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Holidays to Krakow
Krakow - more than 750 years old, and counting!
If it's history you want, it's Krakow you got! This huge metropolis was the seat of Polish power for 5 centuries; the royal capital and a monument to the artisan crafts of medieval stonemasons, the architectural majesty of some of Europe's finest minds and the power of money!
If you're thinking city breaks Europe, Krakow has been a major European city for hundreds of years, and gathered vast wealth and a priceless heritage. Luckily the city and it's treasures emerged relatively unscathed from the tribulations of WWII. Today it is home to some of the most majestic buildings in Europe and some 2.4 million pieces of artwork dating back almost a thousand years. Indeed, some historians put settlement of Krakow at around 20,000 years ago.
Set on the river Vistula, Krakow was inhabited some 1200 years ago, sacked by the Tartars in 1241 and rebuilt to a design that remains unchanged to today. It makes for perfect romantic weekend breaks.
You'll see Gothic and Renaissance architecture, beautiful old churches, a massive town market, plus, for the bar flies on short breaks; a cornucopia of restaurants, clubs and bars!
You'll need at least two days just to cover the old town, and plan on a few more days to explore the surrounding suburbs of Nowa Huta, Debniki and Podgorze.
Krakow is party central for Poland and a visit here is a feast for the body, the mind and the spirit!
Eating out in Krakow
Cheap, expensive and everything in between
The food in Poland befits the climate - hearty warming stews, rustic soups and delicious dumplings. Because of its role as a trading crossroads throughout history, Krakow has also taken the best of Europe and gradually turned it into it's own. Spicy sausage, tasty beetroot dishes and desserts that utilise the local berries and team them with cream and sugar! A word of warning; avoid the main square for your restaurant choices - you'll see plenty of tourists and very few locals dinning here - for good reason. The food is not overly good and the prices are severe.
The budget options - look out for a 'Bar Mleczny' to lead you to your budget feast. They're a hangover from communism and it stands for, literally, 'Milk Bar', a non-alcoholic cafeteria serving up classic Polish food. (Dumplings, sausage, cabbage dishes.) There are plenty of them around. The food is good, the serving's big and you'll leave with a deep sense of satisfaction.
Mid price options - look out for small, localised restaurants and point at what someone else is having should the Polish language defeat you! We like Chlopskie Jadio on ul sw Jana for it's scrumptious pierogi (boiled, baked or fried dumplings). The soups, meats and breads at Polskie Jadio Compendium Culinarum are excellent value and the pork is melt-in-your-mouth quality. For a little Ukrainian interlude, try Smak Ukrainski on ul Kanonicza.
Splurge - it's easy to spend up large in Krakow! Cyrano de Bergerac is Krakow's finest French restaurant and is fussily formal; think starched white tablecloths, impeccable service, the finest cutlery and of course, rather exceptional food. It does have an eastern European nod to it's location in many of the dishes and the wine list is nothing short of superb. For more Polish fare, try Wierzynek. The opening party was attended by five kings and nine princes. That was in 1364 of course and while royalty's a bit thinner on the ground these days, the restaurant has still seen the likes of de Gaulle, George Bush and well-know foodie, Fidel Castro.
What to wear, when to go
Krakow is a very pleasant place to visit in summer with temps hovering around the 20C mark from June through August. Dress in layers for cool mornings that can warm rapidly. This is true of winter as well when a temperate wind blows off the nearby Tatra mountains and can raise the temperature by around 15C in a matter of hours.
Winter is chilly with average temps of around -3C from December through February.
Spring and autumn are the driest seasons and daytime temps are pleasant for hiking around the city - as you should!
Krakow - stone age village made good
If you want history, Krakow has more of it than most cities in Europe - which is saying something, we know! It's picturesque old town, beautiful river setting and it's geography as a crossroads for northern Europe has opened Krakow up as a tourist destination. The people are friendly and the list of things to do endless!
The old town - this beautiful part of the city has achieved UNESCO world heritage status and the old town is more of a ramble through ancient cobblestone streets past magnificent churches, palaces and once-fashionable merchant houses. The area is home to about six thousand historic sites and over 2 million artworks. . The architecture every period in history with particular reference to the gothic, Baroque and renaissance periods.
The Market Square - set in the old town, the Market Square is one of Europe's oldest and one of Poland's largest. It's a bit touristy today and you might wish to avoid the restaurants in the area but spend time with a coffee just soaking up the atmosphere.
St Mary's Basilica - just off Market Square, St Mary's Basilica contains the world's largest wooden altar. This Gothic marvel is also home to the famous trumpet call of Krakow. Legend has it that the trumpets were sounded to warn of attack and during the 13th century sacking by the Tartars the warning was cut short by a well-aimed Tartar arrow. The same tune is played today on the hour, every hour and stops mid-note at the same moment as the tartar arrow struck home.
Jewish District - wander the Jewish district at night; there are plenty of squares and bars and restaurants to hang out in and you can soak up the atmosphere at leisure.
Don't miss - Oskar Schindler's factory. You know the story, so see the place where it happened. There's nothing particularly outstanding about the actual building, but the exhibition gives a good insight into the Jewish experience in Krakow during WWII.