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marianne Krakow - A travel report by Marianne
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Krakow,  Poland - flag Poland -  Malopolskie
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marianne's travel reports

Traveller in Krakow

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Kraków; City of Royal Residences, medieval architecture and flamboyant monuments. Home to the scientist Copernicus, the writer Joseph Conrad and Pope John Paul II.

Rynek Glowny and Clothmakers Hall
Rynek Glowny and Clothmakers Hall
Kraków is a large city with a population of just under one million and the third largest city after Warsaw and Lodz. It is situated in the south of the country close to the Czeck and Slovak borders.

The old centre or Stare Miasto is bordered by Planty, a leafy park that follows the contours of the old ramparts. The heart of the old town is Rynek Główny, the market place. From here a network of small streets fans out into all directions. Sights are never further away than 30 minutes on foot.

The central station, Kraków Główny, is north east of the centre, just outside Planty. To the south is Wawel Hill, with the castle and cathedral. Kazimierz, the old Jewish district is to the south east, but still within walking distance.

Kraków is a compact city and it is easy to find the way. The old centre is car-free. If walking is too strenuous, small electric cars shuttle tourists to the various sights. (100 zł per hour = € 26).

There are many public conveniences scattered all over the city. They are indicated by a small triangle, pointing down is for men (dla panow), pointing up for women (dla panow). Price ranges from 1 – 2 zł.

Kraków Airport is 15 km to the west and is connected by train to Kraków Główny, the central train station. We arrived by a Wizzair flight in Katowice airport which is in fact in Pyrzowice. Outside the airport building mini buses are waiting, when full they leave for Kraków Central Station. Journey time was about 1h 30 mins.

The Tourist Information Office is in Planty opposite Hotel Polonia, near the train station. They hand out free maps and a visitor's guide.

Poland joined the EU in 2004 but still has its own currency; złoty.

We stayed three days, long enough to see all Kraków's sights and included a visit to the salt mine in Wieliczka. Be prepared for VERY long queues in July and August.

See my tips section for more Kraków sights.

Favourite spots:
FLORIANSKA is a pedestrianised street lined with shops, cafés and restaurants. Look up at the façades as these are more interesing than the shop windows.

at # 5, a madonna and child in a niche

at # 14, Hotel Pod Rosa, housed in building with a neo classical façade and splendid entrance door.

at # 41, Jan Matejko Museum, 19th cent painter who depicted key events in Polish history. It is also an opportunity to see 19th interior design complete with fireplaces and Italian furniture.

Florianska leads to Rynek Glowny, a large medieval square. The Clothmakers Hall in the centre spoils the feeling of vastness. It is an ochre-coloured, two storey building topped with funny-looking gargoyles. Inside it is crowded with tourists looking for souvenirs from amber jewellery to woollen jumpers and mittens

What's really great:
St Mary's Church
St Mary's Church
ST MARY'S CHURCH on Rynek Glowny is easy to spot, not only because it is the tallest building on the square also because of its two unidentical spires; one tall the other less tall. The taller one is a jumble of turrets and spires topped by a crown.

The church has two entrances; one for the faithful, one for tourists who all come for the medieval altar piece, carved by Veit Stoss who worked 19 years on it. The result is 13 metres high and 11 metres sculpture with two wings and 200 sculptures in vivid colours and gold foil.

The central part shows lifelike statues of saints and the wings depict scenes from the life of the Holy family.

It is a good idea to buy tickets in advance, especially in summer queues are long. It is best to be in the church at 11.45. The organ starts to play and a nun slowly opens the wings. Visitors sit on benches to see this spectacle. Taking photos is allowed, but no flash. No problem on sunny days when sunlight streams in through the windows.

Slowacki Theatre
Slowacki Theatre
I would have liked to go to the opera, but there are no performances in July and August. All other months of the year there are daily performances, prices range from 30 – 50 zł. The website gives the repertoire and dates of the performances. Is is the website address

Slowacki Theatre near Barbakan can be visited on a guided tour in English. It is a good opportunity to see the inside of this theatre whose arcitecture was inspired by the Opera in Paris. The tour includes the dressing room of the actor Ludwik Solski who performed over five hundred different roles, and a very famous man (but I had never heard of him), the foyer, a huge chandelier, and the curtain painted by Henryk Siemiradzki (another famous man). If you have been on other theatre tours, you can easily give this one a miss.

Hotel Polonia from Planty
Hotel Polonia from Planty
HOTEL POLONIA is opposite the train station, within walking distance of all sights. The hotel was established in 1917 and is housed in a beautifully restored period building. It has 66 rooms, sweeping staircases, rooms with high ceilings and double-winged doors. We paid 240 zł (€63) for a double room including breakfast, excluding city tax of 1.60 zł per night per person

Our rooms was recently redecorated and was cheeful and comfortable and quite large. each day we got two complimentary bottles of mineral water. I loved the old-fashioned, good quality parquet floors and the persian carpet. The newly installed bathroom was spacious and well-equiped. When we came back in the evening, tired, two easy chairs made watching TV a pleasure, although most channels were in Polish.

The breakfast buffet was a pleasure for the taste buds. It consisted of cold meat, herring, cheeses, Russian salad and other salads, and several types of bread, fruit juice, tea etc.

Address: ul.Basztowa 25,

Nowa Huta
Nowa Huta
NOWA HUTA means new steelworks. I am interested in urban design and Communist history that's why I visited Kraków's biggest suburb. It was planned as a model city for communist propaganda and populated by industrial workers employed by the Lenin Steelworks, now Tadeusz Sendzimir Works and Nowa Huta's most important employer.

Nowa Huta was built to win over the people of Kraków to socialist ideas, but the intellectuals were not impressed and the workers didn't embrace communist ideas. Building started in the 1950s according to a carefully planned lay-ouy. Its rigid geometry of avenues and buildings was in stark contrast to the narrow, winding streets of Kraków's old centre.

The heart of this planned city is Plac Centralny, Central Square. Wide avenues fan out in all directions, lined with housing estates with each one entrance leading to a central court filled with flowers and tree. Still, the overall impression of Nowa Huta is that it looks dark and grey.

Maximilian Kolbe Church
Maximilian Kolbe Church
NOWA HUTA was a place without a God. Most Polish people are religious and Roman Catholics. No wonder that they stood up against the Government. In the 1970s the Catholics got permission to build the first church; Arka pana (The Ark of the Lord) but officially known as the Church of Our lady. In the 1980s the Pope John Paul II consecrated a second church; Maximilian Kolbe Church

Nowa Huta never fully embraced the socialists ideas. In the 1980s the town became the gathering place of the solidarity movement, and all-round resisitance to communist rule.

Tram #4 from Basztowa (opposite the railway station) takes you in 40 mins to Plac Centralny.

restaurant Jarema
restaurant Jarema
RESTAURANT JAREMA, 5 Plac Matejki, is just outside the centre and very close to Barbakan, the square solid tower part of Kraków's defensive wall.

The restaurant specialises in Polska Kuchina and looks very inviting. The interior resembles a private dining room, only the number of tables shows that is isn't. A piano against one wall and opposite a tiled stove, eastern European style. Paintings of benign-looking forefathers on the walls give the restaurant a homely admosphere.

The menu card is extensive but only few vegetarian dishes. No wonder because a meal without meal is like soup without salt, at least in the eyes of Polish people.

The number of items on the bill may surprise you. All all side dishes are paid for separately also the ones mentioned in the dish you ordered because they are only a suggestions. Price for an average main course with two side dishes 35 – 40 zł. (€10)

Other recommendations:
Krakow travelogue picture
Kraków buses and trams are fast and convenient. They radiate from Planty to the suburbs, but are only needed for trips outside the city centre.

Tickets are bought from kiosks and shops showing the MPK symbol, or bought from the driver at 0.50 zł surcharge.

Tickets must be validated in the ticket puncher on the tram or bus. Failing to do so means a 100 zł fine.

These are 2007 ticket prices;

2.50 zł – single ticket, valid for one journey
3.10 zł – multiple ticket. you can change buses and trams as many times as you like but within one hour.

5 zł – night ticket for all buses starting with 6 (601, 602 etc)

10.40 zł – 24-hour ticket
18.80 zł – 48-hour ticket
25.00 zł – 72-hour ticket

These last three tickets are also valid on night buses, and are particularly practical if your hotel is outside the city centre.

A 2.50 zł ticket for each piece of luggage larger than 60x40x20, if you have a multiple ticket or 24-hour ticket no additional ticket for luggage is needed

Published on Thursday September 20th, 2007

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Mon, Oct 15 2007 - 01:47 AM rating by magsalex

Nice report - packed with information.

Wed, Sep 26 2007 - 03:10 PM rating by bineba

A very comprehensive and interesting report. Well done.

Mon, Sep 24 2007 - 11:50 PM rating by adampl

Nice report packed with useful info. You're completely right about Polish cuisine - meat is a must-have :)

Sat, Sep 22 2007 - 04:42 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi

hi mari ,nice work done and this is well written report

Thu, Sep 20 2007 - 11:26 AM rating by rangutan

Extremely informative and a pleasure to read. I will never miss any of your reports! [4.75]

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