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*I spent 3 days in Krakow in April of 2012. It’s a very interesting city with a lot of unique things to offer. Inside of this Krakow Guide, I will share my travel experiences, and provide you with tips and recommendations for things like culture, food, attractions and nightlife. Everything is based off my own travel experiences.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions, and also check out my other related posts on Krakow:
10 Things to do in Kraków
5 Polish Foods to Try
Ultimate Guide to the Nightlife in Kraków
Top 10 Polish Words
Kraków is one of the most spectacular cities in Eastern Europe.
Lets just say that I was not expecting very much from this place, but it ended up blowing my mind with tons of surprises. From the second I arrived in Krakow, I got a feeling for how ancient this city is. I didn’t see any signs of modernism; everything looked medieval and historic. The architecture and street corners put me in a time warp back to the 14th Century.
The most magnificent thing about Krakow is the Old Town Square. If you think Prague’s Old Town square is big, just wait until you get to Krakow. The entire area of Old Town Square is considered Poland’s cultural center with its magical ambiance, incredible architecture and lively atmosphere. Prepare your bargaining skills because there is an awesome market in the center that has lots of souvenirs, crafts, and clothing. Around the area you will see cafes with outdoor seating, cute little shops and plenty of street performers.
Within the few days I spent in Krakow, I learned a lot about the city’s tragic history. Specifically, that WWII nearly wiped out the population and ripped the city into shreds. One of the 5 major Jewish ghettos is located in Krakow, from when the Nazi’s invaded and Jews were persecuted and forced into labor camps. Krakow was in a period of turmoil and disparity for many decades, but has began to rebuild itself to one of the finest cities in Eastern Europe. The Jewish Quarter is still standing strong.
Let’s get into some facts!
– Currency: Polish Zloty (PLN)
– Language: Polish
– Population: 800,000 (city), 1.8 million (metro)
– As one of the oldest cities in Poland, Krakow dates back to the 7th Century when it was a busy trading center
– Krakow was the capital of Poland from 1038 to 1596
– The Old Town district has over 6,000 historic sites, over 2 million works of art and has the largest medieval Market square in Europe
– Jagellonian University is one of the Top 20 oldest Universities in the world dating back to 1364
– Over 7 million people visit Krakow per year, which is more than 10X the population
– Legend has it that the name Krakow comes from a ruler named Krakus, who built the town above a cave occupied by a dragon
Culture & People
I found Polish people to be very similar to Czech people (I had been living in Prague for a few months when I visited Krakow).
At first glance, they are unfriendly, cold and they don’t seem interested to open up foreigners. They also don’t smile often and won’t look anyone in the eye.
However, once I approached a few people and got under their skin a little bit, I realized they are truly heart warming and very kind. Don’t judge a book by its cover!
Polish people are substantially good looking. The natural ‘Polish look’ is blonde hair, blue eyes, clear skin and a nice figure, and I can confirm that this stereotype is 100% true. Walking around the city was like being in heaven as I was witnessing angels pass by me on the streets. Polish people also dress themselves nicely, which makes them even more attractive. You can’t get much better than that!
I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and make some new Polish friends! They might even buy you a drink or two. Click this link to learn the Top 10 Polish Words to keep in your back pocket 😉
What to Do?
I found so many things to do in Krakow, that it kept me fully occupied during my trip.
Everyday, I slowly gazed around town and admired the ancient architecture, beautiful people and blissful environment. In the Old Town Square is where most of the activity took place, including the alleyways and streets in the area.
My favorite Castle in Eastern Europe is in Krakow. It is called the Wawel Castle and it is located a short distance from Old Town Square. This 800 year old castle has had many different influences from Gothic to Swedish to Roman architecture. It’s amazing how all of these influences have been fused into one beautiful castle.
Planty Park is a magnificent public park located in the middle of the city. It is a great place to relax, have a picnic and spend a few hours in the afternoon. I remember sitting on a bench and observing all the people and activity that was happening in front of me. It was the best way to soak in the culture of Krakow.
Take a day trip to see Auschwitz– the biggest and most horrific concentration camp during the Holocaust. Over 1 million Jews were terminated in this camp during WWII. It was one of the most emotional and difficult experiences of my life, but it was definitely worthwhile to be there and see it with my own eyes.
For a more complete list, check out my post on 10 Things to do in Krakow.
Polish Food is similar to many other Eastern European cuisines- lots of meat and potatoes.
The most popular and delicious food in Poland is called pierogis, which are delicious steamed dumplings. I highly recommend trying them! Everything in Krakow is relatively cheap, so you can afford to splurge on a nice meal if you’d like to try some awesome Polish food.
If you want to find some nicer quality restaurants, then I advise you to head over to the Kazimierz District (Jewish Quarter) for some excellent eats. There are many restaurants serving up the best Polish dishes, as well as a variety of Western places to choose from. There’s even an Indian restaurant! I enjoyed some excellent pierogis in the Jewish Quarter that we so good that I ordered another serving.
If you want to discover the best locals dishes, then please visit my post on 5 Polish Foods to Try.
The main catch for the nightlife in Kraków are the cellar bars!
If you’ve never been to a cellar bar before, they are awesome underground dive bars with many rooms and lots of fun. Just picture a grungy underground cave with brick walls a dance floor and a ton of people. Each one differs from the other, which makes them so unique and fun.
Many ruin bars that I went to had a DJ set up, dance floors with loud music, a large assortment bars, tables and rooms. It’s difficult to describe in words how much fun these cellar bars are, you just need to see for yourself!
If you want to know the hotspots and best cellar bars, then check out my Ultimate Guide to the Nightlife in Kraków.
*Thanks for reading! Have you been to Kraków before?
*Please comment and share your experiences with me!