In addition to tourist-y things and the all-important list of places to eat and drink, it seemed like a good idea to do a quick rundown of some of the more practical aspects of my travel to Kraków. Really, this is mostly an excuse for me to rave about the wonderful Cracow Hostel, but I guess I can mention some stuff about costs and public transportation and whatnot that might have been useful to know before I got there.
So, to start: where to stay. Assuming you’re a poor college student like I am, you’re in luck, because Kraków is an awesome budget destination. We stayed at Cracow Hostel for £10 a night, and it was an absolute steal. The location is unbeatable – it’s right on Rynek Główny, which means it’s just a quick walk from the Kraków Głowny train station (which is where you’ll end up if you take the train to and from Kraków Balice airport like we did) as well as all the tourist spots in Old Town and Kazimierz. The super-friendly staff are willing to help you make the most of the location; one of the receptionists helped me find a good takeout spot on the first night, and another booked our Auschwitz tour for us.
The actual hostel facilities were great, too. Everything was so, so clean. The bathrooms were not even a tiny bit scary – in fact, they were a nice change from the frequently terrifying dorm bathrooms I’ve been using at “home” in Brighton. Security isn’t an issue because each bed has a corresponding locker (just ask for the key at the desk – you don’t even need to worry about bringing a lock!). And an extra bonus for cheap people like me: included in your room rate is a free continental breakfast every morning, which is pretty spare (bread with jam and honey, eggs, cereal, tea…) but definitely has enough to power you through the morning. If you’re headed to the area, Cracow Hostel is a fantastic choice.
Aside from where to crash, it’s probably a good idea to familiarize yourself with the train system beforehand. If you stay in a central location like we did, you probably won’t really need to use much public transport, but it’s handy to get you to and from the airport. We flew into Kraków Balice, and it was just 33 zloty for all three of us to get from there into the city center (we used a group saver option – it’ll be a couple zloty more per person if you’re in a pair or just alone). Be warned, though: while the ticket machines have an English option, the tickets themselves are entirely in Polish. We just handed ours to the conductor, did the smile-and-nod routine, and hoped for the best. Thankfully, we didn’t have any issues with that. Also, be warned that in the evening, these trains seem to only run from the city center to the airport every hour. We’d somehow gotten the impression that they ran every 20 minutes and just missed the last one that would’ve gotten us to the airport in time for our flight. But we wound up getting a taxi right outside for about 60 zloty, which is only £12 or so – much less than we paid when we had to cab it home from Brighton Station later that night.
Which brings me to one of my very favorite things about Kraków: It. Is. So. Cheap. For such a beautiful city with such rich history, it’s still blowing my mind that we were able to eat at a reasonably swanky restaurant for something like 40 zloty per person. That’s about 8 quid. At a pub, I paid 12 zloty for a beer and a plate of pickled herring, or about £2.50. I don’t know why I didn’t just study at a uni in Kraków. Plus, there are loads of free attractions! If you go to Wawel Hill on a Sunday (or Monday, starting in April), the tours of the Lost Wawel and the Wawel Castle State Rooms are free. The only tour we paid for was of the Wawel Cathedral, and that was just 19 zloty (12 if you don’t feel like splurging on the audio tour). It’s a dream.
So there’s the end of my extended word vomit about Kraków. I’m still sad that we only got to stay for a weekend, and I really hope to get to go back soon. But in the next few weeks, I’ll comfort myself with the prospect of my mom and brother meeting me in London for Easter and getting to visit Paris with them… and going back to Paris on a class trip a couple of weeks later… and flying off to Ireland two days after returning from Paris.
Yeah, no complaints here.