Views from the castle tower
Europe, Poland

4 days in Krakow

My best friend and I have just returned from a trip to Poland, spending 4 days in Krakow. This is a beautiful city, with so much to offer, see and do. If you’re looking for some inspiration for a trip to Krakow, then I hope my trip report of our 4 days in Krakow will help!

Transport & accommodation

We flew with Easyjet from Gatwick. Our flight was about 9:30am and my fiancé drove us up there, so we had a nice relaxed morning before our flight. The flight is only 2 hours, so it was nice and quick and we arrived at 12:30pm Krakow time.

We ordered airport transfers with Krakow Airport Express, who were brilliant! I definitely recommend. It cost us about £18 each way I think, which is more expensive than our alternative which was to get the train (which I think worked out at about £1 each way), but we liked the convenience factor of getting picked up and wanted to arrive in the city centre as quickly as possible, so were happy to pay more. We arrived at the airport early; our driver was already there waiting for us and he was super friendly and chatty – good service!

Transfer time from airport to city centre was only 20 minutes and we were dropped off right outside our hotel door, which was the Aparthotel Stare Miasto. If ever I come back to Krakow I will definitely stay here again! The location is fabulous, right around the corner from the main square and walking distance to all the main sights, bars and restaurants. The rooms also looked gorgeous, with lots of bare brickwork, modern bathrooms and kitchenettes also. Clean, tidy, super quiet and super comfy beds! This was a brilliant find for us and was also great value, costing us only £190 for all 4 days (£95 each / about £24 per day each).

Day 1

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Cloth Hall

 

We dumped our bags in reception while they got our room ready and we headed off to the city centre to get our barings. We had a nose through Cloth Hall, which has lots of different stalls selling items and nik nak bits. We continued exploring the square on foot, drinking in the atmosphere before coming across a bar called Noworolski which we had read about prior to arriving and wanted to visit.

noworolski
Noworolski is a cafe which opened back in 1910 and became a local haunt for the SS during WWII when Krakow fell under Nazi occupation. The cafe had previously been family owned, and was letter returned to the family back in 1991/92. It was a beautiful sunny day so we sat outside to order our drinks, but the decor inside is a complete throwback to the 1930’s/40’s and looks like it has been frozen in time. I ordered a vodka (Zubrowka), while Bexx ordered a cocktail. The staff aren’t the quickest here, but their service is polite and we were so distracted looking around the square, people watching and drinking in the atmosphere to really notice. It’s definitely worth coming here, even if you only have one drink.

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After that we headed for St Mary’s Church and bought tickets to go up their tower. We had 1 hour to wait for our allotted time (there is a ticket office just to the side of the church), so  we wandered inside for a nosey and I have to say this is one of the most elaborate churches I have ever seen / been in! So much colour, detail and patterns!

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St Mary’s Church

We spent a few minutes in the church before leaving to explore the area a little more while we waited for our turn to head up the tower. At 271 steps, the tower isn’t particularly tall, which is handy when walking up it’s tiny winding staircase, but it’s high enough for some great views over the city! There is also a bugle player, who plays from 3 of the towers windows on the hour, every hour. The history behind this is that apparently back in the medieval days it was tradition for the bugle player to play every hour, but also to alert the city if they were under attack. One night this happened and whilst he sounded the alarm, he was shot with an arrow and the bugle stopped mid-note. As tribute this is what the bugle players now do and have been doing for about 100 years now, playing for about a minute before stopping dead short mid-note. Whilst we were up the tower the bugle player appeared and we watched him play from each of the windows. The views across Krakow are pretty sweet too!

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Views from St Mary’s Church tower

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Views of Cloth Hall from St Mary’s Church tower

We spent a fair amount of time up the tower, before heading down towards St Florian’s Gate and The Barbican, which are part of the old city fortifications. We then had a stroll through Planty Park, the park which circles most of the city, back to our hotel so we could unpack and refresh ourselves for dinner.

As it happens by sheer coincidence, Bexx’s (soon to be) Sister-in-Law is travelling around Europe at the moment and happened to be in Krakow the same day we were before she was moving on to her next destination. We met later that evening, had a quick drink back at Noworolski, before heading off to a yummy Italian called La Campana. This is where we realised just how good value Poland is! Bexx and Emily had 3 courses, I had 2 courses and we all had drinks and the total bill equated to £11 each! We couldn’t believe we had multiple courses & drinks and it was £11 each! The food was delicious, really high standard, great decor and great service. What’s not to love??

After dinner Bexx and I were feeling pretty sleepy after a full day out and about, so we bought a bottle of wine from the nearby Spar and took that back to our apartment for a nightcap before catching an early-ish night.

Day 2

Our first full day in the city – woohoo! We had booked tickets online a couple of weeks before the trip to visit Oskar Schindler’s factory. We got up reasonably early walked down towards the factory. The factory is located just outside Kazimierz, the Jewish Quarter of Krakow and is about a 30 minute walk from the city centre. En-route we also passed the Heroes Square and the remains of the Jewish Ghetto wall from WWII. The Heroes Square is a memorial at what was the point of departure for thousands of Jews from the Ghetto to various different camps and is definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area.

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Heroes Square

 

The Ghetto wall remains were also pretty interesting to see and helped show the scale and size of the wall – it was certainly higher than I thought it would be and looked so intimidating. There a couple of segments of the wall dotted around, as we explored the area we came across some, but the section we specifically knew of which we first went to is on a road called Lwowska, just off a main road called Boleslawa Limanowskiego.

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Jewish Ghetto wall remains

It was approaching 10am; the time we had booked to go to Schindler’s Factory, so we headed off there and spent the next 2 hours exploring all the different exhibits within the factory. I think a ticket equated to about £4 and whilst there are companies who provide tours, if you buy the standard admission ticket it’s a self-guided tour as you follow the exhibits and information signs. We thought this was great as we could go at our pace. The start of the factory helps to convey what life was like in Poland before the war and how the Krakow was on the rise of independence towards the end of the 1930’s, before it then fell under Nazi occupation. The rest of the factory then details life in Krakow and for Jews during that period of time, leading up to Oskar Schindler’s input. There was also a small cinema room playing a short film interviewing those who worked and were rescued by Oskar Schindler, which was really interesting to watch.

shindfactory

The 2 hours we were in the factory flew by and we learnt so much, it was such an interesting morning. Here in the UK I have heard people refer to the city as Krakow (“Krakau”) and “Krakov”. As we went around the exhibits, we learnt the proper pronunciation is “ov” and the “au” sounding came from Germany when the city was under their occupation. They renamed the city to sound more German. The main square in city centre was also renamed during the war to ‘Adolf Hitler-Platz’. So it was really interesting to learn about city-specific effects and changes that happened during the war.

Before our trip we had read online that Spielberg used a local disused quarry to film certain scenes for Schindler’s List. We also read that not far from the quarry were the old camp remains of Płaszów Concentration Camp; so off we went in search for this!

On the way we found Benedict Fort – again it’s basically just it’s shell, the fort is no longer used for anything (to my knowledge) and people have since broken through the chain fencing around it for a nose…so we also had a little look around the fort.

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Benedict Fort

We didn’t stay long as it felt a bit eerie really, so we continued on our search for Liban Quarry. We cut through a few paths and walked up a high-ish mound before coming across some great views across the city – and to our left was some fencing leading to the quarry.

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Krakow views

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Liban Quarry

The quarry was super cool and we spent ages walking around the top lip looking down into the quarry. We also read that Spielberg apparently left behind some of the props used to create the concentration camp – the photo isn’t the clearest in the world, but just below the towers you can see some fence panels which he used to create the camp grounds and boundaries.

Around the other side of the quarry are the Płaszów camp remains you first come across, and to the side of the building remains are also some original fence panels left from the perimeter of the camp. The buildings have now been graffitied, and almost nothing remains from the camp after it was liquidated during the end of the war, but it is interesting to see all the same. The place where the camp once was is now a park and a place where people can actually enjoy the space – have picnics, walk the dogs, go for a walk etc…and it was nice to see everyday life, surrounding the remains and the memorials which are dotted throughout the park. It is important we never forget, and it was nice that we were left to our own imaginations, walking through the park and stumbling across segments of history.

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Płaszów camp remains

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Płaszów camp remains

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Płaszów camp remains

We read before the trip that the camp was initially built in the early 40’s as a forced labour camp, but soon become a favourable execution site as individuals were sent from the Ghetto to the camp. Amon Goeth soon oversaw the camp day to day and liquidated the Krakow Ghetto, sending all those from the area straight to the camp or to Auschwitz. In a little over a year, Płaszów became a destination not just for Krakow individuals, but those from Eastern Europe and elsewhere in Poland and a result grew from 2,000 prisoners to over 12,000. Before the camp was torn down and liquidated towards the end of the war, it was said the camp peaked at 25,000 prisoners. Those still in the camp in January 1945 were sent on death marches to Auschwitz and what the Soviets saw when they came across the camp is pretty much exactly what we see today. We read that approximately 2,000 Poles and Jews who passed through Płaszów are known to have survived the war; 1,000 of these were the ‘Schindler Jews’.

As we left the park, we came across a main residential street to the East of the park, which during the war was known as SS Strausse as it’s where the SS lived. Further down the road at number 22, we found Amon Goeth’s house. It was so strange to be stood in the road, looking at his house, trying to imagine what it must have been like during WWII and what things that house must have seen. I believe the house has recently been bought at auction and is currently undergoing renovation.

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Amon Goeth’s house

Feeling tired from being on our feet all day, we caught the tram back to the city centre and headed straight for our apartment for a quick nap and to freshen up ready for dinner later that evening.

We headed to a place in the main square for dinner called Tradycja having seen good reviews and a number of things of the menu which looked great! Bexx ended up ordering a pizza while I ordered cheese Pierogi (traditional Polish dumplings) which were soo yummy! We’d had a starter and we both had a dessert, which with drinks came to about £10 each. The meal was yummy and the service was great – we were sat at a small table at the back of the restaurant where we could watch the chef making his fresh pizzas and cooking them in his pizza oven.

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My yummy cheese dumplings

 

We then headed for a place in the main square for drinks called Sioux – it was pretty chilly in the evening and we wanted somewhere near the restaurant for a quick drink. When you go to Krakow, you’ll notice all the restaurants in the main square have fire heaters outside and blankets, we thought this was ideal for somewhere nearby, which would keep us warm. The service was pretty terrible and very slow – but the drinks were good. We hadn’t expected anything different really and we weren’t in a rush so not too fussed. As it happens there were some 2 really chatty guys from Holland on the table next to us who started up a conversation with us, so we ended up chatting to them until it was time for us to move on to our next place: Wodka!

We came to this great vodka bar after reading great things about it online. Back where I live near Portsmouth there’s a great little pub called Hole in the Wall (as you can imagine it’s tiny) – this vodka bar is even smaller, and is packed full of atmosphere, it’s a great place to be! Just be aware you may not get a table. We were lucky and got the last free table by the door. I ordered us a tasting tray of 6 different vodka flavours and that was pretty much how we spent the remainder of our evening, until it was time to stumble back to our apartment. The staff in this place are great, asking about what kind of flavours we like and making recommendations – the price worked out fair as well at less than £1 per shot.

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Day 3

After our jam packed day previously, we had another busy one lined up today – this time we were off to visit Auschwitz.

We booked transport with a tour company in advance called Escape 2 Poland. We’d read good things about them on Tripadvisor and thought they seemed like a good option. You can easily catch the train and busses to the camp, but for sake of convenience we picked a company so all transport was sorted for us.

The camp is about 1/1.5 hours drive from the city centre, we were picked up by our driver at 10am and by the time our other pick ups had taken place we arrived at the camp for about midday. Our driver was really lovely, picked us up on time at a location right around the corner from our hotel, and they also play a short film for the duration of the journey, telling you some history and real life accounts of Auschwitz.

Once there we had a bit of time to grab some lunch and a drink as our tour wasn’t until 12:30 – Escape 2 Poland only arrange admission and transport, guides are then provided by the museum. Our guide’s name was Anna I believe and she was absolutely brilliant. We were quite a big group so she split us into three groups with 2 other guides, which made it a lot more manageable and was nicer to be part of a smaller group. She was really knowledgable and allowed plenty of time for questions so everyone had a full understanding. We were at Auschwitz for about 2 hours and whilst we certainly didn’t get to see everything, Anna did a great job of giving us the main facts and stories of the camp to give everyone a pretty comprehensive overview. There were some things she was telling us which we already knew, other things were completely to new to us and you’ll probably find the same thing if / when you go – it’s all down to the individual. Having visited Sachsenhausen when Oli and I visited Berlin a few years ago, it was interesting to visit a camp like Auschwitz which is on a much larger scale… particularly Birkenau, which was the second part of our tour.

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Auschwitz main entrance

 

 

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Camp perimeter

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Zyklon B cannisters

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Upon arriving at Birkenau and walking through the entrance, the first thing you notice is the sheer size of the camp – it is absolutely massive! A lot of the barracks, particularly on the mens side are now just ruins, but as far as the eye can see, are just rows upon rows of barracks / remains of barracks. Our guide mentioned how they were running out of capacity at Birkenau and had plans to expand the camp before the end of the war, which was just astounding really, standing there and hearing that.

We stood on what was the main platform alongside the train tracks, which is where prisoners were unloaded from the trains and the selection process happened there and then on the spot – either they were sent to the camp, or to the gas chambers. It was horrifying standing there, knowing people’s fates were decided on that very spot. Anna also told us about the travel conditions; how 80 – 100 people would be crammed into these tiny wooden carts and transported 2, 3, 5, sometimes 10 days to the camp, when in some circumstances they were dead on arrival from suffocation in the cart due to the heat and lack of oxygen.

Birkenau

Birkenau

Travel conditions

Travel conditions

Gas chamber remains

Gas chamber remains

Memorial

Memorial

I think we spent about 1 hour at Birkenau, looking around the site, the gas chamber remains and one of the barracks which are open for viewing, so portray their living conditions. A lot of the others are not open due to being in disrepair. I don’t want to say too much, because it doesn’t justify how important visiting this place is. You really have to go and see it for yourself and hear it all for yourself. It’s such a sobering experience, but so important. We caught the shuttle bus back to Auschwitz – they also have a fab little book store on site, with various books on Auschwitz. It’s well worth a visit! I picked up a couple of books myself and am looking forward to reading them.

We got back to our hotel about 5pm/6pm. We were pretty exhausted after the day – it had been mentally draining and was also very hot, so were drained from the heat. We had nap to refresh ourselves and then grabbed a yummy Italian dinner at a place around the corner from where we were staying called La Grand Mamma. I was craving ricotta and had a yummy spinach and ricotta cannelloni, followed by a lush dessert! Again, great service, great meal and an even better price. No complaints!

We headed back to Sioux for drinks, because although the service was poor (and continued to be poor), we liked the atmosphere. As it happens, apparently our friends from Holland who we met there the night before also liked it this much as they were also there, sat at the same table. So it was great to catch up with them, as this was the last night in the city for us all. When we finished our drinks there we headed back to Wodka for more vodka tasting (yummy) and ended the night at a place called Bania Luka. The place was absolutely packed with people and had a great atmosphere. We ended up drinking outside the front of the bar and made a few friends on our last night which was great. We then stumbled back to our apartment and slept very well!

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Loving the Krakow nightlife!

Day 4

We slept in and caught up on some much needed sleep – we definitely deserved to have sore heads but got away lucky! We packed up our staff and grabbed breakfast at the bar next to the hotel (they do yummy omelettes by the way) and decided we’d head down to Wawel Castle on our last day.

The queue to get into the castle was ridiculous! We decided not to queue and to walk around the castle ourselves – I definitely recommend this. The outside of the castle is really cool and I’d heard a few people say the inside isn’t really that good. There are also extras you can pay for – such as climbing the castle tower, which had no queues at all! So I would definitely recommend doing this. It was another lovely sunny day and by far the hottest day we’d had, the atmosphere outside was really relaxed, and just felt like a nice play to be. It was hot, people were lounging on benches outside sunbathing. We spent a good hour or so around the castle and we especially loved going up the tower, which had some really lovely views over the castle and the river.

Wawel Castle

Wawel Castle

Views from the castle tower

Views from the castle tower

River views from the castle tower

River views from the castle tower

We had one final explore around the city centre and decided to grab our last couple of drinks back at Noworolski. The sun was glorious and we spent a good hour+ sat in the sun, drinking and people watching. It was a great way to spend our last day.

We had 1 hour left before we needed to be back at our apartment to be picked up and we stumbled across a museum within Cloth Hall which exhibited the underground vaults of Krakow…err what?? We hadn’t heard of this anywhere, somehow we’d missed this mentioned anywhere online, I’m not really sure how, but it was really cool! We did unfrotunately have to rush through it a bit to be out in time to be back at the hotel. But the place was so cool and interesting, especially as we had no idea it was even there. All in all a brilliant way to spend our last day in Krakow!

We both had a fantastic time during our 4 days in Krakow, this is a place which should definitely be on everyone’s list. It has a great mix of history, culture and nightlife. We can’t wait to go back and take our partners, they’ll definitely love it!

Hope you found this trip report of 4 days in Krakow helpful and I hope it gives you some inspiration for your trip. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions in the comments section below – thanks all! :)

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1 Comment

  • Reply Linda May 19, 2016 at 1:16 am

    Great report! Going in 3 weeks. You gave me some ideas on things to do.
    Thanks!

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