It was me and my cousin. Two galls on a mission and a five hour long, Pendolino ride across the country, from Gdynia to Kraków, with some messy Koreans and a very talkative Canadian, until we finally arrived at one of the oldest cities of Poland. Kraków is a gem not to be taken for granted. Once the capitol of Poland, Kraków is a city of old that thrives with life, located at the southern tip near the border of Slovakia.
You haven't seen Poland, till you've seen Kraków (or a bunch of bold headed chavs get together at a football stadium, but I'll keep that for another post).
Here's my journey and a guide for your very own adventure.
Nothing beats seeing Kraków by foot. The entire Old Town is surrounded by beautiful, greenery and a walkway you could just wander through for hours on. However the communication is quite easy and caused no problems.
Except for our first night, when we got off at the wrong bus stop and ended up stranded, in the middle of no where. The bus stops at the same intersection will all have the same name, but they don't all take the same route. By the time we pulled out our phones to figure out which stop was ours, the bus left.
We had to catch a taxi because apparently that was the last bus for the night. Whoopty doo...We also couldn't find a street name for the life of us, so we couldn't call a taxi. We had to actually walk and find one. That was fun. I still wonder where the heck we ended up that night...
But besides that, no problems!
There are plenty of ticket options to suit your needs. From a 20-minute to 7 day ticket. We got the 72-hour one. It's good for all day and night lanes and only cost 36,00 złote (less than $10)
The Main Square
We stayed at a hostel on Smolki, just outside of Kazimierz. I do recommend staying as close to the Main Square as possible. Like I said before, nothing beats seeing Kraków by foot and the Main Square is at the center of it all.
As soon as we got to our hostel we ditched the bags and went straight for the old town! The Main Square at night, is an incredible experience! The old, brick wall charm, the carriages and the upbeat rhythm of street performers engulfed by outdoor restaurants and bars filled with drinks, chatter and twinkling lights.
I could so live here.
I had a pastry in my purse...
Interestingly enough, the horse trying to snatch my obwarzanek, wasn't the slick one. While strolling through the Main Square a guy rushed over to ask us for 2 złote for the bus. Quite effectively, he was in this intense hurry to catch this bus of his. I actually ended up reaching for my purse and giving him the dang change. Of course, he didn't need bus money, just a scammer, scamming people with his scamming ways.
The Main Square, being usually pretty busy, attracts the not so honest folks who look for someone to pickpocket or scam. You don't need to be alarmed, but be aware.
Sukiennice, or the Cloth Hall, right smack in the middle of the Main Square is the world's oldest shopping market. There's plenty of unique shops, restaurants as well as a historic, art museum. Make sure to poke around and check out all the nifty trinkets.
My favorite ones are the hand-carved, giant, wooden chess pieces!
Wawel Royal Castle
Wawel is the center of many legends of Kraków.
It has plenty of exhibits to show, such as the Royal Apartments, the Armoury or an Art Exhibit, just to name a few. There are also seasonal attractions like the Dragon's Den and a tour around the Royal Gardens.
But the architecture of Wawel is so uniquely beautiful, that just admiring it from the courtyard, is an experience worth checking off your list. The courtyard is also free for the public.
For exact hours and admission you can check out their website here.
While at Wawel, mingling with the Wawel Dragon, make sure to catch a glimpse of the Vistula, the longest river in Poland.
My goal while traveling Poland is to see the Vistula from as many cities as possible! I'm at five so far!
Another thing I loved about Kraków, is learning about all the legends and ancient stories that go with the Wawel Castle, the cloth hall and St. Mary's Basilica.
Check out my article on the 5 Legends of Kraków. They inspire wanderlust!
Wieliczka Salt Mine
The next morning, on our To-Do list was a twenty minute train ride, southeast of the Old Town, to the famous Wieliczka Salt Mine.
800 Steps, 327 meters down into the world's oldest operating salt mine. The main group tour is 2 hours long. It takes you to twenty historic chambers, including the underground chapel, which might I add, is quite stunning.
I was bummed by the fact that to be able to take photos in the mine, you have to pay extra. Since my camera isn't all that great in low light, I chose to opt out, left with no photos to show. Guess you'll just have to go and see for yourself. But believe me when I say, it's absolutely worth it!
You can also take the miners tour where you literally walk around with a helmet and lamp, discovering the behind the salt, I mean, scene, miner's secret hideouts.
There are plenty of underground shops with white salt, pink salt, fine salt, rocky salt, salt in a jar, salt in a sack, salt lamps, you get the picture. There is also an underground spa! Whaaaat?!
For exact info check out their website here!
Our last evening in Kraków, we spent in Kazimierz, a jewish district outside of the Old Town.
Kazimiesz was a actually a very popular spot, before it was destroyed in World War II. Reintroduced after the fall of regime it now continues to be a world of its own. With it's outdoor restaurants, galleries and hidden allies it beams with character and pizzazz.
There miiight also be a legend suggesting that Kazimierz is haunted, but pfff, who believes that? Just in case we didn't hang out long enough to find out...
I was really sad when the time came to part with Kraków, but the time spent there, was time well spent.
From getting lost on our first night, to living through Kraków's legends, getting scammed out of 2 złote, drinking a whole bottle of wine on our last night and spotting a not-so-bad-looking dude run through the Main Square in nothing but his underwear (we suspect he lost a bet), there is never a dull moment when visiting Kraków.
So when are you going and what do you plan to see? Or maybe you already have some interesting stories of your own? I can't wait to hear all about them in the comments below! Till next time!