3 Days in Krakow: The Lowdown

My trip to Krakow didn’t exactly get off to the best start. I rocked up to Sophia Gardens an hour early for my bus to the airport, absolutely buzzing that I’d actually managed to find my way there all by myself (plus a teeny tiny bit of help from Apple Maps but shh, nobody needs to actually know that) without any catastrophic disasters.

I waited around for half an hour, and just as the bus started to pull into the designated bay decided it’d be the perfect time to get the e-Ticket up ready to board. A quick scan of the ticket and yep, everything looks fine. It’s the right time, the same bus number, same destination…oh, crap, what day is it?!

Of course I’d only gone and purchased a ticket for the day before because I’m an absolute fool who apparently can’t tell the difference between Saturday and Sunday! One frantic dash to the National Express ticket office, an angry outburst about how blood useless the online ticketing service is (because of course it was their fault, not mine!) and £16 later I had a new ticket and was ready and raring to go but inwardly cursing myself for essentially throwing £16 down the River Taff.

As soon as I was on that bus to Bristol, though, it was like living an absolute dream!

Anyone reading this who lives in Wales (and probably some parts of England, idk) and has to travel all the way to sodding London in order to fly anywhere more exciting than Benidorm for less than the cost of 3 months rent will sympathise with just how freaking happy I was to be flying out of Bristol for a change.

I even Tweeted about it. I never Tweet. Well, I do now but I didn’t back then. So yeah, Bristol airport is the bee’s knees! Definitely almost accidentally wrote Bristol airport is the bomb there but airport and bomb aren’t allowed in the same sentence as each other these days so NSA, if you’re reading this – I am sorry. I am also not a threat.

Moving on swiftly…

I love Krakow.

It has charm, charisma, history, cheap eats and good WiFi – everything you could ask for in a city break destination! What’s more, it also has a lot of trees. You can’t go wrong with a good tree, am I right?!

Temporarily abandoning my usual “I’ll go it alone” mentality, this was not a solo trip. No, no, no, it was not. My friend Jay came along for the ride, which was pretty brave of him really given that the last time we holidayed together (he visited me in Italy back in 2013) he got caught up in a vicious Monopoly marathon and had to drink some gross concoction made up of pesto, vinegar, chilli oil and who even knows what else!


ACCOMMODATION


We stayed at a place called Emaus Apartments (not an affiliate link – just being informative!) which was a bit of a trek from the Historic Centre, but at £9 a night each was an absolute steal! It worked out cheaper than a hostel and we had our own full kitchen to run riot with. We didn’t actually use the kitchen for anything other than the fridge. But it’s always nice to have a safety blanket in the form of an oven and microwave, right?!

Seriously, the apartment was tiny but had absolutely everything you could need – even a pizza cutter! The only fault I have with it is that online it said no stag parties or other such large groups were permitted, but there was clearly something similar going on upstairs what with all the racket!

If you’re looking for somewhere cheap and cheerful and don’t mind walking at least 15 minutes to all of the ‘must-sees’ then I’d highly recommend checking out Emaus.


THE HUNT FOR PIEROGI


When it comes to eating out abroad, I’m not the most adventurous of sorts. A creature of habit and vegetarian to boot, there’s nothing I like more than a trusty old pizza or bruschetta wherever I am in the world. Heck, when I was in Sri Lanka I ordered Pizza Hut to my hotel! Although to spice things up a bit I did opt for the paneer masala flavour which was oddly delicious.

We arrived at our apartment pretty late on our first day there, and a combination of being tired, lazy and unfamiliar with where we even were in respect to cafes/restaurants we decided to use Poland’s equivalent of JustEat (www.pyszne.pl) to order an Indian takeaway. Judge if you will, but Jay is Bangladeshi and my stomach is certified Indian so there was no other choice really! Anyway, I can now personally vouch for the fact that Indian food in Krakow is not too bad. Not too bad at all!

Other than Indian (which we also ate on our third out of four nights – no hate!) I just ate pierogi. Seriously, it’s all I ate – twice on one day and once on the other two. Sauerkraut and mushroom is my pierogi of choice although I’m not against any other veggie flavour! Before going to Poland I honestly had no idea what pierogi was. THEY’RE LIKE EUROPEAN MOMOS!!!! I love momos. Always have, always will. If I were ever on death row, momos would be my final meal.

table decorations at Goscinna Chata Krakow

Table decorations @ Goscinna Chata

On the recommendation of Michaela’s blog post the first restaurant we hit up in the hunt for some bloody good pierogi was Goscinna Chata, somewhere which I’d built up high expectations for, and thankfully it definitely delivered! My first taste of pierogi here was like a taste of heaven – and it was so beautifully set out on the plate! At 18 PLN for 8 pieces I thought it was fantastic value for money!

The other two restaurants we visited were Restauracja Max 18 and Marmolada, both of which are situated on the main square and so we thought would be considerably more price than Goscinna Chata but were actually pleasantly surprised! Max 18 charged 18PLN for 10 pieces of (slightly mushy) pierogi and Marmolada 19PLN for 9. Marmolada was so good that after visiting there for lunch on our second day, we chose it as our ‘last supper’ restaurant, which is when I branched out from my pierogi-filled paradise and ordered dessert – traditional apple cake with cinnamon, which may actually have changed my life.

I’m not normally a person who takes photos of their food at restaurants. I probably would be if I was capable of taking good photos at restaurants, but I can’t so I don’t. However, in honour of my love affair with pierogi I made an exception.

Photo of pierogi in Krakow

What dreams are made of


WHAT TO SEE AND DO


There isn’t a shortage of things to do in Krakow, that’s for sure. Although it must be said here and now that in the five and a half years I’ve been travelling, this was the most budget-y trip I’ve ever taken. I was counting pennies. And when I say that I mean literally, I was counting out pennies into my hand to be able to feed myself. To give you a better idea of how dire the situation was – I bought pre-packaged factory made croissants for breakfast. I am a monster.

Am I irresponsible for travelling when I knew from the off I had no money? Maybe.

But it wasn’t actually my fault. Long story short, the restaurant I work at didn’t pay me in December and unfortunately my double whammy of a payday fell on the last day of the trip in January. That’s the day I splashed out on dessert – kaching!

Anyway, despite actually having to scrape the barnacles off the bottom of my bank account to fund this trip, thus opting for free activities over anything else, there’s actually a heck of a lot for broke but eager visitors to occupy themselves with.

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Old Town Krakow

We started off by taking ourselves on an unofficial walking tour around the main centre of Old Town. And by that I mean we aimlessly wandered around, taking pictures of pretty buildings that looked really unique and interesting and WOW they must be some sort of museum or official government office or something but no, just Costa Coffee. The prettiest darned Costa I ever did see!

After our own little explore, we joined up with the Old Town Krakow walking tour to find out a little more about the actual history behind some of the things we’d already seen, and some new sites and sounds too.

I’ll be honest with you, I can probably recall only about 5% of what the guide said.

What I love about free walking tours is that you get a feel for the history of the place, normally with no prior background knowledge, without feeling totally overwhelmed by a heap of facts and figures.

Well, I felt overwhelmed.

I think it was assumed that we all had a basic understanding of Polish history to begin with and, whereas a lot of the group did, me and my very UK-focused history education was absolutely clueless. Yet the guide was talking about some Lithuanian prince who married somebody but then didn’t marry somebody and then they died, and there was an invasion and maybe a murder chucked in there somewhere. It all went straight over my head.

The tour itself was quite enjoyable though, even if I didn’t come away with a yearning to learn more about Stanislaw and Wladyslaw (thanks Wikipedia).

We also took part in the Macabre Krakow tour a little later on in the day, which I thoroughly enjoyed (perhaps a little too much!). You can read more about that here should you be so inclined.

Wawel Castle & Cathedral

One part of the tour I liked so much I made Jay come back the next day to take more photos is Wawel Castle. Not so much for the castle itself though, but the Cathedral which was be-a-u-tiful.

photo of wawel cathedral in krakow

Whereas you have to pay to enter most parts of the Castle, the cathedral is free and just as pretty on the inside! And you can do cathedral-y stuff there like pray and look at pictures of saints and Jesus and stuff. Or just walk in and straight back out, whatever you rather.

Schindler’s Factory | Museum of Wartime Krakow

plaque outside schindler's factory in krakowGrowing up I was all too familiar with who Mr Schindler was and what he did, only because Schindler’s List was, quite bizarrely, one of my mother’s favourite films. I’ve never watched it myself. It’s one of those films that you say you should watch, you tell yourself you want to watch, but when it boils down to it you’d much rather just stick on Pitch Perfect for the millionth time. Something feel good, you know?

As with all major cities, there are tons of museums in Krakow. But this was I didn’t want to miss! The Museum of Wartime Krakow, housed in Schindler’s actual factory.

Entry costs 21PLN for a standard ticket (free on Mondays) and it is worth every single penny.

I’ve never shied away from openly expressing my – for want of a better word – enjoyment at visiting war-related museums, and this may have just topped the lot.

It’s not solely focused on the history of Schindler, nor is it solely focused on how the war affected Krakow, but a well-balanced combination of the two. It’s insightful, it’s though-provoking and it’s informative. In short, it’s everything you could hope for in a museum of such historical and cultural importance.

schindler's list in krakow

Schindler’s list

There’s so much more to do and see in Krakow, and I’m kind of kicking myself for not doing the Jewish Ghetto free walking tour as opposed to the Old Town, but hey ho, there’s always next time!

And yes, I am missing something glaringly obvious here – Auschwitz. If you’d like to read about my experience visiting Auschwitz, you can do so here.

Until then… thoughts on pierogi anyone?

 

 

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41 Comments

    • rhiydwi
      24th February 2017 / 10:12 pm

      You really should – it’s wonderful!

  1. 24th February 2017 / 2:54 pm

    My housemate at uni had Polish ancestors and he brought us his Grandma’s Pierogi after one Christmas. They are the absolute best! I just had cheese and potato filled ones, so if I ever get to Poland I will definitely try some different flavours!

    • rhiydwi
      24th February 2017 / 10:14 pm

      Seriously, I’m having difficulty remembering what life was like pre-pierogi! Is that cottage cheese? I’m veggie so only actually tried cottage cheese & potato, and sauerkraut and mushroom but oh wow, they were both amazing! I’ve just had a quick visit to your blog and saw you have loads of posts on the Balkans! I’m literally in Montenegro right now, about to travel to Croatia tomorrow so I’ll have to have a proper read when I get somewhere with better WiFi! 😀

  2. 24th February 2017 / 3:55 pm

    I’m actually planning to go to Poland in April (Krakow included), so this post was very informative! The sight of those pierogis had me drooling; your restaurant recommendations are much-appreciated, and I’ll have to look into them once I arrive! Did you end up going to other cities in Poland? Looking forward to more of your travel posts!

    • rhiydwi
      24th February 2017 / 10:18 pm

      Oh wow, I hope you have an amazing time 😀 No, unfortunately I didn’t! It was just a short break to the one city (taking advantage of crazy good Easyjet deals!) but I really want to go back and visit Warsaw, Gdansk and Poznan, maybe in the summer when it’s slightly warmer. I’ll have to keep an eye out for your posts after April – especially if I end up going back, you can be my inspo.

  3. 24th February 2017 / 6:59 pm

    I loved Krakau. It s one of the most beautiful towns I ve seen. The pictures are great

    • rhiydwi
      24th February 2017 / 10:14 pm

      Thank you! It’s such a photogenic town, I don’t think it’s possible for any bad photos.

  4. 24th February 2017 / 8:30 pm

    Hehe! You had me smiling all the way through this post, you write really well. I really want to go to Krakow and eat pierogis!… and then walk them all of around those beautiful buildings.

    • rhiydwi
      24th February 2017 / 10:16 pm

      You definitely should! Easyjet flights from loads of UK airports are only £50 return if you get them at the right time, and there’s honestly so much to see there. It’s a wonderful city for a mini getaway!

  5. 25th February 2017 / 8:53 am

    haven’t tried any pierogis. I think I have to put Krakow on my next list to visit. Thank you for sharing this.

    • rhiydwi
      26th February 2017 / 4:44 pm

      Thank you so much for reading! You should definitely visit there if you ever get the chance.

  6. 25th February 2017 / 3:07 pm

    There was Pierogi festival on when I was there… I was surprised to find a few vegetarian options! Can’t say I thought they were amazing but I enjoyed the variety (and the festival was pretty cool too).

    Krakow is so god damn photogenic, that cathedral is a dream. I keep nagging my parents to go there for there once-a-year weekend away, in hopes I can tag along and visit again >:)

    Also the London airport struggle is real. God help us if we ever have to get to Stanstead! My closest airport is Southampton and it costs a bomb to get on a rickety propeller fybe plane. They charge £150 just to get to Dublin!

    • rhiydwi
      26th February 2017 / 4:48 pm

      I’m always surprised to find more than one veggie option no matter where I go! Especially if there’s no courgette/olives/aubergine involved.
      The friend I went with was raised in a strict[ish] Muslim household and so it was the first cathedral he’d ever been in. What a first!
      Oh my woooord, Stansted is my nightmare!!! I swear they plan ahead with their scheduling to make sure that no flights coincide nicely with National Express times and so there’ll always be that inevitable 6 hour wait. Also, it’s the coldest airport I’ve ever been in, can’t be dealing with that. Southampton airport sounds exactly like Cardiff, except a lot more expensive. £150, WTH?!

  7. 25th February 2017 / 3:10 pm

    Pierogi looks like a solid reason to visit Krakow alone! Also just watched Schindler’s List for the first time about a month ago – I would LOVE to visit the factory!

    • rhiydwi
      26th February 2017 / 4:49 pm

      I’d honestly pay the flight price all over again just for the pierogi. I really need to sit down and watch it!

  8. 25th February 2017 / 8:15 pm

    I have a weak spot for Eastern European towns, Krakow, Prague are amazing – I’ve been many times 🙂 I also loved Vilnius, Riga, Bratislava. Try them as less known alternatives! Also, when you are in Krakow, do not miss the crystal clear colorful lakes in Zakopane (Dolina Gasienicowa) – 100 km from Krakow, very easy and cheap to get by bus 🙂

    • rhiydwi
      26th February 2017 / 4:51 pm

      I actually visited Riga last December! It was my first time in Eastern Europe and I loved it so much! That’s kind of what influenced Krakow 🙂 I’d love to go to Vilnius too!
      Our tour guide spoke a lot about Zakopane, but kept mentioning it’s best in summer so we didn’t even look into it on that trip! Definitely next time 😉

  9. 26th February 2017 / 7:27 am

    Online service is a bit bad on National Express. But they do answer properly on Twitter though. Had a couple of my issues resolved there!!!
    And really sad I couldn’t make it to Poland when I was in Europe! So thanks for this virtual tour.

    • rhiydwi
      26th February 2017 / 4:53 pm

      I did actually tweet about it and strangely got a response from Expedia (nothing to do with the trip!) offering to help but not National Express. Although I didn’t tweet them directly. Also, it probably was my fault haha.
      Oh, that’s a shame! But you’re more than welcome, I’m glad to have been of some sort of use 😀

  10. 26th February 2017 / 8:00 am

    Yet to visit Krakow (or Poland generally, for that matter), but it looks super photogenic, especially that cathedral/castle complex. It’s a funny thing trying to explain your interest in wartime museums/ exhibitions/ monuments – I find them fascinating, though some are evidently better than others. I still have a bit of catching up to do here in Lyon – I haven’t been to the Centre d’Histoire de la Résistance et de la Déportation here in Lyon, but fully intend to do so when I get a moment! If my experience at the Mémorial National de la Prison de Montluc is anything to go by, Lyon has some cracking resistance-themed spots to visit. The Museum of Wartime Krakow sounds right up my alley too – I rather liked Schindler’s List, though ended up watching it in two sittings as I find long films a bit of a challenge for my concentration. Would highly recommend it though.

    • rhiydwi
      26th February 2017 / 4:59 pm

      Oh you definitely should! If/when you end up back in UK “for good” flight prices are super cheap from most airports (this is not a sales pitch I swear…) and the country itself is so cheap, I spent less than £100 (exc. flights) for the whole 4 days I was there! Absolute madness!
      I imagine there’s an absolute ton of museums I’d love in Lyon (and France in general!). When I eventually go to France because I swear I will, I’ll have to pick your brains for recommendations! From reading your posts and comments and stuff I feel like we’re on the same page museums-wise.
      When I’m back home I’ll have to dig out my mother’s old VHS and player…if that thing still works. Or, you know, I could just buy the DVD and save myself the hassle haha.

      • 26th February 2017 / 6:52 pm

        You know, it’s only since moving to Lyon that I’ve realised how much of a good deal the UK gets for flights – it costs an absolute bomb to fly from Lyon to anywhere other than the UK, yet you can fly almost anywhere in Europe cheaply from the UK! I’ll definitely be taking advantage of those cheap flights when I’m back this summer (having made the decision not to extend my contract over here, I’ll be back in the UK in a few months). It’s insane how cheap Eastern Europe is – I spent so little when I went to Prague and Brno a couple of years back, such a contrast to Western Europe! Fire away when you have a place in mind – I’m finally getting through my backlog of posts on travelling in France, so there’ll be more up over the next couple of months. I think Schindler’s List has even been known to make an appearance on iPlayer from time to time.

  11. 26th February 2017 / 8:49 am

    Krakow is one of my fave places! Everyone is super friendly, and the market square/St Mary’s Basilica are just incredible. We never visited Schindler’s Factory, but this is just an excuse to return. Lovely pictures!

    • rhiydwi
      26th February 2017 / 4:55 pm

      Haha that’s my reaction every time I see something I’ve missed/didn’t get to – “I’ll just go back”. Perfect excuse 😉 Thank you!

  12. 26th February 2017 / 9:12 am

    Amazing place so full of important history! Recently I was helping out my daughter in her History lessons and I learned several revolutions originated there. Hopefully I get to visit this historic city some day.

    • rhiydwi
      26th February 2017 / 5:00 pm

      Fingers crossed that you do! It’s a wonderful city!

  13. 26th February 2017 / 9:12 am

    Haha, that ycould have been me with the purchase of the busticket the for the wrong day. Happy you had a great time in Krakow in the end. I’ve never been… but I guess I should travel there pretty soon!

    • rhiydwi
      26th February 2017 / 4:54 pm

      I’ve made similar mistakes so many times now it’s actually embarrassing! You definitely should, it’s worth it 🙂

  14. 26th February 2017 / 1:36 pm

    Oh dear! Sorry that you had to waste £16 for the bus ticket but I guess it’s part of the adventure. If your travel starts that way, rest assure that so much more adventure is up ahead. :p I laughed when I read about the “no stag party” rule in the apartment you rented, if there was no rule as such – would you have had a party?

    Krakow looks very interesting, that Schindler’s Factory looks like something that I’d love myself. I’ve watched the movies so many times and every time I do, it never fails to tug my heart a little. You made me want to visit it right now. :-/

  15. 26th February 2017 / 3:23 pm

    You’ve definitely convinced me to go to Krakow. I would love to see Schindler’s Factory and try the pierogi. The architecture looks beautiful too. I look forward to reading about the Macabre Krakow tour. I love stuff like that too!

    • rhiydwi
      26th February 2017 / 5:06 pm

      Oh wow, well I hope you manage to get there some day! I can’t recommend it enough!

  16. 26th February 2017 / 3:36 pm

    Flying from Bristol makes me so happy. Last time I had to get a coach from that weird little new area in the park I almost missed it as I discovered a Pikachu near by and was in the thralls of Pokemon Go obsession.

    I would love to visit Krakow, I think I would really enjoy the war museums and visiting Auschwitz is something I definitely want to do.

    http://amyevans.blog – Amy

    • rhiydwi
      26th February 2017 / 5:03 pm

      If that’s not the best reason to almost miss your bus I don’t know what is! I’m so excited to have the bus terminal back, though. Only, like, a year left or something right?
      It’s such a lovely place you really really should! And if you go in winter you could totally lie to yourself and pretend you’re in Scandinavia!

  17. 28th February 2017 / 3:49 am

    The old town of Krakow is what really seems interesting to me. I suppose, I would end up here on all the three days. So many stories and buildings to be explored. Thanks for the ready guide.

  18. 28th February 2017 / 2:17 pm

    I would love to try Pierogi , what are the basic ingredients of the dish? Interesting to know about your food affair with Momos 🙂 and for Indian dishes.

    • rhiydwi
      28th February 2017 / 11:15 pm

      From what I can work out, it’s just a special kind of dough and then filling of your choice (mine is sauerkraut and mushroom!). The dough tastes almost exactly the same as the stuff used for momos!

  19. 28th February 2017 / 4:17 pm

    I really enjoyed reading this, you tell a story well. I clearly need to visit Krakow because Pierogis sound bloody delightful. Also, people always say Poland will be cheap but you giving us the costs of everything has made me believe this and realise I can totally afford to go. Thanks girl!

    • rhiydwi
      28th February 2017 / 11:17 pm

      Oh honestly, I’m one of the most cynical people in the world when it comes to other people giving advice on money (like when a “budget” hotel is priced at $150 a night – budget for me is more like $15 a night lol!) but Poland is cheap. So cheap! In fact, my boss is originally from India (one of the most budget-friendly countries in the world) and he married a Polish lady and so visits quite a lot, and even he says it’s crazy how little everything costs!

  20. 1st March 2017 / 6:56 am

    The old town Krakow looks beautiful. The Gothic architecture of the cathedral is splendid. The murky and tragic history of Aushwitz continues to loom like a haze over the place.

  21. 3rd March 2017 / 10:12 am

    Krakow is in my list for so long, guess im travelling there soon and using your guide.

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