Must-See: Krakow, Poland
Kari Connolly, an American Tripper currently living in Krakow, shares her new city.....
As Poland's second largest city, Krakow is bursting with history, art, culture and genuine enthusiasm. Initially I had come to Krakow on a weekend trip while studying in the Czech Republic some years ago. Even being in the city for such a brief time then, I was struck that it was somehow different from all the other places I had visited. When I took my mini-vacation here, I finally felt I could relax. I felt like I was home.
After coming to Krakow again and having been here a month, I feel my initial impression was spot on. From the comforting traditional food to the warmth of the people I have met, Krakow has shown me more and more of its special charisma.
The first and most important hint, in my appetite-driven mind, that I could give you about Krakow is where to eat. The center of Krakow is so packed full of restaurants, cafes and bars that it is overwhelming to choose when you first get here. If you want authentic food, in the local style, and are up for a bit of a challenge, eating at one of the milk bars here in Krakow is a must.
No, these places don't just serve milk. The milk bars serve traditional food, in a cafeteria fashion and for very few zloty. The challenge I mentioned is that it's unlikely the staff will speak to you in English. So brush up on your food phrases, or point and ask for pierogi like I do. You cannot go wrong with a delicious order of pierogi.
Old Town, the center of Krakow, is a UNESCO World heritage site. The entire thing! It's always buzzing with people meeting friends, seeing the sites and buying gifts for family and friends back home in the Cloth Hall Market. Also, watch out for the fearless pigeons. It seems to be a right of passage to feed and be sat on by the pigeons that make their home in the square.
While taking a stroll through Old Town and up to Wawel Castle are a must, I'd also recommend going a bit farther and wandering around Krakow's old Jewish Quarter, Kazimierz. This area is key to the character of the city. Sink into the culture of Poland by sitting in one of its many cafes with a coffee cup in hand and have a chat with the people around you. Polish people are incredibly friendly. Even with my awful, almost non-existent Polish language skills, I've been able to make a lot of friends in this way.
Just head over to Estery street and you will have your pick of cool little hangouts. The area also jumps to life in the evening and pre-dawn hours, so if you want to find nightlife in Krakow, Kazimierz is the place.
Taking a bicycle around the city is a favorite past time for locals and renting a bike in the city could be an awesome idea. Planty Park, which encircles the city center, and the area along the Vistula river are perfect for some scenic rides.
There is one bit of advice to give the unknowing visitor to Krakow. Whether you are renting a car or riding a bike, be sure to know about the strict alcohol policy in Poland. Start that scenic bike ride after having even one beer with a meal, and you could get into a whole mess of avoidable trouble.
In the end, Krakow will charm the socks off you and have you itching for a return visit. The people you will meet will remain with you for life, along with the memories you can make in this amazing place.
For more tips on Tripping in Krakow, connect with Kari via her Tripping profile.