Unlike Warsaw which was destroyed during the war, Krakow remained essentially untouched by the hand of destruction. The Old Town and all it has to offer from shops, cafes and restaurants can easily take up a big chunk of your time in Krakow, but don’t forget to visit Auschwitz.
Is language an issue?
Not at all. Poland is a progressive country and in Warsaw, the capital and largest city, you’ll find most people confidently speak English with no problem. Especially if they work in the service industry. Just try not to use colloquialisms and remember your humour may not translate well.
Do I need cash in Poland?
No, not really. Unless you intend to visit street markets and purchase street food you’ll be okay with a credit card. I got on fine with my Visa, but American Express seemed to not exist in most places. If you’re visiting form the USA be sure to have a 4-number pin on your card if you intend to use the chip. Tap is available at most locations as well.
If you do find yourself needing cash for a tour, or excursion as is sometimes the case. I had success using my Canadian CIBC debit card at the Citi Handlowy ATM machine, There is also a Deutsche Bank which in my experience works with the Canadian Interac system as well.
Arriving in Krakow
I would recommend starting your tour of Poland in Warsaw, flying into Warsaw [see my post about Warsaw] and taking the train to Krakow. This trip is only a few hours and gives you a nice opportunity to see the countryside of Poland, a relaxing and enjoyable trip on one of the Intercity trains.
Taking the train
Like most European countries Poland has an extensive train system. The quickest and easiest way to get from one city to another is on the Intercity trains. Visit https://www.intercity.pl/en/ to book your tickets on the EIP or EIC trains, these are the quickest between cities. The standard class (2nd class) seats are perfectly comfortable for a trip of several hours.
- You’ll need to book a ticket in advance, you can not purchase an Intercity train on the EIP or EIC from the machines in stations.
- Frist class is seemingly very expensive, and from what I could gather not better enough to warrant the price, especially for just a few hours.
- Reserve your seat near the middle of the cabin, there is more overhead bin space to put your luggage here, but there are also racks at either end of the car.
If you end up flying into Krakow, the airport is just fine. I flew from Krakow to Warsaw to Kiev on a recent trip. Make sure you’ve got Uber installed and use that to get to your hotel. Drivers are quick, polite and the cars you get in Poland are fine.
Seeing in Krakow
Old Town – dating back to the 13th century, the Krakow Old Town Square is the largest medieval square in Europe. At the centre of the square, you’ll find a large building with shops. Take your camera and try to visit early before it’s filled with people you’ll get some great shots then.
Auschwitz – do not, whatever you do, go to Krakow and not visit what is possibly the most important site in human history with regards to human tragedies. We obtained a private transfer to the site, which shaves off a bit of time versus taking a tour bus or transit.
Wawel Royal Castle – just a few minutes away from the Old Town, you’ll find Wawel Royal Castle. Walk up the winding road to the gates and enter your medieval fantasy. A lushly landscaped area within the walls makes for great shots of the old castle and its grounds. Because the castle sits on top of a hill, you won’t need to worry about slivers of the modern world slipping in the background of your shots.
Eating in Krakow
Like Warsaw, Krakow has a has a wonderful culinary scene with a variety of restaurants pretty much everywhere.
- Trattoria Degusti – an Italian style restaurant as part of the Hotel Unicus Palace. We had dinner here, and the portions were much larger than we expected, more American sized vs. European sized. You’ve been warned.
- Pod Aniołami – a traditional Polish restaurant in Old Town, be on the lookout, it has a small patio but can get lost in the shuffle if you’re not looking carefully. A large enclosed, inner patio makes a great place to enjoy a meal.
- Ariel – a traditional Jewish restaurant in the Jewish quarter, located in the same small square as the Old Synagogue, which you can enter for free. The food here was really great!
Staying in Krakow
- Mercure Kraków Stare Miasto – located directly across from the main train station, getting here is quick and easy. It’s also just north of the Old Town, so you’ll have no problem getting to the Old Town and all it offers in just a few minutes of walking.
- Hotel Unicus Palace – located right in Old Town, this high-end hotel has an attached Italian-inspired restaurant that I ate and enjoyed.
- Radisson Blu Hotel – on the opposite end and side as the Mercure you’ll find the reliable and stylish Radisson Blue.