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Krakow on limited time

My family will be in Krakow for only 2 days and want to maximize our time. Going to Auschwitz is a definite. We were thinking of doing Auschwitz and the Salt Mine in one day, but a friend of mine said that she felt that the Salt Mine was too commercialized and not worth the time. Do people agree? I've heard from others the exact opposite.
Also, I'd like peoples' opinion on going to Oscar Schindler's Enamel Factory. Is that worth our time, or should we spend more of our limited time in Old Town?
Thanks for all of your help.

Posted by
4689 posts

I wasn't put off by the "commercialized" nature of the salt mine tour, but I felt it was a lot of time and effort for what you get out of it. The tour involves a lot of walking (with a guide). I also made the mistake of touring the sale mines the same day I visited Auschwitz, so my feet were just DEAD by the end of that day! (Already sore from walking the previous week in other Polish cities.).

I'd recommend the sale mine for sure if you had more time, though. With only two days, I'd stick to Auschwitz and the old town.

However, I LOVED the Museum of Krakow under the Nazi Occupation (which is the more correct name of the museum housed at Schindler's old factory, FYI). It's a fantastic museum, very well designed - and I am not really a "museum person" though I am a World War II history buff. The museum has almost nothing to do with Schindler himself - you can still see his office but most of the museum has nothing to do with him. It;s really about Krakow under Nazi rule during the war. You can take a tram and then walk the rest of the way to the museum, so it might not take a ton of extra time to see. And you might enjoy a walking tour of Kazimierz, the old Jewish quarter, which as I recall is on the way to the museum from the old town.

Posted by
5028 posts

Are you saying two whole days (that is, three nights), or are you not counting travel time? What are your interests - history, art, food, etc? I think the Wawel Castle (in old town area) was the (literally as well as figuratively) high point of our visit. The old town square and market area are very nice and if you're interested in shopping and restaurants, thats the place to be. If you don't spend some time there, you'd be missing the heart of the city. Of course the salt mines are commercialized as its a major tourist attractions, but still interesting if you've never seen the inside of one elsewhere. The Schindler factory museum wasn't open when we were there, so can't speak to that.

Posted by
54 posts

What tram goes near Oscar Schindler's Enamel Factory?

We will be there 3 nights, 2 full days.

Posted by
4689 posts

I don't remember which tram. Unfortunately, Google Maps seems not to have Krakow's public transit system in its database. When I did it in 2012, I followed directions in my Rick Steves book: took a tram from the old town to Ghetto Heros Square in Kazimierz and walked from there. I'm not sure if today that is the fastest way to do it. There were signs from the square to the museum/factory - it was not a direct walk, but if you followed the signs there was no issue getting there - and today I'd have my phone for walking directions.

Posted by
5028 posts

Gwen google "In Your Pocket Guide: Krakow" and look through the information there, and download their guide on restaurants, shops, etc. Very useful site and guidebook. You can use the interactive map feature, for example, to locate your hotel, and then see all the nearby restaurants. I think this will also show you transportation and where the museum is, in relation to hotel.

Posted by
2235 posts

Gwen, I was in Krakow for 4 nights, 3 full days, back in 2011, so a little more time than you have. I was able to visit Auschwitz, the Salt Mine and old town Krakow during that time, all interesting and worthwhile. I found the Salt Mine to be a unique and unforgettable experience. Really amazing, I had no idea before I got to Krakow. So, I would encourage you to try to fit it in. I went on a day bus tour from Krakow, and I think it was just a half day tour. There is A LOT of walking, down many, many, many stairs, and then walking around when underground, although we did go back up via a small elevator.

Posted by
13967 posts

Like Andrew, I was most impressed by the Schindler museum. The tram to Ghetto Heros Square is the nearest and worth seeing. If you are in a hurry, take a taxi to the museum, then walk (about 10 minutes) to the square and the tram. Taxis in Poland are cheap - note that you cannot hail them, you must either phone for one or go to a taxi stand.

With only 2 days, skip the Salt Mines. It's a schlep to get there and a lot of waiting - for the train, for tickets, for the tour to start, and mostly for the tiny elevator at the exit. I'm glad I went, but I had 5 full days in Krakow and I didn't go to Auschwitz, partly because it's become too commercialized. People I met said the tours rush you through. That was last month. If you are going in off-season, if there are few tourists, maybe the tours would be longer.

Posted by
2075 posts

With just two days, you are going to have to make some tough decisions. I would skip the salt mine - I found it kind of interesting but not great. If you go (and I know many people love it), I would do it on the same day as Auschwitz. This is not ideal, but otherwise, you won’t have much time for Kraków. Krakow is beautiful and has a wonderful vibe. My favorite thing was to walk around the old town and Wawel Hill. I liked the Schindler museum a lot, but not as much as exploring Krakow. The museum would be a good option in bad weather or if you love museums. It’s close to the Jewish quarter which is also interesting.

Incidentally, I’m puzzled by the comment that Auschwitz is commercialized. I was there three years ago, and that was not my experience. I’m just not sure what thst means. It’s not like they are hawking merchandise or snapping pictures of you for purchase. I also didn’t feel rushed, although there is a lot of ground to cover and a lot of people on tours. Please don’t take it off your list based on that comment. Everything was handled with respect and reverence for those who suffered and perished.

Posted by
4689 posts

It is possible to enter Auschwitz without a guide (for free) before 10AM all year and all day in the "low season" months. Otherwise, you must pay to join a tour to enter the camp. I did it myself. I suppose one might feel put off by having to pay for the tour, but as I said, it is possible to avoid it and arrive early. I took a mini-bus from the Krakow bus station early in the morning to get to Oświęcim (Polish name for Auschwitz). The bus dropped me at the edge of the camp and I walked about 1/4 mile through the parking lot to the entrance. Some people surely would want to take a guided tour from Krakow or want a guided tour at the camp.

In any case, if you do it yourself, you won't feel rushed; no one will rush you, you'll have all day until the camp closes.

Posted by
2092 posts

I spent 3 1/2 days in Krakow and did not choose to see the salt mines, but I did take a guided small group tour to Auschwitz that left around 7 am and had me back in Krakow by 3, so still plenty of time to do more in town. It's a wonderful city to explore on foot, I spent lots of time in the square and old town areas. It was hot when I visited in May so the planty that encircles old town was great for sitting under the trees when I needed a break.

Things I enjoyed were touring the Schindler factory, museum of ethnography, Wawel Hill, the Kazimierz district and the art museum that's on the top level of Cloth Hall. The square has plenty of crafts and food and places to sit. I came to love hearing the hourly hejnal from St Mary's.

The day I visited Schindler was extremely hot and I didn't feel like trying to deal with public transit so took a very short and cheap taxi there.

Posted by
3951 posts

I would have found a visit to the salt mine after Auschwitz to have been too much. We travelled by bus from Krakow and it took well over an hour. We spent several hours touring Aushwitz on our own, I would not describe it as commercialised in any way, quite the opposite. It is a very respectful and tastefully compiled museum. We didn't feel rushed, were left to our own devices and each of us took some time out for personal quiet reflection. We were back in Krakow by late afternoon and I don't think I would have been in the right frame of mind or physically comfortable to undertake another tour of anything. A good meal and some drinks to lighten the mood were a far better option in my opinion.

Posted by
12103 posts

Hi,

Since you are focusing on the history sites in Krakow, be sure not to miss the big memorial to Katyn.

As you walk around the Krakow's center, there is a large cross off to side of a street in its own little spot with the word in caps "KATYN" over it. No explanation is provided in Polish or any other language....very moving, poignant, grim when I saw that. It's assumed one knows what happened there in WW2.

Posted by
242 posts

I know Auschwitz is a definite, but consider substituting Schnidler's Museum instead. Here's what I would do in two days: Enjoy the ambiance of old town Krakow (St. Mary's church, Cloth Hall, etc.), then Schnindler's Enamel Factory. Hire a person to take you to the Salt Mines and then an ethnographic museum to see how Poles lived a while back. http://openairmuseum.pl/skansen/wygielzow This one is on the way to Auschwitz. Maybe you could UBER it there and then do Auschwitz or reverse.

I didn't feel the salt mines were commercialized. They were amazing.

Posted by
4 posts

Hi Gwen
We were in Krakow 2 years ago and we visited Auschwitz and Salt Mine in one day. My friend recommended to use KrakowDiscovery to go for a tour in one day. When we arrived to Krakow, we havent to much time because we where there only 3 days. There is a lot things to do and to see there. The trip it wasnt to expensive but included English guided tour. I read some information that museum Auschwitz has a limited tickets so we don`t want to miss out. They offered us visiting both attraction with licensed English speaking guides, so that was good for us. It was a long day for us but visiting both attraction in one day saved time during our stay in Krakow.