While I was recently given the amazing opportunity of spending six weeks abroad in Europe, I knew I had to do everything possible to make the most of my time there. Europe has so much history and so many places to visit for great food, tours, sight-seeing and one of a kind experiences that you simply cannot get anywhere else. One of the best things about Europe is once you are there, traveling around to different counties is so easy. Plane tickets are cheap, plus you have the option of crossing borders by methods of trains, buses and of course, rental cars or self drive options. With every country offering something different, you could travel somewhere new every week and truly experience so many different cultures in a short amount of time. I knew while I was spending time abroad, I needed to see as much as I could and experience as many wonderful cities as possible. With reasonable pricing on both airfare and hotels, plus a ton of historical and educational history to get lost in, allow me introduce you to your next favorite Central-European city (as well as mine) – Kraków, Poland.
Since the fall of communism, Poland has become a dream for most travelers. Historical Polish towns and cities exist around every corner of the country, just waiting to be discovered and explored. However, none demand your attention more than Kraków, the former royal capital of Poland.
Sitting on the border of the Czech Republic, Kraków is known for its well-preserved medieval core, Old Town and Jewish quarter. The city is one of the leading centers of Polish academic, economic, cultural and artistic life and its beautiful Old Town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While the architecture may be beautiful and the nightlife having a wide array of activities to offer visitors, one thing remains very true about this city – the historical events that have taken place in the area are some of the most famous and truly haunting historical events to date. Take the dark, emotional, educational experience of visiting the Nazi concentration camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau for example. The camps exist about an hour from the city centre, and remains one of the top activities to do in Krakow, offering visitors an informative tour and sensitive insight into the true horrors of the Holocaust and events that took place there.
If you are looking to escape somewhere with a ton of history and charm, then a visit to Kraków will be great for you. The city is eclectic and its fairy-tale architecture is nothing short of breathtakingly beautiful. The city boasts a ton of amazing restaurants, bars and great local shops. It’s Old Town, Market Square and Jewish quarters are full of rich history and as you venture just outside the city, you’ll find yourself surrounded by an equally stunning countryside.
If you are looking for a great hotel in Kraków, be sure to check out The Plaza Boutique Hotel, located in the heart of Old Town. I stayed there recently and I loved it. It is a small 4-star boutique hotel offering stylish, clean and comfortable accommodations, in a great location, at an affordable price. There is also an on-site restaurant that serves a delicious breakfast buffet daily, a great bar, and free WiFi. Parking options are available, as well as an airport shuttle service which you can request ahead of time for an additional fee. Uber also works great in this area so feel free to download the app if you don’t already have it. The hotel is pet friendly and also offers guests a full gym where you can start or end your day with a workout. The hotels front desk staff were friendly and very helpful, answering any questions and providing great tips on things to see and do in the area.
Kraków is also full of great restaurants, so whatever your preferred dining options are, I am sure you will find something to eat that you will enjoy. Restaurants serving traditional polish dishes can be found around every corner, and if the idea of authentic, mouth-watering Pierogi’s aren’t enough to get you excited, then maybe an American experience at the Hard Rock Cafe will do it. I dined at the Hard Rock Cafe while I was there and I really enjoyed it. The service was good and the food was delicious. I recommend the sizzling vegetable fajitas if your vegetarian and looking for something to enjoy for dinner. Top it off with a delicious cocktail in one of their souvenir glasses and bring home a memory of Kraków with you. Speaking of souvenirs, there is also no shortage of those in the city either. You can find many gift shops and boutiques all over the city selling fun souvenirs and trinkets so you can bring home a piece of this great city with you.
Between all the history, great shopping, charming architecture and delicious food, I would say this city is one you should put at the top of your list of places to check out the next time you find yourself in Central Europe. Walk along the cobblestone streets for yourself and enjoy the beauty of everything the wonderful city of Kraków has to offer. I cannot wait until I have the chance to go back again to explore more of this magnificant place.
“Krakow is one of my favorite places on earth. It is a medieval city full of young people. A wonderful, striking combination.” – Author: Johnathn Carroll