Fast City Guides: Krakow
Fast City Guides: Krakow
Location: South Central Poland
To sum up: Some of Poland’s finest
Krakow’s status as a Central European tourist hub is well earned. For starters it’s a beautiful medieval city which in recent years has become very accessible and tourist friendly. Unlike Warsaw which suffered near total destruction during WWII, Krakow’s historic city centre is in immaculate shape. There are some amazing day trips on offer from here; most essentially the Underground Salt Mines, the southern Polish ski capital of Zakopane and the terribly somber death camp of Aushwitz-birkenau. The locals are a wily if slightly tourist jaded bunch – though it’s very easy to go out and have an awesome time in the towns happening night scene.
Who‘s it for
This is a city for anybody. History, Architecture and cultural junkies will get a buzz aplenty while those looking to party hard are in for a great time. It’s a good first step into ‘Eastern’ Europe as there’s plenty of tourist support in place while English is widely spoken by most under 30’s. With many thanks to the Polish Zloty, Krakow offers extremely good value for every budget.
- Learning a few basic words and phrases in Polish will always be appreciated.
- Be wary that the people working in Train and Bus stations are generally older and not likely to know any English. Unless you want to practice your Polish, get someone at your hotel or hostel to help you in advance with tickets etc.
- If drinking Vodka with locals, don’t try and keep up with them. You will fail spectacularly.
- The Medieval Traders Square is the cities heart and the largest of its kind in the world. With lots of quality bars, restaurants, clubs, stores – and the central market hall – this is an area that shouldn’t be rushed.
- Wander through the Jewish district of Kazirmiers just south of the city centre. Very traditional and beautiful, it’s one of the few Jewish districts in Europe that wasn’t obliterated by the Nazis. Scenes from Schindlers List were also filmed here.
- Get on the town for the cities awesome nightlife scene. With beautiful, witty Polish girls everywhere, guys are in for some insanely good eye candy if nothing else. Also be aware that if you are visiting over the tourist high season of summer – the locals will be abroad on holiday somewhere and the clubs will be overrun with tourists. Vice Versa applies in the Winter. This applies for most places in central Europe mind you. There are so many good places to go out here that it’s hard to make specific recommendations. For best results ask some young locals working at your accommodation as to what’s hot right now.
- Order traditional pierogi (Polish dumplings) and adopt Zubrowka vodka with apple juice as your official drink. Poland has been making vodka longer than the Russians and there are plenty of traditional high quality brands here. Zoladkowo-Gorzka – a digestive ‘stomach’ vodka is a real locals choice for finishing off meals.
The MUST do
Take an organized day trip to Aushwitz-Birkenau, just west of the city. It may serve as a polar opposite to Disneyland’s ‘Happiest place on Earth’, but a trip to History’s worst crime scene should be considered essential viewing for everybody to ensure that nothing like it ever happens again (even though it already has).
Avoid like the plague
Being or associating with loudmouth, drunken Englishmen. Local guys hate you/them and dishing out late night beatings to this particular group has become an unofficial regional sport.
I’ve been to Krakow twice, both in early winter. The first visit was a whirlwind tour of 1.5 days which was barely enough to take in the sites of the city center and I was angsting to go back for a proper length of time. Fortunately a convenient excuse to return arose the following year with my then girlfriend being from there. A cities value is always at its best when you have a local(s) to show you all the best things and places including restaurants, bars and the surrounding country. This time I left Krakow feeling properly satisfied.
Desire to return