I’ve decided to do this destination blog post about Krakow a bit differently and split it into a few sections, rather than have one continuous post about my visit. Hopefully it’ll be an enjoyable read, but as always, feedback is appreciated.
How to Get There
Having arrived in Krakow onboard a Wizz Air flight from Luton (read about that here), I opted to get the regular train service from the airport into the city itself. Trains run from roughly 0515 until 0030 with a service every 30 minutes, although it’s less frequent first and last thing. A one-way ticket between the airport and Krkaow’s main station costs just 5.50PLN (about £1) and these can be bought at the stations or on the train.
The journey into the city takes less than 20 minutes and takes you to Krakow Glówny Station, just a short walk from the old town. If you’re staying slightly further out of the city centre, there’s multiple tram lines from outside the station, although you do have to negotiate the attached shopping centre to get to them. For me it was just a five minute walk along Westerplatte to my hostel, with my timings getting me to reception just as I was able to check in.
What to Do
As with all major cities, there’s way too much to do in Krakow to cover in the 24hours I was in the city. Normally the first thing I’d do in any new city would be a walking tour, however the timings of this trip just didn’t work with the tours available. In lieu of a tour, I mostly opted just to wander and see what I discovered.
With the Old Town ringed by Planty Park, taking up the space once filled by the city walls, there’s plenty of green space around the city and the park is ideal for getting from one end of the old town to the other without going through it. As well as lots of open space, the park is home to the Barbakan Krakowski, or Krakow Barbican, a former fortification of the city walls that now hosts exhibitions during the summer months. From the park you can also see a large number of Krakow’s beautiful churches (I counted at least eight) with the architecture varying from one to another.
One of the highlights of my visit to Krakow was climbing the Town Hall Tower, located in the middle of Rynek Glówny, Krakow’s Main Square. The tower is open from 1000-1800 Tuesday to Sunday, costing just 18PLN (about £3.30 to enter), although its also open on Mondays between 1000-1500 when its free to enter. The tower is 70m tall and from the top you get excellent views over the city, although during my visit the external viewing terraces were closed to visitors.
The other main attraction within the city of Krakow itself is Wawel Royal Castle, the first ever UNESCO World Heritage site and part of a large, fortified complex that also includes the city’s cathedral. Whilst once home to the Polish King, the castle is now one of Poland’s premier art museums with 10 departments ranging from Italian Renaissance paintings to Armour and Arms. Entry to the various exhibitions, galleries and historic parts of the castle are all ticketed separately which, although slightly confusing, does allow you to just pick to visit the bits you are interested in.
Where to Eat
It wouldn’t be a Flights and Times destination post without some amazing food and despite my short stay in Krakow, I was able to try a couple of the multitude of restaurants around the city, along with indulging in a couple of the other food experiences dotted around.
Restauracja Polska is located in the city’s former Jewish Quarter, not far from the passageway made famous in Schindler’s List. This wasn’t on any of the various lists of restaurant recommendations I found online but I decided to try it out after a couple of other options fell through and I’m glad I did! The restaurant is small and cosy, with just seven tables and at max about 20 seats and the food was absolutely amazing. Opting for the fried Saffron Milk Cap mushrooms to start and Dumplings with Potatoes, Cheese and Grilled Pork for my main, I almost didn’t have enough space for the excellent Apple Pie as dessert.
Just down the road from Restauracja Polska is Plac Nowy, a square at the heart of the Jewish Quarter which, if we’re being honest, is a bit of an eyesore. The square is filled with metal market stalls and a large concrete rotunda, home to numerous food stalls selling a variety of street food. Whilst not the number one tourist spot in Krakow, the square was filled with locals grabbing a quick meal and socialising and the atmosphere was much more relaxed and enjoyable than some of the main tourist areas.
A must try food in Krkaow is one of the famous Chimney Cakes from the Chimney Cake Bakery. With stores dotted around the city and a huge range of flavours to try, I’d certainly recommend a Chimney Cake as a evening snack as you explore the city. I sat and enjoyed my traditional cinnamon flavoured one with a view of Wawel Castle and it was a great way to finish my first day in the city.
The other restaurant that I tried during my visit was Pod Wawelem, located just across the road from Wawel Castle, at one end of Planty Park. The décor of the restaurant gives the experience of dining during the era of the Austro-Hungarian empire with generous portions being served at fairly reasonable prices (although a bit more expensive than other places due to the fact the restaurant is a tourist hotspot.) I opted for the meat filled pierogi to start and the ‘Pod Wawelem’ signature dish for a main, which is chopped steak with oriental salad and french fries. Finishing off with what was a huge portion of Apple Strudel, I was truly stuffed as I started my journey back to the airport.
Krakow was an amazing city to visit and I only wish I had had more time in the city to do a walking tour and explore more of the attractions. With the Wieliczka Salt Mine just a short train ride from the city, I could have easily spent a week based in the city exploring it and the surrounding area.