Krakow in two days - travel tips.
In September 2019, taking advantage of a week’s vacation, we decided to take a trip to Europe. We left Naples with a direct Ryanair flight which in about 2 hours took us to Krakow airport, our first stop.
Transfer to the city.
We arrived around midnight and as a means of transport to go to the center we chose the bus. The latter is the cheapest means and also the fastest at night, in fact in just 30 minutes we reached the booked hostel. At night there is only the 902 bus.
The city can be visited easily on foot. So we made 4 single tickets at a cost of 4.60 zł (about € 1.10) each, 2 to go to the center and 2 to then return to the airport again. Obviously, there are other types of tickets and season tickets for public transport (buses and trams), on the official website all the information. Tickets can be purchased at automatic machines, it is possible to pay both in cash and by credit card. The automatic machines are located at the exit from the airport, in front of the bus stop. One of the many beautiful things about Poland is that you can pay everything with your credit card even expenses of a few cents, in fact both in Krakow and in Warsaw (see Warsaw low cost in two days !!!) we did not withdraw cash.
The bus left us about 250 meters from the hostel, the Brama Hostel. The latter is located in the historic center of the city, right in front of the San Floriano gate. I checked in straight to bed because at 6.25 in the morning we had the bus with direction Oświęcim, where the former Auschwitz concentration camp is located.
Former Auschwitz concentration camp.
There are several means of transport to go from Krakow to the former Auschwitz concentration camp. Buses, trains, organized tours, rental cars. We chose the bus, in particular Flixbus which, with around € 1.00 per person, took us from the Krakow bus station to the museum in an hour and a half.
There are different types of admission tickets for the museum: free individual admission without free guide, individual with paid guide (at each hour there is a guide in a different language). For the visit it is essential to book the day and time of entry on the official website. It is possible to choose the type of visit desired, whether individual or group, choose the day and time of entry, at this point, after entering the required data and a valid email the tickets will be sent on the same after a few minutes. In the museum you cannot bring bags or backpacks larger than 30x10x20 cm, for this reason there is a luggage storage service at the entrance at a cost of about € 1.00.
We arrived at 7.50, the first entrance to the museum was at 8, very few people were present at this time. We chose the entrance ticket without a guide. To visit the whole camp it takes at least 1.5-2 hours.
You enter from the main entrance where there is the famous “Arbeicht macht frei” inscription, most of the buildings, called blocks, can be visited. You can visit the male, female and children’s dormitories, the workplaces, the gas chambers, the crematoria, the accommodation of the Nazi military, the wall of death where the prisoners were shot. In almost all the blocks you can take photographs without flash, where they are prohibited it is specified on the various signs present. Unfortunately the weather conditions did not help us, we did not visit all the blocks as the pouring rain had formed puddles along the streets, which were unpaved like in the past.
In front of the museum entrance, in the parking lots, there are free shuttle bus stops, which take you to the other Birkenau extermination camp. Unfortunately, both for adverse weather conditions and for the limited time available, we decided not to visit Birkenau and take the Flixbus bus at 10.15 to return to Krakow.
Matejki Square, Basilica of San Floriano.
Back in Krakow, we begin our program for visiting the city. From the bus station we head towards Matejki square which is located on the edge of the old city. In the center of the square is the monument built in 1910 on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Grunwald where the Polish-Lithuanian allies won the Teutonic troops.
Next to the square there is one of the oldest structures in Krakow, the Basilica of San Floriano, the parish church of the future Pope John Paul II from 1951 to 1958. The church can be visited for free.
Barbican, San Floriano Door.
We continue with our itinerary and move to the old city. The first point of interest is the Barbican, a circular brick fortress with a large moat, built to protect the city. In the past this structure was connected to the walls that surrounded the city through a covered passage. Today this passage and the walls are no longer there, there is only a small piece of wall connected to the San Floriano Door, the main of the seven city gates. Instead of the walls around the city, today there is a large park that surrounds the old town of Planty Park.
Market Square, Basilica of Santa Maria.
We continue the itinerary through Ulica Floriańska, a pedestrian street where there are numerous shops, restaurants, clubs and also the Pharmacy Museum and we arrive at the main square of the city Market Square (Rynek Główny). It is one of the largest squares in Europe, the main attraction is certainly the Basilica of Santa Maria. The Church for us tourists can be visited by paying the ticket. On the official website, all information on timetables and ticket prices.
Fabric market, Rynek Underground.
In the square there is also the Sukiennice – the Fabric Market. In the past it was precisely a center of the textile trade, today instead on the ground floor there are several stands selling souvenirs and handicrafts. On the upper floor, there is the 19th century Polish painting gallery. Under the market, there is the Rynek Underground, an underground museum where there are interactive exhibits, medieval artifacts, videos, which describe the history of the city. Timetables and prices on the official website.
Jagiellonian University and Jagiellonian University.
We head towards Wawel Castle, but first we pass the Jagiellonian University, the oldest university in Poland famous also because it was attended by John Paul II. After university, continuing towards the castle is the Bishop’s Palace one of the largest palaces in Krakow, the seat of the Curia is also famous because it was the residence of John Paul II.
Finally, we arrived at the Wawel Castle, which is located on a hill to the left of the Vistula river. In addition to the castle, on the hill there are also the Cathedral with the tombs of the kings, the Museum dedicated to John Paul II, the Sigismondo Chapel and the Sigismondo Tower. Inside the castle, we find the Crown Treasure, a museum, the armories and below the Dragon’s Cave. On the official website there are all the information on times and costs for the visit.
After a long day, we decided to stop and eat a nice plate of Pierogi. Pierogi are a typical Polish dish, in particular they are a type of pasta almost similar to our ravioli, there are different fillings, there is plenty of choice. You should definitely try them, they are delicious.
The time available ended the morning after we left. There would have been much more to see:
The Jewish quarter (Kazimierz) where the Schindler factory is located, several synagogues, museums and a monumental cemetery.
At about 15 km from Krakow there is the salt mine that can be visited following a tourist route of about 3.5 km of tunnels, where you can see rooms, underground lakes, ancient tools and machinery used by miners. Even inside there is also a chapel with salt-based decorations.
We really liked the city and the prices are really low on almost everything. Krakow is a city where we will return to visit the rest and to devote ourselves entirely to the former concentration camp of Auschwitz.