance, and in the grounds there’s a garden to admire and a cafe to sit and relax in. At the bottom of the castle, right next to the river, there is a dragon that breathes out real fire every few minutes. A great Insta photo for you there!
Cat cafe – Another one that we ticked off Scott’s bucket list! Just a short walk from the main square is Cat Cafe Kociarnia. We never planned this on our visit, we just happened to walk past when we fancied a coffee stop. Not only does it have some really cute cats wondering about, it also serves some really nice milkshakes and cake! The cats all seemed happy and well looked after, and it wasn’t at all dirty!
Where to eat
One of the places that we came across on our first day in Krakow was Cafe Noworolski , which is on the edge of the main square in old town. We sat here for a few drinks and some lunch; we each had goulash and shared a portion of pierogi (dumplings). Very quickly, we realised that Krakow was much more expensive than Sandomierz, however still far cheaper than a lot of places in the UK.
In the Jewish Quarter, Szara Kazimierz (although very empty when we went in) was a lovely restaurant that we found one evening. The whole of the Jewish Quarter has loads of different restaurants and bistros as well so if this menu doesn’t spark up an appetite, you have a lot of options. Just a few streets around the corner from Szara Kazimierz was a hotel and restaurant called Gastromania. This had a set lunch meal with 3 courses each for around £20 in total. The portions were decent and there was a good choice of local dishes – perfect if you’re looking for something easy.
If, like us, you enjoy the finer things in life and don’t mind spending the money to have it then you should head to Albertina. It predominantly sells lobster and other seafood – you even get to pick your lobster from the tank in the restaurant. It’s quite a fancy and upmarket restaurant that we didn’t originally plan to go to (which is why we felt a little out of place when we walked in there in casual shorts and t-shirts) but they treat you very well in there and deliver amazing service!
One of the things that we didn’t expect from a trip to Poland was the amount of mosquitoes, so if you’re visiting in summer, make sure to bring some repellent. We would love to go back to Poland again at different times of the year to explore some more place such as Zakopane (which Scott has been to before and says is beautiful), Warsaw and Gdansk to see the beaches. For now, that’s another country ticked off the list for me, and another shot glass to the collection.
Sixteen countries together in 2 and a half years is quite impressive!