Flying into Poland, I had no idea what to expect. I figured it’d be old towns, maybe a few churches and castles, a lot of history, and probably cold weather. Within a few hours of being in Krakow, I realised that I had totally underestimated everything.
It’s such a cool city – it’s bustling and has this cool energetic vibe I didn’t expect. While the Old Town and Jewish Quarter are cobblestoned and full of old buildings, some of the surrounding areas are super modern. I only had three days there so didn’t get to explore every nook and cranny of the city, but here’s what I can recommend.
Things To Do:
Take a free walking tour. There are quite a few that explore different parts of the city, but the Old Town Walking Tour is the best place to start. I love doing a tour on my first day to just orient myself in a city, and to find places that I want to come back to.
Hang out in the main square. On a sunny day, it’s nice to just sit and chill and people watch. The cafes that line the square are hella overpriced, so grab a takeaway coffee and a 2pln bagel from one of the sellers dotted around the square and sit in the sun. It can get crowded and touristy on weekends but it’s still lovely to just chill there. Pro tip: Get there before 8am, especially on a Sunday, if you want the square to yourself! It’s how those Insta influencers get their pics with no one in the background.
Chill out by the river. European towns bloody love a good river. The one in Krakow is wide, and runs right by the Old Town and Wawel Castle. I was lucky to be there on a warm sunny day, and it was so nice to chill out by the water with a drink and a book. It was one of the first sunny days of spring, and there were so many other people around who had the same idea. It had such a nice vibe.
Catch the sunset from Wawel Castle. I went up to the castle on the walking tour, and learned all about the history. But then I went back around sunset to get a beautiful view over the river and the city.
Explore the Jewish Quarter. There’s a walking tour that will take you around and give you the history of the area, but it’s also a cool neighbourhood to just explore. I stumbled across two separate food truck parks, as well as some great bars and cafes. The architecture here is really beautiful if you’re into that!
Food and Drink
My hostel provided free breakfast and dinner, so I admittedly didn’t dine out much in Krakow! If you’re not as lucky as me, here is a guide to Polish food you should definitely try while you’re there. I did go to a few places in Krakow:
Przypiecek If you want dumplings aka pierogies, this is the place to come. I think it might be a little touristy due to its location, but the menu is all in Polish and the prices aren’t too high. Come with a friend, because the minimum order you can get is 10 for 14pln (approx $5AUD).
Hamsa This restaurant in the Jewish Quarter is a little pricier than some of its neighbours, but still cheap by Australian standards. Plus they’ve got a great courtyard to sit in. I just went for a coffee (then a cider), but their menu looked so damn good. It’s on my list of places to go back to.
Zapiecek. Królik J. This is just a little unassuming cafe on a side street in the Old Town with giant and really cheap sandwiches. I think they do pierogies as well, but the sandwiches are where it’s at. The perfect place for an afternoon pit-stop.
Chłopskie Jadło I didn’t actually get to go here, but my Polish friend recommended it to me as a good dinner spot with authentic food.
Vegab Cheap vegan kebabs and hot dogs. Need I say more?
Where to stay
I stayed at a hostel called Greg and Tom. They have a few around the city, one’s a party hostel, one has live music, and one is more chilled out to feel “like home”. I stayed at the latter, and it was perfect. Just outside the old town, they have free breakfast and dinner every day. Plus they have free vodka shots every night, which was a great way to hang out and get to know the other people in the hostel.