I am currently studying Sociology in my third year at Cardiff University. I love to explore cultures and societies around the world.
5 Tips for Visiting Krakow in Winter
My most recent adventure was three nights in the beautiful city of Krakow, Poland. As soon as my boyfriend and I arrived and stepped foot in the Main Market Square (Rynek Glówny), we were completely taken aback by all of the incredible architecture that surrounded us.
The square is one of the largest medieval plazas in Europe and is home to the stunning St. Mary’s Basilica and Cloth Hall, as well as other well-loved historical monuments. But this was only the starting point of our journey through the city's extraordinary architecture and truly picturesque views.
Krakow is is a city that I cannot recommend enough, for everything from its history to its affordability. Below, I will list a few tips that I picked up on during my visit. I hope they will be useful if you are thinking of venturing there.
1. Visit the City's Museums
I believe that you cannot truly experience Krakow without educating yourself on its history. Luckily, there are plenty of museums that can help you with that. I have a few recommendations on where to go and how to get the best deals.
For starters, if you happen to be in Krakow on a Monday, there are a few museums that offer free entry on this day. One of these is Schindler Factory, where Oskar Schindler saved approximately 1200 Jews during the Nazi occupation of Poland. Unfortunately, we didn’t get tickets. I wish someone had told me just how popular and in-demand these tickets are, so I will tell you instead—make sure you book in advance!
Another note about museums is that, like everything in Krakow, entry is very cheap. As we didn’t get into Schindler’s, we went to a different, smaller museum called Galicia Jewish Museum which cost us the equivalent of about £3. We got student tickets as well, so it was a bit cheaper than the standard fee.
Make sure to ask about discounts if you think you may be eligible (e.g. student, senior, etc.).
2. Take a Guided Tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau
Carrying on along the historical route, I understand that this recommendation may not be everyone’s cup of tea. However, I highly recommend it.
Our guided tour around Auschwitz-Birkenau was completely indescribable, but I can say that the experience is one which I will never forget. I do truly believe that if you have the opportunity, you should put it in your itinerary. The tour guides are very good; they provide so much information about everything and do so very respectfully and from the heart.
Some things to note:
- You can’t take a bag that is bigger than an A4 piece of paper.
- The toilets have a small charge so take coins with you.
- You cannot eat whilst on the grounds, so eat beforehand. (The tour across both camps lasts about 3.5 hours.)
- The camps are about 1.5 hours outside of Krakow, so you have to take a bus. However, this should be included in the tour price if you go through a company.
- And finally, take tissues!
3. Catch the Sunset at Wawel Castle
Now for a more light-hearted recommendation! Don't miss a chance to watch the sunset from Wawel Castle. We actually stumbled on this by chance, but it turned out to be one of my favourite parts of our three days in Krakow! My tip is to look at the time of sunset and go to the castle grounds about half an hour before. From there, if you look out towards the river, you can see the sun set over the buildings on the other side, which is so beautiful.
There are many churches and cathedrals to look at from there as well. For example, two that I remember vividly are St. Mary’s Basilica (mentioned earlier, in the Main Square) and Corpus Christi Basilica (located in the Kazimierz district). The churches are so grand and their interiors are incredible.
Note: You can enter most of the churches, but be aware that many people use the churches for praying, and obviously there are services happening, so be mindful of others when visiting.
4. Try the Local Cuisine
One of the most recognisable foods in Polish cuisine is pierogi, which are dumplings filled with anything and everything! I mainly tried ones with meat fillings, which were really nice, but they can also have sweet fillings such as fruits.
There is also a lot of soup, my favourite being the noodle soup which was on the menu at pretty much every restaurant we ate at and is very cheap.
Be Sure to Bring Cash
Be aware that some places, especially the smaller restaurants which offer this local cuisine, won’t accept card payments, so carry a bit of cash around with you just in case.
If you do pay with a bank card, pay in the local currency (Polish złoty) rather than your home currency. That way the bank will be sorting out the exchange rate rather than the restaurant, who are more likely to do the exchange in their favour, resulting in your meal costing a little more.
5. Check Out the Christmas Decorations
In Krakow, they don't take their Christmas decorations down until early February! We weren't expecting this, but it made the city even more beautiful. There was a grand Christmas tree in the square and lights all around the city, making it particularly lovely at night.
Coincidentally, my boyfriend and I actually booked Krakow as a Christmas present, so going in late January and it having it still look like Christmas was just perfect. If after the busyness surrounding Christmas and New Year at home you want to keep the Christmas Spirit alive, you can do that by taking a mini-break to Krakow!
Don't Miss a Trip to Krakow!
Overall, I couldn't recommend this city more. It is super affordable (a beer costs around £2!), has so much history and is genuinely one of the most beautiful cities I have visited.
© 2020 Chloe
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on February 01, 2020:
Krakow sounds like an impressive place to visit. I'd love to explore the architecture in the city. I like the idea of the Christmas decorations staying up until early February.
Liz Westwood from UK on January 30, 2020:
This is an excellent article. I was only talking about Krakow this week with a friend. Our daughter was there over new year. It's on our list of places to visit. You have encouraged me to go.