Spending 3 Days in Kraków, Poland
Updated, July 2019
Krakow Highlights: Main Square, Old Town, Kazimierz Jewish Quarter and Oskar Schindler’s Factory Museum
Over the Christmas holidays, we watched "Schindler's List" again. Stephen Spielberg's movie from 1993 documents events in Kraków during the second world war. The Zookeeper's Wife, another historically based film from 2017 about events in Warsaw solidified Poland as a destination we wanted to explore.
Day 1 in Krakow
Arriving in Krakow by bus from Berlin
Our ten-hour bus from Berlin was an hour late and as we dragged our feet and backpacks through the very modern mall adjacent to the train station and Main Square we were a bit disappointed. It felt as if we had landed in a North American metropolis merged into a modern beehive of a tourist trap.
Where to Stay in Krakow?
We decided on a location in the Old Town near the Main Market Square and the “Unitkat Guest Rooms” was within our budget at $87 per nights, booked with Expedia. The room was comfortable and when you opened the window you could hear and feel the action of a European metropolis on a summer night. Initially it was appealing but later we had to close the window as the noise from the street kept us awake. We relied on a fan to keep the air circulating. This didn’t take away from the experience. In particular, we enjoyed good service from the front desk staff and can certainly recommend this hotel.
Day 2 in Krakow
The Main Square in the Old Town
A good nights sleep, a solid breakfast, and the city seemed much more appealing as we ventured out for the day with a more positive outlook. The Main Square, the largest medieval square in Europe, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is indeed impressive with St. Mary's Basilica and the Cloth Hall. It is also a tourist hub on steroids with brand name chain stores, countless horse-drawn carriages and tourist fluff. This undeniably takes away from the original medieval scene.
The Jewish Quarter of Kazimierz
We decided to head to the Jewish Quarter of Kazimierz and it felt more authentic with each step. We often seek out photography exhibits and a visit to the Galicia Jewish Museum was first on our agenda. It was a moving collection of colour photographs illuminating the years after World War II until now; portraying the decline of the Jewish presence in Poland and current activities. Photos of worn down and abandoned synagogues, mass graves and a section from the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps. We left in a somber mood and walked on to debrief.
Street food market
We wandered the streets, took in the atmosphere of the warm summer evening and settled on an Armenian wrap from a street market for dinner. It was a busy weekend in Kraków, at the peak of the tourist season.
Day 3 in Krakow
Back to the train station to secure our tickets to Kiev for the next day. All of the direct routes from Krakow were sold out, which made the decision to take the overnight train through Warsaw that much easier.
Oskar Schindler’s Factory Museum
With Spielberg's movie in mind, we sought out the Oskar Schindler Factory museum. Located in Oskar Schindler's original enamel factory the museum is an interactive display of life in Krakow from 1939 to 1945. It was especially moving to see a monument with the names of the 1200 Jews Schindler saved. You may recognize the photo below from the entrance to the factory with portraits of the employees.
Quaint shops, cafés and live music
We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering the streets in the Jewish Quarter of Kazimierz. This was by far our favourite part of Kraków with quaint shops and cafés on almost every street corner. Buskers and street artist were everywhere and of course tourists. But the crowds never took away from the good experience. Dinner time was approaching and the search for a good restaurant began. We are notorious for not settling on the first place we find. We always look for a special ambient atmosphere. A Polish band was playing in a square near St. Mary's Basilica and we found a table at a restaurant, QLT, where we could see the band perform. The band was awesome and now I regret not taking note of the band name.
Prices in Krakow
By Canadian standards, prices were reasonable in Krakow. A solid breakfast at Polski Smaki was CAD $7 per person. Dinner at QLT Restaurant was CAD $17 per person including drinks. Admission to the Galicia Jewish Museum was CAD $8.50 per person.