Let’s rewind to May this year to one of my favourite city breaks in the amazing Kraków. I’m so excited to tell you all about what we got up to on our crazy few days away. This also happened to be my birthday weekend (the big 31) and what a way to celebrate. We came back so sad to leave because we had the BEST time.
The weather was really hit and miss on the weekend we chose to visit. It was raining heavy when we arrived but brightened up by the end of the weekend. Ohhh and there was also a national emergency declared. Typical. It flooded and it seemed that all tourists received a warning text.
The weather is usually around 20 degrees in May. So hopefully when you visit, you won’t have to deal with extreme flooding.
The currency in Poland is Zloty. However, some establishments accept Euros. The current currency value is 0.21 Sterling to 1 Zloty. It is mega cheap in Poland, so get the drinks in!
It all started with a short flight (approximately 1 hour 30 minutes) with Easy Jet from Manchester Airport. I must admit that Easy Jet have really improved over the last few years and I would fly with them again. We landed In Kraków Balace Airport and caught an airport taxi to our hotel. The taxi drive to our hotel cost us very little and it took around 30 minutes. I told you it was cheap! You won’t need a lot of spending money for a weekend in Kraków.
We pulled up at our hotel (WM Hotel System SP Zoo). What a nightmare this hotel was. When we pulled up to the hotel the taxi driver even said ” this hotel is in a bad position”…your telling me pal! It was 30 minutes away from the centre of the city and we constantly had to go back and forth in Uber’s. The hotel was also a transit hotel and it reminded me of something out of The Shining film. I wouldn’t recommend staying in this hotel. The decor was bland and it needed a good clean. The only good thing is that the hotel had a pool and we didn’t even use that. I don’t know how we survived.
It was raining really hard when we dropped our bags off and we decided to suck it up and get ourselves into town. We caught an Uber (the first of many) into the centre to have a look around. First thing we did, was eat.
We went to a little restaurant called ‘Marmolada’. The decor was lovely and it looked super cute. My friend decided to try some Polish food and ordered a ‘pork neck burger’. I was worried. Safe to say, the neck burger was not eaten. I wasn’t that hungry and ordered a salad. Well, my salad tasted fishy. A fishy salad! We couldn’t understand why? We finally figured it out a few days later…all will be revealed.
The torrential rain continued and off we went to explore the city. The square is beautiful. However, the rain did not help our sightseeing experience and after about half an hour we checked out the mirror maze (Lustrzany Labirrynt). The mirror maze is literally just down the road from the main square and it’s really easy to find. If your up for a cheap laugh and like bright shiny lights, check it out.
We decided to head back to the hotel to get ready for our first night out in Kraków. The main drinking hotspots seemed to be around the main square. At first we ended up in a student bar listening to karaoke and then next thing we knew we were in an Irish Pub. Or course, my trips wouldn’t be complete without finding an Irish drinking establishment. There wasn’t many people out and we didn’t know whether it was because it was a Thursday night or the rain was still pouring. We decided to get back to hotel, as we had an early start in the morning.
So before we went to Kraków, we pre-booked an excursion through a tour company called Royal Kraków to visit Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau. Top tip for you, pre-book your trip with a tour company many weeks in advance, as these tours get booked up fast. The tour costs around £35 and lasts half a day.
I’m really surprised that the company picked us up from our hotel in the morning, as our hotel was not located centrally and tour companies don’t normally pick you up on the outskirts of a city. The small mini van picked us up at 10.15 and then we headed into town to pick another 6 people up from their hotels. We then drove about an hour to Auschwitz.
Auschwitz was a concentration camp when Poland was occupied by Nazi Germany during World War 2. It was open from 1940, before it was liberated by the Soviet Union in the January of 1945. Over 1.3 million people were kept there and around 1.3 million people were killed.
It was extremely busy when we arrived but we were met by a local tour guide and about 30 other people for the tour. Your given small headsets to listen to the guide as they took you around camp. Auschwitz is the smaller of the two concentration camps. It was the most harrowing experience of my life.
I can’t describe the feeling of seeing people’s possessions behind glass cabinets and how people were forced here not knowing what was going on, whether they would survive or whether they would see their family again. In one particular part of the tour, you saw a huge cabinet full of women’s hair which had been shaved off after they were killed in the gas chamber. Words cannot describe.
At the end of the tour in Auschwitz, the guide takes you into the gas chamber and I can’t even write about it because I honestly don’t know what to say.
We got back onto the mini van and drove 5 minutes down the road to Auschwitz-Birkenau. This is where the train would bring people into the camp and the tracks still remain. Auschwitz-Birkenau is the largest of the camps. The buildings are mostly gone and only chimneys remain. The Nazi’s blew up the gas chambers here before the camp was liberated and rubble is all that is left.
At the end of the tour you go into one of the buildings and I couldn’t believe how many people would sleep and live in there. Absolutely shocking. This was the last part of the tour and we headed back onto the mini van.
The mini van took us back into Kraków city centre and dropped us all off in a central location. Me and my friend had no idea where we were and started to get our phones out to get google maps on the go, until we heard this weird accent (slightly American with a hint of Scandinavian) “are you girls ok?”. Who knew that this guy would become a new travel friend. Two guys (who shall not be named as they quite possibly work for MI5) started chatting and helped us back to the centre. Within ten minutes, we were sat in a restaurant called Moo Moo having dinner. The guys were from Sweden and we got talking about the UK and why they were in Kraków. We had such a good time, we decided to meet them later that evening for drinks.
It was at this point my friend realised that she had left her bank card in an Uber. Ohhh gosh. Stuck in Kraków with no money. We eventually managed to get hold of the Uber driver who kindly offered to come into the centre to give it her back. He also have my friend a business card for an apartment he owns in the centre. Bonus.
We met the lads aka ‘MI5’ (they shall be named MI5 for the purpose of this blog) outside the Hard Rock Cafe located in the main square for drinks. We had such a good night, talking about Ikea, ABBA and all things Swedish! It soon turned midnight and I hit the big 31. We celebrated with shots in a cocktail bar called ‘Movida’ and before we knew it we were tipsy and me and my friend headed back to The Shinning hotel.
On the Saturday morning we got up, heads hurting and headed off to explore the city. Luckily the sun came out for my birthday and we walked down past Wawel Royal Castle to the river. I had heard there was a dragon that breathes real fire somewhere in Kraków. I was determined to find this dragon. We found it. We waited ten minutes. It breathed a small fire for 5 seconds. Excitement over. We then headed to the Jewish Quarter. This is when we got really lost and didn’t really know where we were going. We kept seeing people on small cars doing tours of the city and I really wish we had done this now, as they looked like good fun and a great way to explore.
So after getting lost for about an hour, we walked it back to the main square. In the square you’ll find the famous Cloth Hall, which has loads of really cute stalls and just outside you’ll pass wooden market stalls. Just remember to be careful that you don’t get mowed down by many horse and carriages…
Saturday night was our last night out in this amazing city and again we arranged to meet up with the MI5 lads for drinks. This time we took them to the Irish Bar. We had such a great time together and we also met some Irish lads who joined in with some great craic.
On the Sunday, it was time to go home. However, we had time to say goodbye and meet up with MI5 for a bit of river dining on a boat. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the name of the boat we went on…it also wasn’t great service and we waited a long time for our food. This is when I figured out why I had a ‘fishy salad’ on our first day. As I read the menu on the boat, I noticed that all the salads had anchovy sauce on them!!! Finally, I knew my salad wasn’t dodgy, it was just smothered in fish sauce. We finished dinner and we went to grab an Uber to the airport. We said goodbye to the MI5 lads, had a quick selfie and arranged to meet again in Sweden.
Kraków is an amazing city. It’s full of pretty architecture and has a great atmosphere. I would highly recommend a visit. It’s also extremely cheap and your money goes far in this fabulous place. So grab a Polish beer and get yourself down the mirror maze.
Until next time Kraków…
Ohhh and also one of the MI5 lads has recently been to the UK to visit and we’re currently in the process of arranging a trip to Sweden! So keep your eye out for a blog on Stockholm coming later this year. Travel friends for life.