Traveling through Poland can be a source of beautiful memories. Poland is a beautiful place with many large cities and great and open people, who will open their doors and hearts for you.
All Polish cities are unique in some way, because of localisation or its history. The most common destination is Warsaw, although when I chose to travel to Poland I picked Cracow as my sightseeing destination. There are plenty of reasons why you should visit Cracow first.
The foundation of the city is connected with the history of the dragon living in the city caves. This mythical atmosphere is just a foretaste of unique historical climate which permeates the city streets.
Cracow is one of the oldest cities in the country. In the past, it has been a capital of Poland and the residence of Polish kings, therefore there are plenty of places with historical background.
The city is located in southern Poland on both banks of the Vistula river. The easiest way to get to there is by plane. The John Paul II airport is located 6,8 miles west of the city. Traveling to the city centre takes about 17 minutes if you use the train. The Cracow central station is conveniently located on the northeast edge of the old town, so you can start discovering the city right from the spot.
If your hotel is near the old town, don’t hesitate to take a quick stroll down the city streets. Walking the city alleys in the evening is a dreamy experience. The old brick houses and stone carved streets, the beautiful smell of food from local restaurants fill the heart with warm, positive emotions, just like the night before Christmas Eve.
If you`re lucky, you will meet a food stall with local food specialities. Don’t hesitate to stop by and try, it will be a taste of what is still ahead of you.
After hopefully a convenient night at your hotel (mine was), there is a rich list of places you can head to. The number one on my list was one of the greatest castles in Europe, Wawel. There are so many stories connected with this place, it is better to take a guide. I picked the Discovery Cracow tour. There so much history embedded in those walls, it would be too long to write about it. It would be better if you see it yourself.
The Wawel trip can take longer, so it’s better to plan ahead and pick the nearest attractions. Luckily the Old Town has plenty of those. Starting with the Royal Route, the historical coronation path of Polish kings, which is right next to the Wawel castle, you can easily head down to the jewel in the crown – the Rynek Głowny, the largest medieval square in Central Europe. Even though it is a center of modern life of Cracow, with restaurants, pubs, stores and bookshops surrounding the place, the specific tear-drop architecture and the neighbourhood of the Saint Mary Basilica make it feel like the time has solidified in a medieval amber, creating a unique combination of the new and the old.
There are 36 Museums in Cracow, covering various historical topics. The most interesting for me, where the Royal Castle museum and Schindler’s factory museum.
What surprised me the most was the fact that Auschwitz-Birkenau camp is treated as a city museum and a sightseeing attraction. The place where 1,5 million people died during World War II, is located about 37 miles west of the city centre. You can easily get there taking a bus, train or a minibus or by taking a guided trip with various companies offering a whole day experience. I like to use tested sources, so I took a group trip and pick up from my hotel with Discovery Cracow. Although visiting a death camp creates quite a different feeling than walking through a full of mysticism medieval city, it is worth the effort. Only by looking at the gate sign saying “Arbeit Macht Frei” you can feel the cold chill on your neck. It is worth to go and hear the stories about heroism and pain which happened not so long ago.
The history and the beauty of the city are not the only reasons why many tourists from all over the world are coming here every year. Another one is the nightlife. In the evening you can go to the old town to look for good old fun. There are plenty of restaurants, pubs and clubs. It all really depends on what your thing is. Grabbing an Irish beer, hitting the dance floor or tasting wine, choose yourself. What was really wonderful during my stay in Cracow was the fact I didn’t feel like I was lonely there. I met many good people with various backgrounds and origins who treated me like I was an old friend. I will surely come back here in the future.