Legend has it that Kraków was founded on the defeat of a dragon. Perhaps because of this, there is a mythical atmosphere present among the streets and squares. I fell in love with Krakow far more than I was expecting. I was charmed by the hip cafes, markets and the beautiful streets. I’d recommend many day trips from Krakow, however this post focuses solely on the city of itself.
What to see
My travel buddy, Lani, and I spent five days in Kraków. Two of these days were spent doing day trips and the others were explored the areas. We found this plentiful time to see everything that we wanted.
Main market square
The largest medieval square in Europe. It’s impressive to walk through, the centre of the square is dominated by Cloth Hall and many market stalls.
St. Mary’s Church
This is one of the most beautiful churches I have ever been in. St. Mary’s Church can be found on the main market square. When Lani and I walked in, we were immediately in awe of the colourful interior of this Gothic Basilica. The blue ceilings were stunning. You can also book to go to the top of the tower but there were no available times left when we queried.
Town Hall Tower
Also on the Main Market Square, Town Hall Tower is the only piece of the Krakow Town Hall to have survived to this day. The Town Ha was constructed in the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries but in the 19th century it was pulled down due to damages in the structure.
Wawel Royal Castle
This castle is now a museum containing five separate sections, each requiring a ticket. We just walked around the grounds of the castle and appreciated the architecture from the outside.
This is a gothic cathedral. As we entered there were prehistoric animal bones which are believed to be magical. As long as they are there, the cathedral will remain.
Ghetto Heroes Square
This Square has been turned into a monument commemorating the Jewish ghetto and the Krakow Jews. It is the scene of a mass deportation in of Jews to Auschwitz. The square features 70 chairs, each representing 1000 Jews. There is a sense of loneliness in the air here, it is a sad place, but I believe it is important to remember how far human cruelty can go so it doesn’t happen again.
The former factory owned by Oskar Schindler is now organised into a well laid out and informative museum. Oscar Schindler famously saved the lives of his Jewish labour force during the German invasion.
What To Do
There are plenty of unique shops and markets in Krakow. From touristy ones to traditional. In the Jewish Quarter we found a shop where disabled people made crafts to raise money. I bought some lovely Christmas decorations from there.
Wander the streets
With Krakow’s charm, it’s quite easy to spend hours wandering aimlessly around the streets. There’s so many little ‘finds’ that we would never have stumbled upon without our aimless walks.
Quirky Cafes in the Jewish quarter
I couldn’t get over how cute the cafes around the Jewish Quarter were. Our favourite was ‘Cytat Cafe’ which means ‘quote cafe’. With each order you receive a card with a quote on. Mine read ‘be kind whenever possible. It is always possible’. The cafe was appealing from the outside with hanging baskets and table legs made out of books.
Look out for Street Art
There’s some impressive street art, particularly around the Jewish Quarter.
What to Eat
The food is so cheap in Poland that it’s hard not to be constantly eating. I’m lucky that my friend Lani likes to eat as much as me so food was usually our main priority. A 3 course meal with a drink sometimes cost us as little as 75zl with is £15. I may have been known to have more than one main course on a couple of occasions….
You can’t go to Poland without trying some of their traditional dumplings. Some are filled with meat and you can get vegetable ones too. Most restaurants in Krakow serve these and they are scrumptious.
It feels like on every street corner in Krakow there is a pretzel stand. You can buy these freshly cooked in the morning. I personally preferred them with a filling. I had a delicious one from Alchemia filled with roast peppers, mozzarella and pesto.
Whatever city you visit, I’m sure I’ll always recommend somewhere for chocolate. We ate in a chocolate caffe called ‘Krakowska Manufaktura czekolady’ which means Krakow handmade chocolate. There are a couple of these cafes near the Main Market Square and as soon as we walked in we noticed the mesmerising smell of chocolate. We chose to eat in the unique underground section. I had chocolate fondue with strawberries whilst Lani had dark chocolate pancakes with strawberries. Perfection.
I had pancakes filled with spinach and fetta and, although not my favourite, they was good.
I assumed these were going to be like chips when Lani ordered them but they were completely different. They were flat and tasted just like hash browns, yummy.
Fresh Juices and Smoothies
Most restaurants and cafes seemed to sell fresh juices which I loved. There were also delicious smoothies available at most cafes. Our favourite cafe was the quote cafe in the Jewish quarter. Just look at the pictures below to understand why. I had a spinach surprise smoothie, each drink comes with a quote card, so cute.
Soup in a bread bowl
When Lani ordered her soup we weren’t expecting it to come in such a beautiful bread bowl. They looked so traditional. This was in a restaurant in Wieliczka by the salt mines.
In a lot of restaurants they serve Polish sausage with bread for lunch. I had this one day and it was delicious (I have since turned vegetarian but there were so many vegan restaurants that this wouldn’t have been a problem in Krakow.
Lani is vegan and we were pleasantly surprised by the number of vegan places to eat. The Jewish quarter was filled with quirky, unique vegan cafes. Alchemia had such delicious vegan options that even I couldn’t resist going vegan here one day.