I first visited the Polish city Krakow when I was 14 years old, on a school trip to Auschwitz. I enjoyed the city so much that I went back the year after. At that age, what attracted me the most was Krakow’s cheap shopping. Recently I decided to go back to Krakow and see what I thought about the city now, almost ten years later. Not surprisingly, I still find the city awesome. Not because of the shopping, but because of Krakow’s charming old town.
From Norway, it is cheap and easy to get to Krakow. Norwegian Air offers cheap direct flights from several cities. With more than 200 hotels in the city, it is easy to find a great place to stay as well, for a very reasonable price. Going to Krakow is maybe one of the cheapest weekend getaways you can get from Norway.
What to do in Krakow
Krakow is a typical Eastern European old town. There are not many big attractions in Krakow, but the old town is a lovely place worth a visit. One of the things I like about Krakow is that you do not have to do anything. After a visit to busy cities like Barcelona and London, I am completely exhausted. There are so many things you have to see and do in these cities. In Krakow on the other hand, you do not have to stress around to see everything, and I had such a relaxing stay.
Rynek Glowny is the main square in Krakow’s old town. In the center of the square, there is a market hall (selling tourist crap, if you ask me…) and there are street artists everywhere. In the square, St. Mary’s Cathedral is located. Like everything else in Krakow, it is very old – from the 14th century. I did not visit the church (it was closed when we went there), but I have heard that it is amazing. Krakow is famous for its horse-drawn carriages, and if you want to hire one, you can do it at Rynek Glowny.
The view from the Town Hall Tower is stunning. The tower is located in the middle of Rynek Glowny (not hard to find!). It was built in the 14th century, and it actually leans a bit because of a storm in 1703. The tower is open for visitors, if you dare to climb all the steps to the top (do not go if you are claustrophobic…). We went up right before sunset, and it was lovely!
Wawel Castle and Cathedral are Krakow’s biggest attractions. The castle was built in the 16th century, and is quite a sight. Most tourists only stay in the old city, but from Wawel Hill you can see the view of the rest of Krakow. We did not go into the castle and the church, because the lines were extremely long – but it was still nice to see it from the outside.
Not far from the old town, the Jewish Quarter, Kazimierz, is located. Kazimierz was the Jewish center in Krakow for hundreds of years, but during World War II the Jews were forced out of the district to live in ghettos and concentration camps. Today the district is rebuilt and it is very charming. The streets and the architecture here are very different from what you find in the old town, and you should definitely pay this neighborhood a visit.
In the old town, you find spas everywhere and massages are very cheap. If you go to the spas outside the main streets it is even cheaper. Krakow is also a good place for shopping. The mall Krakowska Galeria has almost 300 shops and is located near Rynek Glowny.
Where to sleep, eat and drink in Krakow
We stayed at Betmanowska Residence, which is an amazing hotel. We paid less than 600 NOK a night, and it is a really nice hotel. The interior is modern and many of the rooms even have their own jacuzzis. When we arrived, a bottle of sparkling wine on ice was welcoming us in the room, and the minibar is filled with free sodas (and it is even refilled every day). However, the best about this hotel, is the location. The hotel is located in one of the old, beautiful buildings in Rynek Glowny, the main square in the old town. Seriously, you cannot find a better location i Krakow!
Krakow has hundreds of bars and restaurants. On every corner, you find a new restaurant or bar. I am not a big fan of Eastern European food, but that was not a problem in Krakow, as you can find all kinds of restaurants here. Krakow is also THE place for partying and drinking. We did not go there for partying, but we visited a few nice bars.
A few recommendations:
♥ Manzana is a Mexican restaurant in Kazimierz. The food is good and reasonably priced (but really spicy). There is also a bar in the restaurant.
♥ Bar Italiano Pizzeria is located behind St. Mary’s Church. The pizza is amazing – proper Italian pizza.
♥ House of Beer is a bar with a huge selection of beers. You can get most beer types for around 10 PLN.
♥ Mamma Mia is another Italian restaurant, located a 5-minute walk from the main square. They have incredibly cheap pizzas; for about 20 PLN you get a huge, delicious pizza.
♥ Sioux Classic Restaurant is an American restaurant located in Rynek Glowny. I would usually avoid the restaurants located here (overpriced tourist traps), but this one is great – good burgers, ribs and steaks for good prices.
♥ Movida Cocktail Bar has amazing drinks for 20 PLN. The place is stylish and very crowded, so be there early.
♥ Viva La Pinta is another bar with a big selection of beers. It is located in the main street, Ulica Florinska.
♥ American Streetz Barbeque is an incredibly cheap place with great ribs, burgers and quesedillas.
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