The fourth stop on our interrail journey, we had just 24 hours in Krakow. But trust me when I say I could have never left this charming little city.
Krakow was the first place we went that I was really excited for. And the city did not disappoint in the slightest.
Centered around Rynek Główny, the main square in Krakow, the place is full of old world charm and I absolutely fell in love with it.
We actually had a little longer than 24 hours in Krakow but decided to spend our first day visiting the nearby Auschwitz-Birkenau. There’ll be a post with my thoughts on the visit to come.
After the tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau I was left feeling very drained and rightly so. The whole day was incredibly emotional and harrowing. But I wasn’t prepared for how tired it left me.
So, first on the agenda once we were back in the city was finding food. We wanted good hearty food but were also craving something familiar. So, after a bit of googling, we headed to an Italian that had some very good reviews online.
And the reviews were spot on.
The restaurant was called Pino’s and had a perfect location just off of the main square. If you’re from the UK you’ll probably be familiar with Jamie’s Italians, Pino’s reminded me a lot of Jamie’s and had a very similar feel.
The food was just what we needed. I opted for a tomato and chorizo pasta while Mark had a classic margarita pizza. The pasta was delicious, packed full of fresh ingredients, and a lot cheaper than we were expecting. Main meals were around 30 zl each which is about £6.50!
After food, I decided it was time to try something a little more Polish. Vodka.
I’d read about this little vodka bar called Wodka where you can get a tasting board of different flavoured vodkas. As a long time vodka drinker, I can’t lie I was really excited for this one.
Wodka itself it’s quite small, with only about 20 seats downstairs, but that just adds to the feel of the place. It creates a very friendly vibe where it’s easy to talk to and meet new people, particularly after a couple of shots of vodka…
The vodka itself costs 40 zl (about £8.50) for 6 shots, and you get to pick whichever flavours you fancy. My personal favourites were the caramel and chocolate. I’m not usually a fan of creamy drinks but these were incredible.
Full and a little bit tipsy, it was time to head back to the hostel for a good nights sleep before a busy day of exploring…
After a quick breakfast at the hostel, we headed to our first stop of the day, Wawel Castle.
Sat atop Wawel Hill, with views over the Vistula River, the Castle is a must visit while you’re in Krakow.
You are able to pay to visit the inside of both the Castle and the Cathedral, as well as various other exhibitions and buildings on the hill. However, we chose to spend the morning wandering the castle grounds, taking in the views and just enjoying relaxing in the sun.
The castle grounds themselves are beautiful, covered in flowers and a wonderful place to watch the world go by.
While we were there we decided to stop for a drink in the cafe. The prices are about what you would expect for a tourist attraction, but we made sure to grab a seat outside so that we could take full advantage of the grounds and the view.
If you visit the Castle you can’t leave without heading down to see the Wawel Dragon. Legend has it that a dragon lived on top of Wawel Hill, terrorising the residents of Krakow. Until one day the King offered his daughter’s hand in marriage to anyone who could defeat it.
Nowadays there’s an iron sculpture of the dragon at the bottom of the hill. And if you wait around long enough you can see it breathe real fire. Just be prepared to fight off a lot of children if you want a photo with it…
After a lovely morning at the castle, next stop was the Jewish Quarter.
We took a slow wander in order to take in some more of Krakow’s sights including the very pretty Church on the Rock and a local honey market.
Once we reached the Jewish Quarter if I’m honest I was very underwhelmed.
We went to see where Schindler’s Factory was and took some time to take in the memorial at Hero’s Square, but I just didn’t get the impact I was hoping for.
My number one tip if you decide to visit Krakow is to do a walking tour of the Jewish Quarter. I massively regret not taking the time to do one. It would have definitely made a big difference having someone to explain more about what we saw.
Oh, and unless you decide to go inside the only thing to see at Schindler’s Factory is a plaque, which is honestly not worth it.
The next and final stop of the day was to head back to Rynek Główny to explore the square and surrounding old town.
Before reaching the old town itself we went for a little stroll through Planty Park. The park encircles the old town and is full of quirky sculptures and statues as well as the odd water fountain. It’s in the perfect place to just sit and people watch for a while.
First on the agenda when we reached the old town was some food. Wanting a quick bite to keep us going, we headed towards a little cafe called Cupcake Corner. I’d heard really good things about this place and it certainly lived up to expectations. The interior was cosy and modern with walls covered in kids (and big kids) drawings that only added to the charm of the place.
The cupcakes themselves were divine. I opted for a red velvet cupcake that cost a very reasonable 10 zl (about £2).
After the quick fuel stop, it was once again time for some wandering.
We spent some time exploring the little side streets surrounding the main square without really knowing what was there or where we were going.
My favourite spot that we came across was St Florian’s gate and the old defensive walls. The area around them was filled with artists displaying their work as well as street musicians playing underneath the gate tower. Creating this really lovely atmosphere and old world charm.
You could also pay to walk along the walls to get a birdseye view of the Old Town, as well as visit a museum to learn more about the history of the walls.
Once back at Rynek Główny we headed towards the square’s main focal point, the cloth hall. The cloth hall is still home to a range of stalls selling local products and souvenirs, and it’s definitely worth having a look.
One of the other main sites in the square is St Mary’s Basilica. I was absolutely gutted when I found out it was closed for restoration during our visit. Definitely visit the inside if you get a chance and then please come show me the pictures…
After a bit of wander around the square to take some pictures we headed to cafe szal. Don’t expect much from the cafe itself. Situated on a balcony at the top of the cloth hall, the service was incredibly slow and the drinks more expensive than most other places. That, however, did not bother me one bit.
The main reason you go to the cafe is for the incredible views over the square, and I could have spent all day sat up there watching the hustle and bustle of the square below.
The square was by far my favourite part of Krakow. Lined with cafes and restaurants nestled amongst the more historical buildings, constantly filled with people, horse and carriages everywhere you look, it was like nothing else I experienced in Europe.
Whether you choose cafe szal, another cafe or simply a bench in the square itself, make sure you take some time just to soak up the atmosphere of the place.
Also, try to be in the square as the clock strikes the hour. Every hour, on the hour, a bugle call is sounded from St Mary’s Basilica, a lovely tradition that would be sad to miss.
After all that, our day finished by heading off to the train station to catch our first night train…
All my love,