One week in Kraków

Kladka Ojca Bernatka, Kraków, Poland

Kraków is a big city with a lot to see. Luckily we had a whole week here (more time than we usually spend in one place on our vacations). And we lived in the most wonderful apartment. It was huge (it has a walk-in closet!) and has a pretty outdoor space.
Airbnb in Kraków, Poland

Kraków neighborhoods

Our apartment was located in the Podgórze neighborhood, which is just south of trendy Kazimierz. The two neighborhoods are connected by a relatively new pedestrian bridge (Kladka Ojca Bernatka).
Kladka Ojca Bernatka, Kraków, Poland

Since our apartment was so lovely, we’d probably be partial to whatever neighborhood it was in, but we do like like Podgórze because it seems less touristy – it really feels like a real neighborhood that people live in – while still being well-connected. The Jewish ghetto in Kraków was also in Podgórze. We visited the memorial sites: the Ghetto Heroes Square (Plac Bohaterów Getta) and the last remaining portion of the Ghetto wall.
Ghetto Heroes Square, Plac Bohaterów Getta, Kraków

Kraków Ghetto wall, Poland

On the walk there, we stumbled on the very beautiful St. Joseph’s Church.
St. Joseph's Church, Kraków, Poland

Kraków’s Royal Route

The apartment we’re staying in is well-stocked with tourist books and brochures, so one day, we packed the Rick Steves and went out to walk the Royal Route, which passes by a whole bunch of the city’s most historic landmarks.

Florians Gate and Barbican

Florian's Gate, Royal Route, Kraków, Poland

The Barbican, Kraków, Poland

Main Market Square

The most impressive was the Main Market Square, one of the largest medieval town squares in Europe (and certainly the largest we’ve seen).
Main Market Square, Kraków, Poland

Cloth Hall

Cloth Hall, Kraków, Poland

St. Mary’s Basilica

St. Mary's Basilica, Main Market Square, Kraków, Poland

Adam Mickiewicz Monument

Adam Mickiewicz Monument, Kraków, PolandNote Mr. Mickiewicz’s Polska pride… this was taken before they sadly lost their Euro match.

The big head sculpture (real name: Eros Bendato) was pretty cool

Big Head in the Square (Eros Bendato), Krakow, Poland

As was this goat.

Goat, Main Market Square, Kraków

Church of Saints Peter and Paul

Along the Route, we also were treated to Sarah’s favorite church so far: the Church of Saints Peter and Paul.
Church of Saints Peter and Paul, Kraków, Poland

Church of Saints Peter and Paul, Kraków, Poland

Wawel Castle

The route finishes with Wawel Castle, which we decided to tackle on a different day. It’s up a long, pretty manageable hill (Sarah did the climb without her oxygen… albeit slowly and with breaks). It’s a must-do while in Kraków. Everything up there is beautiful: grounds, buildings, views, everything! We went on a Monday, when some of the exhibits are free, but unfortunately got there too late and there were no more tickets (not sure when you need to get there, but assume close to opening time which is 9:30). But we were happy enough to just walk around the grounds.
Wawel, Kraków, Poland

Wawel, Kraków, Poland

Wawel, Kraków, Poland

Wawel, Kraków, Poland

Wawel, Kraków, Poland

We paid 3 PLN ($0.75 today) each to climb down to the “Dragon’s Den” – a cave that surfaces at the popular, fun dragon statue. It was a cave and probably not something we’d recommend doing. But the fire-breathing dragon (Smok Wawelski) is free for all. Dracarys!
Smok Wawelski (Wawel Dragon), Kraków, Poland

The Salt Mine

We did another very touristy thing while in Kraków: we went to the Salt Mine (Kopalni Soli Wieliczka). We took a 20-minute public bus outside the city and then waited on line for another 20 minutes (our timing was fortuitous… sometimes you can wait up to an hour) to join an English-language tour. We went on the hottest day of the week, so it was a delight to roam around 100+ meters underground where it was cool. The mine is not for the claustrophobic. Upon entering, one must climb down 350 stairs in a very small wooden stairwell (we are very good at finding stairs that descend). Once there, the guide takes you on a tour of three levels of the mine (there are 17 levels), through winding routes showing off sculptures made by famous artists as well as miners themselves. You end up climbing down a total of 800 stairs and ~135 meters. It was interesting, but if you’re only in Kraków for a few days, and you’re not a mine-enthusiast, we’d recommend skipping it.
Salt Mine, Kraków, Poland

Salt Mine, Kraków, Poland

Salt Mine, Kraków, Poland

Eats and Drinks:

  • With a great kitchen in our apartment, we cooked a lot. Yay for fresh vegetables! The supermarkets in Kraków are prima.
  • We ate dinner out once – at a Georgian restaurant called Chinkalnia Krakow. We were lured in by their khinkali (meaty soup dumplings) – and luckily the restaurant provided detailed instructions on how to eat them:

Khinkali instructions

  • We went to Milk Bars twice for delicious, cheap lunches and enjoyed pierogis, pancakes with broccoli, and zurek (a traditional Polish soup).

Milk Bar, Kraków, Poland

  • After our Wawel visit, we had lunch at a spot right at the bottom of the hill – Pod Wawelem – which (lucky for us) had a special on schnitzel and beer. It’s known for its huge portions and we weren’t disappointed. With the special, a .4 L of beer only cost $0.75… cheapest one yet!

Pod Wawelem, Schnitzel, Kraków, Poland

  • In a nice square just over the bridge in Kazimierz, we had two delicious treats. Ursa Maior serves their own craft beer. We tried the strong ale and the barley wine. Both were excellent. Note, this is also where Justin conducted a very important piece of hockey league business. The small ice cream shop, Good Lood, had long lines every time we walked by so of course Sarah had to give it a try. The salted caramel was perfect.

Ursa Maior, Kraków, Poland

  • We conducted a proper Polish porter taste test (you can find wonderful things in the supermarket). Out of the two we tried (yes, only two), the one from Browar Okocim unanimously won.

Polish porters

Additional thoughts: 

  • Kraków seems pretty flat all around – great for people like Sarah who hate when surprise hills get in the way of a delightful stroll.
  • Public transportation is easy to figure out and inexpensive. Trams and buses cover the city well and there are ticket machines at most stops and on most vehicles. Before arriving, Sarah asked our Airbnb host how to take public transportation to the apartment from the central train station. Clearly not knowing who he was dealing with, he recommended a taxi. A taxi! A tram costing 2.80 PLN ($0.70 today) each took us right around the corner from the apartment. Tip: if you’re traveling in Kraków, Google Maps doesn’t yet have public transportation routes, but Sarah found this website which is super easy to use: http://krakow.jakdojade.pl
  • The Vistula river is great. There are nicely paved running and biking paths and stairs and ramps leading down. It’s nice for exercise or just hanging out.
  • Planty is a close second when it comes to outdoor awesomeness. The park surrounds the Old Town and is a lovely place to stroll.

Planty, Kraków, Poland

Let us know what you think!