Krakow / Cracow (pronounced as “Kra-kuff” in Polish) is Poland’s second largest city, and was the official royal capital before the court was relocated to Warsaw in 1596. Krakow was one of my favorite places that I visited in Eastern Europe because of many reasons, one being I had a personal connection to the destruction that Hitler’s Third Reich caused after their invasion of Poland in 1939 because I have studied Holocaust History at my university for the past 4 years. Both Poles and Jews were targeted for violence and Nazi concentration/death camps like Auschwitz were set up to kill millions of Jews and other enemies of the Nazis. (Read my Auschwitz post here)
Although it has been over 50 years since the war ended, history 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 eating traditional dumplings, walking through the busy streets, and immersing myself into the amazing Polish culture.
Things To Do:
Main Market Square
Admire Europe’s largest medieval square that is surrounded by beautiful attractions such as St Mary’s Basilica and the 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 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.
St. Mary’s Basilica
Also located in Main Market Square, this large, two-towered basilica is a spectacular sight of Krakow history.
Free entry everyday to visit Wawel Hill
This is a great place if you are looking for a historical part of Krakow- this hill has everything from a courtyard, to a castle, to exhibitions of the Crown Treasury and Armoury, to exploring the State Rooms where past governors have lived.
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.
Looking for some outdoor time in Krakow?
Check out the spectacular Botanic Garden of the Jagiellonian University is east of the Old Town. The garden houses over 5,000 species of plants along with 3 greenhouses where many plants from different climates are housed.
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? Let me hear about your experience in the comments!
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