In the recent years a huge part of my holiday planning has been a few city breaks. Jonny and I made a little pact that no matter what we would try to fit in at least one a year. It tends to be more, but just before Christmas we headed off on another. This time with my mum and dad too. What was 3 nights in the beautiful city of Krakow ended up as 6 due to a cancelled flight however that is another, long long story. I thought a little guide of some places to visit, things to do and haunts sit back and relax at would be good as I trawled through many before we went.
Where to Stay
Because of our extended stay in Krakow we ended up being able to split our time between two parts of the city. Our first stop was ‘The Art & Garden Residence’ around a 15 minute walk into the Old town. It was quaint, but very clean and was easy to get to in about 30 mins from the airport. It had a restaurant however it lacked a bar where you could come back to in the evening to relax, meaning you had to sit amongst the diners. It offered breakfast in the price but to be honest we went out to find some great places for our first meal of the day as it wasn’t fantastic and lacked variety.
After our cancelled flight we had 3 more nights, this time we stayed the other side of the city at the ‘INX Design Hotel’ near to the Jewish Quarter but still only a 20/25 min walk to Old Town square. This hotel was vibrant, and I preferred this one as it had more of a modern feel to it, the staff were lovely and the bar served great cocktails. Breakfast was not included in the room price here, however you could pay 50 zloty if you wished. For us this was a little pricey for Polish standards and we really id enjoy finding local places to eat.
Both had their pros and cons however as a whole the Jewish Quarter has a lot more to do and see and it is still within easy reach of the Old Town Square which is lovely. Also full of places to eat and drink and this is where you’ll find the Christmas market too if you go around November – December. I must say either way though is that Uber here is incredible the standard fare is 10 zloty around £3/£4 for a normal 10 min trip, we got quite when there and this is also how we got to and from the airport as well as this worked out at only around £15.
What to Do & See
We did a lot while in Krakow but that is due to our extended stay, we crammed a lot into the first 3 days and it would have been nice had we known about it ending up being a longer than expected trip, to have spread it out a little. By day 5 we we’re getting a little tired of meals out and were struggling to find much to do that was ‘different’.
Auschwitz – A must do if you visit Krakow is the Auschwitz tour, it was the most sobering and powerful place I have ever been to and i would say everyone should go at least once in their life. The whole place both Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau, Birkenau being the one most people recognise were so harrowing and Birkenau was so vast and stark it left an emptiness feeling in me. I didn’t take many pictures out of respect and the fact that it is one of those places that you must see to understand the scale, and just sheer evil. If you do one thing while in Poland it should be this and we should make sure we learn and make the next generation learn more about acceptance and how humans are capable of such hate that we should learn from the past to make a better future.
Wieliczka Salt Mine – We did the salt mine tour as part of a 12 hour tour after Auschwitz and to be honest it wouldn’t be something I would hugely recommend. It was a long day and our tour guide wasn’t too great. It was something like 800 steps down so you need to be ready to walk, a lot. There we’re some beautiful pieces of art sculpted and and amazing church down in the mines but it was a little tedious after a while. I think it depends what you’re looking for, for us it was good and I am happy to say i’ve done it, though I wouldn’t want to go again.
If you do these together it is a long day 7am – 7pm ish. lunch is provided but there is a stop near the Salt Mine serving delicious Polish food. The tours are both guided in many languages and they are detailed but as a whole Aushwitz is such an intense place and experience that after that I am not sure the Salt Mine had my full attention. If you do go and do want to see the mine, it may be better to do it on separate days if you can.
Old Town Christmas Market – If you’re here in winter this market is lovely, it is both outside and there is an inside market too. You have to eat your way around of course so be sure to keep reading below to see the best things to eat while there. There are lots of stalls selling trinkets, there are the horse and carriages offering tours, bands playing, choirs singing and just an all round festive vibe. It is small in comparison to Winter Wonderland here in London, but it does have an authentic feeling and is right in the heart of the city.
St. Mary’s Basilica – Situated in the Old Town square also is St. Mary’s Basilica, you have to pay a small fee to get in but do. It is honestly the most breathtaking church i’ve ever seen. It is decadent and elaborately decorated with such intricate detail. You can also pay a little extra and walk up the bell towers which looks out over the square and a bit of the city too.
Pinball Museum – We ended up here twice, mum and I set up shop in a near by coffee shop while Jonny and my dad went head to head at pinball for a few hours. It is approx. 40 zloty for the whole day. You get a band and can come and go as you please, you can grab a drink and play on around 50+ retro and modern pinball machines. They loved this and to be honest it was pretty cool even if I didn’t take up the offer to play.
Where to Eat
Of course I will save the best until last! I love to eat and drink my way around the city and we sure did just that. For me I love to explore the city but have numerous stop off’s as I go. Krakow gives the perfect opportunity to do this as there is ample of choice all within easy walking distance.
Milkbar Tomasza – It is small and you may be sat at a table with people you don’t know but go eat and enjoy. This place is delightful and the food the same. An Irishman’s upgrade of the classic Polish cafeteria, Tom – the owner and chef – has created a popular, foreign-friendly ‘Milk Bar‘ that offers tasty budget Polish food in clean, modern surroundings with a pleasant atmosphere. It was cheap too, like a lot of things in Poland you’ll find it costs half of what you would pay at home. It came to about £25 for the 4 of us to eat breakfast here and the portions were great.
Bagel Mama – Top breakfast spot for me, and just around the corner from our hotel. They have a huge range of fresh bagels with numerous fillings oh and also a breakfast burrito. The bagels are perfect and the fillings plenty so you know this is a good way to start the day. They also do great fresh orange juice, so be sure to grab yourself a glass.
Moment Resto – Not my favourite breakfast but nice none the less. It was the biggest omelet I had ever seen! Everyone else enjoyed theirs and the fresh lime and mint lemonade was perfect. It is a good spot in the middle of the Jewish Quarter and we went here to kill some time before bowling of all things. It did get to the point of not having much to do as I said and this was our last day, so I was getting a bit grouchy wanting to go home.
Gulliver Cafe & Restaurant – If you’re looking for a cute cafe for breakfast, this is your place. We had to wait 15 mins as the man who delivers the eggs was running late. We knew our food was fresh and the scrambled egg with bacon here was amazing. It is done with butter, which isn’t something I would normally do but woah they were good and they had a really nice fresh nutty bread that complimented the food. What I did find odd is the addition of salad to breakfast not just here but in a few places, not often I get scrambled egg with a garden salad but still.
Lunch, Dinner & Drinks
Scandale Royal – The food and drinks here surpassed my expectations, I had a gorgeous pesto gnocchi, the boys had burgers and mum a truffle and mushroom pasta. All perfectly cooked, very well priced and they did the best cocktails I had while in Krakow. I tried a few off their menu but the best had to be Stardust which you can see is rather fancy for 25 zloty essentially with the mini carafe you got 2 drinks for the price of one.
Manzana – We ate here on our last night and it was really good. We hopped across the river in an Uber as it was getting bitterly cold out and we arrived at a little restaurant hidden behind a residential road. A little slice of Mexico in the suburbs of Krakow. It was very hipster and a lot of Christmas parties and after work gatherings going on. The food was enormous and the fish tacos delicious and a bit of a welcome break from sausage and pierogi. The cocktails though were what did it for me, a large frozen strawberry margarita went down a treat and to be honest was the perfect way to end off our holiday.
Rzeznia Ribs on Fire – If you like ribs this place is for you, the rack that Jonny and my dad had were huge and not even the biggest on the menu. It was a last minute find and easy to walk too, again just in the Jewish Quarter. It looked relatively new and had a good vibe. Not the best food I had but nice and I would defiantly recommend, kind of like a TGI’s I guess.
Cargo – Hands down my favourite place for all round package of venue, food and drink of the holiday. It was so lovely inside, very well done up with an extensive cocktail menu i mean this gin tea above was rather delightful and the scallops I had for main were perfect. This was a little further out for us so we walked there but got an Uber back as at this point I had had to many cocktails and was done with being a bit chilly and damp due to a sudden downpour. I would defiantly put this on a must visit when there.
Christmas Market – If you want good food, I say go to the market. We tended to pop here for lunch as it was pretty central to most things. The sausage and potatoes with sauerkraut was super filling and tasty and I love watching them cook it all on the big pit. You have to try pierogi as it is a traditional polish dish and yummy, though my favourite was bread with garlic butter. It is normally with lard but the homemade butter topped with sausage and onion was the ultimate carb on carb experience but so worth it. If you’re looking for something sweet you should try the churros, with Nutella of course or one of the waffles with fresh strawberries.
Mercy Brown – A quirky speakeasy that you have to enter by going through a cloak room next to a restaurant. Very hard to find I must say so you could very easily miss it. This place was fun and all together a cool experience. We nearly didn’t get in as it was busy being a Saturdaynight, but you can’t book… so it is a bit of luck with getting in or not. Jonny had the most random concoction ever, consisting of vodka, soy sauce, and miso. To say he didn’t love it was a bit of an understatement. I however was content with a rose number and a gin one too, served up in a little Hendricks tea cup. This isn’t somewhere I could spend a whole night, nice for a few hours but I much preferred Scandale Royal.
Absynth – Ranked one of the best bars in town, for me this one was odd. I don’t like Absynth myself so stuck to a more simple G&T. Jonny went for it and, it was very strong though I guess you have to try it. This place is full of old miss matched furniture and has a weird feel to it as there were only a few of us in there. A better go too place in the summer I would assume as it to me did feel a bit dark and glum inside.
Singer – Just like the sewing machine infact you could sit on a table with one smack bang in the middle. A little pub filled with what could only be described as middle eastern music. An odd combination of cultures and styles here but it was cozy and friendly. No cocktails here I am afraid and only one option for gin. However ample of Vodka to pick from both known and Polish brands.
Eszweira – If you don’t like smoking, don’t go here if you don’t mind it make sure you do. You can smoke inside here so it does get a little cloudy or just like a pub here before the ban. We popped in for one and stayed here for 4 or 5 hours. It was lit by dim light and candles, full of miss matched furniture and people sat working on their laptops and both small and large groups of people. It had such a calm and open feel to it which made it easy for us to just sit back and chat for hours over many drinks. The music was great and it is very very cheap here so you can get their national beer for about £2 a pint.
Budda – Tucked behind a back street off the main Old Town square is this bar. It has two parts one was a bustling small bar where we couldn’t even get in the door. The other side was a more relaxed bar, it was large and one where you could have a chat at a nice level. The decor was something to be questioned as it was rather Karma Sutra focused but it gave us a few laughs. If you’re after a good cocktail they do them here, including frozen ones and it is open until late, so you can finish off an evening here easily.
Apart from all this, Krakow has ample of lovely coffee shops and beautiful streets to walk, the architecture and art is really beautiful. The walk to Wawel Castle was nice but on a whole the city is really accessible on foot. I am not to sure how much there is to do in the summer only having visited in winter but I think the night life, many street food truck parks and bars would be thriving and vibrant so no matter be it a summer escape or a winter break you’re after I would say Krakow is a good choice and very reasonable if your looking for a break that doesn’t actually break the bank.
Have you been to Krakow, do you have any top recommendations?