Day Trip from Krakow
Take a day trip from Kraków to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, the former German Nazi concentration and extermination camp. Everyone experiences Auschwitz differently, and everyone walks away changed. It is free to visit the grounds of both Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau after 3:00PM (15:00 hours), but I strongly recommend taking a guided tour. The tour is educational, depressing, maddening, and frankly, necessary. By walking around solo, you miss the educational aspect and personal stories that the guides share. I know of two options for booking a guided tour:
- Reserve a ticket through the museum’s website far in advance of your visit. You will be responsible for your own transportation from Kraków to Oświęcim, the town where Auschwitz is located.
- Book through an organized tour company, which will transport you from Kraków to Oświęcim and arrange the guided tour at Auschwitz.
I recommend the second option because it requires the least effort while also being affordable. All you need to do is arrive at the pick-up location in Kraków, and the tour company organizes the rest. I suggest booking the “basic ticket” with Escape to Poland, as the tour was a small group of about 15 people. The tour of Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau lasts 3.5 hours in total, and transport is one hour each way. The company also plays a documentary about the Holocaust and World War II on the way to Auschwitz. It is a powerful experience.
What to do in Krakow
Spend some time in the Kazimierz neighborhood, which is the former Jewish district. It is now a trendy neighborhood filled with cool cafes and hopping bars. Check out Singer and Alchemia – both awesome places to grab a drink.
Visit the Galicia Jewish Museum while in the neighborhood. It is unique in that it shares stories, through photography, of Jewish Poles throughout World War II and the Holocaust. Grab a cup of coffee from the museum’s cafe before wandering through the exhibits. There’s wifi in the cafe, too!
Main Market Square
It is nearly impossible to visit Kraków and not stumble into the Main Market Square (Rynek Główny in Polish), one of the largest squares in Europe. It is the perfect spot for a cup of coffee or glass of wine. You may just stumble upon a festival or event in the square – like we did (twice).
The Town Hall tower sits in the middle of the Main Market Square. It can be climbed for a small admission fee. And it offers views over the city!
From the square, you will see St Mary’s Church. Every hour on the hour, a trumpeter appears in the church’s tower to play a melody (called a hejnał). The melody ends abruptly, honoring a former trumpeter who was killed by an arrow from afar in the 13th century (so the legend says). While unlikely a true story, it is neat to watch the trumpeter and hear the melody, which was traditionally used as a warning call.
Wander through the Wawel Castle grounds. Be sure to walk through the church, which is free to enter. If the weather is nice, it’s a great place for a picnic or nap. Wawel Castle is also a great thing to do in Kraków with kids!
Must try food/drink
Pierogi … for every dang meal. You can bake it, fry it, boil it, steam it. The types of fillings are endless. There are pierogi with beef, pierogi with cheese, pierogi with potatoes, pierogi with fried onions, pierogi with spinach and mushrooms. (Writer’s note: Reread this in Bubba’s voice from Forrest Gump.)
Travel Tips for Krakow
Similar to traveling to nearby Prague, Kraków is extremely affordable and just as charming as other popular European destinations (such as Florence, Berlin and Amsterdam). Even better, there are so many free things to do in Kraków. Wandering through the Kazimierz neighborhood, Wawel Castle, Jagiellonian University (the local university), and along the Vistula River is not only fun, but it’s also free!
When creating your travel itinerary, I recommend spending at least three days in Kraków and then venture to other Polish cities, such as Warsaw, Poznan and Wrocław. The public transportation in the county and region is fantastic! Check out transportation options and schedules on booking sites, such as OMIO and RailEurope.
A two-bedroom, one-bathroom Airbnb apartment about a 10-minute walk from the Main Market Square and a 15-minute walk from Kazimierz.
There you go! I hope this Kraków travel blog post gives you an idea of what to do in the city!
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Other resources and travel guides you may enjoy:
- A Minimalist Packing List for Europe
- Two Week European Itinerary via Train
- Five Easy Ways to Save Money, Spend Less and Travel More
- A Three Month Itinerary to Europe
- How to Choose the Perfect Hostel for You
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