Krakow: The Cultural Heart of Poland

Krakow Travel Guide

When you think of Krakow, you think of beautiful castles, medieval architecture, good food and locally distilled Vodka, but it’s so much more than that. So if you are thinking about your next adventure and have not been to Krakow yet, I suggest you open the next tab only to book your flight to Poland’s student city. Krakow is the hub of Polish academia, rightfully named as a city of literature by the United Nations. The soul of culture, history and art of Poland lives in this amazing city.

Krakow Travel GuideThe city is of historic importance having played key roles during World War 2. Legend has it that the name Krakow originated from the word ‘Krakus’, the name of the Prince founder of the city who originally built it on a cave occupied by the dragon, Smok Wawelski on Wawel Hill. Later on, the city was captured by Bohemians which led to defensive walls being erected around the city. In fact it has been captured and recaptured throughout history in a tug of war between different factions, while seeing itself rise from ashes to glory. When you walk from the heart of Krakow towards the outer districts, it feels like taking a walk through time as you will observe a mixture of architectural styles from different eras, as the city kept evolving throughout the centuries. So have some Polish zloty ready at hand and set out on the awe-inspiring journey through the streets of this beautiful city.

What to do and see

Krakow Travel GuideWalk down the Royal Road from St. Florian’s Gate to Wawel castle as you pit stop to nibble on delicious affordable local delicacies and the most coveted locally made Vodka in Krakow. This road was once the place for all parades and processions through the city centre, hence it bears a lot of historical landmarks.

Just an hour ride outside the city is the site of the infamous death camp, The Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Visiting the site itself is free of charge so you can go pay your respect.

Krakow Travel GuideThe Wawel Castle has claimed its spot among the World Heritage Sites of UNESCO, and at a minimal entry fee, you can visit the castle atop a hill which has a great collection of ancient art and furniture. Constructed by Casimir III, this castle is one of the main crowd pullers of Krakow.

Krakow Travel GuideIf you want to spend a quiet afternoon away from the city, the Planty is the place for you and your friends. It’s a 4km long park surrounding the city and houses a number of amazing restaurants serving local cuisine.

Just beneath the main city center is an underground museum speaking volumes about how the city developed in all its different stages.

Another great place to visit is the Wieliczka Salt Mines; once the main producer of table salts for Poland is now a museum. What’s awesome about it is that miners have created statues, cathedrals, and chandeliers carved from salt! Yes, from salt; sounds almost biblical doesn’t it?!

Krakow Travel GuideSt. Mary’s Church sits majestically in the middle of the main square as the main identifying landmark of the city and a must go place for any visitor.

Krakow Travel GuideHead over to Nowa Huta and get lost in the forgotten communist-era apartment blocks, steel factories and soviet style cantinas where you can clearly see how much of its social influence still remains.

Who hasn’t seen the 1993 Spielberg classic ‘Schindler’s List’? Well, the factory once owned by Oskar Schindler is now a famous museum… and it’s here!

The most recent addition of contemporary art museums? The ‘MOCAK’ is a pretty amazing place too, and it also offers a discount for seniors and students.

And if you still have time and enthusiasm, visiting Poland’s oldest university building is not a bad idea at all. After all, Copernicus was once a pupil there.

Don’t forget to take a stroll across the river to Podgorze, a district in Krakow where around 15,000 Jews were held up in a Ghetto consisting of a few blocks and a huge wall was built around it. A part of that wall is still there to visit. At the heart of the district is the square named Plac Bohaterów Getta (Ghetto Heroes Square) which is now a memorial spot with 70 odd vacant chairs.

Krakow Travel GuideI am sure you don’t want to spend the night in bed when you are in the partying capital of the country. Make sure to head down to Kazimierz, Krakow’s Old Jewish District which has a very happening nightlife filled with trendy bars, cafes and delicious street food joints all at easy on the pocket prices. There’s even a cafe that serves food and drinks on tables shaped like sewing machines. Sounds pretty cool right? In this hipster district, there are renowned bars with a blend of cultural nights, fab drinks and cool vibes. A must for nightlife, and whatever music you are into, they got it. And if you don’t feel like straying too far from the center, the main market square has a number of bars that serve all night… Na zdrowie to that!

Krakow Travel GuideKrakow is where you’ll experience the finest in Polish hospitality, together with some great history, some awesome architecture and a seriously wacky night scene. I guarantee that when you sit and count the number of amazing places you have been to, you will count Krakow twice; totally worth your time and currency, and you will relish the memories perpetually…

Recommended Things to do

The Communism Tour of Nowa Huta: Very entertaining, informative and very interesting. The tour gave us a brief look back to communist times through the streets in the disctrict with a visit to a classic soviet style apartment which was like being in a time bubble . Driving around in the Trabant was a nice touch.

Krakow Crawl Bar Crawl: The Krakow Crawl is the best way to get to know people and to navigate through the city at night with a cool crowd. The guides are amazing and make sure to get you straight into some of best spots in town.

The Krawl Through Krakow Bar Crawl: If you want to experience the very best of Krakow’s nightlife, you cant go wrong spending a night with these guys. Party all night with a fun international crowd, friendly guides and a good mix of bars and clubs. All in all great value for money.

Taste Vodka Krakow: Poland is famous for Vodka and these guys know why… you will taste a wide range of traditional Polish Vodka both flavored and original and this tour will change your perception of it… A must do while in Krakow

Old Town Tram Party: When in Krakow and you’re looking to meet people and experience a new kind of partying then you should definitely give the Old Town Tram Party a go. The guides are awesome and the tram itself is really cool as well as being stocked up with everyone’s drink of choice

Recommended Places to Stay

The Secret Garden Hostel: Conveniently located in the Bohemian Kazimierz district of Krakow, this hostel is a very clean and welcoming place to stay with neat accommodations and spacious rooms. Located approx a 15 minute walk (or 5 mins by tram) of the Old Town.