I stayed in Kraków for the whole month of July, 2015 for Jagiellonian University’s Summer School of Polish Language and Culture, then moved to Warsaw for the fall semester. My friends and I recently got back from visiting Poland over spring break (jokes, it’s definitely not a spring break destination, but it did feel like summer in Kraków!), and it reminded me how much I freaking love Poland. Which is a lot a lot.
If you’re heading to Kraków anytime soon, here’s a whole LIST of recommendations for you (which is also in Google Map form, with my own comments for each location as well!):
1) Do some free walking tours! They have the yellow umbrellas that say “Free Walkative Tour” on them, any and all of the tours and tour guides are great, especially if you get “Big Tom.”
2) Go to a milk bar (bar mleczny)! They serve really cheap and tasty Polish food lunch-room style. There are plenty of them off of the main square.
3) If would recommend going to the Wieliczka salt mines if you have time—it’s a UNESCO world heritage sight, you can lick the walls and everything #wildtimes.
4) Tour Auschwitz-Birkenau. You should dedicate an entire day to go. See the memorials, hear the camp’s history, and learn about those who survived and those who didn’t. This really should be on your itinerary if it hasn’t already been added. Also, there are tour companies that do Auschwitz-Birkenau and Wieliczka in one day if you’re interested.
5) If you have a kitchen, stop at a grocery store like Biedronka and get a whole kilo of pierogi for about $1, then boil and eat them at home. Don’t forget to pick up the special pierogi sauce, Przyprawa (basically like soy sauce but different) while you’re at it! Also try the sweet pierogi that are filled with blueberry or strawberry and cheese—they’re heavenly.
6) Poland has its own version of crêpes, called naleśniki. Go to a naleśnikarnia and get sweet or savory filled naleśniki, or both. Normally there’s an overwhelming amount of options, so good luck choosing!
7) Eat some ZAPIEKANKI. In Kazimierz there’s a little outdoor market area that serves the BEST zapiekanki (starred in my Google map), which are basically long pizzas served on an open face baguette topped with mushrooms and cheese. You have to say YES to ketchup or choose a different sauce, but ketchup is the best.
8) Visit the underground museum of Kraków’s main square! It’s supposed to be really cool because the level of the ground itself has been raised a lot in the past few hundred years, and they recently did a huge archaeological excavation within the last 10 or 20 years to uncover everything. Tickets are about 20 PLN/person (5 euro), and this would be a great place to visit if you need a break from the summer heat. (Also apparently “Big Tom” from the free walking tours gives tours here as well! If you get him as a guide YOU’RE SO LUCKY.)
9) Get fresh hot pączki (the Polish donuts everyone eats on Fat Tuesday) at this one place right off the town square. It’s like 3.50 PLN per pączek which is less than a euro… eat your heart out, friends.
10) If you like Israeli food, Hamsa is in the main square in Kazimierz and it literally says “hummus and happiness” on the outside so idrk what else anyone else would want besides that.
11) Right next to Hamsa is a really old historical synagogue with a cemetery that you pay 5 or 10 PLN to enter. It’s a great experience and well worth the few złotych. The gravestones that were destroyed in WWII were saved and used to build the decorative wall around the cemetery, which is also home to the tombstone of the famous Rabbi Remuh.
12) If you want more of a fine dining experience, there’s a Polish Italian restaurant called Miód Malina (“honey raspberry”) that serves delicious food. This is a place you’d probably need to make a reservation at.
13) There’s a Polish chocolate brand that has its own chain of exclusively chocolate restaurants/lounges called E. Wedel, so THAT’S FUN! It has locations throughout Poland, and any other big cities you might be in also have at least one location.
14) Step into a cukiernia (basically a cake shop—not like a piekarnia, which is a bread bakery) and get a bunch of different kinds of desserts and cakes to try! There are plenty of individual ones, or chains like Awiteks, which is a piekarnia and cukiernia in one.
15) The alcohol in Poland is SO cheap and so smooth. We’re talking $5 per big bottle cheap. My recommendations for vodka are Żubrówka (szhuh-brew-vka), with bison grass inside the bottle, and Soplica (soh-pleets-uh), which comes in lots of flavors without tasting like straight sugar. And if you’re bold and daring, try Spirytus, which is 190 proof. 🙂
16) I think Kraków has the best kebab! Pronto Pizza and Grill is my favorite place, but there are plenty of other kebab places you can go to as well.
17) There’s a traditional Polish restaurant called Zapiecek that serves tons of different kinds of pierogi and other traditional Polish foods. It’s a chain so it’s a bit more expensive. I recommend going back to #4 and getting pierogi from a grocery store and eating them at home if you can!
18) Collegium Maius is a cool little museum that’s part of Jagiellonian University. It’s quaint and pretty unique, and is probably one of my favorite museums that I’ve been to so far. You might go there on a walking tour to hear some songs play from this ornate clock that goes off at 9 AM, 11 AM, 1 PM, 3 PM and 5 PM, but not actually go inside, so come back and visit!
19) Nightlife in Kraków is GREAT. I recommend Lokal and Prozak as two really fun clubs right off of the main town square, plus Kazimierz is a huge hub for nightlife as well. There are tons of promoters for clubs all around, so sometimes take the handouts they give you and you’ll get a free shot/drink/club entry! To really know what’s going on in the area and to get some deals, there’s an app and website called where2b.org. Where2b has a ton of information about different theme nights and events that are happening at clubs in different cities. Also note: you’ll probably have to pay 2 PLN to check your coat, so make sure you have some change on you!
20) Do a church tour. Seriously, there are so many churches in this city and they’re all extremely old and are decorated very ornately. You could spend a whole day visiting churches. I starred a bunch on my Google map up top.
21) If you’re there in the summertime, rent some scooters and cruise around! You can rent scooters for 30 minutes or an hour or two and speed around Kraków. Key word is “speed.” Normally there are people walking around with signs advertising the scooters—ask them exactly where to go to rent them!
22) Wawel Castle is pretty cool. I’d try and join a tour though—there’s a lot inside the castle that tour guides can provide a lot of historical context for.
Transportation tip: Uber is super cheap in Poland. It’s normally cheaper to use Uber than the tram is if you have 3+ people.
Before you head out, here’s a whole list of tips about what to do, not to do, and what to expect when you’re in Poland. And if you want more on Polish food, here’s your fix for that as well. Is my Polish showing?
A whole list of recommendations for Warsaw will be coming soon, followed by a breakdown of other cities to visit in Poland and what they have to offer! With how frequent these French protests are, hopefully these posts will be finished relatively soon.
Shoutout to The Minimalists Podcast and Chef’s Table on Netflix for getting me through finally writing this post, and thanks to one of my favorite humans, Sophie, for proofreading this!