simrunnijjar
16th February 2022

What to see in Krakow, Poland

Following exam season I was itching for a break. So, with a friend, I boarded the 43 to Manchester Airport, touching down in snowy Krakow just a few hours later. 
What to see in Krakow, Poland

Like many others, following exam season I was itching for a break. After encountering Ryanair’s ‘Buy One, Get One Free’ sale one day, I booked some ridiculously cheap flights to Krakow. Intrigued by its growing reputation as a cheap getaway, I was also keen on seeing some of the history I had been studying last semester. So, with a friend, I boarded the 43 to Manchester Airport, touching down in snowy Krakow just a few hours later. 

The snowy scenes that greeted us at Krakow Main Train Station – Simrun Nijjar

My aims for this trip were twofold: Firstly to learn about and see the history of the country. Secondly, to also enjoy the very cheap local food and drink (after all, is that not one of the main purposes of going on holiday?) My endeavours were successful, leaving me with much to recommend.

What To Do?

Krakow’s Old Town is hailed as one of the most beautiful parts of Poland. This I certainly discovered to be true. The main square of Rynek Glowny is the largest medieval town square in Europe with plenty of eateries around it and a gorgeous Basilica in the centre. 

The sideroads off the main square also have an adorable medieval charm to them and are littered with a range of shops selling anything from chunky jewellery to wines. The Old Town also includes old fortresses and castles such as Wawel Castle and Florian’s Gate representing the city’s old fortifications which are all worth seeing. 

Exploring the city’s more recent history, it is worth visiting the former Jewish Quarter, Kazimierz, and the area that was the former Krakow Ghetto. Seeing the small size of the Ghetto was a sobering reality and created a new level of understanding. Further meaning was added with a visit to Schindler’s Factory which recounted not just Oskar Schindler’s story, but the story of the city throughout the 1900s.

We also took a tram ride to the outskirts of Krakow to Krakow Arcade Museum which holds a collection of over 150 arcade games. Paying a flat rate of around £10 at the door meant we were free to play anything we wanted and ‘continue’ on games as many times as we wanted.

Florian’s Gate in the Old Town. By Simrun Nijjar

A short bus ride to the town of Wieliczka allowed us to take a guided tour around Wieliczka Salt Mines which was full of chandeliers, lakes, sculptures, and chapels all made of salt. The number of hours of work that had been done 135m underground was astounding, making the mine worth a visit.

 

On our final day in Krakow, we took a coach to the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. We decided against a guided tour as the site was well signposted and not having anyone rushing us along allowed us the time and space for reflection and mourning. The site showed the sombre realities of the Holocaust and continues to serve as a warning. However, if you do decide to visit, ensure you are going with the right intentions as there were a few visitors who were taking selfies and seemed to be there just because they had read it was a ‘must-see’.

What To Eat and Drink?

Polish cuisine is a meat eater’s dream, with wild boar, venison, goose, and duck being staples on any menu. Although limited, vegetarian options are present with alternatives such as ‘Russian’ pierogi (dumplings) usually being stuffed with vegetarian foods such as potatoes, onions, and fried mushrooms. For pescatarians, there are also plenty of fish options. Pierogi are Polish dumplings that come with savoury but also sweet stuffing which you can choose yourself. In Wieliczka, we visited a tasty family-run pierogi called ‘Djin Dobry’. Establishments like this are available everywhere, enabling you to support small Polish businesses.

For eating and drinking, we found that the former Jewish Quarter of Kazimierz was the place to be. If you want to experience some fine dining on your trip, it won’t be as expensive as you may first think. A three-course meal and bottle of wine at Michellin-starred ‘Szara Kazimierz’ totalled up to £40 a head and was certainly worth it. Another night we ate at ‘Zalewajka’, enjoying not just delicious food but a drink tasting platter of cherry, apricot, mixed berries, walnut, and wormwood vodkas.

The shopfront of Holcer. Photo: Simrun Nijjar

 

As you would expect, the choice of vodka drinks was immense with bars such as ‘Pijalnia Wodki i Piwa’ offering £1 craft vodka shots. There was also an abundance of craft beers with Omerta offering over 20 European beers on tap (be careful, many of them were between 6%-10% ABV) in a relaxed environment. Alchemia also offered craft beers to the sounds of German techno in a prohibition-style bar and was one of the only places we visited that did cocktails.

However, there is more to Krakow than vodka and beer. In ‘Holcer’, we tried sweet Polish mead, mulled white wine with honey and coffee with custard liqueur in a vintage environment, with the shopfront signs dating back from before World War I.

All in all, I would recommend braving the cold temperatures for a cheap break to Krakow. There’s so much to do that can suit anyone’s budget! With that in mind, it’d be hard to say no to quaint and historic views.


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