I reached Kraków at about 10 o’clock Saturday morning. The train from Poznan was smooth and I actually got some decent sleep. After this experience, I planned to use the overnight train technique again to save some precious time on my trip. I reached my hostel relatively easy and did some quick research about the city before heading out. I always find a city more interesting when I know a little about its attractions.
Here’s a little more information about Kraków. . .
Kraków is the second largest city in Poland and one of the country’s oldest; dating back to the 7th Century. Being Poland’s most important city to education, culture, and artistic life, it has also built its way to one of the most important cities to the Polish economy.
Officially, the city only has 760,000 residents within Kraków’s city lines, however, there are an additional 8 million people living within 60 miles of Kraków’s Main Square which is quite astonishing. The square itself is the largest medieval market square in Europe. In 2000, Kraków was named the European Capital of Culture.
First Impression. . .
The first place I headed was the Main Square, or Old Town, as it is referred to. Right away, I noticed the insane amount of tourists out in Old Town on this beautiful weekend afternoon. The square was overcrowded and it lacked a personal touch. The atmosphere was loud and felt very commercialized. The busy scene was kind of the theme for the day which bummed me out a little. Kraków is a beautiful city, however.
As I walked through the outdoor marketplace, Cloth Hall, the centerpiece of Old Town, I noticed only women working in the markets – I noticed the same thing in Sofia, Bulgaria. Being that these were my first two tastes of East Europe, I wondered if low-level jobs for women were common in the rest of Eastern Europe. Regardless, it was definitely noticeable in Kraków.
I did some people watching in the square for a solid hour before moving on as this seemed to be the only good to come of a crowded market square. There were insane street performers around Kraków that Saturday which requires at least some of your time no matter how crunched for time your trip is.
I hopped around from attraction to attraction trying to find the least crowded areas to take in the sights real quickly, because, again, I wasn’t too interested in the touristy side of Kraków (especially because of the overcrowded streets). Plus, knowing that it was named the Culture Captial of Europe, why wouldn’t I want to spend more time taking in the authentic culture that you can’t find at the tourist attractions?
Cheap attractions are irresistible in Krakow
I went to St. Mary’s Basilica, Bugle Tower, and the Cloth Hall all in the main square. One of the best parts of Kraków is being able to see all the attractions while maintaining your budget. Kraków is very good about keeping its attractions reasonable priced.
After taking a quick breather back at the hostel hoping that I’d meet someone new to hang out with during the night, I headed back to the main square and climbed Bugle Tower because you need to sign-up for a time slot to go up it. The view of the square was nice, but again, they let far too many people climb the tower at once and you get very little time in prime viewing areas by the time your time slot has ended and you have to return downstairs. You can pay a minimal fee to climb the History Museum Tower too, but this view is even worse and not worth the time. Both were let-downs, but it was so inexpensive to do each, it is almost impossible to regret them.
I wandered my way around the city in the evening. I was trying to find something unique and more alternative in Kraków. It turns out I ran right into another one of its popular attractions, the Wawel Royal Castle and Cathedral. I have to admit, even if it was touristic, it was really cool and I spent most the evening there until the sun went down. Wawel was easily my favorite part of Kraków and it was a nice way to end an evening of sight-seeing.
Time for an escape
I was only in Kraków for 24 hours, but I felt I needed to come back during the down season so that I could enjoy it how I wanted to. With all the congestion of the big cities the past two weeks, I was ready to escape into the Tatras Mountains.
– Bagel type snack found everywhere in Kraków (could substitute a meal) – $0.40
– St. Mary’s Basilica Entry – $1.30
– Average hostel price – $7/night includes free breakfast
– History Museum – $2.20
– Bugle Tower Entry – $3.80
– Zapiekanka (Polish pizza) – $1.80
– Average lunch in restaurant – $4-6
(No need for public transport in Kraków)
Other Attractions, Bars, and Restaurants. . .
– Wieliczka Salt Mine
– Auschwitz Camp (do the shorter tour, not the longest one if you opt for a tour)
– Galicia Jewish Museum
– Tatras Mountains (two hours away – good day trip)
– Zakopane (also two hours away)
– Dong-A (Vietnamese restaurant)
– Pijalnia – bar is always busy, three of them in Krakow, open 24/7
– Cybermachina – arcade/video game bar