So here is how the story goes in short. There was an evil dragon who goes around destroying civilians, the city and farms who enjoy sacrificial young women as its main meal. When almost all women is gone in its entirety, the King promised whoever can defeat the evil dragon, he will wed his daughter to this very man. Many great warriors came to fight the dragon but a young cobbler’s apprentice, named Skuba was the one who was able to defeat the dragon. He put sulfur into a lamb and put it outside of its cave and when the dragon ate it, it went very thirsty and drank the water from the Vistula River and after drinking too much water, the dragon exploded and as promised, Skuba and the King’s daughter got married and lived happily ever after.
Somehow I was trying to put this fairy tale together between the thought of Krakow being very close to the Auschwitz and the whole extermination-concentration camp history as well as it being a center of a very strong Catholic presence. I have to say it was a short, beautiful stay with a very heavy switch on the brain and city-wise it is an interesting city with a beautiful Town Square, medieval palaces, Catholic Cathedrals mix with bohemian vibes with a tinge of modern lifestyle, friendly pubs, hearty restaurants with last but not least, its own Polish vodka.
As city-break destination: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
As a word: diverse
As a destination: family, group of friends, solo
Currency: Polish Zlotys (PLN1 = U$0.25)
Excludes flight or mode of transfer and intercity transfers as this may vary depending on your selection on your trip and any extra shopping are excluded.
Total damage to the Piggy Bank per person: PLN270 (U$70)
Lunch PLN20 (U$5)
Dinner PLN40 (U$10)
Accommodation PLN100 (U$25)
Lunch PLN20 (U$5)
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT KRAKOW?
The peak season in Krakow is during European summer between July to August. This is when tourists will likely to be in the city and you will find slightly more expensive accommodations and flights. For those who loves to come by during Winter, the temperature averages around 0 degree and will be best suit for the winter favorite of skiing and its related activities. The best time to visit is Autumn or Spring when the weather get into the warm average of 20 degrees Celsius.
HOW TO GO TO KRAKOW CITY CENTRE?
We flew into Katowice airport where we rented a car and drove to Auschwitz then drove off to Krakow. Just happens that it worked with our timing and itinerary and gave us a little bit more flexibility with time – lies! We just love road trip! However, should you fly directly into Krakow, you can take a direct train from the airport into Krakow Glowny Central Station in the vicinity of Old Town. The ticket worth 12.5 zlotys.
How to go around in Krakow?
48 HOURS ITINERARY IN A JIZZ!
09:00 – Arrive in Katowice/Krakow, enroute to Auschwitz
10:30 – 14:00 – General Tour at Auschwitz Extermination/Concentration Camp
14:00 – 16:00 – Lunch, Enroute to Krakow
16:00 – 20:00 – Jewish Quarter, dinner
20:00 – Rest
10:00 – 14:00 – AUSCHWITZ EXTERMINATION AND CONCENTRATION CAMP
We signed up for a 3.5 hours general tour which started at 10:30am. Finding Auschwitz was not as difficult with a car but there should be buses which will take you to its massive complex. The largest concentration/extermination camp is divided into 3 parts. The tour will take you to the first two camps, Auschwitz-I and Auschwitz II – Birkenau. Auschwitz-I is a smaller area but the tour will be slightly longer here than the second camp. The tour takes you around the now-turned museums houses where the Prisoners of Wars were kept, their living conditions and their daily life. Some of the houses have now turned into exhibitions showing historical relics of the left-behind cans of Zyklone B (the rat poison used on the gas chambers), leftover shoes, leftover luggages and glasses and the most intriguing one – the remains of the hairs.
The second part of the tour will take you via the shuttle to Birkenau. This is the largest complex of three camps. Here is also where you will see the end of the rail tracks where millions of Jews, families, brothers and sisters were taken from Poland, Hungary and Germany and other parts of Europe with the promise of hot baths, but ended up going to the chambers instead. You will also see the remains of the gas chambers, the morque and some of the leftover camps where kids used to stay also.
There is a lot of information on this tour and it was rather of a quick-paced if you are coming with a very large crowd. It is very crowded at this place but definitely worth a visit. I don’t think you can get closer to history than visiting the very location where everything was happening. It was heavy, sad, cold if the weather decided to be. In our case, it also decided to drizzle some rain plus the wind :/
Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum
16:00 – 20:00 – JEWISH QUARTER
From Auschwitz to Krakow, it took us approximately an hour or so to reach the city centre (give us another hour for the wrong turns and lunch stops).The first part of the town worth a visit is its Jewish Quarter or also known as the Kazimierz. This is the southern part of the old town, used to be the centre of the Jewish community, was destroyed in World War II and became a no-go zone throughout the Communist era. Today, you will likely to find bohemian vibe of cafes, restaurants and art galleries. Here you can treat yourself for a really good dinner and for lower price. Win-Win.
10:00 – 13:00 – KRAKOW OLD TOWN WALKING TOUR
Krakow’s walking tour starts at 10.00am from St. Florians Gate, the gate tower of the city’s fortified walls. The walk will take you down to its Main Square where you will also see the famous St Mary’s Basilica and the iconic Krakow’s Cloth Hall. This square is another must-see next to Prague’s Old Town Square only this one is more spacious. The tour will continue to show off its Great College of Jegiellonian’s University since 14th Century, where Copernicus and Pope John Paul II graduated. I recommend strolling around the little arrays of streets around this area, it’s a really pretty walk with beautiful architectures and parks. Along one of these streets, you will find Kanonicza street and this is where John Paul II used to live before he left to Rome to be the Pope. The tour will end by taking you up to see the Wewel’s Cathedral (which is a very unique church to my likings), then to its famous Wewel’s Castle before it ends at the Wewel’s dragon statue overlooking the Vistula River! Almost all of Krakow in 3 hours. Between all the hours you walk around the town, you will manage to walk past some pubs, Polish restaurants and cheap Polish dumplings.
14:00 – 17:30 – WIELICZKA SALT MINE
From the city centre, you can reach one of the oldest salt mines in the world. You can either choose to drive or take the train from Glowny Central Station. The train will take approximately 20 mins from the city centre.
The mine itself went back to 13th century and it has been producing salt continuously until recent century. Access to mine can only be done via tour and the it goes for approx. 2 hours. The tour will take you down 378 steps underground to the mine and here you can see some salt-made sculptures of the Kings and Princess of Hungary going back centuries ago; underground lakes, tunnels and walls covered with cauliflower-like salt formation. You can also visit a beautiful underground chapels and a grand altar of an underground church – first one I’ve ever visited. If you happen to be here, check out the chandeliers – it’s all made out of salt, too! Apparently the whole salt mine can be referred to as the Underground Salt Cathedral of Poland.
Wieliczka Salt Mine
18:00 – Home or Off to Next Destination
TIPS ON KRAKOW:
- Book your Auschwitz and Salt Mine tour in advance online to avoid all the crowd.
- There are a lot of Polish cuisines worth trying if you have the time and tummy space to fit in the culinary experience and they are cheap as well! Note: Polish cheesecakes, doughnuts, apple juice and Zubrowska are among the famous ones.
- Be mindful of the weather. It does get quite windy at times.
- Generally quite safe for solo travellers.