Travel Guide to Krakow
When you think of the best travel destinations in Europe in comparison with elsewhere in the world, it can seem like a rather expensive adventure. That being said, the first cities which usually spring to mind in Europe are places like Paris, London or Rome and while these are in fact great places to visit for a vacation, there are also some very colourful destinations which are just as interesting yet much more affordable.
Where might we be talking about? Not only is Krakow in Poland an extremely affordable and cheap city to travel in Europe but it is also overflowing with character, attractions and things to do.
Average costs in Krakow
Currency – Poland uses the Zloti which is approximately 4.12 PLN = US$1
Food – While a backpacker may want to feed on some delicious hotdogs or pastries in the roadside stalls for less than 5PLN, with a reasonable budget you can enjoy even the finest of dining in Krakow for the equivalent of 30 PLN.
Transport – The tram system in Krakow is excellent and runs in different directions around the city. Once you get to know the various route, you can spend an entire day exploring on a tram for no more than 10PLN. Bus and train also run throughout but are best used to access nearby areas, for example if you wish to travel to Auschwitz concentration camps, a train ticket is 22PLN return.
Things to do in Krakow – Most people arrive in Krakow with the intention of visiting Auschwitz to uncover the tragic history of the Genocide during World War II but there is also much more to see here including many iconic landmarks around the city and the nearby Wieliczka Salt Mines.
Tips to save money
Shop around for day tours – If you are interested in taking tour in Krakow or one of many attractions the city has to offer, check with multiple operators/agencies dotted around St Mary’s Square who are always willing to negotiate in the price given the tough competition for day tours in Krakow.
Eat local – There are many cheap restaurants in Krakow but maybe you are travelling for an extended period and want to keep costs down even further? East at the sumptuous food stands next to St Marys Square or the Jewish Quarter. The food is amazing in street stalls and half the price.
Stay at hostels in Krakow– It’s incredible that hostels in Krakow are able to make money given how low the prices are for a dorm bed. However, maybe you don’t want to share a room? No matter, stay in a private room in a hostel – they are fun, clean, safe, and cheap while almost being a similar experience to staying in a hotel.
Popular things to see in Krakow
Wawel Castle – If you have been travelling in Europe for some time, visiting another castle may seem like one of the more uninteresting things to do in Krakow. However, Wawel Castle is such an impressive sight and even more interesting to explore. Step back in medieval times as you pass beneath the arch of this imposing structure and then down into the Royal Catacombs – you won’t be disappointed.
Rynek Główny square – Also known as St Mary’s Square, this is the centre of Krakow and the architecture is simply stunning surrounding the cobblestones. Many horse and carriage await tourists wanting to see the city in slow motion and many side streets branch out from the square which have an endless number of café’s, restaurants, bars and craft shops to discover.
St Mary’s Basilica (Cathedral) – Built in the 14t century, the focal point of Rynek Główny Square strikes an incredible character in the skyline over Krakow and is a great place to read up about the history of the city while surrounded by stunning architecture.
Oskar Schindler Factory – The story of Oskar Schindler was recounted by Steven Spielberg in the self-titled movie some years ago but it’s still hard to believe this was tragic story is real. Depending on the time of day, you can take a tour of the factory and learn how Schindler saved thousands of helpless souls during the Holocaust.
The Jewish Quarter – Some of the dividing wall can still be found in the Jewish Quarter from war times but there is so much culture here to experience away from such a sad period. The nightlife is vibrant, the food is glorious and different to the main town, while a walking tour of the Jewish Quarter is always sure to throw up some interesting surprises.
Fun things to do in Krakow
Lost Souls Alley – Often referred to by those brave enough to step inside, Lost Souls Alley is terrifyingly fun and undoubtedly the most unique thing to do in Krakow. What happens? Well most of what happens inside, stays inside but essentially, if you enjoy horror movies then this is your chance to be part of one.
Carriage ride through Krakow – It might seem a little touristy but then you are a tourist, right? Taking a carriage ride through Krakow is much more fun than you might expect, the drivers are super friendly, the ride is cheap, the sights are beautiful and there is nothing like seeing this town in slow motion.
Free walking tour/pub crawl – Who can argue with a free walking tour of Krakow? Beginning in the main square, the walking tour will take you around several of the most iconic attractions in the old town before finishing at Wawel Castle. Although it’s sometimes nice to explore the city alone, learning from a guide as you do so can be so much more rewarding. And then there is the free pub crawl in the evening; organised by the same people, this is a great way to meet other travellers and have fun with the locals.
Day tours from Krakow
In many ways, one of the truly great things about this city are the fascinating day tours from Krakow and unique experiences which can be found on them.
Visit Auschwitz – The most notorious genocide in human history, Auschwitz was the scene for the Jewish Holocaust in which Nazi Germany sent millions to their death in concentration camps. A day tour to Auschwitz is no less than mind blowing, albeit not in an enjoyable way. You can visit the camps on a train but a day tour is more convenient and offers a little more information along the way.
Wieliczka Salt Mines – The second most popular day tour in Krakow and such a unique encounter. If travelling deep beneath the earth’s surface to an underground city made of salt sounds interesting to you now, you are sure to be amazed by the church and bar in the bottom of the mines. Not far from Krakow and fascinating in every way, a trip to Wieliczka Salt Mines is one of the best things to do in Krakow.
Day trip to Zakopane – The Tatra Mountains are probably the most visited in all of Poland and when you see them, it’s easy to see why. While it is nice to see this region in winter, at any other time of year you can go hiking in the mountains or marvel at the majestic green valleys which look every bit as impressive. It is a good way to find some local culture outside of the city and see some of the great outdoors.
Best place to stay in Krakow
Boutique Hotel Grodek (High end) – Although not priced as high as the Radisson and co, this is a beautiful hotel close to the main square which has been refurbished recently. Clean, bright and spacious – if you are not on a budget this is a great place to stay in Krakow.
Private room in Flamingo Hostel (Midway) – Even though this is a hostel, if you want a cheap room in Krakow in a central location then Flamingo Hostel has friendly staff, great prices in the bar and a very central location.
Pink Panther Hostel (Budget) – Providing you don’t mind sharing, this centrally located hostel is small but super friendly. Prices include breakfast and the staff will go out of their way to organise tours or make you feel welcome – amazing value.
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