To be honest I had never really thought of Poland as I place I would visit. For some reason, I had it in my head that spending a weekend in Krakow Poland would be filled with tours of outdated, large unkempt European palaces that were ghosts of their former selves.
But how wrong I was!
On my recent weekend break to Krakow in Poland for a friend’s 30th birthday celebrations, I got to see that Krakow was not just a place for stag weekends (even though a group was on our flight), but a city which boasts unrivalled European architecture.
Sights include the Rynek Główny (main market square) the main stage of St. Mary’s Church soaring bell towers bathed in natural sunlight, medieval palaces, and a buzzing night-life.
Poland’s former capital and second city, Krakow, along with its worldly charm, has a sad past, including the Holocaust and the Auschwitz concentration camp. Although heart-breaking, it is worth the visit; it is a lasting reminder of the Nazi’s wickedness for the vast extermination of the Jewish population in and around Poland.
I recommend visiting the Auschwitz camps as it is important that we never forget what happened so that it never happens again.
This three-day weekend itinerary will give you a glimpse into one of Poland’s most historical and cultural cities.
Here's how to spend a weekend in Krakow Poland: three-day travel itinerary!
How to Get There
Poland is relatively easy to get to with its established network of flights, particularly if you’re in Europe. Flights from London Gatwick are relatively cheap and can be found for as little as £50 on EasyJet (which only allows you to carry one piece of hand luggage—no purses or laptop bags, those must be checked in). Within 2.5 hours you’ll be at John Paul II International Airport, Krakow-Balice.
Where to Stay
Going for a quick city break, we didn’t want to spend a lot on accommodation. We stayed at Tutti Frutti Apartments which was cheap at £55 for the weekend and included basic breakfast (cereal, toast and jam). The apartment was not fancy, it was clean, with the bare essentials, and a secured communal entrance to the apartments.
If you are the fancy type than there are plenty of medieval buildings in which you can spend the weekend if you check Airbnb.
The apartment is centrally located on Florianska Street, a five-minute walk to the Rynek Glowny (supposedly Europe’s largest medieval city square).
Arriving on the Friday evening we had enough time to drop off our bags and head to a bar just off the main market square to grab a drink and some food.
I quickly noticed that Krakow has a large student population by the countless girls wearing butty shorts and doing lines of shots at 8 pm (I guess the Polish like to get things started early), and at £1 a shot, we joined in too!
Transport In Krakow Poland
After our first evening in Krakow, we soon realised how walkable the city was. Everything can be accessed on foot with no fear of ever getting lost, as most streets guide you back to the market square. Public transport is inexpensive and easy to find, as the trams whizz up and down the street.
Tours in Krakow Poland
Full Day Tour to Auschwitz and Wielichzka Salt Mine Tours by discovercracow.com
This tour covers both UNESCO sites and includes tickets, guide, transport for the day and lunch. During the bus ride to Auschwitz I, we watched a documentary about the history of the Nazi concentration camps. We arrived at Auschwitz I and were guided around the camp.
Touring Auschwitz was extremely disturbing, as you come face-to-face with the horrors that human beings can inflict upon each other, driven by a set of beliefs.
I have seen more than my fair share of movies and documentaries about the Holocaust, but we were presented with areas in which there was hair by the tonne, and shoes from every man, woman and child, as well as pots and pans, where mothers thought they would be cooking for their family piled in a heap.
These were the only sign of these individual’s existence, and that made all the horror you I read and watch even more real.
After touring Auschwitz I, we were then transferred to Auschwitz II- Birkenau, a five-minute car ride away.
This was the larger more horrible death camp built so that trains filled with people could arrive and be sorted into groups, where the elderly and young (the ones deemed unable to work) would be sent to their death.
At Auschwitz II- Birkenau, we toured the camps, taking in and the remains of the gas chambers and crematoriums that were usedbefore the camps were liberated.
Wieliczka Salt Mine
After the saddening tour of Auschwitz, we were taken to the Wieliczka Salt Mine. Which is a thing of wonder, with its underground labyrinths, lakes and chambers; there’s even a ballroom. The salt mine has been in operation since the 19th century and is one of the world’s oldest working salt mines.
Nine centuries of mining in Wieliczka has produced a total of some 200 kilometres of passages, as well as 2,040 caverns of various sizes.
The tour route starts 64 metres deep, with an initial descent down 378 wooden stairs. It includes twenty chambers and ends 135 metres below the surface, where the world's largest museum of mining is located, with centuries-old equipment among its exhibits route.
Hands down the best sight on this tour was the ballroom, with its impressive salt chandelier dangling like an actual diamond in the sky. We were guided through numerous drifts, galleries and chambers with sculptures in the crystalline salt, and rich ornamentation carved in the rock salt.
Occasionally concerts and other events take place in the Wieliczka mine’s biggest chambers. We were told by our guide that the microclimate of the mine can help asthma and allergy suffers.
We arrived back at the main square with even time to have a few drinks and dinner.
Tour to Czestochowa Black Madonna Private Tour of Krakow by discovercracow.com
Again, we booked our tours through discovercracow.com and was picked up on time with our driver (Konrad) being finer than a crisp £50 note, with ice blue eyes like the ocean. I tried not to stare too long at them as it would have me making plans to move to Poland.
This was my favourite tour by far. No one tells you monks are funny as hell. The tour was given by an 80 something-year-old monk dressed as Obi-Wan Kenobi, and was sharper than a butcher’s knife and. Father (Simson) was a stickler for people trying to queue jump during mass (I guess no one can wait to see god).
And as the line slowly snaked its way up to pass by the Black Madonna, there were more than a few little old ladies that he told off and telling them to join the back of the line for mass.
This is a sight you don’t see everyday
We make the pilgrimage from Krakow to Czestochowa, home to one of Poland’s most acclaimed sights, the Black Madonna painting. We then had a private tour of the Jasna Góra monastery by Monk/Father Simson.
We learned about the history of the sacred site, the legends and miracles associated with the Black Madonna, and we saw the historic defensive walls that famously survived a Swedish invasion.
The monastery was founded by Pauline monks, who emigrated from Hungary in the 14th century. It has been recognized by three different popes thanks to its resilient story and sacred Black Madonna painting.
Touring the ground with Father Simon\ Obi-Wan Kenobi was like being escorted around by one of the 12 apostles. People moved out of the way, you got a very informative and, at times, downright hilarious account of the history of the Black Madonna, from a person who speaks up to five languages.
The monk did this all while walking around telling stories, pointing out various artefacts that are worth millions, and asking questions about where you’re from (he was really fascinated when I told him I was Jamaican), even stopping another monk on his way to mass to tell him, he has a tour with a Jamaican.
I don’t think a Jamaican had ever made it that far into Poland.
I would 100% recommended this tour with discracow.com if only for our wonderful, handsome and prompt driver Konrad, and the coolest Monk you’ll ever meet, Father Simon.
Krakow Sightseeing by Eco-Vehicle
As our flight was scheduled for the afternoon, we had time to do one last tour of Krakow in one of the many eco-vehicles (like a golf cart). I recommend trying this as you get to whizz around the various districts of Krakow as trams, bikes and cars tailgate you. Meanwhile, the driver points out the various historical buildings around the city, just like the hop-on-hop-off bus tours only better, with the driver stopping to let you ‘make photos’.
Our driver was very knowledgeable, stopping to tell us about some of the more important parts of the city, and driving down smaller roads that cars are unable to use.
During the one-and-a-half-hour tour, we visited the old town and Kazimierz (Jewish district). You can choose the districts you would like to visit, and if you chose two or more you can get a discount. We visited the following districts:
Old town, meeting our driver outside the main market square in front of St. Mary’s Church (Koscio Maracki), the most important cathedral in the city. The tour took in the following sights: Cloth Hall (Sukienmice), Oskar Schindler's Factory, Galica Jewish Museum, Jewish District (Kazimierz).
In the Jewish District (Kazimierz) we explored Wolnica Square, Church on the Rock, Temple Synagogue, Old Synagogue, Szeroka Street, Nowy Square and Synagogue Remuh.
Then we passed the former ghetto area, with the airy monument in Ghetto Heroes Square, the Eagle Pharmacy Museum, Oskar Schindler’s Factory, made famous in Spielberg’s masterpiece ‘Schindler’s List’, and the remains of the Ghetto wall.
Facts about Poland:
Language: The language spoken in Krakow is Polish
Currency: The currency used is in Krakow is the Polish zloty(zl)
Local Time: Krakow is one hour ahead of GMT/UK time
Airport: John Paul II International Airport Krakow-Balice, approximately 11km from central Krakow
Flights from London: 2.5 hours
Tourist Information: Can be found at www.poland.travel/en-gb/
Buses/trams: run from 5 am to 11 pm and are very reliable. Some buses run later into the night. Single tickets are available at street kiosks.
Car\Taxi: The old town is a car-free zone so driving around can be a bit of a hassle.
How would you spend a weekend in Krakow Poland?
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