If you’re looking for a weekend getaway that offers a bit of everything, book a flight to Poland. It’s the perfect time of year for a city break to Krakow.
It has quickly become a hotspot for tourists seeking out good food, good bars and a sprinkle of culture so that you can say you actually did stuff other than get drunk and forget to take pictures. Ahem.
And, if you do it right, it’ll cost next to nothing.
Really. I spent four days in Poland (two in Warsaw, two in Krakow) and my pockets were just £140 lighter – that included the flights. But if you’ve got a bulging purse, or are less inclined to count the pennies, then it can easily rack up.
Here, I’m going to be talking you through Krakow, the beautifully gothic city that is the perfect destination for culture vultures, foodies and hen parties alike.
City Break To Krakow
Before we get down to it, this is based on my experience as a semi-frugal traveller on a low-range budget, and prices are based on exchange rates as of April 2018.
Things to do in Krakow
When you read budget travel guides, they’re usually full of enthusiasm for free things like walking! Looking at buildings! Visiting museums and old churches!
So I’ll get those things out of the way first. If you’ve got two days in Krakow, spend the first getting to know the city. Yes, wandering aimlessly sounds boring, but actually it’s such a beautiful place that it’s quite nice to marvel at the gorgeous architecture and wander through the cobbled streets.
Old Town is the place to be. Everything is walkable and all amenities are on your doorstep. I also loved the tall, ornate buildings with their original details – they reminded me of Florence and Stockholm in a sort of soft but gothic way.
Plus, there’s a Sephora.
The Old Town is wrapped up in banks of greenery, making it feel like its own little island in a busy city. Make it your mission to visit Market Square, and pop into (the very colourful) St Francis’ Basilica.
This part of town is also littered with bars and restaurants, but avoid these tourist traps as you’ll end up paying the same for a beer as you would in London. Keep your eyes peeled for the underground drinking spots slightly further out as you’ll find a bargain pint, and don’t forget to stop off at Stary Port, an old sailors bar, for a drunken sing-a-long.
On the second day, you can choose to book onto a day tour of Auswich-Birkenau. Honestly, I felt a little torn by it. I wanted to find out more about its history, but was worried it would feel like a bit of a spectacle.
A lot of people say it, but the feeling you get there is one that you won’t forget. It’s haunting, emotional and heartbreakingly eye-opening. Go if you want to learn more about the horrors of the Nazi death camps, and turn history book knowledge and numbers into palpable, human stories.
Tours last for around 7 hours, and prices start at £35 (160PLN).
Where to stay in Krakow
So where to rest your head? Personally, I love a good hostel. They’re the easiest way to meet people, and every backpacker can sniff out the best budget bars and restaurants, meaning less Googling for you. I stayed at the Pink Panther hostel, tucked into the centre of the city and just a few minutes walk to both the Market and Old Town Squares.
It’s also how I found out about M22 Burger, so a special shout out to the boy I caught devouring one and dribbling burger juice all over himself at 3am.
Pink Panther Hostel is also a short walk from the main train and bus terminal, and offers basic but comfortable accommodation. There are nightly pub crawls if that’s your thing, as well as every backpacker’s holy grail – free wifi and breakfasts.
During my stay in November, it was a measly £6 a night. You can’t really get better (and cheaper) than that.
If you prefer something a bit more private, you can get a decent Old Town studio apartment on airbnb for between £40-60 a night.
Eating and drinking in Krakow
If you only venture out of the Old Town once during your stay, make sure it’s to Tytano. An old tobacco factory, it has been revamped and turned into an array of hipster hangouts.
Grab a friend and go in on 2-4-1 pizzas at the stripped back Międzymiastowa. You’ll get a huge, delicious pizza for £3-4, and fancy cocktails for a fiver.
Tytano is also home to terrifying escape rooms, the biggest multi-tap beer house in Krakow, and an entire floor of the building is dedicated to exhibitions and locally made furniture.
It’s artsy, effortlessly cool, and I was sold as soon as I saw the endless fairy lights.
Getting there and around
By far the best discovery I made during my stay in Krakow was BlaBlaCar. Put out a request for wherever you want to go, and someone who is heading that way will offer you a space in their car for next to nothing.
I wrangled a ride from Warsaw to Krakow – five hours, FYI – for roughly £8 (38PLN). A train will take half the time, but will be at least twice as much.
Train and buses
There’s no metro in the city, but they do have a pretty useful bus and tram system should you need it. Opt for a 24-hour bus ticket for (£3) 15PLN to cover yourself if you plan to do a lot of moving around, but if your accommodation is central, everywhere is walkable.
To and from the airport
Trains depart from the shopping centre-come-terminal, Krakow Glowny Central Station, every half an hour (between 4am and 11.30pm), with a ticket costing just £1.90 (9PLN).
With Ryan Air flights cheaper than a round of drinks at your local, there is no excuse not to go on a city break to Krakow – immediately.