Have you been to Krakow or Warsaw in Poland? Both cities are gorgeous and highly underrated in the usual Europe trip. Rather than only heading to Western Europe, every Europe trip should also have at least one destinations in Eastern Europe. So far I have been to Budapest, Prague, Bratislava, Warsaw and Krakow. The architecture is stunning and the people are incredibly friendly. So do add at least one Eastern European city to your trip!
I visited Krakow because of a friend’s wedding. And, I am not sure how, I managed to book the flights to Warsaw instead of Krakow and only figured it out in train on the way to the airport in London haha. I will just blame in on task juggling during an incredibly busy day in the office when the flight-booking-to-do slipped entirely down the priority list. So while I was doing three things at the same time the task of book-flights-for-dates-XY-to-Poland seemed somehow completed with tickets to Warsaw…after all, Warsaw is right next to Krakow, isn’t it :)?
Right after accepting the ‘situation’ we booked a rental car to drive straight from Krakow to Warsaw. It was actually a nice drive. The freeway in Poland was quite new and they did take the speeding limits that seriously. Well, at least nobody stopped us ;)
Three hours and some coffee later, we arrived happily in Krakow, checked into the hotel, got changed and headed over to the pre-wedding party. We did miss dinner but arrived perfectly in time for the after-party!
The rest of the wedding week was relatively issue-free and lots of fun with a beautiful bride and wedding celebration :) The only issue we had was explaining to the non-English speaking taxi driver that he should bring us to the church where the ceremony was held. The word church did not ring a bell at all. He apparently assumed I had just introduced myself to him and responded with a smile, pointing at himself and saying his name. Awesome. And we were in a bit of a hurry as we didn’t know exactly where the church was (obviously..) and wanted to arrive well ahead of time. My phone didn’t have any internet so I wasn’t able to check google maps. Next I tried to explain our destination by making praying gestures and repeating ‘Amen’ several times. Well, not sure he got that either. Probably not as he didn’t look like he just had an ‘a-ha-moment’. He just smiled at me. In the end nothing helped and we had to run back to the hotel room to get the wedding invitation with the name of the church on it. At least that worked out. He got it. And 15 mins after entering the taxi for the first time, we finally were on our way. And also arrived in time for the ceremony. Just in time :)
Krakow is such a beautiful city with so many things to explore. And even if you just decide to spend your day having coffee and reading a good book in the market square (Rynek Glówny) of the city’s old town, Krakow’s vibe is unique.
The market square is incredibly beautiful and is surrounded by beautiful townhouses and churches. The square dates back to the 13th century and is one of the largest medieval market squares in Europe.
The building dominating the main square’s centre is the Cloth Hall (pictured below) with its Town Hall Tower on one side and the Church of St. Adalbert on the other side. On the eastern corner of Krakow’s market square is the St. Mary’s Basilica. The basilica was originally built in the 13th century and, after destruction, rebuilt in the 14th century. St. Mary’s Basilica is open until 6pm and one of the must-sees when visiting the market square.
Plan at least a full day for Krakow’s main square as you might want to have brunch and relax in one of the coffee places between your sightseeing excursions. Also venture off the main square and explore the surrounding streets. Another highlight of Krakow is the Wawel Cathedral. We didn’t get the chance to visit this one as we opted to drive to Auschwitz-Birkenau instead.
The memorial is located 1.5 h away from Krakow by car and there are several organised tours from Krakow to Auschwitz per day. As you probably know, Auschwitz-Birkenau was the largest of the Nazi German concentration camps where 1.1 m men, women and children lost their lives. The museum shows former prisoner rooms and lots of documentary photography, prisoner garments and personal items taken from the Jewish deportees. Though you don’t need much more visual help to understand the terror that happened in the camp, there are also sculptures and models showing how prisoners lived in the camp and how they were treated. It is a horrible and shocking place that should be a must-see for everyone visiting Krakow – just so that we never forget what men are capable of and that this part of history will never repeat itself. After returning back to Krakow we didn’t feel like doing much anymore that evening and just went for dinner. I suggest you don’t make lots of plans for the rest of the day after vising Auschwitz-Birkenau as you will probably not be in the mood for anything.
On the way back from Krakow to the airport we stopped in Warsaw. So at least we got some sightseeing out of flying to the wrong airport.. Warsaw is really pretty, especially the old town (first photo of the blog post). So if you pass by Warsaw, definitely take some time to explore the old town, sit in beautiful coffee shops and enjoy the beautiful ambiance. Head up the St. Anne’s Church to have a stunning view over the old town of Warsaw. If you have a full day of sightseeing in Warsaw, also visit the Royal Castle. For classic music lovers, the museum of Chopin is a must-see. And to learn about an important aspect the history of Warsaw, visit the Warsaw Uprising Museum. I was not able to take many photos in Warsaw as I forgot to charge my camera in the morning. So just type ‘Warsaw Old Town’ into google and you will see exactly what I mean with beautiful ambiance :)