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Kraków is known for its well-preserved medieval core and Jewish quarter. I found it delightful – a pleasant climate (in the summer at least), excellent architecture, and friendly people that appear to be universally English-speaking. It’s very affordable, good value for your money, and has a diverse and good quality food scene (local cuisine is heavy on duck). It’s quite religious (Catholic), in European terms – packed with churches, and with a lot of clergy quite visible, all around town. The old town is ringed by a river and a green parkland, and as you get into the Jewish quarter and surrounding neighbourhoods, it feels a lot like Austin, TX.

Sites

There’s a lot here, in a reasonably small and walkable (flat) space. A weekend would be tight to give it good coverage, and 4-5 days would pass quickly. I made it to –

  • **Rynek Glówny (market square). It’s huge! There are also other squares that are just off it, creating a very large amount of social, public space. In the plaza, there’s the famous Cloth Hall (full of touristy stuff, but a pretty gallery of shops), St. Mary’s Basilica, a lovely line-up of white horse-drawn carriages you can charter, and many (more than a dozen) restaurants.
  • I lost track of churches at a certain point (there really are a lot), but the **Holy Trinity Church stood at as one of the more elegant and harmonious. Across the river, St. Joseph’s Church was also interesting, in particular the ‘chapel on the rock’ behind the main structure. **St. Mary’s Basilica was worth it, despite the lines, a very ornately decorated space.
  • *Rynek Underground Museum was fairly marginal, though clearly a big archeology project.
  • I tried to visit Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory, but it was sold out – you do want to book this a few days in advance.
  • The **Wawel Royal Castle and the Wawel Hill on which it sits constitute the most historically and culturally significant site in Poland. It was quite overwhelming, a hodgepodge of experiences and architecture, representing nearly all European architectural styles of the Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque periods. Navigating the purchasing of tickets was annoyingly complex and obtuse. All that said, it’s worth sticking it out and visiting. I saw the Royal Apartments, Private Apartments, Dragon’s Den, Royal Gardens (my favourite of the visit), and Sandomierska Tower (all of which required individual, separate tickets). At yet another ticket stand, you can get access to the (separately run) Cathedral, which isn’t particularly church-like, more a grand mausoleum. It’s impressive, if a bit chaotic. Wawel Castle is the most visited art museum in the country and the 22nd most visited art museum in the world.

Food and Lodging

  • **Boccanera Ristorante Pizzeria is a cute spot with outdoor dining – just a block from the main square, but with a more bohemian feel. Pizzas, pasta. Food was perfectly fine (not remarkable).
  • **Czarna Kaczka/ Black Duck: a good choice for local/regional food. There’s an indoor section and a sunny patio, food is tasty.
  • **Hala Lipowa is a very hipster new food stall area near the Schindler Museum, with perhaps 10 different food types and a big cocktail bar. It’s a bit tucked away, keep an eye out for the signs to find it.
  • **Puente is a nicely designed Mexican spot, good cocktails, right on the edge of a popular square packed with food carts. It’s legitimately spicy (if you ask for it).
  • I had a work dinner in the rooftop bar/restaurant at the *Sheraton Grand Krakow. It was not exceptional, pretty average, but they may do better with normal dining. Hotel seemed just okay, wouldn’t be my first choice.
  • I really loved the ***Stradom House – great location, beautifully designed, comfortable and elegant rooms, thoughtful and expansive public spaces. Very good breakfast, excellent service. There’s a gym, sauna, and pool (which I didn’t get a chance to check out).

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