Europe

The Ultimate Guide to Krakow, Poland

Krakow (pronounced as “Kra-kuff” in Polish) is Poland’s second largest city.  I have studied the Holocaust for a few years now and was eager to learn more about the history of Krakow. During Hitler’s reign, both Poles and Jews were targeted for violence and Nazi concentration/death camps.  Death camps like Auschwitz (about an hour from Krakow) were set up to kill millions of Jews and other enemies of the Nazis. (Read about my visit to Auschwitz here)

Although it has been over 50 years since the war ended, it’s impact will not soon be forgotten in Krakow.  On the other hand, the end of the war brought new light to the city.   Even on an October day the streets were filled with flowers and smiling people ready to find happiness in their day.  I spent my time in the city eating traditional dumplings, walking through the busy streets, and immersing myself into the amazing Polish culture.    

(pssst…scroll to the bottom for some great savings on Krakow tours and activities!)

Things To Do:

Main Market Square

Admire Europe’s largest medieval square that is surrounded by beautiful pieces of the city like St Mary’s Basilica and Cloth Square.  This UNESCO World Heritage Site is great for authentic Polish treats and to people watch as locals and tourists shop and come together in the square.  If you are lucky you might be able to attend one of the public events and festivals held here during the year.  

The Cloth Square

You will surely be going home with a hand-crafted piece of art or beautiful souvenirs if you visit the inside of the architecturally beautiful hall.  It is located in the center of the Main Market Square.  

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St. Mary’s Basilica 

Also located in Main Market Square, this large, two-towered basilica is a spectacular sight of Krakow history.  Make sure to look out for the wooden altarpiece carved by Veit Stoss and to listen for the famous sounds of the trumpet, played on the hour from the church’s highest tower. 

Oskar Schindler’s Factory

Oskar Schindler was a German industrialist, spy, and member of the Nazi Party.  Most importantly, he is credited with saving the lives of 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his factories.  This factory nows acts as a museum to learn about the history of the factory and the war.  You can either explore the museum by yourself or walk through as part of a group tour.

Wawel Hill

This is a great place to visit if you are looking for a historical part of Krakow.  This hill includes a courtyard, a castle, exhibitions of the Crown Treasury and Armoury, and the State Rooms where past governors have lived. 

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Jewish District (Kazimierz)

Take some time to wander through this historic Jewish district of Krakow.  You will be rewarded with incredible architecture, historic synagogues, and informative museums.

Wieliczka Salt Mine

Cost of admission is around 80 PLN.  However, a tour that includes transportation, etc. is usually around 140 PLN.

The tour of this UNESCO World Cultural Heritage listed mine takes you at least 300 steps unground in order to explore a mine where literally everything (with few exceptions) – is made of salt.  Some tourists even like to lick different parts of the walls in order to taste the saltiness.  This mine has everything from salt monuments to salt galleries.  

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Botanic Garden of the Jagiellonian University

This garden houses over 5,000 species of plants along with 3 greenhouses where many plants from different climates are housed.

Juliusz Słowacki Theatre

First erected in 1893, this theater was designed similar to other European Baroque theaters such as the Paris Opera. Whether you come to see a show or just to stand in awe at the architecture, this is a great stop on your Krakow itinerary.

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Although Krakow has a transportation system, I was able to easily get around the city by walking.  Of course there are cases that you can’t avoid transportation for sights like Auschwitz or the Wieliczka Salt Mine.

Helpful Polish Phrases

  • Hello (formal): Dzień dobry (Jeyn Dob-ry)
  • Hello (informal): Cześć (Tch-esh-ch)
  • Thank you: Dziękuję. (Jenkoo-yeah)
  • Yes: Tak (tahk)
  • No: Nie (nye)
  • Excuse me / I’m sorry: Przepraszam. (pshe-pra-sham)
  • Can you help me?: Czy może mi pan m / pani f pomóc? (Tchih MO-zheh mee pahn / PAH-nee POH-moots?)
  • Is there someone here who speaks English?: Czy ktoś tu mówi po angielsku? (tch-y ktosh too moo-vee po ang-yel-skoo)
  • Cheers!: Na zdrowie! (Naz-dro-vee-ay)

 

Have you been to any of these places or did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments below!

Read more: My Visit to the Haunting Auschwitz Concentration Camp

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5 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Krakow, Poland”

  1. Lovely post and you’ve definitely included all the highlights! Krakow is my favorite Eastern Europe City! Love that you included helpful phrases too – Polish is quite a hard language to get your tongue around!

  2. Hey there! Would you mind if I share your blog with my twitter group?
    There’s a lot of people that I think would really appreciate your content.
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  3. Great guide, I will definitely use some of yours recommendations. I have been to Poland few time, but never in Krakow. It looks so charming. I usually stay in Warsaw during my trips. I think that it is amazing city, modern and very diverse. There are also many great spots worth visiting, especially all the cozy little restaurants and bar near the Old Town. My favorite one is a place called Bubbles. It is a bar with champagnes from all around the world but also with delicious food. I love hanging out there and relaxing after long days 🙂

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