Krakow Made the Top of My List

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Let’s clear one thing up: if you ask me my favorite place, I will shoot you a dirty look.  It’s an impossible question for someone who loves to travel.  Do you want to know my favorite beach or my favorite big city?  My favorite American small town or my favorite country to eat?

But if there was one thing I was certain about, I knew my favorite place in Europe was Slovenia.  I’ll shut up about it now because I’ve already talked your ear off about what a fabulous country it is.

If you missed it, you can always go back and read about Slovenia in my archives (opens in new window).  Just be careful: wanderlust is a real disease.

Then I went to Poland and fell in love with Krakow.  Now Krakow is my #1 in Europe.

8 Reasons I

8 Reasons I Love Krakow

It’s a Real City that Feels Like a Small Town

I tend to prefer small towns compared to metropolises.  Krakow isn’t huge by any stretch, but it’s big enough to offer great restaurants (in a variety of cuisines), nightlife, a range of entertainment, and special events.  As a traveler, that’s something I very much appreciate.

rynek acrobats krakow
A FREE concert in Krakow, including live music and aerial acrobats.

On the other hand, it’s not so big that you’ll get lost, spend hours commuting from one side of the city, or feel like you’ve disappeared into a crowd.  Stay long enough and you’ll start recognizing people — we did.

Krakow Feels Foreign

I’ve traveled to 14 European countries and all of them have their own personalities.  After awhile, though, all of western Europe feels…well…western.  Because Poland is just far enough east, it has more of a foreign twist to it.

Yes, I know I need to travel through countries like Romania, Ukraine, and Russia — but until I get that chance, Krakow was a great destination.

It’s (Relatively) Easy to Visit Krakow

So unlike some other Eastern European countries (and even elsewhere in Poland), it’s pretty easy to travel to Krakow.  Their airport has lots of connections throughout Europe, many people speak English, and there are enough hotels, restaurants, and tour operators to make your trip straightforward.

There are definitely quirks to Krakow and it’s not as organized as Germany or Switzerland, but it also won’t leave you with major frustrations.

There is a LOT to See and Do

We spent six nights in Krakow and still didn’t see everything.  That’s something I’d expect to say in London or Paris, but not Krakow.  Want to see churches or castles?  They’ve got those.  World-class museums?  Schindler’s Factory was one of the best I’ve ever been to.  Outdoor activities like biking and boating?  Check!

Add in day trips, like those to Wieliczka salt mine or Auschwitz, and you’ll understand why you need to stay awhile.

Inside Wieliczka Salt Mine (and Cathedral)
Inside Wieliczka Salt Mine (and Cathedral)

Krakovians Welcome Visitors

As long as you’re not there for a bachelor(ette) party, the locals welcome tourists.  They genuinely want you to love their city, spend money, and spread the word about what a wonderful country it is.  Over and over, people welcomed us and went out of their way to share information and great hospitality.  In return, we did our best to be good ambassadors of American and travelers in general and took the time to embrace their culture.

If you want to meet some of the locals, I recommend hanging out in the Kazimierz district instead of Old Town.  That’s the prior Jewish quarter, but today’s it’s revived with restaurants, bars, coffeehouses, and everything else that attracts locals.

Krakow is Beautiful

The city still has a lot of historic sites, despite the rest of the country taking a severe hit during World War II.  The main square, or rynek, is a gorgeous open space surrounded by centuries-old restaurants, churches, and other remarkable buildings.

Head just out of the main square, and you’ll see Wawel Castle perched on a hill and the Vistula River winding through the city.  There are green spaces and most of the city is clean and cared for.

Wawel_Castle_Flowers_email_0480

Krakow is Built for Walkers

It’s a good thing, too, because public transportation is either lacking or difficult to figure out, depending on exactly where you are.

Walking through Old Town Krakow
Walking through Old Town Krakow

There are lots of walking paths and wide sidewalks and the vast majority of the city is reachable by foot in thirty minutes or less.  You can rent a bike, too, but the streets are just busy enough that I’d personally find it annoying.

Krakow is Cheap

Where else in Europe can you get a hotel room for $50/night, eat dinner for less than $10 per person, or buy a drink for just $1?  That’s not using tricks like Airbnb, street food, or buying a six-pack from the grocery store.  You can find those prices without searching or expending much effort.

krakow restaurant
We splurged on my birthday dinner in Krakow: 3 courses for me (Mike had 4!) and a bottle of wine for $75.

Yes, it’s possible in other places, but it’s rare in a city that’s as developed as Krakow.  And that’s what makes it such extraordinary value.  Not only are prices low, but you’re also very comfortable

He Said / She Said

My husband says Krakow is the best trip we ever took and that Krakow is his favorite city in the world.

Krakow is my favorite city in Europe, without a doubt.  I just can’t commit to the whole world.

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What do you think?

Share your favorite European city in the comments!

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7 thoughts on “Krakow Made the Top of My List”

  1. My husband and I went to Warsaw and Krakow in June 2005, a bit before it became a real tourist mecca. We spent 5 days in Krakow and absolutely loved it. Finished the trip by sitting on the banks of the Vistula River with thousands of locals for the Wianki summer solstice festival. The Schindler factory museum wasn’t open back then, but we wandered through the Ghetto, saw some of the smaller museums and walked down to the Plasow detention camp. We also visited the salt mine, took a Trabant tour to the old communist community and Nowa Huta, visited Jagieollonian University (saw Copernicus’ orginial manuscript on the solar system). Loved it.

    BTW, My heritage is Slovenian and we visited Slovenia (sadly only Ljubljana and Lake Bled) back in May 2006 before heading to Croatia.

    Want to see more of Poland – Wroclaw and Torun were recommended to me by a young Polish server when I was on a cruise – she inspired me to get to Warsaw and Krakow in the first place, and convince my husband (Mr. Reluctant Traveler) that he would enjoy it – and he did!

    Have you seen Ric Garrido’s Loyalty Traveler posts on Krakow recently? He was loving it, too!

    1. @Marilyn, Thanks for such a great recap! Sounds like we covered a lot of the same ground but I’ll have to make sure Jagieollonian University is in my return trip plans. I want to see more of Poland, too. My parents have been to a bunch of other Polish cities, but I’m still a novice!

  2. Well, I welcome a post about their suggestions on places to visit. And then, a post on your trip report after you and Mike have checked them all out!!!

    Not such a bad idea, right? 🙂

  3. I loved my time in Poland and I definitely plan on going back to explore more of the country next summer. Unfortunately, my computer died in Krakow, which ruined my time there. I loved Warsaw. And, can we talk about Polish food?! YUM!

    1. @Katelyn, I love Polish food too! What did you love about Warsaw? I ran out of time on this trip but I know I’ll be back in Poland. Should I check it out?

  4. Poland is so high on my list, Krakow especially! I also want to go to Gdansk. I have two weeks of vacation this school year and I’m thinking I might spend a good chunk of it in Poland… (being based in Kiev has certin perks!)

    1. @Amy, I want to go to Gdansk also. I think my next trip might be a return to Krakow (because I loved it so much) but new visits to Wroclaw & Gdansk for something different. From Kiev, it sounds easy!

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