My first holiday of the year took me to Poland for a short weekend break. I never really thought of Poland as a place I wanted to visit, or a place I ever would, but my sister suggested it, my mum and aunt wanted to visit Auschwitz, so I thought ‘why not?’. Krakow ended up being better than I thought it would be, and alongside Amsterdam I can safely say it’s now one of my favourite cities.
Krakow is a beautiful place. I went in the summertime when it was sunny, hot and incredibly green, but I’m sure if you went in the winter it would be just as beautiful. We stayed in the heart of Krakow near the Main Market Square so that’s where we ended up most nights. It’s full of shops to buy souvenirs, restaurants and cafes to grab a bite to eat and/or drink, and gorgeous architecture. With cobblestone streets and buildings which look as if they’ve been standing there for centuries already Krakow is a city full of history.
There are winding streets and plenty of directions you can walk in, meaning you’ll likely get lost more than once but end up finding something you’ll never would have otherwise. One night, while wandering around the Jewish Quarter, we stumbled across the Bridge Between the Water and the Sky, which as well as having a name that could have been pulled out of a fantasy novel, is gorgeous.
Like I said earlier the main reason we ended up in Krakow was because of Auschwitz. We travelled there on the only full day we had in Krakow and it was a long trip but this is somewhere I think everyone needs to visit at least once. Everyone knows about the history behind Auschwitz but it’s one thing reading about it and another seeing it with your own eyes. The size and scale of both camps is something that is literally haunting, and you don’t realise how much until you’re standing there.
We also visited the Wieliczka Salt Mines, and it’s a place I cannot recommend visiting highly enough. It may sound uninspiring but you travel down 135 metres underground and there is so much to see; incredible carvings done by the miners themselves, underground chapels, and lakes so pure you can see all the way through them. It’s an incredible experience but tiring after walking down 800 plus steps.
Advice (a.k.a. learn from my mistakes)
- Go to Auschwitz and the Wieliczka Salt Mines on the same day…It makes for a long trip, it took us eleven hours from beginning to end, but you can get it done on one day and if you’re travelling outside of Krakow for one why not fit the other in as well. Also, speaking of…
- If you get a choice, visit Auschwitz last…It’s important to visit but emotionally draining, and after walking around both camps you’ll unlikely be up for a visit to the Wieliczka Salt Mines.
- Wear comfy shoes…This relates to the first two points I made about Auschwitz and the Wieliczka Salt Mines. There is a lot of walking in those two places alone and it can be challenging if you don’t have comfy shoes.
- You don’t need publish transportation…Everything in Krakow is within easy walking distance. However if you find yourselves in the Main Market Square you could always go for one of the horse and carriage rides, which are a very fun way to see some of the city.
Krakow is so much more beautiful than I thought it would be, and it’s a city I’d love to go back to one day for a little longer. There’s so much to see and do and I know what I saw was only a small part of what the city has to offer. It’s also not expensive at all, so if you’re looking for a budget holiday Krakow really is the place to go.
We ended up being in Krakow for the Grand Dragon Parade, which happens at the beginning of June, and which is a very fun time to be in Krakow for.