I have to say, apart from a trip to Auschwitz, I didn’t do a very good job of exploring Krakow. I felt like the last two trips I took were too busy, so I planned to take this trip at a much slower pace. The result? I didn’t really do much while in Krakow! But let me share what I did manage to see with you!
Where to stay:
We stayed here for two nights in a private room with a shared bathroom, and it suited us perfectly! The bed was huge and comfortable, and I loved the quirky art-deco decoration of the whole hostel. They have a really cosy communal area with a TV, DVD collection and Xbox, along with a BookCrossing bookcase, sofas and beanbags. There is a fully equipped kitchen and you can get a continental style breakfast (with delicious scrambled eggs) for around €3! The staff were lovely and helpful, with great recommendations on the city. You can borrow a hairdryer for free, and a towel for a 10zl deposit. The only slight drawback is that it’s not the nearest hostel to the Old Town Centre, but nevertheless is only a short Uber ride or a 15 minute walk away. I’ll definitely stay here again when I come back to Krakow!
We stayed here for one night as I wanted to treat myself to a slightly more lavish place to stay, and this one had a spa with reasonably priced treatments. The hotel is a little far out – it’s about a 20 minute walk to Wawel Cathederal, but its riverside location affords it lovely views from the restaurant and river-facing rooms. The spa is small – they have two steam rooms (which you need to book a slot for if you wish to visit them), a relaxing area with heated seats, and a variety of massages and treatments available. I had a very enjoyable full body massage for around £40. The room was quite large and comfortable, and I was even able to check in early with no extra cost, although the “double bed” was actually two singles pushed together, which is always slightly disappointing!
What to do:
Wawel Cathedral is high up on a hill overlooking the river – and at over 900 years old, is absolutely packed with historical significance. Fun fact – It’s both the coronation site and main burial ground for Polish monarchs.
Wander around one of the biggest medieval town squares in Europe, which also happens to have a fantastic Christmas market over the festive season. Cloth Hall Gallery has a tonne of wonderful souvenir stalls (and plenty of choices for my fellow fridge-magnet connoisseurs!). You can also take a horse and carriage ride around the old town from the Main Square. This is also where you will find plenty of stalls selling obwarzaneks, which are like twisted Polish bagels, and are a must-try street food snack!
Like most, a visit to Auschwitz is the main reason we decided to book the trip to Krakow. To get there we took the train, which was super cheap and super comfortable, although it did take over 2 hours! The trains leave semi-regularly from Kraków Główny (the main train station), and you need to get off at Oświęcim. The tickets cost us 9zl each one-way. Click here for the train timetable and website. From there we took a cab which cost 15zl, although there is a bus you can also take.
Entry to Auschwitz is free if you do not choose to take a tour, although you need to book your entry beforehand here. We spent around 4 hours there and left around 4.30pm (by this point it was getting dark). When planning your trip, make sure you give yourself enough time to view everything, because there is a lot to read and take in. Also, check what time it closes as in the winter the opening hours are reduced. Auschwitz is comprised of two camps – Auschwitz and Birkenau. Auschwitz camp contains lots of displays and a lot of things to read and contemplate, so I would plan to spend more time there. You can then take a free shuttle bus to Birkenau, which is very large, but mainly destroyed by the Nazis.
Going home, we took a bus back which left from the car-park. You don’t need to book in advance, just keep an eye out for a bus from the company Lajkonik with “Krakow” in the window. It cost around 7zl each, and took about an hour and 45 minutes – the only (quite significant) drawback being that we had to stand the whole way, and the bus was extremely overcrowded! So – if you are looking to save time, take the cramped but faster bus. If you want to travel more comfortably and willing to spend some extra time doing so, definitely take the train! You can also take an organised tour from Krakow, but I don’t think it’s really necessary – the public transport is quite easy to use!
Check out my post on Auschwitz here
Something a bit different:
This was actually a highlight of the trip – 60 pinball machines along with 15 classic arcade games, and for a £10 entry, you can come and go as you please all day long! They have a small bar which serves beers, or check out Bro Pub which is just around the corner and serves a variety of beers and burgers.
I am so upset that I only found out about this on my last day, but apparently axe bowling is a thing in Krakow. Yup, you heard it right. This is a place that lets you chuck axes at targets with your friends, and if that’s not a fantastic use of your time, then I don’t know what is!
In my Vilnius article, I mentioned that Horror Hotel was the scariest experience of my life. Please completely disregard that sentence – This was a WHOLE new level of fear. Fear Factory is actually more of a haunted house with escape room elements in it, and includes live actors who do their best to scare the living daylights out of you (with tasers. Yes, actual tasers. They’re painful by the way). It is definitely not for the faint hearted, although I have to admit – once I have recovered from the absolute terror, it was a lot of fun.
We tried both rooms at Maze Krakow, and they had some very innovative designs for the puzzles, although did not have the same production value as the ones we saw in Vilnius (there were a lot of padlocks and combination locks). The Bomb Room was slightly trickier, while the Ring Room was based on the film.
Other Useful Information:
Although Krakow is slightly bigger than Gdansk and Vilnius, it is still relatively walk-able, and you shouldn’t need to use public transport too much. However, if you love to take public transport, it does have a fairly comprehensive tram and bus system. The most convenient location to stay is either somewhere near the main square, or in the trendy Jewish area. If you fancy doing some shopping, there is a large mall attached to the main train station. Getting to and from the airport is really simple – it’s a short train-ride away – the station is connected to the airport and takes you right into the centre of town for around 14zl each. Krakow is a super affordable city to visit – it has been my cheapest trip to date, so there really is no excuse not to check it out!
TL;DR – Auschwitz, Christmas markets, escape rooms and pinball – this city has tonnes of history and quirky activities to keep you occupied!
Have you been to Krakow? What were your highlights? I’d love to know about all the things I missed so I can start planning my next trip!
In the interest of transparency, this post was kindly sponsored by Fear Factory, and partly sponsored by Maze Krakow, Hostel Deco and Niebeski Hotel and Spa. However, all opinions and recommendations are completely my own and not as a result of any sponsorship!