Where to stay: Kraków is a great place to try staying in a hostel. There’s an awesome nightlife in Kraków, and staying in a hostel will provide you the opportunity to meet people to hang out with when you’re not touring. I stayed in a hostel called Greg & Tom Beer House Hostel which was two minutes walk from the main square of the city, and was super clean and safe. They even provide guests with a free dinner, so if you don’t feel like wandering around to find dinner, you always have that option! There are some good Airbnb options in Kraków, but hostels seem to have the better price in this city. No matter which you choose, be sure to pick one that’s within the Old Town walls. There are a ton of options and they’re all so cheap that there’s no reason not to stay in the middle of the city.
Where to eat: In Kraków, it’s not so much about where you eat, but about what you eat. Pierogies are an obvious choice, so make sure you head somewhere where you can try some of these authentic Polish raviolis (they’re super delicious!). The other thing you’ll want to try, especially if you’re out and about at night, is “zapiekanka”. These are a Polish take on french-bread pizzas, and are a fairly common street food in certain neighborhoods. I’ve been told they’re super easy to find in Kazimierz, otherwise known as the Old Jewish Quarter, which is a great nightlife spot in the city.
What to do: I was really impressed with how great of a city Kraków is, and part of that realization was in the free walking tour that I took upon my arrival. The tour guide was one of the best I’ve ever had, and he did such a great job detailing the history of the city in a really interesting and enjoyable way. The tour ends at the castle, so that gives you a great opportunity to stick around and do some exploring there! Kraków is also famously close by the concentration camps of Auschwitz, so if you’re interested in visiting them you’ll have the opportunity. Visiting Auschwitz will really require that you purchase a bus tour, because they don’t allow tourists to simply show up and wander around without a guide. Booking a tour from Kraków will also provide you with direct transportation to both Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau, and I thought that it was more than worth it. There are tour offices scattered throughout the city that sell these tours, you’ll definitely see signs all over (otherwise ask someone at the hostel/hotel you’re at!) These sites are extremely important to visit and preserve, but should be done with respect to the victims of the atrocities that took place there (i.e. please don’t take selfies or walk around casually chatting with friends). If you’re looking to take another trip outside of the city, you should check out the Wieliczka Salt Mine. This is a UNESCO World Heritage site that consists of a route through an underground salt mine that includes full rooms, chapels, carvings, and statues, and it’s truly incredible. If you can, try to catch this one on a week day, as it’s way less fun if you visit with a ton of other tourists. I also booked a bus tour in advance for the salt mine, just because it seemed easiest to hop on a bus with a built-in guide. Keep in mind that if you want to take photos, you’ll have to purchase a photo pass (fairly common in this part of Europe), so bring some money for this. I absolutely loved exploring the markets in the old town square and wandering around the little side streets finding fun shops and architecture. Be sure to check out the fire-breathing dragon at the castle down by the river!
Overall Opinion: I was absolutely blown away by Kraków! I originally planned to visit for a day or two with the intention of visiting Auschwitz as a part of my studies, but quickly learned how incredible the actual city is, and how much time it really deserved. I’m glad I chose to stay for a couple of days, because I really felt like I got a good look into the city, and it truly does deserve the time. I have every intention of going back to visit and explore Kraków some more, it’s a really incredible city!