Our location in Germany lets us travel to some pretty cool places during long weekends or one of our extended vacation times; but sometimes we like to just get away for a weekend to meet up with friends or family as they travel through our neck of the woods. This was the case when some of my family was meeting up for a fun-filled weekend in Krakow.
We booked a flight out of Nuremberg that left right after work and arrived late in Krakow on a Friday night. It didn’t take much research to realize Krakow has more than a weekend’s worth of sights and experiences, but we were determined to mix family time with travel time.
Krakow’s Top Five in Two Days or Less?
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On a short trip, location is everything. Often times, we like to be on the edge of the city but connected to public transportation where prices are a little lower and you can experience the feel of a neighborhood and get away from the tourists. But when we’re on a tight schedule like this weekend, being right in the heart of things is essential. Our hotel was a historic sight in its own right, with an archaeological museum displaying artifacts unearthed during the hotel’s construction. It was wonderfully comfortable and only two blocks off the main market square; the entire old town was at our doorstep.
Fun Thins to do on a Weekend in Krakow
Day trip out to Auschwitz-Birkenau
A visit to these concentration camps outside of the city is at the top of most Krakow lists. It offers a somber and chilling glimpse into a part of history that should not be forgotten. Trips can be arranged by most hotels or through a travel agent off the main square. If time is available, I recommend pre-booking a tour on line. You can visit the sites on your own but this is one place a tour comes in handy as it can get very crowded and difficult to navigate the ticketing process. Also, if you’re on a tight schedule, this will allow extra time after your visit to take in another site.
Whether you believe the old legends about a dragon living in a cave below Wawel hill or not, no one can argue that the Castle and Cathedral at the top of Wawel hill aren’t the main attractions of the city. You can visit the cathedral for free but a visit to the Castle will require a paid ticket. Both are well worth the time and cost if you have both, but this is also a great place to just wander around. You can visit the gardens and courtyards, stroll around the castle grounds, or just sit and relax on the castle walls looking out over the river and city, all without paying admission.
As soon as we found out we were going to be in Oskar Schindler’s hometown, where the famous life-saving factory existed, we were keen to visit. If you haven’t watched the movie “Schindler’s List,” do it soon. It’s a classic. As we arrived, the factory sports this photo gallery of the people whose lives were saved, which just makes you want to enter that much more quickly so that you can get the whole story. And the whole story is exactly what you get. The exhibits really describe what living in Krakow during World War II was like, from beginning to end. In fact, the story of Oskar Schindler and his proteges was smaller, and took less time than I had anticipated, but overall I felt this is one of those museums that everyone should visit.
Tour the Old Town
Start with a walk around Market Square, or Rynek Główny, and take in the splendor of this 13th century plaza, the largest medieval town square in Europe. If you plan it right, or are lucky, you’ll be treated to an outdoor market with traditional folk music, food and drink, and shopping–this was a truly festive locale during September. If you go in late November and December you’ll find a Christmas market with few rivals in all of Europe. After exploring the market, the Cloth Hall, and the old Town Hall head south on Grodzka street towards Wawel hill then continue wandering and losing yourself among the roads and alleys of Old Town Krakow. As you explore, be sure to keep an eye out for the different sculptures worked into the medieval facades. In olden times, buildings were known by the animals adorning the street front of the homes of the rich and famous.
Golf Cart Tours of Krakow
A new trend we’ve been seeing in tourist destination cities around the world is electric golf cart tours. These provide a cleaner, greener, more personalized tour option then the traditional minivan or bus. Happily, Krakow has embraced the concept full force. For a few zlotys you and your partner(s) can book an electric cart to zip you around to the main sights of the city all while sitting comfortably snugged up in a cozy blanket. The accompanying audio guide plays softly over the speaker in whichever language your group is most comfortable with. While this could be cold and impersonal, the guides/drivers of the cart are what really make it. While choosing a driver be sure to looking for someone who is friendly and personable and reasonably fluent in your language. You’ll find that if they can communicate, and you are open to a conversation, they will pour their life story out and give you an insight into the city that is not heard on the audio guide.
Where to Eat in Krakow
Krakow hosts plenty of great restaurants where you can get everything from local food to pizza and hamburgers, but of course no one can go without trying pierogies. We must have had a couple hundred while we were there; we just couldn’t get enough. We tried them boiled, baked, and fried. We tried large ones, small ones, ones covered in cheese. We loved them all.
Some of the restaurants we can recommend are:
ul. Westerplatte 15 / ul. Szewska 23
ul. Krowoderska 21
Krakow Places to Stay
We’ve stayed in many places in Krakow as we keep going back, and here are a couple of great places we can recommend:
Betmanowska Main Square Residence
ul. Rynek Glowny 44
Metropolitan Boutique Hotel
ul. Berka Joselewicza 19