This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)
Lesson learned from Krakow #1: Use Skyscanner to set up a price alert for Krakow. You can also download a smart app for your phone not to miss good deals. Bargains end quickly so make sure you’re ready to book and let these tools help you to save money!
|A view of the Wawel Castle|
Where to sleep in Krakow
The choice is upon you. The two best areas, where you can walk around at night in a romantic setting and where you’ll find plenty of restaurants and cafes are the Stare Miasto (Old Town Krakow) and Kazimierz (the Jewish quarter). If you find a good hotel offer in these two areas, go for it. Otherwise look for a rental in the Old Town, I fell in love with this area, it’s very romantic!
Lesson learned from Krakow #2: Set up your budget and check all of your options before to book online. Either a hotel, an apartment or just a room, make sure it’s in Kazimierz only if you don’t mind using public transport to get to the Old Town, or at the Stare Miasto, where you’ll make the most also out of a couple of days because everything is just a walk away.
|Krakow seen from the Sigismund Tower|
Things to do in Krakow
If you want to learn more about the legends, you can walk up to the Wawel Castle. Here you will find the Dragon’s Den. After buying your ticket from a coin-operated machine, you will have to descend 130 steps into the cave, then walk for less than 100m through its damp interior and emerge onto the bank of the Vistula, next to a fire-spitting bronze dragon. The Castle is also home to a Leonardo da Vinci‘s masterpiece, The Lady with an Ermine, stolen by the Nazis during World War II and returned by the Americans after the war in 1946. You will find it in the Armoury: for Wawel Castle you can buy either a ticket to see the whole palace, including the Crown Treasury and the Royal Private Apertments, or separate tickets only for the areas you are interested in. Either way it’s pretty cheap, at least for my standards (museum tickets in Italy are much more expensive). The downside is that unfortunately the Wawel Castle isn’t always open. While on their official website they state that there’s a limit to the tourists that can get in daily, we went up the hill early in the morning only to discover that the castle was closed for mainteinance: the website wasn’t updated and we couldn’t find any notice online. It was just closed. If you don’t have the best of luck, just like me, you can still stroll around the area and enjoy the Wawel Cathedral.
Lesson learned from Krakow #3: Always have a backup plan and try to be as flexible as you can with your schedule. If a museum is closed when you want to go, you will already know what to visit, to make the most out of your trip.
|The Royal Sigismund Bell|
With your ticket you will be also able to see the chapels and the burial chambers for Polish monarchs. We found a Bards’ Crypt containing the remains of Adam Mickiewics and Juliusz Slowacki, two Polish poets, along with a plaque commemorating Frederic Chopin.
When I saw the “Royal Sigismund Bell” sign inside the cathedral I decided to take some nice photos. Little did I know that to get to the huge bell you have to climb tiny, wooden stairs that crackle with every step. Because I am terrified of heights and I had to climb a lot, I can finally confess that I almost had a panic attack up there. Believe me, it was truly tiny and it didn’t feel safe at all! Unfortunately to climb down I had to climb all the way up and only then get the stairs that led me to safety. Note to self: why do you keep doing stupid and scary things like this?
Anyway, this bell is the largest of the five bells hanging in the Sigismund Tower. It weights almost 13 tonnes and requires 12 bell ringers to swing it. From up there, if you’re brave enough to climb the flimsy stairs, you will be able to take also some nice pictures of Krakow from above.
Lesson learned from Krakow #4: Souvenirs can be poorly made and a bit more expensive (of course prices in Krakow are still very low) if you buy them around the Rynek Glowny. In the Sukiennice they are slightly better quality but still touristy. Don’t be afraid to explore, have a walk in the smallest streets around the Old Town. I found cute and well made handycrafts that I brought home, paying less than I would have in the touristy area!
|St. Mary’s Basilica with its two different towers|
The Jewish heritage in Krakow
|Rynek Glowny is full of beautiful carriages that you can rent to see the city from a different perspective|
|Some shopping in Krakow Old Town|
|The Remah Cemetery in Kazimierz|
|The beautiful mural on the Bosakow building|
|The visit at the Schindler’s Factory can be a bit of shock|
Lesson learned from Krakow #5: This is a city that will leave its mark on you. No matter what. There are deep scars that still show and yet in stead than trying to hide them, the Polish carry on proudly, showing the world what happened, telling everyone to spread the word, because we can’t let that happen once again. Ours had to be a vacation, but we came back changed, after learning so many lessons. I’d do it again anytime and we already decided that we will get back to see more. Visit Krakow with an open mind and the knowledge that you are going to see a city with many faces, all of them fascinating: you won’t be able to resist its charms.