Weather: ❄ + 🌞
Novelty factor: 🍻 + ⛪
Last weekend, accompanied by my best friend and long surviving travel companion Ryan, I visited the Polish city of Kraków. As soon as we landed on the runway, we were smitten. This is rather unheard of as airport runways are underwhelming at best, but there was something about the deep orange and chestnut coloured leaves surrounding the airport, that made us realise we had greatly underestimated the beauty of this country.
We had no idea what to expect from our £10 a night digs in the city centre, but we were pleasantly surprised. We stayed at Greg & Tom Hostel (Greg & Tom Hostel) which is located on Pawia Street, directly opposite the Galeria Krakówska shopping mall and a mere three or four minute walk from the Main Square. The city’s main station, Kraków Główny, is adjacent to the Galeria, making the hostel’s location super accessible and pretty much as central as it gets. This wasn’t the only perk of staying at Greg & Tom’s. We were told on arrival that breakfast and dinner were both included in the pre-paid price. ALSO, should we want to stay for dinner, complimentary beers and shots were on the house too. This was our first indication of just how cheap and cheerful Kraków is. I would hiiiiighly recommend this place if you are a sociable person who is up for getting stuck into some drinking games and meeting new people from all over. I would particularly recommend if you are travelling solo, as everyone is super friendly and the dorm set up is akin to uni halls. Check them out here: Greg & Tom Hostel on Trip Advisor
We got stuck in immediately, dumping our bags and heading off to the Main Market Square, keen to immerse ourselves in as much Polish culture as our five days would allow. Despite warnings of cold weather by those who had previously visited, we were blessed with clear skies and sunshine on our first day. The uncharacteristically warm weather was so nice that we were able to set ourselves up alfresco style, slap bang in the middle of the square, accompanied by a cheeseboard and obligatory bottle of ‘holiday’ Prosecco. After gorging ourselves on a shamefully un-Polish lunch, we ventured out into the streets of Kraków.
Ryan in particular has a habit of drawing comparisons between cities we’ve visited, he is quick but fair in his judgements, but we both quickly agreed that this city was incomparable. The quaint, cobbled streets and old, medieval looking homes and churches were totally unique; we loved the authenticity of every old building. We also both noted that the city was noticeably quiet and calm – even on the Wednesday we were there, despite it being Polish Independence Day!
Having said this, Kraków certainly has plenty to offer in terms of evening entertainment. Around the Main Square and down the side streets surrounding it are a scattering of jazz bars, the staple Hard Rock cafe and heaps of bars hidden away underground. I cannot stress how affordable Poland is. Not only is Kraków aesthetically pleasing, but it is also pleasing to your pocket. Most evenings we would eat out in the most expensive part of the city (the Square) order a main meal, a dessert and a couple of drinks for just 50/60PLN. This is the equivalent of about £12! If you are willing and able to venture out slightly further, eating and drinking is (somehow?!) even cheaper.
I think we can safely say this was the most active we have been on any of our trips. Over the course of four and a half days we did the following…
- Sampled Polish delicacies (pierogis, kotlet schabowy and an array of various Polish beers and wódkas)
- Visited Auschwitz – although obviously upsetting and unpleasant this is something I insist every visitor should make time for.
*Note: make sure you explore your options, we were initially going to pay 130PLN (£21) for a tour which we eventually realised would only cost us 78PLN (£13)*
- Mooched around the colourful Kazmirez, formally known as the Jewish Quarter, but now more recognised for being the hub for the Polish hipster crowd
- Bought goodies from the majestic Main Market Square Cloth Hall, one of the world’s oldest shopping malls, historically built as a market for textile trade.
- Succumbed to tourist touting and entered the Mirror Labyrinth of Kraków (Lustrzany Labirynt) somewhere I wouldn’t recommend for anyone harbouring symptoms of claustrophobia
- Partied underground with salsa dancing, vodka-shot-slinging Poles
- Immersed ourselves in the Kraków jazz scene
- Visited the amazing St Mary’s Basilica
- Browsed various street markets, Ryan even sampled a pint of hot Polish beer…
(I hasten to add, all of the above amounted to holiday expenditure of just £200…)