My Favorite 18 Things to do Krakow
My Favorite 18 Things to do Krakow - Understand
Krakow is a great combination of a historic (but beautifully restored) Old Town and American-style, bubbling entrepreneurship with food and drink options. The city avoided destruction during WWII and has built out a tourist industry and a sophisticated service industry on top of that.
Krakow feels more like a US city with its many top-notch eateries and its Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Krakow is extremely affordable- expect to pay one third or half what you pay in the US for similar quality. The city is filled with busy yet friendly people (more so than inWroclaw), who know enough English to easily communicate with.
Krakow has a continental, dry climate with very cold winter days and many days with 90+ degrees in summer.
My Favorite 18 Things to do Krakow - Get Around
Krakow is a developed city with a good infrastructure. However, due to the crowded Old Town space, there isn't much room for cars in general. Stick to walking in the Old Town and river area.
Beyond that, I used Uber, which had plenty of cars and excellent drivers. UberPOP rides here are $2-$3 in town and $12 to the airport (about a 45-minute ride). There are plenty of blue trams around that seemed very popular with locals, too.
My Favorite 18 Things to do Krakow - Safety
Like most Polish towns, Krakow is extremely safe. The biggest issues are the (former) prevalent tourist scams. The Wikitravel page for Krakowhas a long list of common scams, like money exchange, taxi and bar scams. Guess what - I had an easy time avoiding them since I avoid seedy bars, local taxis and money exchangers anyways. But keep in mind, if something does not seem right, just walk away.
My Favorite 18 Things to do Krakow - Sights
Krakow Old Town
Rynek Główny(Main Market)
Krakow's Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site and rightly so! It will impress you with its grand plaza and the many cathedrals.
The Old Town is surrounded by a green belt called Planty Park - a great oasis during the hot summer days.
There isn't much else to do in the Old Town and the many coaches for hire and general touristy feel spoiled the impression for me somewhat. You will certainly not be the only one exploring the town on any given day.
Zamek Królewski na Wawelu (Wawel Castle)
This central Krakow castle lies just outside the Old Town towards the Vistula River (also known as Wisła River), which it has grand views over.
The castle offers free admission on Sundays or Mondays depending on the season. There are several museums and a cathedral that each charge another entrance fee. The fees are low but add up and you will have to line up again and again. I simply skipped the museums and enjoyed the views on a wonderful clear day.
Muzeum Sztuki Współczesnej w Krakowie (MOCAK) (Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow)
This contemporary art museum is hailed as one of the best in Poland. It was closed when I had the opportunity to stop by but you should add it to your list.
Forum Przestrzenie andRiver Walk
Forum is a rather ugly building (a former Soviet-style hotel that opened in the 80s) along the Vistula River. However, it is now used as a fake summer beach with a cool outdoor bar. The former 'concrete palace' is covered by an enormous advertising banner.
The walk along the Vistula is a great way to discover the rest of Krakow and see it from a new perspective. It's especially nice at sunset time in summer.
Muzeum Auschwitz-Birkenau (Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum)
The Birkenau and Auschwitz concentration camps were the two biggest concentration camps in WWII and the scenes of some of the biggest crimes of humanity in human history. The site is now a museum. Entrance is free of charge and you can take a guided tour or explore by yourself. There is a rail/bus service or try Uber if you want to drive out.
Wieliczka Salt Mine and Bochnia Salt Mine
Krakow has two impressive salt mines (of the two, Wieliczka is a World Heritage site) that go underground for 200 miles and several hundred feet deep. There is even an underground church at Wieliczka. Uber can take you there as well for a small amount.
My Favorite 18 Things to do Krakow - Eat & Drink
Much to my surprise, the food and drinks scene in Krakow is worth visiting by itself; there are so many excellent options that you can spend several weeks in town and you will still discover new places.
The Jewish Quarter Kazimierz and the hipster area west of the Old Town are your best hunting grounds, though lots of options are spread around town.
OMG, the hummus here is amazing; that's what you will think every time you stop by this tiny hummus shop. After a proper introduction in Tel Avivand Beirut, I have become a major hummus fan (I make it myself, too). Hummus Amamamusi is just fantastic - every hummus option we tried was spectacular. It's also rather cheap and the staff are extremely kind. This place rocks!
Piekarnia Mojego Taty (My Dad's Bakery)
Right next door to Hummus Amamamusiis a bakery with excellent Jewish breads and pastries for under 20 cents each. Don't miss it.
Bagelmama and Hamsa
Around the corner from Hummus Amamamusi is Bagelmama and Hamsa - but I never made it to either of them, since I could not go by the hummus shop without eating there. Both are meant to be great options in the Jewish Quarter though.
Massolit Bakery & Cafe
A few steps outside the Jewish Quarter is this upscale bakery that apparently does Poland's best cheesecake. I tried the coffee cake which was excellent and to my surprise the 'flat white' was a delight as well.
Wesola Cafe is an incarnation of a Melbourne-style coffee shop. It has an airy but lively atmosphere, with fantastic coffee, great breakfast food and fresh juices. It's complemented by a lovely patio, fast WiFi and low prices. I was in heaven!
Oriental Spoon does very healthy and somewhat authentic bibimbap bowls. I had the tofu bowl for just $5 and it was so good I wanted another one right away. It is a small shop that's filled with friendly people.
Poco Loco looks like a Chipotle copy gone bad; it certainly does not look like authentic Mexican food. We did dot have high hopes for our $5 burrito and quesadilla, but boy were we wrong - it was delicious, with fresh ingredients and a taste I've never had from Mexican food before. I'm not sure how it's done but try it!
Weźże Krafta is the last of the many restaurants and bars in the area of a long-closed factory. It has the right charm of abandoned chic. The beers I tried were fantastic and cheap and the many restaurants around looked fancy but affordable by any US standard. This was a place I would have liked to explore much longer than I had time for.
Although close to the river, Pizza Garden is in a terrible location, near a major thoroughfare in an old building. It looks like your grandfather's old beer jaunt. Make no mistake though - Pizza Garden officially makes the best pizza in a 500-mile radius. We had a 'big' pizza for $5 which would be well-ranked even in Naples or New York. It was so good that we wanted another one. Come here when you are hungry - anytime!
BarAWino has a lovely location just along a little square and offers wines aplenty to try inside and on the outdoor patio. Great spot!
My Favorite 18 Things to do Krakow - Where to Stay
There is no shortage of chain hotels in town. The Sheraton Grand likely has the best location, right next to the castle at the river.
I chose the Hampton by Hilton, which is quite a trek to the east in an area that was built up for the 2012 FIFA World Cup. The hotel is one of the few remaining Category 1 properties for just 5,000 points per night.The hotel has small rooms but excellent WiFi, lovely showers, perfect AC and offers a free breakfast.
Room rates easily exceed EUR 100 in summer for this Hampton (which shares the same building, but not the facilities, with the DoubleTree). I found it VERY similar to the Hampton by Hilton in Barranquillain Colombia. It is a great value redemption and Uber gets you anywhere in 15 minutes for $2.