How To Spend 48 Hours In Krakow, Poland
I’ll be honest, my expectations for Krakow were low. I was treating it as a quick stopover on my way from Amman in Jordan to Budapest, the stunning Hungarian capital. But in many ways, I was pleasantly surprised. Here’s how I spent 48 hours in Krakow.
Let’s start with the negatives first. For ages I couldn’t find my apartment anywhere. I got an Uber from the airport (it was about £5 for a 30 minute journey – Poland is super cheap by the way!!) and was dropped off right where it should’ve been. But I couldn’t find it anywhere. I asked a couple of locals on the street, but they abrasively couldn’t help me. I wandered into a little shop, but the owner didn’t know where it was. Then I wandered into a hair salon, but the (pretty hostile) receptionist wasn’t any help either. Eventually, I found it tucked away in the narrowest building the next street over. My first experiences of the people in Krakow wasn’t overwhelmingly positive, but I brushed this off pretty quickly.
The apartment itself was really affordable. I paid £80, and honestly across Krakow accommodation is ultra-affordable and great value for money.
Krakow is about an hour’s drive to Auschwitz, so it is a good base if you want to visit the infamous Nazi concentration camp. I paid a little over £20 for a tour of the camp which included transportation to and from Krakow. It was really informative, and getting a guide is definitely a must if you do decide to visit Auschwitz.
A visit to the camp can take a full day, and it’s best to opt for a full day tour if you really want to appreciate all of the atrocities that happened at the site. To be honest, you probably wouldn’t be in the right frame of mind to do anything else in the day anyway after a trip to Auschwitz.
One of the things that irked me was the people who were taking selfies. Obviously, Auschwitz isn’t the place for this at all, so be mindful of this if you do visit.
Sitting in the middle of the Main Market Square is the Krakow Cloth Hall. The Cloth Hall historically sold fabrics, but now sells a variety of souvenirs. Whilst a lot of the wares on sale are quite tacky, it’s still worth a walk through for the beautiful internal architecture. The top floor of the Cloth Hall is also home to the Gallery of Polish Painting and Sculptures of the Nineteenth Century.
Sat opposite the Cloth Hall is St Mary’s Basilica. The gothic church is the largest and most important in all of Krakow. Left ruined by raids on it in the Thirteenth Century, the church that currently occupies the site was consecrated in 1320. St Mary’s has two towers, one of which reaches 82 metres high. The interior is just as beautiful as the exterior, and is definitely worthy of a visit.
On the opposing side of the Main Market Square is the Town Hall Tower. This is the only surviving structure of the Fourteenth Century Town Hall. The Town Hall Tower leans 55cm, which is locally blamed on a strong gust of wind in 1703. The very top of the tower is off limits, so you can’t get amazing photos from the top. The shots that you can get still justify the entrance fee though. Visiting at sunset is also certainly worth the effort. Entrance is 10 PLN, which is around £2.
If you are only spending 48 hours in Krakow, you’re probably going to have to choose between either Auschwitz or the Salt Mines. Without wanting to seem crass, Auschwitz obviously isn’t for everyone. It’s a dark, upsetting and confronting experience which you may not want to have.
The Wielickza Salt Mines are just outside of the city, but you can get tours that depart from central Krakow rather than make your own way there. There are 20 chambers carved out of rock salt to explore. I personally didn’t visit the Salt Mines when I was in Krakow and really regret that I didn’t get the time to do so. Obviously, I’m gonna have to book another trip.
Wawel Royal Castle
With over 1,500,000 visitors a year, Wawel Royal Castle is one of Poland’s most popular attractions. The Thirteenth Century castle is now one of Poland’s most prestigious art museums. Prices vary dependent on the exhibition and time of year. The museum was founded in 1930 and contains 10 different curatorial departments.
The Castle is definitely worth a wander around, and is a cultural highlight of the city, which roughly translates to me as being very nice to look at.
There’s definitely enough to keep you occupied in Krakow for a long weekend. In some ways, 48 hours in Krakow might not be enough if you want to dedicate a day to visiting Auschwitz too. Budget airlines such as Ryanair and Easyjet also have some pretty cool routes out of the city to places like Egypt and Jordan. This means that it can also be worked into an itinerary for a longer trip like I did.