GoNOMAD DESTINATION MINI GUIDE
By Melody Moser Krakow, home of Polish kings and queens for half of millennium, is a city rich in historic details, art and architecture, whose history blends flawlessly with the present, allowing the city’s legends and tradition to carry on to this day.
By Melody Moser
Krakow, home of Polish kings and queens for half of millennium, is a city rich in historic details, art and architecture, whose history blends flawlessly with the present, allowing the city’s legends and tradition to carry on to this day.
WHEN TO GO
GETTING THERE AND AROUND
Tickets can be purchased from kiosks and other establishments — look for “MPK bilety” (ticket). They can also be bought from the driver for exact change, but there will be a surcharge of approximately 20%. Ticket prices: For one trip, any duration, about $0.40; for a one-hour trip that allows vehicle changes, about $0.50.
Buses and trams are the best way to get around after walking. If you need to take a taxi, they are easy to find, and it is cheaper to seek one out yourself than have your hotel call one for you.
The Old Town of Krakow is surrounded by a tranquil green park called the Planty. Best explored on foot, the old town’s 13th century quarter, called the Main Market Square (Rynek Glowny), is one of the largest medieval squares in Europe and has survived undamaged to the present day.
Also in the Main Square is the Gothic St. Mary’s Church, with an incredibly beautiful wooden altar carved by Weit Stoss. Allow some time to explore the church — there are a lot of exquisite details to take in. (St. Mary’s Church, Rynek Glowny 4, Admission: 2.50 zl. Open 11:30 AM to 6:00 PM, Sunday 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM).Krakow’s old town boasts numerous other outstanding churches, most of which can be visited for free. I wandered into a couple of churches during services and was surprised to see that not only were they beautiful, they were packed with young people.
The stunning combination of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture of Wawel Cathedral will take your breath away. The resting place for centuries of Polish kings and queens, the current cathedral is actually the third to be built upon Wawel Hill; its construction began in 1320.
(Wawel Cathedral, free, Royal Tombs and Sigismund Tower, 6 zl., open 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM, Sunday 12:15 PM to 3:00 PM; Royal Chambers, 8 zl., Treasury and Armory, 8 zl, both open Tuesday-Thursday and Saturday 9:30 AM to 3:00 PM, Friday 9:30 AM to 4:00 PM, Sunday 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM. The number of visitors each day is limited, so get there early).
(Sigismund Tower, see under “Major Attractions”; Dragon’s Den, open from May to September, from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM).
An absolutely incomparable site just 14 km. southeast of the city, Wieliczka Salt Mine has been on UNESCO’s World Heritage List since 1978. I joined a tour of this 700 year-old working salt mine, visiting three of nine levels and 20 of more than 2000 chambers, including three chapels, the most famous being the Chapel of Saint Kinga, which is entirely made of salt, including the stairs, walls, chandeliers, ceiling and floor. Anyone who doubts this can just lick the wall.
BEST ACTIVITIES AND TOURS
Swimming is available at several outdoor pools June through August from about 10:00 to 6:00 PM for about $1.50 to $2.00 a person all day. Try Clepardia, ul. Mackiewicza 13; Krakowianka, ul. Zywiecka Boczna, or Wisla, ul. Reymonta 22. Also, an enormous new water park with pools and slides called Park Wodny is located on ul. Dobrego Pasterza 126, Tel. 48-12-413-73-99.For free, you can try your hand at rock-climbing on cliffs right in the city, west of Wawel Hill. Hiking can be done in the Tatra Mountains, about 100 km. South of Krakow.
Rynek Glowny 41
Tel: 48-12-422-40-35 Jan-Pol
in the Dom Turysty PTTK
15 ul. Westerplatte
Discounts of 25% are given to students on the Wieliczka and Auchwitz tours. Children’s discounts are 50% off, and a 10% discount is given for taking a second tour (except for students and children). Often these tour companies will pick you up at your hotel or at one of several convenient locations.
For Polish language courses, a great place to go is the highly esteemed Jagiellonian University, which offers a Summer School of Polish Language and Culture as well as one and two semester programs. Founded in 1364, it is the oldest University in Poland.
Travelers of all budgets can find something they will like. One of the nicest places to stay is in the atmospheric Old Town, where traffic is minimal and most sites are only a few steps from your door.
The Hotel Saski
One block off the Main Square at ul. Slawkowska 3.
Located in a historic townhouse, is pleasant and comfortable. Rooms $35-$50.
Some other suggestions: Upper Price Range (more than $60):
Rynek Glowny 14
ul Lubicz 5
Letni Hotel AWF
Jana Pawla 11 82
Another option is to arrange for a private room through Waweltur, ul. Pawia 8, (Tel. 48-12-422-16-40, Tel./Fax 48-12-422-19-21), next door to the tourist office. Open Monday to Friday from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM, Saturday 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM.
Polish food is very good, though it tends to be heavy with cream and focused on meat and dumplings. Krakow is loaded with good eating establishments, about 350 of them to be exact. For traditional Polish cuisine, and to feast where royalty once did, go to Wierzynek. Located on the Main Market Square at Rynek Glowny 15, it dates back to 1364 when Mikolaj Wierzynek prepared a sumptuous wedding feast for the granddaughter of King Kazimierz the Great. (Tel. 48-12-422-10-35. Open 11:00 – 23:00, Summer 12:00 to midnight.) For lighter fare, or for those on a tighter budget, there are many cafés, pizzerias and restaurants that serve a variety of food very inexpensively. At Restauracja U Pollera, at the Hotel Pollera, ul. Szpitalna 30, (Tel. 48-12-421-80-61) you can fill up on a heaping plate full of delicious Polish potato pancakes with mushrooms, grapefruit juice and tea for 20 zl. Prices on their other dishes just as good.
BEST CULTURAL ENTERTAINMENT
December each year in the main square, and the Silent Film Festival is held for one week around mid-December.
Poland has a terrific array of handicrafts made by local artisans including embroidery, hand-painted wooden boxes and chests, paintings on glass, papercuts, and tapestries. Cepelia shops located throughout central Krakow sell them, but a fun place to go is Cloth Hall in the middle of the Main Market Square. There you will find every type of Polish craft and souvenirs as well.
MONEY AND COMMUNICATIONS Banks and ATMs
There are about two dozen cybercafes around the town, so you shouldn’t have a problem staying in touch. In Krakow, many of the cybercafés are actually plain rooms with computer workstations, rather than cafés that offer you something to drink or eat. Cost is usually about $1.50 to $2.00 per hour. Looz
ul. Mikolajska 13
Open 10:00 AM-midnight, Friday and Saturday all night. Easy to find, just go down the stairs. 27 computers.
Rotunda Orlik Club
ul. Oleandry 1
Open 10:00 AM – 10:00 PM, Sunday 2:00 PM to 10:00 PM. U Louisa
Rynek Glowny 13
This cybercafé is the oldest and best known in Krakow. Set in a remarkable vaulted cellar, you can enjoy a drink while surfing on the net and listening to live music from other vaults in the café.
Basically, Krakow is a safe city. Just use your common sense, as you would at home. However, you should be extremely wary of thieves and pickpockets, especially when getting on or off public transportation. Somebody standing behind me while waiting to get off the train in Krakow furtively opened my backpack; luckily, though, I noticed and prevented him from stealing my cameras.
If you are in need of a doctor, Medicover, ul. Krotkal, Tel. 48-12-422-76-33 has an English-speaking staff of well-trained nurses and doctors. There is a list of hospitals, clinics, doctors and dentists in the bimonthly edition of Krakow in Your Pocket, or look in the phone book.
www.polandtour.org www.inyourpocket.com www.wawel.krakow.pl www.hotelspoland.com www.poltravel.com www.hotelsinpoland.com Krakow site www.polandtour.org In Krakow, stop at the Tourist Office, Centrum Informacji Turystycznej KART, located opposite the train station on ul. Pawia 8. (Tel: 48-12-422-60-91, Fax: 48-12-422-04-71.) Open Monday to Friday from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM (and from June to September until 6:00 PM and Saturday from 9:00 to 1:00 PM). They are very helpful and will arm you with a stack of information. stories about Poland
Polish National Tourist Office.
The online version of the guidebook Krakow In Your Pocket. Great site for destination information, weather, conversions to Polish zloty, country and language information.
Website for Wawel Castle and Cathedral.
An easy and convenient method for booking your hotels online. I used it for two hotels with no problems.
Another site for booking hotels in Poland.
The name speaks for itself.
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Krakow site www.polandtour.org In Krakow, stop at the Tourist Office, Centrum Informacji Turystycznej KART, located opposite the train station on ul. Pawia 8. (Tel: 48-12-422-60-91, Fax: 48-12-422-04-71.) Open Monday to Friday from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM (and from June to September until 6:00 PM and Saturday from 9:00 to 1:00 PM). They are very helpful and will arm you with a stack of information. stories about Poland
www.polandtour.org In Krakow, stop at the Tourist Office, Centrum Informacji Turystycznej KART, located opposite the train station on ul. Pawia 8. (Tel: 48-12-422-60-91, Fax: 48-12-422-04-71.) Open Monday to Friday from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM (and from June to September until 6:00 PM and Saturday from 9:00 to 1:00 PM). They are very helpful and will arm you with a stack of information.
stories about Poland