I must admit that out of all the countries my buddy Tom and I visited on our recent ‘mini Euro trip’, the one I was looking forward to the least was Kraków, which I understand might sound like a bit of a weird thing to say.
What I mean by that is that I didn’t have particularly high expectations for it because my main reason for wanting to visit this area of Poland was to visit Auschwitz concentration camp (which I will be covering in another post). However, as soon as I started researching the city I realised there was quite a few things to see and do, so I arranged for us to spend a full day there to do things besides visit the camp.
And honestly? I don’t know if I’ve ever made a better decision when it comes to travelling, because I could have easily spent two or three days in Kraków exploring the city! Now that I’ve returned from this trip taken a little trip down memory lane through my photos, I can 100% confirm that Kraków was my favourite city out of the four we visited.
On our first day, we woke up to beautiful sunshine that showed no signs of stopping and so we popped on our sunglasses and took the short walk from our apartment to the city centre in search of breakfast and curiosity over what to expect from an Eastern European city.
We found ourselves in a market square that had a pretty busy market going on at that time, an area I later found out was called Rynek Główny and it became our base camp for our time there. Rynek Główny is home to many restaurants, bars, an inside market called the cloth hall where you can find trinkets, genuine leather and so on, as well as many a pretty building to ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ at.
After a little while of exploring the market, we decided to head in the direction of the Jewish quarter as I was contemplating falafel for lunch and we were both interested to check out Oskar Schindler’s factory. The walk ended up taking quite a long time but as a result we covered a lot of ground in terms of exploring the city and we even found a place that served banging (not to mention ridiculously cheap) ice cream, so we were more than happy to walk.
We even spotted a couple we believed to be newlyweds…
… although on closer inspection they appeared to be models. So I stole the photographer’s thunder and clearly took the best picture of them, right?
On our way to the Jewish quarter we stumbled across Wawel Castle, which just so happened to be on our list of things to do, so we decided to take a quick detour.
The castle was a lot more impressive in person than it looked online and exploring the grounds was more than enough for the two of us. Sure, we could have paid to go inside, but the weather was so beautiful that we just didn’t really want to waste any of the sunshine. Also, I know this opinion may not be popular with some, but once you’ve seen a few castles in Europe, you’ve pretty much seen them all.
I definitely recommend visiting the castle for free entry to the grounds though, particularly for the views of the city, like the one featured at the top of this post. These views encompassed the whole city for me and gave a great contrast of the various themes. I felt like every corner I turned in Kraków I could see something new and different to the last.
We also managed to find the Love Lock bridge in Kraków, another one of these bridges that is not commonly known by tourists. I wonder if the bridge in Paris would be holding up a little better if these cities better advertised their own bridges? Maybe I’m on to something here…
The Jewish quarter ended up being not exactly what we were expecting, but after a little education about all the goings on (from Oskar Schindler’s factory, which is now a museum) in this quarter during WW2, it made a lot more sense as to why it’s presence is so important and walking back through it gave us a lot to consider and take in.
After we had visited Oskar Schindler’s factory, which was one of the most fascinating museum’s I have visited and in my opinion, a must do in Kraków, we took the long walk back to Rynek Główny in search of some dinner because we’d spend so long walking around we completely forgot to eat lunch. Now if that’s not a sign of how interesting a city is then I don’t know what is!
This full day in Kraków really did slip away from us and by the time we found ourselves back in the Rynek Główny area, we were absolutely exhausted and in desperate need of some food. We opted to be ‘total tourists’ and went for a pizza place around the edge of the market where we could watch street performers (badly) perform for the crowds and enjoy the last of the day’s sunshine.
And this was the day I fell in love with the city of Kraków.
P.s. Check out the Kraków vlog.