- Airport – John Paul II International Airport Krakow – Balice (KRK)
- Currency – Polish Zloty (PLN)
- Language – Polish
- Population – 750,000
- GDP (Poland) – $475 billion (25th Overall)
Krakow is a beautiful city full of both history and charm. Come enjoy the medieval architecture, traditional polish cuisine, and Eastern European culture that Krakow embraces. It can be quite the site in the winter months, but also so cold that it is almost unbearable if you are not used to frigid air. You will most likely enjoy it more in the Spring or Summer time, but if you do dare visit during the colder months, make sure to bring many layers. I visited in January, and was wearing multiple pairs of pants and sweaters at one time! Nonetheless, make a trip to Krakow because it truly is something special.
Krakow has one main airport, John Paul II International Airport (KRK). Coming from the U.S. many connecting flights are available through airports such as Frankfurt, Brussels and Warsaw on airlines like LOT Polish Airlines and Lufthansa. Also, once in Krakow, you will find items to be far less expensive than in the U.S.
Krakow is predominately a walking city. The best way to see this city and take in all it has to offer is on foot. If you are out late at night or out of energy, taxis are fairly inexpensive and plentiful around the city.
Visit Wawel Castle & Cathedral
The Wawel Castle & Cathedral is over 900 years old and considered the Polish national sanctuary. You can walk through the grounds or do a guided tour of any number of the exhibits inside the grounds. Depending how many exhibits you decide to explore will make the entrance fee vary. Some of the exhibits include a tour of the State Rooms inside the castle, The Royal Private Apartments, or the Crown Treasury and Armoury.
Go On a Walking Tour of the Jewish Quarter
The Jewish Quarter of Kazimierz, or The Old Town, is one of the most charming areas in Krakow. This area is not only full of charm, but history as well as great restaurants and bars. Go on a free walking tour of the area and experience the cobble stone streets, century old synagogues, and the Jewish heritage that continues to thrive.
Visit the Main Market Square
The Main Market Square, otherwise known as the Rynek Glowny square is a large medieval town square that dates back all the way to the 13th century. In the square, you can find many food carts as well as other vendors. The vendors set up shop early in the morning and are there until nighttime. The Main Market Square is always bustling with people and music. Make sure to walk around and see all the different options within the square, from delicious kielbasa on the grill to pierogi stands, you can’t go wrong with whatever you choose to try.
Visit Auschwitz and Birkenau
Visiting the concentration camps, Auschwitz and Birkenau, is a vital experience as part of your trip to Poland. Poland is full of history, including a dark past that should not be overlooked during your visit. Take the time to plan a day trip through any number of travel companies to see the horror that took place during WWII. Tours usually last about 6-7 hours and cost 155 PLN, or $39 USD. Not only is it an important aspect of Eastern European culture, but also so important for all of humanity to understand and see first-hand the site of the gravest mass murder in the history of the world.
Polish cuisine is hearty and delicious. When in Krakow it is imperative that you try traditional Polish food. Some traditional Polish dishes you do not want to miss, include Kielbasa, pierogis (Eastern European dumplings typically filled with potato, cheese, or ground meats.), Zurek, or the similar White Borscht soup, Kotlet Schabowy (Breaded pork tenderloin), and Bigos (Cabbage and pork-based stew). Additionally, you should look out for Zapiekanka (similar to an American bagel) on almost every street corner and of course, Polish vodka.
Places to Try
Kuchnia u Doroty
Hidden away near Kazimierz is Kuchnia u Doroty. For a great value and an authentic Polish experience, come to this place. Kuchnia u Doroty has a homey feel in addition to its great food and friendly service. Try the Potato Pancakes and Goulash, a house specialty, and finish your meal with the Strawberry & Blueberry pierogis. You don’t want to miss this place!
Restauracja Pod Baranem
Restauracja Pod Baranem is a Michelin star holding Polish restaurant with a touch of European flair. Located near the Wawel Castle, Pod Baranem is known for its unique flavors and family atmosphere. All dishes are prepared from scratch, even the fish smoking is done in house. For a nice night out in Krakow, go to Pod Baranem!
Pod Aniolami Restauracja
Known for its marinated meats grilled over a beech hardwood fire, Pod Aniolami is a great place to try some mouthwatering upscale Polish cuisine. The atmosphere is dimly lit and has a gothic cellar feel to it, and the food is delicious. Try their borscht or mushroom soups, as well as the grilled smoked cheese, and the grilled duck. Finally, make sure to try Pod Aniolami’s homemade vodka, for some of the best you’ve ever had. One of the fancier restaurants in Krakow, Pod Aniolami Restauracja almost always requires a reservation in advance, so if you’re visiting Krakow make sure to take this into consideration.
Located right in Kazimierz is Alchemia. Almost the entire pub is lit by candles, giving Alchemia a dark but homey vibe. Popular with both locals and tourists, Alchemia is almost always crowded. If you want a night full of good food, good drinks and fun, make sure to check out this place!
Wieliczka Salt Mine
A very popular Krakow day trip is a visit to the Wieliczka Salt Mine. This salt mine was placed on the original UNESCO list of the World Heritage sites and is the only salt mine in the world that is preserved in such pristine condition. The trip is about 30 minutes each way from Krakow to the town of Wieliczka, and overall should last about 4-5 hours.