KRAKOW - POLAND 

Krakow - Poland 

Introduction - airport and arrival


We travelled to Krakow from East Midlands airport on Boxing Day 2019.  We flew with Ryanair. The flight was approximately 2hours 30mins long and cost £140pp. We stayed in Krakow for 4 nights, returning to East Midlands on 30th December 2019, which was a perfect amount of time. 

We arrived at Krakow airport at 22:30pm which can be a difficult time to arrive at an airport- at this time it is dark which can make finding information more difficult and sometimes public transport may not be available at this time. Ryanair and our (Krakow Glowny apartment (i will go in to more detail later) both offered us transfers to Krakow city centre but we felt that both were comparatively expensive compared to public transport. We decided, instead, to use the airport bus service. We could have used the train service but our apartment was located in the 'Jubilat' area which, after researching, would have required us to take one train to the central train station (Krakow Glowny) and then a second train to our jubilat stop. The bus was a more direct option. We walked out in to the arrivals area and using the wifi service (which was free and good quality) we managed to discover that we were looking for a large white interactive ticket machine to purchase our ticket. we found it near the help desk near the exit and buying our ticket was easy enough thanks to the language selection option. The tickets were approximately £1 per person. We then left the airport and walked RIGHT to the furthest bus stop and got on the 252 bus which was a very modern, clean bus and was also perfectly punctual! *PLEASE NOTE- you have to validate your tickets on the bus, There is also a machine on the bus to purchase tickets too. The journey to jubilat took about 25 minutes and the bus had a self-updating route map so it was easy to know when to get off (similar to what you would expect on a train). 

Krakows Bus service timetable/prices can be found here - https://www.krakowairport.pl/en/passenger,c70/transport,c313/how-to-get-to-krakow-airport,c314/public-buses,a2430.html

 

Our apartment

We stayed at the Cracow Apartments II in the jubilat area of Krakow (seemingly the name comes from a giant supermarket 'jubilat' which incidentally is a great landmark to work from when exploring). 

We booked through Agoda.com and got the apartment for £180 for 4 nights (part of the attraction of Krakow/Poland was the amazing value of accomodation). 

About a week prior to arriving in Krakow, the apartment owner emailed me instructions regarding the self-check-in and also provided a whatsapp contact number. The information was great - we easily checked in by ourselves thanks to pictures and descriptions and the host was very friendly and offered information regarding transport and excursions. 

The apartment itself was, admittedly, a little bit smaller than it looked in its photo's- literally a bedroom with an attached shower room (rather than an apartment with an added seating area) but apart from that it was great! It was modern, clean, nicely decorated. It was warm which was important as it was -4 and below through the night (in fact the shower room had heated flooring too). The tv seemed to only have polish channels but it was a modern tv that enabled us to connect through a chromecast and through screen mirroring so we could watch netflix. 

In terms of location we felt jubilat was ideal. The bus stop and tram stop were both on our doorstep and for walking, we felt close to most major landmarks. Wawel castle was a 10 minute walk from our apartment and the main square was a 20 minute walk. For some, a 45 minute walk from the central station may be too far but we stopped off on the way and so it was a nice walk full of scenery and landmarks. 

 

Check out Cracow Apartaments II http://agoda.onelink.me/1640755593?pid=Mobile_App&c=Property_Sharing&site_id=1770664&af_dp=agoda%3a%2f%2fhotel%2fCracow%20Apartaments%20II%2f2112260&af_force_dp=true&af_r=https%3a%2f%2fwww.agoda.com%2fcracow-apartaments-ii%2fhotel%2fkrakow-pl.html&af_web_dp=https%3a%2f%2fwww.agoda.com%2fcracow-apartaments-ii%2fhotel%2fkrakow-pl.html&adults=2&childs=0&rooms=1&checkIn=2020-02-02&checkOut=2020-02-03&los=1&cid=1770664

Wawel castle

Overlooking krakow

The Basilica in the main square

Landmarks - things to see and do

We had 3 full days in Krakow and we managed to see what we believed to be all major landmarks in one day - but it did take us about 10 hours and 25,000 steps. 

As mentioned earlier, Jubilat is 10 mins away from Wawel castle so that was a logical first stop - an impressive building on top of a mound with good views of the river and city. We then walked south and headed towards Krakus mound (passing over 'lovelock bridge' and through the jewish quarter). The mound was approximately a 45 minute walk from our apartment which may put some people off but whilst we walked we got to see lots of sights and landmarks and we will admit, the streets and buildings of Krakow are very picturesque so we were happy to walk. For anybody not wanting to walk quite so far - there is the 'Podgorze' train station at the foot of the mound available to reach by train from Krakow's central station (which by the way is located next to a huge, modern shopping centre that arguably puts Birmingham's Grand Central to shame). I am a big fan of aerial views and the Mound did not disappoint. The views of the Krakow skyline were amazing! Please know, in advance, that there is a beige gravel path that spirals to the top of the mound - you do not need to climb it (unfortunately i only discovered this once it was too late). 

We then made our way (pretty much in a straight line north) to the main square. Another 45-60 minute walk - again we could have got public transport which would have been cheap and easy enough based on our experience from the airport but walking allowed us to see more. 

In the main square you have the large cloth hall market as well as the impressive Basilica, where every hour a musician plays a (we believe) bugle from the roof which was a nice touch. We actually climbed the Basilica and that gave us fantastic views overlooking the cloth hall and main square (which was particulsrly nice due to the Christmas market and all of the lights). http://mariacki.com/en/ Is the website for more info. we had to go to a ticket office (in a 'cul de sac' next to the Basilica and purchase tickets to climb the tower but please note....we did not get to instantly climb the tower- we had to book a time slot for later in the day (so if you are set on a specific time then you may need to get there early to book or maybe book in advance). You should also know that the walk up the tower is steep and it is actually hard work! but worth it! 

The cloth hall was an indoor market full of local products and souvenirs. As you may expect, the items here seemed to be slightly more expensive than elsewhere. 

Another thing you may expect to see in a main square are bars and restaurants and this is true in krakow (but we will go in to that in more detail later). 

 

At the north east side of the main square you can find Florianska street which leads up towards the Barbakan (fort) and from there it is a 10 minute walk in the same direction to reach the train station. 

So what are the must see landmarks? 

- wawel castle 

- market square 

- cloth hall 

- st marys basilica 

- planty park 

- mounds 

- barbakan 

- florianska gate 

- wawel dragon (which apparently breathes fire but sadly we did not time our visit correctly- we stood for 20 minutes but nothing happened). 

- church of saint paul and st peter

 

Drinks in krakow were cheap- especially if you choose local lager or vodka! our favourite bar (which we would actually consider to be a 'Must Do' was the Cybermachina games bar. http://cybermachina.pl. The bar served nice cocktails but more importantly there were several free-to-use concoles availsble to play. This included an xbox 360, xbox one, guitar heroes and more. If concoles arent your thing then they also had an enourmous collection of board games and card games available. We could happily have spent hours there and i'd say this was my favourite bar ever! 

Food in krakow -

Before going to krakow it seemed to have a reputation of being cheap and the food definitely seemed to fit this reputation - at least evening meals did but not so much breakfast (well not english breakfasts) which were probably about the same as UK prices.

So where did we eat? 

Sorry to disappoint the serious travellers but our first meal was mcdonalds - safe option, fast food to give us more time to explore and also, being honest, i just love the taste! For those who also like mcdonalds, the food here seemed cheaper than UK prices. 

On day two we had hoped to go to a popular milk bar for a full english breakfast - a breakfast would have filled us up before our excursion and also we really wanted to experience a milk bar as they are part of polish history and culture but sadly it was closed. So we headed across the street to a vegan cafe. We basically had bacon sandwiches , polish coke and english tea, which were all nice. The cafe itself was great, it was modern with nice , friendly staff. 'Cakester cafe' can be found on facebook. The food was nice but not a great portion size. 

Our breakfast on Day 3 was in another modern cafe that was hidden down an alleyway off the main square - the urban garden cafe. It seemed small but was actually huge with a nice outdoor area too. Here we had croissants and scrambled egg (scrambled egg with various 'toppings' seemed to be a very popular breakfast choice). https://urban-garden.pl The scrambled egg Breakfast here was approximately £6 which is not too bad but the popular scrambled egg was not that filling. 

Of an evening there was so much choice! We predominantly stuck to areas surrounding the main square. on night one we went to a restaurant that several people from home had recommended - Sioux restaurant - a cowboy/indian themed restaurant that seemed focused on meat meals. We were taken by friendly staff downstairs in to a converted wine cellar (a theme of polish restaurants) and sat in an interestingly decorated room. A Garlic Bread pizza and 2 burgers with chips plus a drink each was approximately £16 which was great value and it tasted great too. The restaurant can be found on facebook and the menu is also here - https://www.zomato.com/kraków/sioux-stare-miasto/menu?_gl=1%2A1v1fz8k%2A_ga%2AYW1wLVJBV3plVWtEcmdjWHNZWC1LalFnOW1abjhxZ2R5NEQwQ3l1Z2cwdkJCWldhdVhhYkZhLWU2Q2NKaTBJRHJLYTI.

For night two we decided to go for italian! We went to a lovely restaurant and were greeted by the friendliest, most enthusiastic waiter who recommended meals and drinks based on our likes and dislikes. i tried an apple juice and vodka which was nice (apparently a popular polish 'cocktail' or mix). We both had two huge, tasty pizzas! Again for two pizzas and two drinks we paid approximately £16 so great value for a city centre meal. The restaurant - Pizza Pazzi Pezzi, can be found on facebook. 

For our final meal we decided to go greek! We like kebabs and also we went to Greece in the summer so it was a nice meal to reminisce. We went to Real Greek who can be found on facebook. We enjoyed a nice chicken kebab each and a drink for approximately £5 each. 

Overall there was a lot of choice in krakow so people are bound to find something they like. One restaurant we wish we had chance to go to as it was recommended by several people, was moomoo burger. 

We also managed to enjoy some traditional polish food whilst we were in krakow. We tried a zapianka which seemed to be a long pizza type snack (similar to the baguette pizzas that greggs used to sell). It was nice but a little bit too messy as it was completely covered in sauce, onions and gerkins. Our preferred option was pierogi - which came boiled or fried. it was very tasty- it was like mini cornish pasties-  definitely worth a try. 

 

Trips!

Krakow Salt Mine - 

We decided to go to the salt mine as one of our trips. As long as you are prepared for a lot of walking then it is a good, interesting trip. The salt mining process did not interest me too much but i enjoyed the stories of life in the mine and it was amazing to see an underground church carved out of salt! You can book trips or buy organised trips whilst in Krakow but it was easy enough to make our own way there by train from the central train station (this was also a cheap option) and then we just had to purchase or british tour ticket on arrival (the queue was quite large - approximately 45 minutes). 


the official website can be found here- https://www.kopalnia.pl

Auschwitz- 

presumably most people that go to krakow are probably going to see Auschwitz - it was top of our to do list whilst there. It is difficult to describe how to feel about the trip but it is very informative and 'interesting'. We experienced two things that we feel travellers should be aware of in advance of a visit - 

1) Buy your ticket ASAP! We didnt realise until it was too late that the tours only allow a certain number of people so by the time we booked our ticket, we could only get a french guide or no guide at all. If you want an English speaking guide then you should book online in advance or at least book immediately on day 1 of your stay. 

2) on arrival to the Auschwitz museum you must produce ID - a driving licence or passport. I did not have mine and was not going to be allowed in but fortunately i had a photo of my passport photo on my phone. 

This was a must-do trip though. Its emotional and horrific - especially seeing victims' leftover items, but its also an important history lesson. For me the worst part was possibly the 'firing wall' and the feeling that inexcusably, these sorts of events probably still happen around the world today.

There are numerous tour providers for this trip both online and in-store in krakow. Here is one available website - https://www.auschwitz-tours.com/tours-from-krakow/auschwitz-tour?gclid=Cj0KCQiApt_xBRDxARIsAAMUMu9uRtGTipcaVKJBRyFQfaEcWnA2CVHJtMBOktxLJkaaIOesQzQ_PTMaAm0pEALw_wcB

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