3-days in Krakow

My grandmother was from Poland. Planning 3-day "first visit" to Krakow in October . Do not speak Polish but would like to breathe in the culture. Looking for: 1) Hotel suggestions 2) Restaurant suggestions 3) Not to be missed.
Thanks

Posted by Amy
Clarksville, TN, USA
808 posts

I agree with Tom about the salt mine. We really enjoyed the tour. And actually, if you pay a little extra and go with a tour company out of Krakow, from the time they pick you up to the time they drop you off at your hotel is only 4 hours. (Ours was from 11am to 3pm) So it's very doable!

Posted by Amy
Clarksville, TN, USA
808 posts

Restaurant: Bar Grodzka!!!! It's a milk bar that Rick suggests in his book. The food was unbelieveable and reasonably priced. It's right on the walk from Main Market Square to Wawel Hill. So it's easy to hit while you're sightseeing. No need to speak Polish. Everyone's english was very good! We stayed at the Tango House which was inexpensive and nice and literally around the corner from Main Market Square. There's no reason that you can't stay IN Old Town for a reasonable price. And you will not need any public transportation for your stay. Everything's within 20 minutes walking. It's a great little city. If you have Rick's guidebook, just follow his suggestions for top sites. Wawel Hill (we didn't even pay to go in to anything), St Mary's, St Francis' Basilica... Most of the sites are simply things to walk through: i.e., Cloth Hall, Main Market Square, Wawel Hill. In other words, you really could do Old Town easily in one day. And then if you wanted to do Auschwitz or the salt mines, you've got time to do those as well. We were also there for three days. We got sick one of the days, and if that hadn't happened, we would have hit Kazimierz, Schindler's Factory (there's mixed reviews on this -- apparently it's a museum with an overwhelming amount of history), Nowa Huta.... You will love it there, and even more than us since your roots are there!

Posted by Arn
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
215 posts

Krakow is one of my favorite cities in Europe. You will love it. We like Saski Hotel less than a block from the square. In the summer we always eat outside on the square at one of several restaurants mentioned in RS books. I've never been there in October, so don't know if dining is still outside. I would suggest the following for 3 days. 1. Old Town including Cloth Hall & Wawel Hill 2. Auschwitz day trip
3. Jewish Quarter

Posted by Tom
Chicago
2876 posts

Don't know if you'll have the time, but the Wieliczka Salt Mine is incredible, especially the underground cathedral. It's a UNESCO World Heritage site. It's about a 30-minute train or bus ride out of Krakow. It'll take about half a day. If you have any interest in history, go to Auschwitz. If you do, you'll maximize your experience by taking one of their English-language guided tours. It is unforgettable.

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
6839 posts

Don't go with a organized bus tour to visit the mines. The mines are in the suburbs of the city , and there is a inter-state type freeway which connects Krakow to the mines. Taxi would be a better option. When I did the bus tour, it was overpriced, the rep. from the bus tour kept rushing the guide from the mine, and wouldn't drop everyone off at their hotel on the way back.....even though they had no problem picking-up everyone on the way there. Be sure to time the taxi when the English language tours are scheduled...there are only a few a day.

Posted by Eric
Pasadena, Ca, USA
29 posts

Hey...I'm last minute from Moscow to Krakow on the 26th(in two days). Any last minute back up hotels if tango house is booked? Thanks!

Posted by Amy
Clarksville, TN, USA
808 posts

We went with See Krakow for our tour and experienced none of the problems that Michael mentioned. I'm not saying not to do it on your own, but it was nice to have the convenience of being picked up and dropped off and knowing exactly what time we were leaving and what time we would be back. It was impossible to "rush" our tour as there were other groups in front of and behind us in the mines that were not with our group.

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
6839 posts

It's not "impossible" to rush the tours. I've been to the mines twice and each time the tour was a little bit different. There are different corridors, and routes throughout the mine complex with different exhibits. To avoid congestion and in the case of the bus tour I took, the guides can easily bypass a group in front by taking a different turn.

Posted by Abbi
Tulsa, OK, USA
17 posts

Hotel - we stayed @ Tango House and other than the many stairs, loved it. If you book there, say hi to Zaneta :-). We met a couple from Canada who were staying at the Globetrotter Hostel and they had no complaints. Restaurants - try the milk bars, it's definitely a cultural experience. We liked the Kawandas (or whatever it was called - the "young" place the best). We enjoyed several of the cafes on the square. Not to be missed - 1. New museum under the cloth hall called Rynek Underground (http://podziemiarynku.com/index.php?lang=eng) is FANTASTIC! We wish we had seen this on our first day. Lots of background info about Krakow, plus a great amber jewelry store with great prices at the exit (after the cafe). 2. Auschwitz. Well, we went with SeeKrakow and had an organized tour guide and it was DREADFUL. Auschwitz guide was flat and disinterested, plus the SeeKrakow people had us on a very tight schedule. If you don't really want to see Auschwitz but just get a taste, it would be fine. But if you have a desire for an emotional connection, I would highly suggest you get their early or late. If you arrive at either Auschwitz or Birkinau between 10am and 3pm, you must pay for the tour guide. We ended up ditching our guide and tour company at Birkinau, and I can honestly say it was the best thing. All they wanted you to see at Birkinau were one barrack and one restroom. No opportunity to see the infamous dividing line or head to the far end to the memorial. I was in tears as I walked down the middle of the train tracks, soaking up the sadness and desperation that those people must have seen, knowing I get to walk back free. We hopped the free bus back to Auschwitz and watched the gut wrenching movie, which I highly recommend prior to touring the camp. It was shot by the Soviets as they liberated the camp. Absolutely chilling.

Posted by Amy
Clarksville, TN, USA
808 posts

Abbi, were you following us? ;) Sounds like we did the same tours, stayed in the same place, took the same trains, ate in the same places. And all in September! (BTW, how did you get 1st class tix from Krakow to Budapest? Polish Rail told us there was only 2nd class on that night train! Although we were happy with our 2nd class compartment, I'd be curious what the 1st class looked like and how much it cost.)

Posted by Amy
Clarksville, TN, USA
808 posts

Oh, and as far as your comments about Auschwitz... It's interesting what you said about your tourguide. Our tourguide could be described just as you said yours was. I guess I interpreted it as him being somber. And I wish I would have read your comments about Birkenau before we went. After the tour ended (in the barracks and bathroom), I felt like we had little time to explore so I really didn't go down the train tracks as you said you did. I wish now I had. I did go up into the tower and was able to get a better picture that showed the size of the camp, whereas, from the ground, it's harder to get a grasp on how large the grounds were. It was an unforgettable experience. I felt like it didn't really hit me until a few days later. I actually had a dream about it. The whole time I was there, I just couldn't believe that one human being could treat another like that. The horrors were so hard for me to wrap my brain around...

Posted by Larry
Elkins Park, PA
575 posts

This summer our Auschwitz guide, when we got to Birkenau, took us all the way through the length of the rails, slowly, and spent time at the destroyed gas chamber and the memorial.
This clearly must depend in the guide...

Posted by Susan
New York, New York, USA
2 posts

Hi All, Sorry for not responding earlier but have been "off-line" for several days. Thanks everyone for all the great info on Krakow. One last question can I get your thoughts on what and where is the best way to change money? in the US before I leave? in the airport in Poland? banks? Thanks again.

Posted by Tom
Chicago
2876 posts

Get your Polish zlotys at an ATM when you get to Krakow. You'll find ATM's everywhere, particularly around the market square. Your American ATM/debit card will work fine, as long as it's linked to a checking account and has a Visa/Mastercard logo..

Posted by Larry
Elkins Park, PA
575 posts

And, if only an ATM card, rather than a Debit card (no Visa/MC logo) it will work fine if it is on Plus or Cirrus.

Posted by Amy
Clarksville, TN, USA
808 posts

Just to reiterate what Tom and Larry said, and to emphasize: DO NOT CHANGE MONEY. DO NOT CHANGE IT ANYWHERE. It is the biggest ripoff. Simply get your money out of ATM's. And you will be pleasantly surprised at how inexpensive Krakow is. Cheapest city I've ever been to in Europe so far!

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2699 posts

Susan, True, I agreed with the advice given above on NOT changing money at the exchange offices....not necessary. The last time I was in Poland was 2005 in Torun (Thorn), Krakow was a few years before....never had a problem using a magnetic stripe credit card at the ATM for cash withdrawals. Never needed to go to an exchange office.

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
6839 posts

I once arrived at John Paul II Airport at 11pm, and all of the ATM machines had run out of cash. Should I have not used the exchange desk for Zloty to pay the taxi driver;) Make sure you carry some USD for emergencies like this.

Posted by Amy
Clarksville, TN, USA
808 posts

Wow Michael, I never even considered ATM's being out of money when you're limited in ATM options! We usually have US dollars on us simply because of the beginning part of our trip, but I'll always remember your story and remember to have enough in case we got in a pinch like that.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
2608 posts

@Amy... I had the ATMs run out of money in Guatemala, and it happened to be Semana Santa (holy week) so it was literally a few days before they had more money.

Posted by Larry
Elkins Park, PA
575 posts

No one has ever seen an ATM here run out of money? Stuff happens.

Posted by Amy
Clarksville, TN, USA
808 posts

Yes, I've seen an ATM that was out of money, but not in an entire city/town.

Posted by Larry
Elkins Park, PA
575 posts

What was cited above was not an entire town, just a (small) airport. Near me, I encountered a day where 3 neighborhood machines were down/out of money - and all owned by a large bank (Wachovia at the time) It was a holiday weekend.

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
6839 posts

It's a regular problem in my travels. Because of my work schedule I have to start my vacations on a Sunday; arriving across the pond on Monday mornings. No matter which airport I arrive at (big or small) all the ATMs are out of cash from the weekend..they don't get filled until later in the day. So I have no choice but to change a bit of USD to get me to the city center where a wider variety of ATMs are available...most will still have cash. Also, the recent onslaught of Hurricane Irene here in the Northeast also demonstrated the importance of carrying emergency cash. The computer center for a popular credit union in my area was flooded out by the storm. It took week to get it back online, those who didn't have cash on hand (locally or overseas) were screwed.

Posted by Amy
Clarksville, TN, USA
808 posts

"I had the ATMs run out of money in Guatemala, and it happened to be Semana Santa (holy week) so it was literally a few days before they had more money."
I was referring to that comment, not the one about the airport. I was assuming that she was referring to an entire town.

Posted by Denny
Columbus, OH, USA
733 posts

We liked the Hotel Wielopole for its location, reasonable prices, and friendly people. As for tours, perhaps it is the luck of the draw. In 1972 we took a few half day city tours but have not signed up for any since. In Krakow this May we booked the Auschwitz tour with the hotel desk. It was excellent. Door to door, exceptional guide(s), well run and never, ever rushed. We felt it was excellent value for the money, and in fact, signed on for the salt mine tour the next day and had the same positive experience. Our driver not only failed to return folks to their hotels, but went out of his way to drop people off at other places on our return to the town.

Posted by Marlena
Warsaw
1 posts

Hotel suggestion: Try Panda hostel. It's good, cheap, and located close to the city centre.