1. Visit Auschwitz, Birkenau, (and Salt Mine)
These are the main reason why we visit Krakow in the first place. It is such a historical place that witnessed the suffering of millions of innocent soul during World War II. It will teach you one or two things about life. You will leave that place with so much more gratitude about your life that your small complains are nothing to what the genocide victims had to go through. This place is what makes Poland very special. Try to imagine how painful and damaged the places and people back then, but it has managed to be re-built into a beautiful country. Let’s gain some new perspectives!
The Salt Mine is located in the town of Wieliczka in southern Poland. It was opened in the 13th century, the mine produced table salt continuously until 2007, as one of the world’s oldest salt mines in operation. It is amazing too how genius people worked back then already!
Tips: We went with a tour just because we wanted to save some stress with transportation, tickets and history guide. The tour we chose was Krakow Direct. Check out the link here. It includes pick up transportation, tickets and english tour guide for Auschwitz, Birkenau and Salt Mine. The fee was PLN250/ person (or around EUR58), which is quite expensive (especially when you think in Zloty way) and some people prefer not to go with group tour like that as the transportation is considerably easy. It’s a matter of preference.
Birkenau – 20x bigger than Auschwitz
2. Walk and sip coffee/chocolate in the old town during the day and especially at night
Both time will give you different ambiance. We prefer the night better as the lights from the buildings, the street and church/cathedral will give such a magical feeling. There will be a jazz/blues music performance in the square playing passionately by street musicians. During the day you will see more people walk, but you will see the beautiful pastel colors of the buildings around the square more clearly as well as the horse carriage. You really can sit any cafe around the square, but we sat in Cafe LOZA which was quite nice.
In the mid day, very half an hour there’s a beautiful trumpet sounds coming out from the main church. It will last for 5 minutes and blown through 4 different sides of the highest window. You can wait this to happen while wandering and checking the flower market just in front of the church or get a thick hot chocolate from the place in the corner Krakowska Manufaktura Czekolady. Take the pure one!
3. Try the local culinary
One of many things that are special about Poland are its FOOD! My second favorite cuisine in Europe after Italian. If you ask locals about what to eat in Krakow, first typical thing you would hear is Pierogi! It is a Polish dumpling, some legends say that pierogi have come from China through Italy via Marco Polo expeditions. The best would be the ones with spinach, cheese, or mushroom feelings (and FRIED). It will be served with onion-butter sauted sauce. I personally like to dip it a little with sour cream that they usually have ready (or you can always ask).
You should also try goulash that is served in bread! The delicateness of beef meat and its thick tasteful sauce blends really well and fit with the plain Polish bread. I think I like it very much because the taste suits my asian tongues. Polish food uses garlic/onion, simple ingredients that most of the times Dutch tend to forget to use (heheh!), and some rich spices (cumin, clove, etc). Desserts such as pancake (sweet or savory), cheesecake (don’t imagine American cheesecake!, Polish is a bit dry but nice) and hot chocolates are also worth to taste.
Restaurant Czarna Kaczka/ Black Duck: Recommended, food is amazing, service is great, price is okay
Address: Poselska 22, 31-002 Kraków, Polen
Restaurant Chata: Situated in the old town – Highly recommended, food is great, service is great, ambiance and music is great, price is cheap
Address: Krowoderska 21/2, 31-141 Kraków, Polen
Cheder Cafe: Situated in the Jewish Quarter. Nice ambience and apple tea!
Address: Józefa 36, 31-056 Kraków, Polen
4. Breakfast in the Milkbar (Polish: bar mleczny ) Tomasza
Milkbar is supposed to be a canteen that was used to be a place that the food is cheap (subsidied by government), nutritious and where workers had their breakfast. It dates from the communist era, but many bar mleczny are now sought-after providers of great value, locally-sourced meals. It is for easy quick breakfast. It is no longer acted as it was these days, but this place is quite special. Try the savory (spinach-feta cheese) pancake, fried dumplings, and omellete. Everything was so good in that place including the coffee and juice. This place is just 5 mins walking from the main square. Price is fairly cheap just as other food in Poland. Five stars for the taste!
Address: Świętego Tomasza 24, 33-332 Kraków, Polen
5. Sip coffee at night in the main square
A way to rest for the day activity and enjoy your night after a very well-spent dinner. Take a sit and relax, just in any place really! Make sure you sit outside to have the full experience enjoyment!
6. Walk along Wawel Castle and Vistula River
Such a peaceful place to look at the beauty of architecture with a little touch of gothic. Walk around it to enjoy the castle life and walk down the river side. Have a sit in one of the benches, read a book if you are alone or talk with your travel buddy, enjoy the water flow/ the swans that most of the times park there.
7. Talk to Locals
They are very warm and polite, you will find relatively no struggle to speak English as most of the people are willing to learn. In fact, I encountered a couple of people who started a conversation with me because they wanted to improve their English. Amazing spirit!
ENJOY YOUR TRIP!