I was expecting Poland to be a difficult few days, but Krakow was a pleasant surprise. We were in Poland to pay our respects. Krakow was a great balance of lightness to the heaviness of Auschwitz.
We were in Krakow for two nights but only had 1 ½ days to explore the city. We stayed at The Globetrotter right off of the Main Square. The rooms are basic but well worth the value. The location couldn’t be more perfect, and the staff is excellent. If you need advice on tours, restaurants, things to do just ask and they have tons of recommendations.
Krakow is one of the oldest cities in Poland, dating back to the 7th century. One of the reasons Krakow (KROCK-oof by the locals) is such a gem is because much of the old city is original. By the close of WWII, no major battles ensued to destroy the city. The Main Square in Krakow is bustling from morning to night. Locals and tourists pack the square to eat, drink, hang out, and people watch. The square is covered with entertaining street performers, cafes, restaurants and watering holes. Watch your belongings in the high traffic areas. I especially recommend dining at one of the many outdoor patios at night under the stars.
The Krakow Cloth Hall and the Town Hall Tower are located in the middle of the square. There are a variety of vendors selling just about anything you can imagine. The Hall isn’t nearly as big on the inside as it looks on the outside, so if you are looking for a shopping extravaganza, this may not be your only shopping stop.
During on of your days make your way over to the historic center of Krakow. This area is a UNESCO world heritage site and contains Planty Park, the Wawel Castle and Cathedral. The park is beautiful. When planning your visit to the castle and cathedral, I recommend going early because the lines are long.
To this day, Poland remains one of the most religious countries in Europe with almost 88% of its population being devout Catholics. Krakow, in particular, is known as the city of churches, and sometimes referred to as the northern Rome. We particularly liked St. Francis, St.’s Peter and Paul and the Wawel Cathedral.
- Hello – Czesc (cheshch)
- Goodbye – Do Widzenia (do vee-dze-nya)
- Please – Prosze (pro-she)
- Thank you – Dziekuje (jyen-koo-ye)
- Where is the toilet? – Gdzie Sa Toalety? (giye som to-a-le-ti)
Arriving by Train – The central station is called Krakow Glowny and is just northeast of old town which makes it perfectly situated. A pleasant walk across the park and into the underground pedestrian tunnel will have you on your way. Look for the signs Ryneck Glowny (Main Market) to lead you to the Main Square. If a taxi is needed they are cheap and easy, just look for a company name and number on the side of the cab. *Sidebar – if you are planning on leaving by train, Krakow has a great night train to Budapest; which leaves almost year round.
By Plane – While their airport is small it is modern. John Paul II International Airport Kraków–Balice (KRK) is about 10 miles outside of town. The local train is easy to catch and will have you in town in no time, just look for the blue shuttle outside the airport. It will drop you at the train station right in town. If you are arriving via Wizz or Ryan Air, you will most likely be Landing at Katowice in Pyrzowice Airport (KTW). There is not a lot of info about this airport, but it seems as there is a train into the city also, but it is just farther out.
Poland uses the Polish złoty as currency, written as zł or sometimes PLN. The Polish złoty usually sits around 3, conversion and foreign transaction fees may apply to all your debit and credit card purchases. It is still recommended that you exchange your money via the ATM as opposed to visiting a currency exchange.
Tipping – If you sit down at a restaurant it is customary to give 10-15% tip for service. If you get food for take away, tipping is not expected. Taxis usually get about 10% as a tip, and tour guides will be looking for 10-15%. It is unusual to tip at hotels, most won’t have bellboys, but if your concierge goes above and beyond, 20 PLN is considered a nice tip.
- When looking for the toilet in Poland, one is advised to look for a Triangle for Meska (Men) and a Circle for Damska (Women).
- Most museums are closed in Poland on Monday, so keep that in mind when making your itinerary.