I was in high hopes for my birthday break to Krakow in October; I’d visited Gdansk, a small coastal town in the North of Poland earlier that year in the spring and was treated to beautiful buildings, cosy cafes and superb food.
Researching Krakow, I understood that the city claims to have the highest concentration of bars and restaurants in the world, this, coupled with the fact that I know Krakow is crazy affordable I was looking forward to nursing a substantial food baby for the duration of my holiday!
Krakow didn’t disappoint.
We landed in amongst fog which stayed put for the first few hours, allowing us to capture a delightfully moody old town square before it lifted and the sunshine was able to show off the beauty and the colours of the city centre. Rynek Glowny is impressive; the Cloth Hall is a prominent feature in the centre of the square that hosts a strip of market stalls and in the North East stands the spectacular St Mary’s Basilica.
Now for food!
Feeling a tad overwhelmed at the vast choice, we consulted the free guide book that we picked up at our Hotel. ‘Where’s great for breakfast?’ All suggestions sounded seriously appealing, but a quick Google told me that many were located in the trendy Jewish Quarter to the south of the old town; ‘Anything around Rynek Glowny?’
Last recommendation; ‘Charlotte’ a Parisian style café, and it’s right around the corner! Sounds perfect.
Charlotte was ADORABLE. Yes, I can justify the capitals. And it was busy; a good sign, and most people were tucking into bread baskets and huge jars of preserve – ‘We’ll just have what they’re having?’
Oh… the jam! The bread! The Hot chocolate! Best breakfast I’ve ever had? Quite possibly. I think the picture speaks for itself – Delicious!
So, what can you do in Krakow in-between meals?
Church fan? Krakow’s the place to be. And even if you’re not, it’s hard not to be enchanted with St Mary’s interior, have you ever seen such fantastic colours? It also has quite a number of museums, the castle and cathedral and a lot of green space to explore; Planty park circles the old town and was looking pretty gorgeous for the autumn.
Because the weather was so good I was more than happy to get ‘lost’ in the streets and just discover Krakow’s sights on foot. Walking towards the river and on top of the hill you can spot Krakow’s castle – here lives Krakow’s fire breathing dragon!
Having built up an appetite we took a punt on a traditional looking restaurant, Goscinna Chata just off from the main square. To be honest, it appeared pretty touristy judging by the décor and the waitresses in old fashioned dress so I wasn’t sure what to expect. An hour later, I was as happy as fat kid with
cake pierogi and warm and fuzzy from the mulled wine. I’d also beaten a starter fit for feeding the five thousand; mushroom soup in a bread bowl – it was incredible and would be absolutely criminal to see any go to waste. A testament to how good it was – I ate here three times in three days and was so focused on the food that I forgot to take any photos of my meal!
Krakow’s close proximity to Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial camp means that many tourists visiting the city will make this trip during their stay. Choosing to visit in our own time and without a guide we caught a local bus from the station towards Oschweim.
Auschwitz-Birkenau is a remarkably hard-hitting and sobering experience. I’m no history buff, but I was aware of the significance of the location and the horrors of what happened there, but I don’t think anything can quite prepare you for what you are going to feel, standing by the gate of the courtyard in Auschwitz after reading about the atrocities that took place at this very spot, at a time that really wasn’t that long ago. It was very difficult to get my head around but I felt glad, in a strange way, that I was able to make this visit and to give enough time to the site to take everything in. I could appreciate the importance of not letting the memory die; it’s necessary to remember and more crucially, learn from what happened. Never forget.
Our visit also coincided with the All Saints Day on the 1st November, which is an annual holiday sometimes compared to Halloween, but after experiencing the celebrations I can see that it’s much different to the Americanised version with Zombies, candy and ‘Trick or Treat’ that we know back in England.
A local pole who we met at the tram stop suggested that we should head north of the city to visit one of Krakow’s largest cemeteries (Rakowicki), telling us it would be ‘beautiful’ after sundown. The cemetery was covered in wreaths, flowers and coloured candles with families paying their respects to the deceased.
Krakow was a surprise. I knew i’d like it, but didn’t think i’d like it this much, especially after reading some pretty mixed reviews on the city, including Nomadic Matt’s blog post; where he says he was ‘underwhelmed‘ by Krakow and calls it ‘overrated‘.
My views were really positive, I didn’t witness any of the stag-party type visitors that Krakow is apparently beginning to get a reputation for, but the same goes for Prague – I never saw any of the rowdy crowds of British twenty-something lapping up the cheap beer there either. So, apart from having a lasting effect on me after my visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau, Krakow shared with me great food, a new love for peirogi, friendly people and a beautiful old town seeped in History. All this and it won’t even put a dent in your bank balance.
Next up Warsaw?
What was FP?
The food, food and more food! I don’t think i’ve eaten better than I did over the four day visit. The food and drink is not only super tasty, but it is so affordable that any budget restrictions just don’t seem to apply here. For example, on our last day we dined on pork knuckle with fries and two drinks… for the equivalent of £6! Krakow is foodie heaven for sure.
Our recommendations include; Wodka Bar for Vodka shots, Goscinna Chata for mushroom soup and peirogi, Charlotte Bistro for breakfast, Karmello Chocolatier for their Apple Cinnamon hot chocolates, BeerGallery and across the road, House of Beer for, you’ve guessed it, all your beer needs.
The chance to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau. This memorial site can’t be missed, it’s very important to go and experience this place. The bus to the site is very low cost and goes from the main bus station, and entrance to Auschwitz-Birkenau is free if you choose to attend without a guide.
We reserved our entrance time online via their official website before we traveled and printed out our tickets to be scanned at the gate. Auschwitz is the main site, and then you can choose to visit Birkenau which is a couple of minutes down the road, accessed via the free shuttle bus that leaves regularly from the car park. Book tickets here.
Have you been to Krakow? What did you think?