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After my stops in Budapest and Vienna, the third stop on my five-countries-in-five-days trip was Krakow, Poland. We arrived at the Krakow train station at around 8 AM after an overnight train ride. First, we exchanged some of our euros for Polish currency, the Zloty. I would highly recommend doing this, as most of the Eastern European countries that I visited accept only their national currency outside of main tourist areas. We were both exhausted and hungry from the ride and decided to check into our hostel, the Goodbye Lenin Hostel, and then find breakfast.
Where to Stay
The Goodbye Lenin Hostel was nestled in a slightly hidden alley. It is definitely not somewhere to go if you want to meet other travellers, as it had only a small room for checking in and no common lounging area. At this point in my travels, my extraverted-ness was wearing out, and so I took advantage of the budget-friendly private rooms which were around the same price as 6-person rooms in other hostels. The staff at the hostel were very friendly and willing to help with recommendations for the local area. Because it was so early, we had few options and the staff mapped us directions to one of the only open restaurants near the hostel.
We followed the map to the Dynia Resto Bar. Here, we had a refreshing, $12 Zloty (approx. $3 USD) meal of bread and honey, polish meats and cheeses, vegetables, and polish sauces. This was hands down one of my favourite meals of my entire trip, and my wallet was equally happy with it.
Free Walking Tour
After breakfast, we made our way over to the main market square for a free walking tour of the Old Town of Krakow. Our tour guide was a former Ukrainian lawyer who left to Krakow because of the war, and wasn’t able to continue practicing his trade in Krakow. He was extremely spirited throughout the entire trip, and was constantly telling us different Polish myths and stories about landmarks that we passed by. As a fun aside, there was an abnormal amount of pigeons in the main market square, and our guide told us a Polish legend where the pigeons were knights trapped as birds after the Prince made a deal with an evil witch. Below is a photo of a model of the first layout of the main market square, and the layout is still mostly the same today.
After our starting point of the main market square, we walked towards the city walls and barbican. The barbican is a medieval structure from the late 15th century that served as a fortress and gateway into the city. Stretching all along it is the city walls of Krakow, more fortifications against enemies and invaders. The city walls, after being built through the 14th century, became weaker and more immune to modern weaponry, and eventually became so shattered that they were taken down.
Next, we took a break in the courtyard of the Collegium Maius building of Jagiellonian University. Jagiellonian University, who’s name originates from the Jagiellonian dynasty of the time, is one of the oldest universities in the world and boasts former students such as Nicoulas Copernicus. The Collegium Maius was built in the 14th century, and has followed the prominent gothic trend of the 12th to 16th centuries. Inside the building, there is a museum that contains certain artifacts from the medieval period, and allows visitors to view exhibits showcasing historical university rooms.
Finally, we arrived at our final destination on the walking tour: Wawel Castle. The first thing the tour guide said to us was that this was the architectural lasagna of the city. The building employed countless different styles of architecture, due to new pieces being added at different times by the royal family during the time. Visitors are able to go into the Castle and view preserved rooms and exhibits, but we were unable to because we had to stay with our tour guide. There is a cost to enter the Castle, but there are specific times when entry is free, such as on Mondays, 9:30 AM to 1 PM from April 1st to October 31st. (SIDE NOTE: As a general rule, I would recommend checking the websites of museums or other attractions to confirm that they are open (e.g. museums in Germany are all closed on Mondays) and to take advantage of any deals they may have.) Under the castle stood what locals call the Wawel dragon, a statue of a dragon said to have eaten all virgins in the town. This was another one of the many interesting Polish myths that we were enlightened with during this tour.
Where to Eat Pierogis
This walking tour covered a solid chunk of the city over many hours, and we did not have time to do the New City walking tour. We decided instead to walk around the city ourselves and before we knew it, it was time for dinner. We ate at Przystanek Pierogarnia, a restaurant famous for their pierogis. There were all sorts of pierogis, ranging from ones with traditional meat filling to ones with unique fruit filling. It was on the pricier side, taking into account the low price of other food options in Krakow, but the pierogis proved that the restaurant did not receive its prestige for no reason.
Where to Drink for Cheap
At night, we ventured into the Old Town again and ended up at the pijalnia wódki. This bar/restaurant embraced a communist theme, and reminded me of a landmark from the past left untouched and teleported to the future of today. They had individual shots for $4 Zloty (approx. $1 USD) each, and the flavors were very creative. Customers could order wsciekly pies, a rasberry vodka shot with tabasco sauce, or they could order a crowdpleaser such as the monte, a hazelnut flavored vodka with milk.
Overall, Krakow had an extremely interesting underlying personality. It is evident that the people who live here are more guarded, but also that they know how to let go and have fun because they understand that life is a gift and is very beautiful.
Looking for other trip ideas in Eastern Europe? Then you might want to check out these posts:
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I went many year ago, exactly when the pope died. He was from Krakow and therefore, everything was closed and no alcohol was served! Fortunately only on our first day there. Then everything went, more or less, to normal. I remember I liked a lot the city! And we went to some caves: Smocza Jama They were pretty cool. I remember also eating a lot of pork! hahahaha Ah, and we also went to Birkenau.
That sounds awesome!! Looks like I’ll have to make another trip there ?
Great post! Look like it’s time for me to visit friends from Poland again, but this time in Krakow 🙂
Yes! I’d highly recommend it. Krakow is a fabulous place!
Krakow is a lovely town. I really liked its main square. But the best part of my visit was dinner at the Salt Mine. That place is really awesome!
Anja / Womanhattan
Wow! I just looked up pictures of that and it looks amazing! Sad that I missed it but will add it to my list for the next time I visit Krakow 🙂
I spent a few hours in Krakow last spring. Your info is great and your photos are lovely. Thanks for sharing 🙂
Thanks so much for reading the post! That means a lot 🙂
The breakfast looks so healthy and delicious, what a bargain! Krakow has such rich history and I adore the architecture.
Absolutely! There is so much history to explore in Krakow!
I also wrote a post about one day in Krakow recently and mentioned that free walking tour is a great way to experience the city if you have limited time 🙂 Unfortunately, I was not able to do this because I was with my mother and she doesn’t speak English.
Besides the Old Town and Wawel we also walked around Kazimierz, the old Jewish Quarter with lots of bars, cafe and restaurants and nice old buildings)
I believe they offer the tours in many different languages so keep an eye out for that next time 🙂 That sounds perfect! Krakow had such cute bars and restaurants!
I have not been, but would love to go. The castle sounds really interesting and I would like to taste some authentic polish food.
Haha you can definitely find that there! They have the BEST food!
This post is so nice and the photos are lovely! Makes me want to go to Krakow
Thank you so much!! I’m glad and hope you make it there soon!
I’ve haven’t been to Krakow yet and this has inspired me to visit – can’t wait to try out the pierogis!
Their pierogis were amazing! Loved trying all the different flavours!
The meal at Dynia Resto Bar sounds to die for! I heard Poland was cheap, and it definitely seems so! Would love to visit one day 🙂
It is extremely affordable, meaning more money to spend on delicious food ?
I love your idea of 5 cities in 5 days! Your tour guide seemed lovely, which really makes or breaks a good tour in my opinion! Krakow looks like such an interesting place.
It was definitely a squeeze but also very rewarding! Seeing a new country every day is a magical experience 🙂 Yes! He was such a wonderful person and his positive attitude made the tour even more enjoyable!
Great tip to get some local currency first because most of the Eastern European countries only accepting their national currency outside of main tourist areas! Not having the right money could be a real pain and waste time especially if you only have such a short time to enjoy it. Thanks!
Exactly! The good thing is that there are many ATM’s around if you need to get more money 🙂
Krakow sounds great. And your Ukranian tour guide sounds like he knows his stuff – I always like to find out about the history of any place I visit too. The old Polish myths sound interesting and colourful. Good informative post. Well done…
He was incredibly knowledgeable! Poland has the most interesting myths ?
Oh great photos. I love seeing old towns in Europe. So much history and beauty.
Thanks a ton! Those two words describe Krakow perfectly!
Wow, I can’t believe you did 5 days in 5 countries, I’m not surprised you were so shattered! I went to Krakow around 10-11 years ago with my friends at university and we loved the city too! Lovely post 🙂
Haha it was a tiring but rewarding experience! I’m so glad you loved it and hope you get to go back again soon 🙂 Thanks so much!
I’m sad i never made it to Poland before I left Europe. I hope to do a tour in a few years though and really want to go. Not sure if I’d like the hazelnut vodka and milk but the breakfast sounds awesome though and what a bargine! I can’t beleive you did 5 countries in 5 days! Very impressed.
It tasted a lot better than it sounds ? Thanks so much! It wasn’t easy but definitely do-able with the proper planning 🙂
I love Krakow it is such a beautiful city. I spent about 5 days there when I visited. I love do free walking tours they are normally so good. I also did a vodka tasting night, that was crazy!!
Well you know what they say, when in Poland.. ?
Krakow looks like a very interesting place to visit! I’ve only been to Poland one (to a smaller city called Gdansk) and would love to go back one day! 🙂
I hope you make it to Krakow sometime! It is a must-see when visiting Poland 🙂
Krakow looks wonderful. The Wawel Castle looks especially stunning. Sounds like you had a fantastic day in a fantastic city.
It was a very unique piece architecturally! I had an amazing experience in a wonderful city ?
Krakow has lots of that Old European charm. Its hard to choose a favorite spot, but St Mary’s Basilica really stands out in my memory.
I loved it too! Absolutely gorgeous inside!
I’ve never been to Krakow, but I have always wanted to go, especially because I’m a huge history (and particularly WWII) nerd. It looks a lot more colorful than I thought it would be! Also, the hostel you stayed in looks really nice, I like to find hostels with private rooms!
It was actually quite a colourful place! The hostel was very nice – I would highly recommend it!
What a beautiful post and I love how you reflected on each person. I’ve always been curious about Krakow before, because all photos I’ve seen of it are beautiful. This provides a more in-depth look at the city, and I think I like it even more now! By the way, what a great idea to tour five cities in five days! I need to try that someday 🙂
I’m so glad to hear that! I hope that you get to see it soon 🙂 I would definitely do that too! It’s an exhilarating experience seeing a new country every day!
I never knew that Krakow had such a cool and interesting history and learning about it on a free walking tour is even better! The food is mostly what caught my eye in this post though! Pierogies are my favorite <3
Haha food always catches my eye too ? But yes it does have a really rich history!
I have not been, but would love to go. The castle sounds really interesting and I would like to taste some authentic polish food. Have thought about visiting Poland, after reading perhaps I will
It was really cool to see and the food was amazing! I hope you make it there someday!
After looking at your food shot, I want to visit just to try some of that food out!! 🙂 Have always wanted to visit Krakow and may go book a trip right now!
Please do!! You won’t regret it 😀