I can’t recommend the city of Krakow highly enough. One of the most enjoyable and informative ways to get acquainted with this beautiful city is take a four hour cycle tour with “the cool tour company”. Our group of four were lucky enough to have a guide to ourselves for the afternoon and he personalised the tour to suit our interests. Matheus was incredibly knowledgeable about his city, taking us round the old town, along the river Vistula, and into Kazimierz - the Jewish district. You don’t have to be fit to do the tour as you make frequent stops, and over lunch Matheus was able to answer any question we put him about the history of Krakow. We enjoyed cycling so much that on another day we hired bikes ourselves and cycled out of the city, along the river and through leafy suburbs to the Koscuiszki mound, a man-made memorial to an 18th century Polish patriot, which commands great views of the city. The company does other trips on foot and further afield which also come highly recommended.
We had an amazing time on this tour. From the moment the Trabant turned up to collect us at our hotel it turned heads. Fellow guests who were due to go on a tour of the city in a coach looked on enviously as we got in our quirky transport. Our guide was very knowledgeable and the tour gives an interesting insight into life under communism. The highlight by far was the car and all its quirks! Would highly recommend the tour to anyone visiting Krakow.
ul.Krakusów 1a/31, 30-092 Kraków
+48 5000 91 200
I went to Krakow with my friend to hear her daughter sing in her Leeds choir in a number of wonderful churches in Krakow. We felt - reluctantly - that we should visit Auschwitz and Birkenau camps while we were there. I'm so glad we went. I came away feeling there isn't anyone on the planet who wouldn't benefit from having a closer look at the stark reality of such an event in living history. Sobering, moving and unforgettable.
Auschwitz - if you happen to be in Poland, this should be on your itinerary. You'll need a whole day and there are excellent tours operating from out of Krakow. My tip: take a tour but get there early before the crowds arrive to allow you some time for private reflection before thousands of tourists descend to pose (while smiling!) in front of the 'Arbeit Macht Frei' sign. The tour will take all day (there are two sites to visit - Auschwitz and Birkenau). To gain some minute impression of the unimaginable hardships endured go at the height of summer or deepest winter. End the day reflecting on the infinite courage humans are capable of (there are examples of this which shine out like beacons among the cruelty and horror) in one of the many excellent local restaurants in the old Jewish quarter in Krakow. You may never enjoy the taste of food, the warmth of an open fire or the feeling of how lucky we are to be alive more than now.
I first visited the Krakow Christmas Market when I was sixteen with my aunt. It was a lot bigger than I expected, taking up most of the Rynek. For presents, it's perfect! Everything is so unique and majority is handmade. Being outside in the freezing cold with the smells of delicious warm food, sweets and drinks made my Christmas shopping ten times more fun - and a lot cheaper! All the stress of finding the right things fell away thanks to the beauty of the city and the lack of highstreet shops was a breath of fresh air. It's really cheap to get a flight out at this time of year and there are some excellent hostels just off the square. I loved this trip and I am definitely looking to go back again one Christmas soon. I probably spent less on this holiday and all the gifts than I would buying presents in the UK. I can honestly say that the Krakow Christmas market was definitely the highlight of my winter.
Head for the heart of the Jewish quarter, Kazimierz. At Plac Nowy you’ll find the original Rotunda market selling local produce but at the weekends the market expands with antiques and junk on Saturdays and second hand clothes on Sundays but you need to get there early – it starts at 5.30am.
Then follow the old city wall encircling the Old Town, now a 4km park segmented with tree lined avenues and Art Nouveau and Romantic architecture. Explore the cobbled streets and relax with the locals on the grass by the river at the base of Wawel Castle.
Look out for the dragon sculpture at the entrance to the cave beside the western slope and wait patiently for a few minutes to witness it breathing fire.
Google map: bit.ly/T8ggyZ
The Museum is located on the site of and, partly, in the workshops of Schindler’s former factory. MOCAK focuses on exhibiting contemporary art of the last two decades. In the Museum’s own collection can be found works of international artists, among them: AES+F, Tomasz Bajer, Edward Dwurnik, Krištof Kintera, Ragnar Kjartansson, Jarosław Kozłowski, Robert Kuśmirowski, Lars Laumann, Bartek Materka, Maria Stangret, Beat Streuli, Krzysztof Wodiczko.
You will find the permanent exhibition of the MOCAK collection in the basement (Level –1) and the current exhibitions on the ground floor. The gallery in Building B accommodates current individual exhibitions of design, sound and text. The Museum also houses a library, a bookshop, a café and a – unique in Poland – specialist conservation workshop for contemporary art.
Last year, my aunt and I visited Krakow to do our Christmas shopping. While there, we stayed just off the main market square in a neat little hostel. Every morning we were awoken to the smell of fresh food coming from the market below. It was the perfect place to find homemade, tasty foods and drinks for the family. I bought everything from honey, homemade wine to delicious handmade biscuits. It was perfect. The snowy landscape made the hot foods even better, as it warmed you from the inside out. I enjoyed it so much I'm hoping to go back next year.
The Rynek, Market Square, Old Town
Google map: bit.ly/v0TgXw
Last December I took my teenage niece to Krakow. For under £100 we had three nights in a clean, warm, twin room with our own bathroom. Even breakfast was included; it was pretty basic but who cared? We were surrounded by cheap and wonderful eateries and fun bars. Our hostel (better than hotels for meeting other young people) overlooked Rynek Główny, Europe’s largest medieval town square, with its massive underground museum (advance booking recommended) and a lovely Xmas market. Between us we bought loads of interesting presents: parents, boyfriend, grandparents, toddlers, school friends. There was some rubbishy tat, but not much, and Kay still had change from her Saturday job money. And on one day we went to Auschwitz. The tour was very informative and, of course, harrowing. It certainly put the commercial pressures of Christmas into perspective and, as Kay put it: “Made me so grateful to be born when I was, into the life I have.”
The Wieliczka Salt Mine is only 80 km from Krakow and a great experience. The mine has been producing salt since the 1200s and was the source of one-third of Poland's total income under King Kazimierz the Great. In the 1800s the miners started creating sculptures and even carved the largest among underground chapels carved in rock salt and embellished with salty sculptures, salt chandeliers and bas-reliefs. There are over 200 miles of tunnels and chambers that are currently maintained by former miners. The tour inside the mine is informative and fun. Also, if you suffer from asthma or breathing problems (like me) you will love being down there as the air in the mine contains large quantities of sodium chloride, magnesium and calcium ions which help control and improve the respiratory system. This is also the reason why the salt mine has its own Underground Rehabilitation and Respiratory Treatment Camp.
Daniłowicza Street 10, 32-020 Kraków, Poland
+48 12 278 73 75
Google map: bit.ly/qSBb3k
The Wieliczka Salt Mine is only 80 km from Krakow. There are organised tours which take you there or you can catch a local bus www.krakow-info.com/wielicz.htm
The Respiratory Rehabilitation Camp has its own website: www.kopalnia.pl
A legendary cave found hidden in the western slope of Wawel Hill, where visitors can journey down a tight, spiral staircase into the 81m cavernous dragon's den below. Children and adults alike will enjoy the rich 12th century story and history attached to the cave and, better yet, the metal sculpture of the dragon itself that breathes fire every few minutes.
Founded in 1945 The Groteska Puppet, Mask and Actor Theatre in Cracow, is one of the earliest puppet theatres in Poland. Every one of its art directors had a clear vision of creating the best quality puppet theatre in the country. It really worked and now, after more than 60 years the Groteska Theatre gives around 450 performances a year with an audience of more than 100,000 people. Its productions are not only for children, there are also two stages for adults: one with pieces by Sophocles, Voltaire and Bulhakow just to name a few, and one for concerts, dance performances and cabarets with their most famous Reality Shopka Szol played usually in February. There is also lot of activities and workshops for children, young people and teachers.
The theatre runs an annual Great Dragon Parade, one of them was made in cooperation with Wales, Ireland, Portugal and Czech Republic as a part of Myths and Legends of Europe Festival in 2007. There are Dragon Family Picnics held on the banks of Vistula River and lots of events for the youngest.
The Groteska Theatre is world famous and it is awarded on many theatre festivals around the world and it can be easily called the modern cultural centre.
It is in the walking distance from Main Square and I would strongly recommend to visit it. Their work is really worth seeing and admiring not only by people who love puppets.
A charming restaurant with superb food great service and Reasonable prices. It also has a court yard that you can sit out in and have your meal - very nice!
Prefect place to stay on a tight budget. We spent four nights in August. Very good location at Plac Nowy, center of Krakow's Kazimierz. Friendly atmosphere, clean basic rooms, plenty of showers and toilets. Lot of hot water. Kitchen well equipped, breakfast rather basic but very tasty. Staff, specially Karolina very helpful, she gave us very good tips where to eat or what to see. Location is perfect for exploring Krakow, not too commercial area plenty of cheap places to eat. We recommend for all.
For the best zapiekanka (called the Polish pizza - half a baguette, covered with cheese and any number of variety of toppings) visit this place in the fascinating and historic old Jewish quarter of Krakow (Kazimierz). Set in the middle of the square, the queues will tell you that you have chosen well and the cheap delicious take away, will keep you filled and satisfied for a long time.
+48 12 429 37 54
Plac Nowy 4, Krakow
Google map: bit.ly/hPgPuJ
I don't recommend going to Auschwitz unless you're prepared. When I visited with my aunt, I was very under prepared. We watched a video on the coach up there, which helped a little in my understanding of the camp itself. I hadn't done it in school so I wasn't entirely sound with what happened in WWII regarding the concentration camps.
I stepped off the bus into thick snow as it was a week before Christmas. Even in my four layers I was still freezing. Everything is very bleak in the first camp. Although the buildings are large red brick and very neatly arranged, everything seemed dead.
In Auschwitz, you can feel the silence. Nothing really moves. Even when my aunt would stumble in the snow or mutter something under her breath, I couldn't pay any attention. It was like something was stopping me from seeing this place in the 21st Century.
I'm seventeen with blonde hair and blue eyes. I'm not religious, I have no serious disorders and am pretty normal I suppose. My aunt is gay and very openly so. Standing next to her, realizing that I would never had been considered for a place like this where she would have been without question made me feel hideous.
Going to the Birkenau camp was actually a lot easier than Auschwitz. The landscape is so open and freeing that I couldn't quite get my head around the awful things that happened there.
To anyone going to visit the camps, I highly recommend taking a tour. It is a lot less stressful, you get every single piece of information you could possibly take in and they are very professional.
Also, I think it's best to go in the winter. A summer trip would be no where near as moving than standing beneath the entrance, freezing cold realizing that this was the last thing many people ever felt.
Beautiful, cozy vegetarian restaurant with a candlelit, cozy atmosphere. You can relax in the stunning interior, while listening to the score from Amelie (well, when I was there anyway). The food is delicious and you get traditional Polish food, vegetarian style! A real treasure!
Hala Targowa is a bit off the beaten track in Krakow - I found it by getting lost - but is a genuine market for locals, piled up with produce from nearby farms, and also cheap. I bought 1kg of succulent strawberries for 2zl last summer. Wonderful fruit and veg in mouthwatering displays, as well as flowers with cheese, bread and meat to the side. There's also haberdashery, clothes etc. A short walk away is where pigeon and rabbit swapping goes on in another small market at Plac Nowy twice a week: you have to get up early but it's worth it.
Hala Targowa is to the south-east of Wawel Castle on Grzegorzecka street close to the viaduct. Plac Nowy is in the Jewish Kazimierz district.
Google map: bit.ly/glfOSv
Kazimierz is the old Jewish quarter of Krakow. With its labyrinthine streets and serene synagogues, the area evokes a blend of melancholy and hope - an inspiring literary place. Hidden behind the crumbling facades of pre-war architecture are some of the city's most exquisite bars and restaurants. Of particular note, is the Alef, a kosher restaurant that was regularly frequented by Steven Speilberg during the making of Schindler's List. A traditional band plays Klezmer music whilst Borscht is served piping hot. The decor captures a place and time history has almost forgotten. A place to escape and to reflect, Kazimierz is a truly inspirational place.
Tucked away down a side street on the east side of Krakow is ‘Massolit Books and Cafe’. If you ever wanted your favourite second hand bookshop to have comfy sofa’s, good coffee and excellent cake here it is. Although I don’t read much at home, I love to read authors of the country I’m visiting but it’s not always easy to find them translated. Here you can. Could take you an hour, could take you all morning, the sun gently filtering through the blinds.
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