City guide: Kraków, Poland

History and overview:

One of the oldest cities in Poland, Kraków has mutated from a stone age settlement into the second Polish metropolis and is continuing its rise to a great European city.

Kraków was already a trading post before the year 1000 and capital of the Kingdom of Poland for nearly 6 decades, from 1038 to 1569. It was moreover the capital city of the Commonwealth of Poland and Lithuania from 1569 to 1795 and formed a Grand Duchy from 1846 to 1918. Unlike the modern Polish capital city of Warsaw, Krakow did not suffer as substantially during the Second World War and its architectural sweet spots remained mostly intact throughout the communist era.

Kraków is nowadays the second largest city in Poland and one of the tourism hubs in the country which is due to its wide array of sights and activities. Add to that relatively low prices for Eastern European standards and a vibrant party culture and you can see why Kraków attracts workers, students and travellers alike.

The city in fact benefits from one of the largest student populations in Europe which makes it an ideal place to interact with locals in one of the many nightlife locations.

The park around Wawel Castle

 

Accommodation:

Andel’s Hotel: a great hotel with all the required amenities right in the centre and close to all the sights. Book your stay here

Budget option: Greg & Tom Beer House Hostel A nice place to meet fellow travellers in a cozy atmosphere with a cool bar located inside the hostel Check it out here

Cultural offer and activities:

Main square and market: The largest medieval square in Europe is a sight in itself and the market hall in the middle of the square is an ideal place to have a look at the goods that are produced by local Polish craftsmen

Old town: The centrally located Old Town will sweep travellers off their feet with its’ ancient architectural gems and its many little cafés and bookstores.

Wawel Castle and the museums inside the castle: The large 14th century castle right on the edge of the Old Town holds no less than six different chambers which all contain temporary and permanent expositions related to Polish and international art, the history of the city and the cultural and historical specificities of the Krakow region.

Juliusz Slowacki Theatre: A beautiful theatre that will please theatre fans with its renowned shows and travellers with its sublime architectural traits.

Oswiecim Concentration Camp (Auschwitz): For those who want to see the remnants of the horror of the largest Nazi death camp (75km west of Kraków)

Wawel Castle
Juliusz Slowacki Theatre
The market hall on the main square during Christmas time
The cathedral in autumn
The architectural beauty of the old town.

 

Wine & Dine:

Starka: (Józefa 14) A great place to taste Polish cuisine and to eat like a local.

Aqua e Vino: (Wislna 5/10) The international option: serves a wide range of international and Italian dishes.

 

Going out:

Kraków’s nightlife options are sheer endless. Two recommendable districts are on the one hand the old town around the main square and on the other hand the former Jewish district (Kazimierz). Both offer great bars, pubs and clubs to enjoy a night out and both are characterized by a mixed clientele of locals and tourists.

Atelier (Pl Nowy, 7): Nice bar with a lovely terrace for warm summer evenings

Frantic Club: (Szewska 5) One of the top clubs in Kraków. Attracts pretty much everyone and the door policy can therefore be quite selective.

The former Jewish district & Alchemia Bar (ul Estery, 5): This area will delight party animals and bar lovers equally as it features a bit of everything. Alchemia is one of those laid back, ancient style bars that serve as a remnant of past times when the intellectuals of the city met in bars like these in the Jewish district

Kitsch – Push Club & Bar: (Grodzka 46) ‘Underground’ club with a more alternative concept, a bit further from the centre and therefore less touristy.

Shakers Club (Szewska 5) The ‘value for money’ option. Right next to Frantic in the same building, not as great a club as the former but less fancy and more down to earth.

 

Final tips & verdict:

Kraków does suffer from mass tourism during certain periods of the year. The summer months can get very crowded and you may see a lot of ‘drink tourism’. The city moreover suffers from serious pollution during the months of November and December due to the huge amount of coal factories in the region. The ideal way to avoid those two scenarios is to plan a trip in between high season and winter.

 

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