Pleasantly Surprised by Poland

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Poland was never particularly high on my list of places to visit but after learning more about what it has to offer, it was a no-brainer option. Highly recommend that you expand your horizons and visit the beautiful city of Krakow.

  • Where: Krakow, Poland
  • Month: October
  • For: 3 days
  • Suited to: Couples, close friends, small groups
  • Expect: Culture, Shopping, Good Food
  • Accommodations: 1
  • Activities: 4 inc. a Unesco World Heritage site
  • Restaurant recommendations: 3
  • Cost (accommodation): 500 zloty pp
  • Spending: 100 zloty/day pp (meals, entrance fees, shopping and vodka!)

Getting there

Poland is super easy to get to - just a two-hour flight out of London. I choose RyanAir since it had the most options however British Airways and EasyJet also do non-stop routes. Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines also offer flights with only one short layover stop.

Getting around

Most of the attractions will be centered around city center. For me, that was a short walk from my hotel. Excursions (with transport) to some of the out-of-town attractions can be booked online, at the city tours shops in town or at your hotel.

Krakow

A perfect weekend getaway, Krakow should be on your bucket list as it boasts beautiful architecture, great food and friendly people. Oh, and did I mention the vodka? They make it out of almost any and every kind of fruit - strawberries, cherries, apricots and plum. No worries if you’re not big on vodka (I wasn’t until I tried it), the hot chocolate is amazing as are the doughnuts. And if food isn’t really your thing (we can’t be friends - just kidding, kinda), there’s still plenty to do. Like the incredible cathedral and the Salt Mine.

Sleeping

Just a short walk from the Old City/Main Square, Hotel Puro is located right across a shopping center (pretty convenient if you’ve forgotten something). Although I didn’t try to breakfast, I can vouch for the coffee/hot chocolate service which is completely free for guest use. I also really liked the wine they served.

Tip: Great location with helpful staff. It’s only a 10-min walk to the main square where you’ll find loads of shopping and restaurant options.

What to do

Wawel Cathedral: This Roman-Catholic cathedral is 900-years old and is as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside. Famous Polish kings and Polish Saints are buried here...however don’t expect to see Pope John Paul II.

Tip: Visit close to closing time for short queues however do be sure to visit the bell-tower for amazing city views.

Wawel Dragon Statue: This dragon, located right at the foot of Wawel hill, is based off Polish mythology. According to the story, the Wawel Dragon demanded weekly offerings of cattle or threatened to eat the humans. The two sons of King Kafus eventually killed the dragon and this statue was raised as a reminder of the story.

Tip: It’s completely free to see and, if you’re lucky, you’ll see the dragon breath real fire. Make sure to have your cameras ready.

Auscwitz: A visit to Auschwitz is a must for those visiting Krakow. Only a one hour drive, I highly suggest you book a tour and see this concentration camp for yourself. You will learn about what took place there and see some of the artifacts. You are allowed to photograph most things although some are off limits. It’s an emotional and intense place to visit.

Auscwitz

Tip: Book an early morning tour. You’ll have to wake up before the sun rises but you’ll beat the crowds.

Wieliczka Salt Mine: Located in a town just outside of Krakow and one of the oldest salt mines in operation, the production of salt discontinued there in 2007. Since then, it has operated as a tourist attraction. Several hundred meters below ground, the Unesco World Heritage site now conducts tours which explain to tourists what mining life was life (unlike most, the miners of this salt mine went back home after their shifts) and how miners got the salt from the mine to above ground. It is simply beautiful to see. The mine attractions include a cathedral, where actual wedding ceremonies taken place, and a statue of Pope John Paul II. It was well worth the visit.

Tip: Make sure you wear comfortable shoes. The “Visitors tour” last about 2.5 hours and involves lots of walking and steps.

Eating

Starka: This Polish restaurant serves delicious and traditional Polish food. It’s so good that I overheard a group saying how they had dined there earlier in their trip and decided to come back because it was so yummy. The beef goulash is highly recommended as is the homemade vodka - flavours like cinnamon, mango, pear, mint and blueberry to name a few.

Tip: This delicious food makes this place very popular. Do be sure to book ahead.

Milkbar-Tomasza: This place got great reviews on apps like FourSquare for it’s menu of traditional Polish food. It’s located right off the Main Square and is full of locals (that’s how you know it’s good!). It’s a casual, seat-yourself spot. Service was quick. Lunch for two portions of Polish filled dumplings and two beers for about £15.

Tip: This place is popular so either be prepared to share a communal table or be patient and wait - trust me, it’s worth it.

Elebele

You cannot go to Krakow and not have a Zapiekanka. It’s an open faced baguette sandwich served with mushrooms, cheese and an assortment of other toppings. It’s traditional street food and Elebele does them amazingly. One zapiekanka will set you back between 5-10 zlotys. Try the original - mushrooms, cheese and ketchup.

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Questions? Feel free to ask me anything in the comments below!