Dan and I took the 5 hour train from Gdansk to Krakow, eyes glued to the window watching us zip past the world. When we arrived at sunrise, Dan's family friend Stan was waiting for us at the station and drove us home. We spent the next few days exploring Krakow from morning to night to see everything this beautiful city had to offer.
Find my travel guide to Krakow at the bottom of this blog post!
If you come to Kraków in the summer, like many European cities, be prepared to be an early riser to beat the crowds and lines at the main attractions. At the time of me writing this, Kraków is the second most popular European City for tourism.
How to get there // We took the Pendolino train from Gdansk to Kraków which is the new train line in Poland. The ride takes 5 and a half hours but I found it went past pretty quickly with my eyes glued to the window watching the forests, spotting deers and admiring all the little country cottages in the middle of nowhere. If you are catching a train in Poland I would recommend to purchase your tickets as soon as possible. The earliest you can book train tickets is a month in advance, and every day that goes past they get more and more expensive.
Flights to and from main cities in Poland are also an easy way to get around. You can find tickets just as cheap as train tickets and you'll get there in half the time. We decided to stick to train rides on this trip as we were growing tiredsome having already spent 50+ hours on planes over the past few weeks. Plus I also wanted to see what the Polish countryside looks like!
What to do
Old City Square // We probably spent most of our time here in the city square. It's the perfect place for a meal and a drink as the entire main square is lined with restaurants and bars. We did a bit of souvenir shopping here too, wandering and making our way through all the streets and alleys connected to the main square. Here you also have the main markets and above the markets a lovely little art gallery. You can find the entrance to the gallery via the outside of the Market Square building.
Mariacki church // I think this church is a must see if you're in the Kraków old town. It costs 10zł to purchase entry tickets and 10zł for a photo pass. This money goes towards renovating the church, so I didn't mind to pay the fee. It's absolutely stunning inside so I couldn't recommend it more. On certain days you can also pay to climb to the top of the bell tower (which we didn't do) where I assume you'd have an amazing view of the city.
Wawel Castle // You could easily spend an entire day at Wawel Castle. I would recommend to get to the castle as early as possible as tickets for attractions are limited to a certain amount of people per day. We unfortunately missed out on seeing the armoury, we were almost to the front of the line and watched helplessly as the number of tickets available went from 20 to 10 to 5 and to 0 before we could purchase them. In saying that, there are still many more attractions to see. We went to the Royal Crypts, Church, Bell Tower, Oriental Art museum, the second Bell Tower and the Dragon's Den. If you go to the Dragon's Den, I would recommend to leave it to last as the tunnels lead you out of the castle and you exit to the street on the other side of the entrance to Wawel!
Salt mines // The Wieliczka Salt Mines are located in a suburb called Wieliczka and is about a 20 minute drive from the Kraków city centre. We arrived fairly early and still had to wait in a huge line to purchase tickets - I wasn't lying when I said there are a lot of tourists in Kraków! Once your purchase tickets, you line up yet again to get inside the mines with a tour group. You can only visit the mines with a tour group, you cannot unfortunately wander off on your own as I usually like to do. There are tours running every half an hour for about 7 different languages. The groups are pretty big so even though this line seems daunting to wait in, it eventually goes by pretty quickly. Upon entering you will receive a headset to listen to your tour guide and you need to walk down about 800 steps in a wooden narrow staircase to get to the mines. Overall it was a really interesting experience and I would recommend to visit at least once! Dan and I went with a family friend who is a local and he mentioned that in summer the tours of the mines are shorter to cater for the amount of people coming in, so if you can I would say it's better to go during the off season so you can have a slightly longer and more in depth tour!
Zakopane mountains // Once again an early morning rise is definitely needed if you visit Zakopane mountains! The main attraction here is the mountain top where you can dangle your feet on the edge of a cliff, half of you in Poland and half of you in Slovakia. Unless you purchase your tickets online, our local friend recommends to leave at 4 or 5 in the morning to arrive at the mountains by 6am to beat what can be a 5 or 6 hour wait in line for tickets to ride the Kasprowy Wierch Cable Car to the top. Alternatively, you can also choose to hike to the top of the mountain which takes approximately 3.5 hours up the mountain and 2.5 hours down. Dan and I tried fitting in too many things in our short time in Kraków so unfortunately we didn't get to do this, we thought it would be nice to save our trip to the top of the mountain for when it's snowing in the years to come anyway. Instead we headed up the chairlifts in Kościelisko where you have the most amazing views and photo opportunities of the mountains themselves.
After that we headed off to do a little more sight seeing. Some things that are a nearby drive from the mountains:
15th century castle // Niedzica Castle is an old, 15th century castle by the lake which is a mini museum inside. I loved looking at everything, though it seems more catered for younger kids rather than adults.
The dam // Right by the Niedzica Castle, you can walk across the Lake Czorsztynskie Dam that you can see Slovakia from.
Kościuszko mound // Back towards the city of Kraków, you can pay 10zł per person to go up a man made mountain/hill to get a great view of Kraków from above. I love going to lookouts to see a city from a different perspective. It's fun trying to point out and figure out all the places you went to from a different view. This doesn't take long to do, we probably spent about 10 minutes walking to the top.
all photos edited with my new Gdansk Lightroom Preset.