Things to do in Krakow

Krakow, Poland June 5, 2018: Memorial to Jews from the Krakow Ghetto on their deportation site on the Ghetto Heroes Square in Podgorze district . Each steel chair represents 1,000 victims.

Things to do in Krakow – 43 extraordinary sites to explore

Poland and Kraków was never on my travel radar but an opportunity to visit in late February came up and it was so inexpensive I had to take up the offer. I began researching what to do in Krakow and of course, was aware of Auschwitz and Birkenau and had often felt that everyone had the responsibility to go and see such places if possible so that we never forget what happened there.

Things to do in Krakow

A UNESCO World Heritage city, Kraków was capital of the Polish kings when the Mongols arrived in the 13th century and sacked the city the Old Town was rebuilt and the layout hasn’t changed much since that time.   

Poland is a member of the European Union and visitors are subjected to the Shengen Rules. It does have its own currency the Polish Zloty (PLN) which has an exchange rate of approximately 1 Zloty equal .22 Euro, or 1 Poland złoty equals 0.35 Canadian Dollar.

The weather when we went was colder with a couple of rainy days but nothing we couldn’t handle as Canadians and no snow a bonus.

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Getting to Krakow

Krakow does have an international airport with flights in from most major European cities. If you travel to Krakow from within Europe check out the Ryanair flights ours was less than €50 euros return from Dublin.

Getting from Kraków airport to the centre of the city is easy, as there are frequent trains that run from the train station at the airport to Główny the central station in Krakow. A one-way ticket will set you back 12 PLN in 2020 and will take around 20 minutes.

Because there were 4 of us going on the trip we booked an airport pickup to our apartment at a cost of €30 euro and the journey takes around 25 minutes to Krakow Old Town.

How to get around Kraków

Old Town is very walkable particularly if you stay close to the area. The trams in Krakow are modern and very efficient and a single trip costs around 3.4 PLN depending on where you go.

Things to do in Krakow

The transit system in Krakow is easy to negotiate using an app like Jakdojade which can be downloaded for Android or ios. If you want to travel further afield to say Zakopane or Auschwitz you would take an inter-city bus and these leave from the bus terminal near  Kraków Główny train station.

Golf Cart Tours

On our way to the Market Square, we noticed several golf carts and their owners who gave tours all over Krakow. We decided to book one of these for our second day to familiarize ourselves with the City and what to do in Krakow. We negotiated 150 zloty for the whole ride with 4 of us in a heated golf cart. We toured all over Krakow including Kazimierz, Schindlers Factory and got to see every site we had read about and many we were not aware of. The driver spoke English and even pointed out to us the best restaurants and bars that we should visit.

History of Krakow

 Krakow has a long and very complicated history that most Westerners have no idea about. It is one of the oldest cities in Poland with settlements dating back to the Paleolithic period and stone tools found on Wawel Hill dating back to 50,000BC.

The legend of Krakow is that Krakus, who destroyed the Wawel Dragon threatening the city was the founder of Krakow. The mysterious Mounds named after Krakus and his daughter Wanda were probably created in the 7th century but Krakows Old Town dates back to the 8th century.

Poland is well known and has been for centuries for its trade in Amber and throughout its history has been a busy commercial centre.

Things to do in Krakow

Kraków was Poland’s capital until 1596 and it was again during the Nazi occupation of WWII. As the Nazi’s used the city as a central command post Kraków made it through World War II practically untouched by bombs and the destruction many other capitals in Europe suffered.

This is why today Krakow’s perfectly preserved Old Town shows of a wide variety of architecture from Gothic to Renaissance, Baroque and Art Nouveau buildings.  

How many days in Kraków?

We spent 4 days in Kraków, exploring the Old Town’s many attractions as well as being able to take a trip from Krakow to Auschwitz. This gave us plenty of time to not only explore the Jewish Quarter of Krakow but simply wander and enjoy the city.

Map of Krakow

Things to do in Krakow

Where to stay in Krakow

We were a stone’s throw away from the old city on Dluga which leads directly into State Miasto or Old Town. We stayed just outside Old Town which can get expensive depending on the season. Where we were located was within the Kleparz District. This area sits just to the north of the Old Town and the park “walls” that surround the Old Town area from our apartment it took 15 minutes to walk to the main square.

The best areas to stay in Krakow

Old Town (Stare Miasto) this is Krakow’s historical centre where you will find the restaurants, coffee shops, bars and some beautiful architecture and sites. A great place to stay because of its prxomity to pretty much everything. It is also one of the more expensive areas for hotels and accommodation.

Hotel Legend

The Hotel Legend is a 3 star hotel just steps from Wawel Castle.  A buffet breakfast is available daily and the hotel does provide a shuttle service from the airport.

Hotel Polski Pod Białym Orłem

 Located just inside the city walls, this 4-star Old Town hotel is a 4 star elegant hotel with a good restaurant the Pijarska  that offers over 17 Polish dishes. 

Hotel Gródek  

A boutique hotel located in a quite corner of Old Town near Planty Park.  This 5-star Hotel is housed in a Renaissance building in Kraków’s Old Town. It features beautiful, historic interiors with a sauna and swimming pool housed in the vaulted cellars.

Kazimierz: This is the Jewish Quarter which is a truly fascinating place to explore. Loads of great restaurants and the best place for those of us who love food as it is a trendy area for Polish craft beer and street food. 

Hotel Eden

Situated in a historic 15th-century building, this Hotel Eden in the heart of Kazimierz, Krakow’s old Jewish Quarter. It offers a mikveh (Jewish ritual bath), spa facilities and free Wi-Fi.

Things to do in Krakow

Hotel Columbus

Perched on the eastern edge of Kazimierz, Hotel Columbus is a 3-star hotel is steps away from some of the area’s top tourist sites and restaurants. The rooms have a modern design, and the furniture is done in exotic wood. 

Kleparz is where we stayed and it is just north of Stare Miasto. A quiet area with shops (mostly bridal) a few coffee shops and some good restaurants.

Relaks Aparthotel

A charming aparthotel  situated 500 m from the Main Market Square and offers accommodation with free Wi-Fi and design interiors. The apartment includes a separate bedroom and a kitchenette to cook in. Guests can enjoy their meals in the dining area and there is a sofa to relax on. Satellite TV is provided. There is also a café that offers a great buffet breakfast.

Things to do in Krakow

Art & Garden Residence

A great boutique but budget friendly hotel a kilometer from the Florian Gate. Guests can enjoy a breakfast buffet served in a Garden Restaurant, serving international and fusion cuisine. Free WiFi is provided throughout the property.

Zulian Aparthotel

A modern aparthotel featuring ample rooms with city and garden views. Rynek Glowny (Main Market Square) is a short 10-minute walk away.  There is a lovely terrace to enjoy a cocktail on and an in house restaurant.

What to do in Krakow

City walls

Until the Emperor Franz arrived Kraków had massive medieval city walls.  On the walls were defensive towers 10 metres high. In the 19th century there were 47 towers still standing. Now there are only three Gothic towers left: the Carpenters’, Haberdashers’ and Joiners’ Towers, connected to St. Florian’s Gate by walls several dozen meters long.

Things to do in Krakow

Plankty Park

It was Franz 1 the Emperor of Austro-Hungary who ordered the demolition of the medieval fortifications that surrounded Krakow’s Old Town. The moat around the centre was filled and levlled and the whole 4 kilometre area was planted in English landscape style gardens. These days Plankty Park provides a lovely place to stop and people watch on your way to or back from Old Town.

Kraków Barbican

A Gothic style Barbican is a fortified outpost that used to be connected to the old town walls. The Barbican is one of the few remaining buildings from that complex network of fortifications that once encircled the Royal city of Kraków.

You can tour tour its interior which contains displays outlining the historical development of fortifications in Kraków.

Things to do in Krakow

Florian Gate

St. Florian’s Gate or Florian Gate is a Polish Gothic tower built in the 14th century as protection against the Turks. On the North side of the Old Town The Florian Gate is the beginning of Kraków’s Royal Road.

Things to do in Krakow

The Royal Road

It was through the Florian Gate that royalty from kings and princes, to coronation parades and festival processions passed. They travelled up ulica Floriańska (St. Florian’s Street) to the Main Market Square, and on up ulica Grodzka (Castle Street) to Wawel Castle.

Stare Miasto

Entering near the Florian Gate head to Stare Miasto which is Krakow’s old town. This is a UNESCO protected area located in the centre of Krakow. It is surrounded by the green ring of Plankty Park which replaced the old town walls destroyed centuries ago it is the beating heart of Krakow. The area includes Wawel Castle, Rynek Square with its Basilica and Market Square, the University and the Barbican and ancient entrance into Krakow.

Things to do in Krakow

Rynek Glowny

The heart of Stare Miasto is Rynek Glowny, which is the biggest medieval square in Europe. Inside the Stare Miasto you will find plenty of restaurants from the cheap to the gourmet to Starbucks and Costa Coffee. Not only packed with food joints the Square has hundreds of bars and pubs. You will find vodka shots for around €1 Euro to a pint of beer for the same amount.

Things to do in Krakow

This beautiful plaza measures 200 metres by 200 and was laid out in its current design after the Mongols raided Kraków during the 13th century. Along the outskirts and borders of Rynek Glowny you will see long rows of townhomes that date back to medieval times although the facades are distinctly Neoclassical

Wierznek Restaurant

One of the oldest restaurants in Krakow is Wierzynek, which is where the Roman Emperor Charles IV and Elizabeth of Pomerania celebrated their wedding in 1364.

Things to do in Krakow

St. Adalbert’s

The Romanesque church of St. Adalbert is one of the oldest in Krakow which was built in the 11th century. As you enter the church you can see the walls were raised over the years resulting in several steps down to the original floor. The original Romanesque elements of the church are the most ancient built heritage in the Main Market Square.  An exhibition devoted to the history of the Main Market Square and the church of Saint Adalbert can be visited in the subterranean part of the church

Things to do in Krakow

St. Mary’s Basilica

In the heart of the square you can’t miss St. Mary’s Basilica, you will also hear its hejnal or bugle call from the taller of the two towers. The Basilica was built on the foundations of an earlier church leveled by the Mongols and has been reworked over the centuries into the gothic beauty you can now see.

Things to do in Krakow

Every hour you will hear the St. Mary’s Trumpet Call played in memory of the trumpeter who sounded the alarm of the Mongol attack in the 13th century. The bugler was shot half way through his alarm and you will notice that the call breaks off very abruptly memorializing this moment in Krakows history.

The ultimate showpiece of the Basilica is the Gothic altarpiece which is the largest in the world and its figures stand up to 2.7 metres tall.

Things to do in Krakow

Cloth Hall

Cloth Hall has stood in the centre of the market square since 1257 but the building you see in the square today dates back to the 1500’s and today is a great showcase for many Polish crafts and artisanal work. The booths of amber jewelry will have you drooling.

Things to do in Krakow

Polish Amber

Amber has always been of great importance to the country and is considered the native gemstone.  Poland was once home to the famous “Amber Road” which connected the Baltic Sea with the Mediterranean and supplied the ancient Romans and Greeks with their favourite stone Amber.

Amber is a fossilized resin from the Cretaceous and Paleocene trees. The Baltic amber can be as old as ninety million years or as ‘young’ as thirty million years. It may contain embedded objects of the same age such as insects or even tiny animals, fragments of plants, and sand (remember Jurassic Park).

Things to do in Krakow

Ambers colours vary from ivory to red and shades of brown to black. It can be clear or opaque and anything in between. It is a very tactile stone that warms in your hand and reflects the deeper layers it is comprised off.

Sukiennice Museum

Featuring dominantly Polish 19th-century painting, there are four enormous individual rooms devoted to Polish artists. The Bacciarelli Room houses classicist paintings, the Michałowski Room has Romanticism works of art. The Siemiradzki Room accommodates nineteenth century artworks, and lastly, the Chełmoński Room has Polish Realism, Impressionism and Symbolism paintings and engravings.

Eros Bound

Coming out of the Cloth Hall you may spot a large sculptured head. This is Eros Bendato or Eros Bound by the Polish artist Igor Mitoraj it was donated to the City and was to be placed in front of a commercial bilding but the artist protested and the sculpture was placed near Town Hall Tower.

Things to do in Krakow

Collegium Maius 

This is the oldest part of Poland’s ancient university Jagiellonian founded in the 13th century. If you are visiting Old Town you can take a tour of the Collegium Maius where Copernicus was a student and see the instruments and globes from the time he was a student here. 

Things to do in Krakow

Rynek Underground

A little known part of the Old Town that many tourists miss is the Rynek Underground Museum which depicts life in Kraków’s Old Town 700 years ago.

This is an archaeological site with footbridges over the arhaelogical digs, interactive displays and holograms depicting life in Krakow from the 11th century. You will see real graves from that time period, Tatar arrowheads, dice, beads, leather shoes and clay figures.

Church of Saints Peter and Paul

The Church was built entirely by Italians both inside and out and completed within 20 years at the beginning of the 17th century. It’s façade was created from dolomite and insisde you will see some incredible ornamental stuccowork depicting scenes from the lives of St. Peter and St. Paul.

Things to do in Krakow

The church has also had a Foucault’s Pendulum since 1949. This is hung from a height of 46.5 metres, and if you visit on Thursday morning there are demonstrations on the hour showing earth’s rotation.

Church of St. Francis of Assisi

This Church is attached to a Franciscan Monastery dating back to the 13th century. The religious complex is across the street from the Bishop’s Palace which was the residence of Pope John Paul II when he stayed in Krakow.

Things to do in Krakow

Wawel Hill

Kraków was the capital of Poland from 1038 until 1596 and Wawel Castle was the royal residence. Under the castle is Poland’s most famous cave known as the Dragon’s Den.

Dragon’s Den (Smocza Jama)

The Dragon’s Den is a limestone cave in the Wawel Hill known for its legendary dragon. In front of the entrance stands a sculpture of the dragon that breathes fire. The legends say that this dragon was slain by King Krakus when he founded the city.

Krakow, Poland: Wawel dragon in Krakow Poland Europe

You can enter the Dragon’s Den from the Courtyard of Wawel Castle, but do this after you have visited the Castle and the Cathedral as the exit from the cave is by the Vistula River at the bottom of the hill.

Wawel Cathedral

A National Monument Wawel Cathedral is where many of Poland’s national heroes, Monarchs and cultural figures are buried.  Pope John Paul II wanted to be buried here but according to Vatican traditions he was buried in St. Paul’s in Rome.

At the entrance to the cathedral there are bones hanging from a chain dating to the Ice Age and claimed to belong to the dragon

Wawel cathedral on Wawel Hill in Krakow, Poland

Sigismund’s Chapel is an incredible example of Renaissance architecture. The golden dome is rich with carved details and contains some of Poland’s finest tomb monuments. 

Wawel Castle

Wawel Castle is a UNESCO-listed site situated on top of Wawel Hill above Krakow’s Old Town.  The architecture of the castle encompasses every style from Romanesque to Baroque and was the residence of Polish Kings up to the 17th century. 

Things to do in Krakow

Since the 1940s Wawel Castle has been a national museum, where tourists can explore the lavish riches of Polish monarchs through Gobelin tapestries, the amoury and paintings by Cranach and Ghirlandaio. 

One exhibit displays every coronation sword for the Polish kings froms 1320 to 1764.

Things to do in Krakow

Explore Kraków’s Jewish history in Kazimierz

Kazimierz was founded in 1335 by Casimir the Great as a separate city, only becoming a district of Kraków in the 19th Century. Boasting its own town hall, defence walls and large churches, Kazimierz rivalled Kraków in position and wealth.

After a fire in Kraków at the end of the 15th century King Jan I Olbracht moved the entire Jewish population to Kazimierz, which grew exponentially as Jews expelled from other areas of Europe moved here.  

Things to do in Krakow

Kazimierz’s sacred architecture is witness to centuries of peaceful co-existence between Christians and Jews prior to WWII and the Nazi’s.

Plac Wolnica

To the west is Kazimierz’s Christian section, centred on Plac Wolnica, the site of a popular Sunday flea market and also a filming location for Schindler’s List.

KAZIMIERZ DOLNY, POLAND - AUGUST 23, 2020: Tourists in the old town square. Visible renaissance townhouses of St. Christopher and St. Nicholas.

Much of the Schindler’s List film was shot in this neighbourhood, which has synagogues, bookshops, restaurants and bars and a small but vibrant Jewish community. 

Plac Nowy

Plac Nowy is the heart of the Kazimierz district the square has a regular food market every day with flea markets, street food locations and on Saturday you can shop for antiques and Sunday for clothes.  

Back in 1939 the centre of the square was home to a Kosher butcher for the Jewish community these days it is a street food haven where you can enjoy one of Poland’s favourite street foods a Zapiekanka, an open-faced French bread pizza piled with mushrooms, cheese and hot ketchup.

Szeroka Street

This was one of my favourite places to visit in Kazimierz but it’s really more of a square and it is truly the heart of the old Jewish District.

Synagogues The Remuh

The first settlers arrived in the 14th century and two of the most important synagogues in Krakow are found here. The Old and the Remuh with its small Jewish Cemetery.

Things to do in Krakow
Things to do in Krakow

The Old Jewish Cemetery of Kraków called the Remuh was established between 1535-`55`and is the oldest existing cemetery in Poland. uring WWII the Nazi’s destroyed the site tearing down walls and hauling away tombstones to use as paving stones in Auschwitz. These original tombstones or what remained of them has been returned and installed at the cemetery.

The Old Synagogue

The Old Synagogue dates from the 15th Century with some remodelling done in the 16th and 18th Century. It now houses the Galicia Jewish Museum, chronicling the history and culture of Kraków’s Jews.

Things to do in Krakow

Wolf Popper Synagogue

There was a third synagogue tucked between a gated courtyard that was built in 1620. The building was destroyed during WWII and none of its interiors survived. It was recently returned to the Jewish community and is now a publishing house and bookshop specializing in Judaica. Upstairs you can see a small gallery space.

Things to do in Krakow
©Zygmunt-Put-Own-work-CC-BY-SA-4.0

There are many restaurants and cafes around the square serving Jewish food such as the Ariel Restaurant. The restaurant was established in a tenement house erected between the World Wars, occupying the place where an old 18th century “Rabbi House” used to stand.

Ariel Restaurant & Art Gallery

Things to do in Krakow

Currently, it houses the first private Jewish art gallery in Kracow, with old and contemporary pieces of art, and in the second symmetric wing of the building, newly constructed, there is a cafe and restaurant with Jewish music concerts.

Jewish Memorial Stone

In the northern part of the square there is a small park of maple trees which was believed to have been a burial ground for plague victims. Within the park  it you will see a small monument The inscription reads: Place of meditation upon the martyrdom of 65 thousand Polish citizens of Jewish nationality from KracKow.

Things to do in Krakow

Chajim Kohan

Just up the street from this memorial is Chajim Kohan also known as Once Upon a Time in Kazimierz, is set inside a row of re-constructed 19th-century Jewish traders shops. The restaurant offers Jewish cuisine with a Polish influence including a Kosher vodka.  It contains 11 tables offering an experience in dining like no other. The walls that used to separate the buildings have been removed and the original décor from each shop has remained along with the original restored signs from the shops.

Things to do in Krakow

Corpus Christi Church

Casimir III the Great founded this Gothic basilica in the Kazimierz district in 1335. Corpus Christi has some of the finest Baroque ornamentation in Poland. The stalls in the choir are exceptional, carved in 1624-32 and embellished with sculptures and paintings of saints.

Things to do in Krakow

The Church houses the largest organ in Krakow built in 1958 and its artists used elements from the old organ which dated back to the 1770’s.

Things to do in Krakow

The Basilica of Saint Michael the Archangel

The Basilica of Saint Michael the Archangel and the Sanctuary of the Martyrdom of Saint Stanislaus on Skałka is located on a limestone rock in Kazimierz. Skałka is a former defensive settlement near to Wawel Castle. The first traces of settlement here date back 2000 year before Christianity. It became incorporated into Krakow over the years and is the historic resting place of the Martyred Bishop of Krakow Stanislaw.

Things to do in Krakow

Visiting Podgorze

Traces of the former Jewish ghetto in Podgorze are still visible today. Cross the Bernatek footbridge, linking Kazimierz with Podgorze, and keep going until you reach Plac Bohaterów, the heart of the Kraków Ghetto.

Ghetto Heroes Square

The Krakow Ghetto was located in the Podgórze district, opposite Kazimierz on the right bank of the Vistula River from 1941 until it was “liquidated” in 1943. The large public square was known as Plac Zgody was were the residents of the Ghetto congregated and traded before the Nazi’s began their deportations to the Concentration Camps.

Krakow, Poland June 5, 2018: Memorial to Jews from the Krakow Ghetto on their deportation site on the Ghetto Heroes Square in Podgorze district . Each steel chair represents 1,000 victims.

There are terribly haunting and unforgettable photos showing how furniture, suitcases and belongings were thrown into the square by the Nazi’s when clearing the ghetto and often there were executions held in the square.

In 2005 the square was redesigned as a memorial and 70 large chairs were installed in memory of the victims of the Krakow ghetto. It is a striking and apt memorial that will hopefully instill in tourists the truth of the holocaust.

Eagle Pharmacy

Tadeusz Pankiewicz was the Polishs sowner of the Eagle Pharmacy across from Heroes Square. He and his staff were the only non-jews living in the ghetto and they risked their lives to help the people supplying food and medications and falsifying documents.

The Eagle Pharmacy has been restored and is now an interactive museum detailing the lives of those in the Krakow Ghetto.

KRAKOW, POLAND Entrance to museum "Pharmacy under the eagle" (branch of the Krakow Historical Museum). Is the only pharmacy operating in the territory of the Krakow ghetto.

Along with Oskar Schindler, the pharmacist is now today as one of the ‘Righteous Among the Nations’.

Righteous Among the Nations is a is a title bestowed upon non-Jews by the State of Israel on those who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. 

Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory

Schindler’s List which was filmed here is the story of a man Oskar Schindler who along with his wife saved more than 1,200 Jews from the gas chambers by putting them to work in his factory. 

Things to do in Krakow

Schindler’s Factory is now the site of a museum and memorial that tells the story of life in Kraków under the Nazi Occupation. To visit the museum it is advised to book ahead as there are only a certain amount of visitors allowed daily.

Things to do in Krakow

The museum is set up with archives, photos, artefacts and interactive multimedia displays. You can see Schindler’s office and the work he tried to do to save Jewish people. The museum though is not just built around Schindler’s work the wider exhibit is about the occupation of Krakow during WWII and the Nazi atrocities perpetrated there. You will find reconstructions of underground tunnels used by the Polish resistance, rooms in basements where Jews were hidden, a ghetto “home”, a prison cell and more. You can also watch a documentary upon entering the building that details what happened in Krakow during this time period.

Things to do in Krakow

The Museum gets very busy, even in February it was packed with school children, tourists and Polish citizens. You will need at least 2-3 hours to see the entire museum. Backpacks must be checked at the entrance although you are allowed a camera.

Kościuszko Mound

This mound is 34 metres high and is dedicated to Tadeusz Kościuszko was a Polish national hero, who fought against Russia and they divided up the country at the end of the 18th century.

In 1794 Kościuszko led a revolt against Russia, which begun in Kraków’s Main Square. Sadly it was a failure and he was killed. He was interred in the mound which was built in the style of rulers tombs from Poland’s ancient past.

At the foot of the mound are the remains of the military citadel that was built by the Austrians in the 19th century.

Kosciuszko Mound (Kopiec Kościuszki). Krakow landmark, Poland. Erected in 1823 to commemorate Tadedeusz Kosciuszko. Surrounded by a citadel, erected by Austrian Administration about 1850. Aerial view.

Krakus Mound

The other mound you may want to visit is the pagan Krakus Mound which is located in the south of the city near the Kraków Krzemionki station.

The Krakus Mound remains a mystery to this day. It was believed to be the burial place of the Celtic King Krakus who founded Krakow and is said to be over 2000 years old. However, excavations have yet to uncover any sign of a crave and the artefacts found here have been dated to the 8th and 10 centuries.

Like Newgrange in Ireland it is believed that it may have served an astronomical function that forms an axis with another mound and the sun on Beltane.

Vistulan Boulevards

The Vistula River that cuts through Krakow has been altered and developed for centuries. The wide banks are man-made and include bicycle paths, cruise boats and Krakows water taxi service.

This is a lovely place to view Krakow from and the views of Wawel Castle on the Hill are very pretty.

Polish Aviation Museum

If you are an aviation fan then you will want to visit this museum. It is located on the outskirts of Krakow and housed in the former Kraków-Rakowice-Czyżyny Airport. It is one of the largest aircraft museums in the world and exhibits include gliders, anti-aircraft weaponry, state-of-the-art fighter jets, aircrafts built for World War I, World War II and the Cold War. 

A day trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau

Auschwitz was a must visit on my trip to Krakow. I’ve always been told that my great-great grandmother was Jewish and although not Polish the family came from somewhere in central Europe but I have been unable to find more information.

Arbeit Macht Frei: Work will set you free is the most well known saying and those gates that the works hang above will send a shudder down your spine. As a person who has lived most of their life in Canada and Ireland I knew about the war from a historical perspective and have read much about the Holocaust before I got to Auschwitz.

Things to do in Krakow

The absolute horror of the camps are reflected in the silent displays of photographs, piles of emty luggage, mounds of shoes and clothing and other personal items taken from the prisoners.

I was deeply moved by the Israeli’s visiting the camp and upon leaving they started singing which did make me cry. It was heartening to see many children and visitors learning about the horror of the Holocaust and gives me hope that these memories will stay with us easily distracted humans forever.

You will need a full day to visit Auschwitz and you can visit with a tour or on your own.

Both buses and trains run between and Kraków and Oświęcim. Taking the bus is more convenient as most will drop you by the entrance to Auschwitz-I. A free shuttle bus runs between Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II – Birkenau every 30 minutes. 

Things to do in Krakow

To get to Auschwitz from Krakow if you are not taking a tour you will have to get a bus from the MDA bus station in Krakow but I recommend going early as it is about a 2 hour trip to the camp

You should check the Auschwitz – Birkenau Memorial and Museum website for detailed information on tickets, including how to book. You do not need a ticket to go to Birkenau, which is connected to Auschwitz with free shuttle buses.

Wieliczka Salt Mine

When visiting Poland on your European road trip, you might think of exploring its charming towns, historic castles or old World War II sights. But the UNESCO-listed Wieliczka Salt Mine should definitely be on your itinerary as well.

The old Salt Mine hasn’t been used to produce table salt since 1996, after producing salt for centuries long. It is now one of the biggest tourist attractions in the area, being declared a Polish Historic Monument and listed on the UNESCO World Heritage.

Things to do in Krakow

As the Wieliczka Mine was used for over centuries, the excavated area is huge. It’s over 300 meters deep and has hundreds of kilometres of passages, chambers and corridors. You won’t be able to see all of it of course, but your guide will bring you to the best sights and tell you about the mine’s history and currents use. One of the highlights of your visit will be one of the last chambers you’d visit: the rock salt chapel carved out by the miners for their prayers.

The Salt Mine is located in Wieliczka, not far from better-known Krakow. Krakow will probably be on your Poland itinerary, so it’s easy to add a day trip to the Salt Mines when staying there. Written by Maartje & Sebastiaan – The Orange Backpack

What to eat in Krakow

There is so much to choose from with regard to food from the Jewish delights of Kazimierz to Polish street food I had to write a whole article on what to eat in Krakow

Things to do in Krakow

Of course peirogi is one of the dominant foods you can find pretty much any variety stuffed with anything you like here in Krakow. One of my favourite foods though is the baguette sandwich or zapiekanka which can be found on Plack Nowy Street at New Square. If you like a great food truck snack after your vodka (and who doesn’t?) try the Andrus Food Truck in Kazimierz.

Things to do in Krakow

It also wouldn’t be fair of me to mention food without vodka, Poland’s drink of choice when not consuming lots of beer. Vodka shots are dirt cheap, so cheap that the two Irishmen I was with consumed more than their fair share and spent the entire wobbly trip back to the aparthotel singing Irish songs.

Now I will say there was and is a lot of drinking going on in the Old Town bars that weekend and a lot of signing and wobbling from many quarters.

Things to do in Krakow

So as you can see there are plenty of things to do in Krakow and it can keep you busy for a full exhausting 4 days or more. I wish we had more time to explore because I would have loved to visit Zakopane and check out the snowy mountains. I also read that the Wieliczka Salt Mines make an interesting tour.

There is only one thing that puts me off returning to Poland and that is politics. It seems that Poland has lately been very regressive in their policies towards the LGBTQ population making homophobia legal.

Here’s hoping Poland pays attention to the rest of the world and we can visit again. Have you been to Krakow yet? What was your favourite thing about the city (and don’t say cheap vodka lol).

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Things to do in Krakow

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