For the last year and a half, travelling has had to be put on hold for most of us because of the pandemic. Now that the situation seems to be more under control and vaccine passports are being rolled out, booking a holiday seems more realistic and less of a distant fantasy. Many european countries are granting tourists access so long as they can provide a negative PCR test, proof of vaccination or have recently recovered from covid. One of the countries currently offering entry to tourists is Poland.
Poland was never high on my bucket list, but we were travelling to Prague over Easter and thought we’d add another stop on the way before flying home. Krakow ended up being a cheap place to travel to and to this day, it’s probably one of my favourite cities in Europe . When you walk through the city centre, it feels like you’ve stepped into a medieval-esque fairytale. Whether you’re looking for history, cheap delicious eats or a fun night out with friends, Krakow has it all. Here are my recommendations if you’re thinking of spending a few days in Krakow, Poland.
What to do
The main reason most people travel to Poland, is to visit the Auschwitz – Birkenau concentration camp that’s located an hour drive from Krakow. As you can expect, it is quite an emotional visit but one that is well worth the trip. For me, it all felt a bit surreal until I left and then could reflect on what we had seen. The guide took us through the different bunkers and showed us the conditions the prisoners slept in, the gas chambers and even a display of all the shoes and luggage that had to be confiscated from the prisoners. It’s crazy to think what happened here occurred less than 100 years ago, and how over 1 million people lost their lives. If you would like to visit the camp then I suggest booking through GetYourGuide or Escape2Poland.
Next on your trip I’d plan a visit to the Wieliczka Salt Mines, which takes you 140 metres below ground where you will see sculptures, chapels and various items made out of salt. What I found interesting is that people actually host wedding receptions here, which can’t be easy for guests in high heels considering the 500 steps to get down there!
For the last bit of history on your trip, you can pay a visit to Oskar Schindler’s Factory. Here you can learn the story about the man who was a member of the Nazi Party and yet saved the lives of over 1000 people during the Holocaust. If you’d like to hear more about the story, check out the film Schindler’s List starring Liam Neeson.
Once you’ve ticked these things off your list, the best way to get to know a new city is with a free walking tour. If you search ‘‘free walking tour Krakow’ on Google you’ll find that a few companies run them both in English and Spanish. Some areas you’ll want to explore are the Jewish Quarter, the Old Town and the Wawel Castle complex. If you’d like something a bit more exciting, I’d recommend doing a ‘7 Deadly Sins of Krakow’ night tour where you’ll learn about Krakow’s dark history and myths.
One of my favourite things to do when travelling is meeting new people, and what better way to do that than on a pub crawl? If you’re in your 20s or 30s then I’d suggest trying the Krawl Through Krakow pub crawl. Your guide will take your group (10-20 tourists normally) around some of the best bars in the city and usually includes free drinks at every location. If you would rather do your own thing, then Singer and Alchemia are fun quirky bars to visit. Fun fact, Singer is actually where the original sewing factory was!
Where (and what) to eat
One of the things that attracted me most to Poland was how much you could eat for so little. If you’re a foodie like myself, absolutely don’t miss the Taste of Poland tour. For 30 euros you will get to try some typical Polish dishes such as pierogi (stuffed dumplings), golabki (cabbage rolls) and my favourite, zurek soup (which came in a bread bowl!). Drinks are also included so it’s a good way to socialise and make an afternoon out of it. If you have a sweet tooth, then load up on Pączkis, a rose jam filled doughnut topped with orange zest. These cakes have been around since the 1700s, and they even have their own celebration day!
You’ll find the best foodie spots in Rynek Glowny square or in the Jewish Quarter. Some of my favourite restaurants we ate at included Szara Resto & Bar, Restaurancja Wierzynek, AWIW and Cafe Ariel. Interestingly, some parts of the film Schindler’s List were actually filmed in Cafe Ariel.
Some useful tips
Currently, entry into Poland is permitted as long as you can provide proof of vaccination, a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours or have recovered from Covid-19 in the last 180 days.
• The official currency of Poland is polish Zloty. I’d recommend exchanging your British Pounds to Zloty before travelling as paying in GBP won’t give you the best rates.
• Most of Krakow is accessible by foot, so you won’t need to hire a car to get around.
• The best time to visit Krakow is in the Spring and Autumn months, where the weather is warm but not unbearable.