Kraków: One of Europe’s Treasures!

We continue our WYD preview, as our friends from the Polish Cultural Institute share with us some of the highlights of Kraków.

Getting ready for Kraków this summer (Photo: Westminster Youth Ministry)
Getting ready for Kraków this summer (Photo: Westminster Youth Ministry)

As promised, we’re back with some more suggestions and tips for your upcoming trip to Poland. This time we’re looking at the beautiful, culturally rich city that is Kraków. You’re going to love it. There’s a lot to do though, so we’ve come up with a makeshift itinerary for a day. Do with it what you will.

Breakfast

Forum Przestrzenie (Photo: www.forumprzestrzenie.com)
Forum Przestrzenie (Photo: www.forumprzestrzenie.com)

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and this is never more true than when you’re in a new land and have a day of exploration ahead of you. So why not start the day at FORUM Przestrzenie? You’ll find the young locals there, as well as pancakes and a calming view of Wawel Castle and the Vistula River. Or you could try Alchemia od Kuchni which, some say, serves the best Eggs Benedict in town. If you’d like something closer to the centre of town, then Café Camelot  or Charlotte won’t disappoint.

To Do

St. Mary's Basilica, Kraków (Photo: Westminster Youth Ministry)
St. Mary’s Basilica, Kraków (Photo: Westminster Youth Ministry)

Grabbing some food fuel in the centre is a good idea if you want to start your day by touring the old town. The Main Square (Rynek Główny), a wonderful composition of space and medieval and renaissance architecture, is one of the biggest and most impressive in Europe. Located in the centre of the square is the Sukiennice market, where you’ll find tens of stalls with handmade crafts and traditional food. The upper level of Sukiennice building houses a branch of the Polish National Museum with some of Poland’s most precious paintings. In the basement of the same building you can take a tour through the state-of-the-art archaeological museum and explore Kraków’s rich history. The Main Square is, of course, the home of the beautiful St. Mary’s Church – a must on your list! If you carry on through the old town you will find numerous other churches to take in as well, such as Church of St. Francis of Assisi with beautiful stained glass windows by Poland’s master painter and writer Stanisław Wyspiański.

Singer Bar in Kazimierz district of Kraków (Photo: Singer)
Singer Bar in Kazimierz district of Kraków (Photo: Singer)

Take your time wandering around the town, and try to bear South so that you will eventually end up by the Vistula River. You can then walk across the Kładka Bernatka bridge to the other side, or else take a little ferry ride. There you’ll find Kazimierz, one of the most important Jewish Quarters in the world. Have a look at Oscar Schindler’s Factory Museum and see if you can spot any of the streets where Spielberg’s Schindler’s List was filmed. If there’s time, stop by MOCAK (Museum of Contemporary Art in Kraków) and see the latest exhibits.

Lunch

Now of course, you’re hungry again. You want a good, traditional meal, at a low price. Solution? Milk Bar. Don’t worry, not like in A Clockwork Orange. Milk Bars were first established in 1896, then after the II WW subsidised by the Socialist government, they provided hearty meals for workers at a fraction of the usual price. After the fall of Communism, the number of Milk Bars dwindled, however the good stuff of the past has a tendency of coming back into fashion, and now you’ll find them sprawled across the city again. For a true experience go to Bar Mleczny Centralny and take a Communist Tour around Nowa Huta district of Kraków.

More To Do

Wawel Royal Castle Kraków (Photo: Mariusz Ciszewski - www.polska.pl)
Wawel Royal Castle Kraków (Photo: Mariusz Ciszewski – www.polska.pl)

Wawel Hill is a must when visiting Kraków, and be prepared, because you can easily spend a few hours here. Seeming to rest ever so slightly above the rest of the city, Wawel Castle used to house the Royals of Poland once upon a time when Kraków was still the capital, and today hosts Leonardo da Vinci’s famous female portrait – Lady with an Ermine. There are many beautiful buildings to see here, but make sure to stop by Wawel Cathedral and Wawel Dragon’s Den (Smocza Jama). Finally, if you still have any time, then we recommend Cricoteka. The strange, rusty, coffee table-esque building that hovers over another, is home to the works of famous performance artist and theatre practitioner, Tadeusz Kantor.

Dinner

Although it’s a good idea to strive for ‘cheap and cheerful’ with most of your meals on holiday, it is also important to treat yourself to at least one fancy meal. After the miles of the day have been washed off, and those do-rag travel jeans have been swapped for something a little less comfortable, dinner is the perfect opportunity for this. Located in the cellars of the Orłowska Townhouse, Cyrano de Bergerac provides some Krakovian history with your meal. Another great cellar restaurant, Restauracja Padre has more of a Mediterranean feel to it and is only a short walk from the Square. For a sophisticated version of Polish cuisine go to Pod Nosem, where you can experience fine dining at a reasonable price.

Pod Nosem:

Party

After an intense sightseeing it’s time for some chill. For some of us that means finding a jazz bar where the music and wine flow all night, and if that’s true for you, head to Harris Piano Jazz Bar just off of the Market Square. For a taste of Kraków’s pubs, head to Kazimierz, where a positive vibe is mixed with district’s Jewish heritage. Singer and Eszeweria, popular among young creatives, are great places for your pocket and for grabbing a drink with the locals. And finally if you’re looking to dance your way into the dawn then Baccarat is our number one recommendation.

Getting Around

Most of the stops in this itinerary are within walking distance, so hooray that’s free! However if you are feeling a little lazy or just plain walked-out, take the tram. It’s super cheap at 3.80 zloty for a one-way ticket and 15 zloty for the whole day (that’s roughly £0.70 and £2.70 respectively).

If you are planning on getting in as many museums as you can, then it might be worth buying a Krakow Tourist Card. There are different options but the best one is 120 zloty (£21.50), which will allow you free entry into most places of interest, as well free travel within the city, and to and from the airport.

Did that tickle your travel taste buds? We hope so.

Next time: Food!

(Yes we know it’s already been mentioned, but trust us – we’re just getting started.)

This article was kindly provided by our wonderful friends at the Polish Cultural Institute in London. Click here to learn more about them.