Weekend Wanderlust: Krakow

Krakow's a place that's been on my 'must visit' list for a while; I went to Prague nearly ten years ago (when did I get so old?!) and loved it, and I knew that Krakow was quite similar in terms of architecture and atmosphere. Its most famous draw is undoubtedly the Old Town square.

It is pretty huge, and surrounded by cafes and restaurants, which makes it a great spot for people watching, day and night. It's also a great place to get chatted up by stoned Finnish backpackers, but that's another story. I didn't really go to any of the restaurants on the square itself, but Chocoffee (just around the corner) was great for chocolates and hot drinks, and it's super-cosy so it's probably even better in the Wintertime. Kino Pod Baranami is a cute, old cinema just of the square and is well worth a visit if you're looking for a cheap way to spend an evening.

The two pictures above are of the Wawel royal castle. The 'castle' is made up of lots of different buildings, all of which were added at different points in history (so, as you can see in the first picture, this has resulted in there being a brilliant mish-mash of architectural styles). There are lots of different exhibitions and restored rooms inside the various buildings, and I spent one (very hot) day exploring them all. 

I really enjoyed spending an afternoon wandering around Kazimierz, Krakow's old Jewish Quarter. The market square here couldn't really be more different to the Old Town square and, having spent four days in Krakow by this point, I found that very refreshing! I went on a Sunday and explored the second hand clothing market. The Galicia Jewish Museum was really interesting; it's a photography exhibition showing surviving examples (sadly, mostly relics) of Jewish culture in the area. I found this exhibition all the more poignant because I had visited Auschwitz just a couple of days before (I'll write about that, but it definitely merits it's own, separate post).

And, of course, I couldn't go to Krakow without visiting the Wieliczka Salt Mine. The rock salt carvings are breathtaking, as is the scale of the place. We're talking underground chapels, lakes, knomes (really), conference centres, and bars. And the lift back up to the surface is delightfully terrifying (unless you're claustrophobic, in which case I imagine the lift would be hell on Earth).

Krakow was definitely worth visiting, especially when you take into account it's proximity to Auschwitz and the Salt Mines. It was, however, absolutely heaving with tourists and backpackers, so I'd definitely recommend visiting outside the Summer months. I'm glad I've ticked Krakow off the 'to visit' list, but I probably won't return anytime soon. Not because it wasn't worth going to, but because you can definitely get around all the key attractions in a few days. I think it'd be a great destination for a Winter mini-break...

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