As you may have seen from my last ‘Today I’m wearing…‘ post, last week I was in Krakow and then Prague with Luke, and had a wonderful time. I thought I would document it here for those of you who are interested and/or may be thinking of visiting those two cities, which I would highly recommend. I will warn you now, this is a whopper of a post, so I have done a separate post about Prague, but I hope you will find it interesting and/or useful! I would really recommend both of these cities, as not only are they beautiful, but they are extremely affordable compared to cities like London where I live.
Day 1 – Krakow city centre
First up was Krakow, which is a lovely Polish city with lots of history and culture. We stayed in the Holiday Inn Krakow City Centre, which is allegedly 5* although I think it’s more 4*. Don’t get me wrong, it was really nice, just not quite as nice as I would expect for 5*. Saying that, it wasn’t very expensive (I think around £360 for three nights – which split between the two of us was pretty reasonable) and it was in a great central location, so I would definitely recommend it. We had a big room with lots of space, and it was very clean.
Our first afternoon in Krakow (we arrived at the airport at around midday and it was about a 30 minute taxi journey, although I think you can get a bus to the city centre from the airport) was spent wondering around the main market square, Rynek Główny, in the Old Town of Krakow. We had a look in the Cloth Hall (left), which is a lovely old Renaissance style building and the central part of the main market square.
In there are hundreds of craft stalls selling various trinkets – I got a couple of really cute Christmas decorations as it’s a bit of a tradition for me to buy them from each foreign city I visit and to give one to my Mum. We also had lunch in a really nice restaurant called Szara (below), which is on the main market square.
There are at least two of these restaurants, one is also in the lovely Jewish district of Kazimierz (more on that later). Luke had an amazing steak dish and I had a lovely refreshing salad with prawns, salmon and avocado. We then wondered over to the House of Beer as Luke loves his beer. I’m not really a beer drinker (I love me wine!), but if there are the sweeter/less bitter beers available then I’ll have one of those. House of Beer was really good, quite a trendy little bar with very knowledgeable staff and loads of bottled beer options.
We had dinner at an AMAZING restaurant called Cyrano de Bergerac. It is just the most charming, romantic restaurant with exposed brickwork and candles everywhere, and these rambling old wooden staircases. It was probably the best meal we had (and we had some lovely meals) and they have Luke’s favourite Bulgarian red wine which we have not seen at any other restaurants before. Highly recommend this place, and it wasn’t too expensive considering the quality.
Day 2 – Krakow and Auschwitz
Our second day was a much more sombre affair as we headed to the Auschwitz concentration camp, which is about an hour’s drive from Krakow. I won’t go into too much detail or post any pictures here, but if anyone wants to know more about it, feel free to contact me. It is very emotional and I understand that a lot of people wouldn’t want to see it, but for me I think it’s hugely important that we never forget about that tragic part of our history, and by visiting the sites it does put into perspective just how horrific it was. We booked our tickets online as if you buy tickets when you arrive, it’s subject to availability – and being August when we visited, it was hugely busy. We did a 6-hour ‘study tour’ which, from what I gather, is more in-depth than the 3-hour tours. Visiting the Auschwitz concentration camp is free, but if you want to have a guide talk through everything, which I would highly recommend, then you need to pay for tickets. They aren’t expensive at all – for 6 hours Luke and I paid about £12 each which is nothing for the amount of time and in-depth information you get. We got the bus from the main (train and bus) station in Krakow, Dworzek Glowny, to Oswiecim, which I think is the name of the area around the camp, and it took just over an hour. I would warn you that if you are thinking of getting the bus, the first one of the day which we took departed at 7:10 am and it was a tiny mini bus. We had to stand the whole way as we arrived about 5 minutes before departure and it was already full. This was not a good start to the day, so I recommend getting there at least 15 minutes before departure. You can also get the train but the station in Oswiecim is about 1km walk from the camp; or you can get a taxi but this can get quite expensive as the taxi drivers will often wait for you and take you back to Krakow.
Dinner that night was a bit subdued due to us being emotionally and physically shattered – 6 hours of walking around concentration camps in the midday sun can do that to you! We did eat in a nice restaurant though called Destino which does Mediterranean food.
Day 3 – Wawel Castle and the Jewish district
We started our third day in Krakow with breakfast at Café Europejska on the main market square, which was great for people watching and had a lot of really good breakfast options. I had croissants with lots of different condiments and Luke had a variation on a cooked breakfast.
We then made our way to Wawel Castle, (above right) which is really beautiful and very impressive . There are lots of different parts of the castle you can visit, which each have their own separate ticket so it did get a bit confusing in the ticket queue as the types and prices weren’t prominently displayed; and it took us an hour to get to the front of a very short queue. Anyway, gripes aside, it really is beautiful but I would suggest getting there in the morning as we went at lunchtime, which I think contributed to the long queuing time.
In the afternoon we went to the lovely Jewish district of Kazimierz. It’s a really charming place with lots of bars and restaurants, many of which do traditional Jewish Polish food. We went to a great teahouse which has tea from all over Asia and hookah which is always fun, called Czajownia. I can’t find a website but here is a good review. We sampled several of the bars in Kazimierz, namely Opium and Atelier – the latter of which was very trendy and a really nice place to have a drink. We ate in a really nice restaurant in the evening, which I think was called Miodowa but I can’t find any references to it so not sure if that was its name. I had my first pierogi which are dumplings of unleavened dough with various stuffings – we had potoato and cottage cheese stuffing, which were TO DIE FOR.
Day 4 – Podgórze
On our fourth and last day in Krakow (*sob*), we had a hearty (but slightly strange) breakfast and then walked to the district of Podgórze and went to Schindler’s Factory. It was well worth a visit and is free on Mondays which was an added bonus. It’s deceptively large and sort of rambling but it was really informative not only about Oskar Schindler, but also about how the World War II affected the people of Krakow and the emergence of the ghetto in Krakow.
Next we stopped off at a really cute little wine shop called Krako Slow Wines just down the road from the Factory, where I had an amazing ‘Armenian lemonade’ which I think if I remember correctly, had some tarragon in it and pomegranate seeds. We then walked back into Kazimierz and had a late pizza and pasta lunch at Fabryka Pizzy. Then it was back to our hotel to pack our stuff for the sleeper train to Prague, and a late (very small) dinner due to our late lunch, at a medieval themed restaurant called Pod Aniolami where we had some more yummy pierogi and then picked up our suitcases and got the sleeper train to Prague. The train was a bit of a novelty at first – having a little two-bed cabin to ourselves with bunk beds was pretty cute and cosy, but when we tried to get to sleep it soon lost it’s charm! However, it is still an efficient and relatively affordable way to get from Krakow to Prague.