Today I am excited to introduce a new feature on my blog – posts by guest travel bloggers! They will feature top picks and insider tips on what to do and see in some of the coolest spots around the world shared by the locals. So, in addition to some of well-known tourist destinations, be prepared to learn something new and unique about each place!
My first guest blogger is lovely Anda, aka The Twisted Red LadyBug who shares her top 5 picks for places to see in Kraków.
1. The Schindlers Factory/Museum
The Schindlers Factory/Museum is located in the Podgorze region of Kraków on the street Lipowa 4. It’s a bit hard to get to due to the small streets and new buildings being raised in the area, but it’s totally worth one’s time and money! I recommend having a tour guide but you can also discover the museum on your own at your own pace. The first time I went there I visited by myself and it took me over 3 hours to get through it – and I did not watch all the videos inside! The museum is truly one of a kind and focuses on the period between 1939 and 1945, more than just life of Oskar Schindler. Each room is done in a different way and even pavement of the rooms is different. It manages to transport one in the mood and in the old times that passed… very well done! And it costs around 5 euros – not more, but totally worth every cent! I would say that it’s a must for the history buffs.
2. The Royal Route
To get started, begin at the Barbakan (one of the 3 buildings of this kind still standing in Europe!), pass the St. Florian’s Gate (the protector of the city, patron of the firemen), and walk on the Florianska Street (the most expensive street in Europe). Then reach the St. Mary Church ( Kosciol Mariacki ) and the Main Market Square (the biggest main square in Europe!), turning towards Grodzka Street and walking straight ahead to the Wawel Castle. This is a way the royal carriages used to take in the old times, when they had to reach the Wawel Hill – the Castle. It’s the most crowded road but also the most beautiful one. As a bonus you can take a carriage ride from Mariacki Kosciol and check the Old Town as the ladies used to do…
3. Wawel Castle
This is Kraków’s unique landmark that everyone knows and everyone wants to visit. It’s located on the bank of the Vistula River and provides quite a romantic background for wedding pictures… so you’ll probably see at least one bride parading there when you visit, especially at sunset! Wawel Castle is quite a large place to visit in a day, so maybe it would be better to look at the exhibitions and figure out want you would really want to see. I can recommend “The Lady With The Ermine”, the second most known painting by Leonardo da Vinci after the “Mona Lisa” in the Louvre. I think this one is much prettier and bigger and you can look at it much closer than the Mona Lisa, which was a huge dissapointment for me! Also I recommend checking out the armoury if you are into guns, weapons and ammo – they have a few lovely carved ivory pistols that will keep you staring and gaping… how did they do that?!
Also the inner courtyard of the castle is lovely to visit in itself and each year in July – August there are outdoor opera concerts. Also don’t forget to pay a visit to the Wawel Cathedral which houses Sigismund Bell that rings only on special ocasions. If you touch it, the legend says that you will get married soon!
4. Auschwitz I and II Birkenau
Technically this is not Kraków but I had to put it on the list as it’s very close and if you are in Kraków for more than a day, than this trip is a must! You can go there on your own by train or bus from Dworzec Glowny Krakow or you can take a guided tour. I recommend taking a guided tour as they know what they are doing, know what you should visit and can answer any of your questions. I have been twice to Auschwitz with Discover Cracow and I take all my friends there.
Auschwitz is around one hour away from Kraków and first you visit Auschwitz I and then Auschwitz II – Birkenau. Probably the biggest shock you will have in Auschwitz II, as I had, when you see that vast, endless space filled with wooden barracks, standing right in front of you…
If you go by yourself make sure you don’t take a backpack. Take a small bag/purse, no bigger than a small notebook. The museum does not allow large baggage inside and they don’t have storage boxes. If you go with Discover Cracow at least you can leave that all inside the bus. With the guided tour you have around 20 min break between the 2 locations, so you can grab something quick to eat – it’s better to have some sandwiches and water with you. Water especially in case if you feel weak… it might be quite a scarring experience but worth to do in a lifetime!
5. Kopiec Kosciuszko
There are four manmade mounds around Kraków that provide quite a lovely view over the city, but this is the best one! With a 180 degrees view over this large city, it’s a perfect place to go and see how the city grows and expands. Make sure you see it on nice day with no clouds, so you have best visibility.
You can also see quite clearly the Tatra Mountains and there is a small restaurant there where you can have a break and eat some yummy ice-cream. The mound was created in the memory of Kosciuszko, a man who left his legacy in American history as one of the founders of the well know West Point Academy. Bet you didn’t know that!
Of course there are many more lovely places to see and museums to visit, so if you are ever interested in knowing more about Kraków or about Poland in general, please feel free to drop by my blog.
About Anda: I am a Romanian expat living in Kraków, Poland, for more than 5 years now. This was not my original plan, but as usual life hurls you around and plans don’t usually stick to the lines you draw. The first time I came to Poland almost 6 years ago was for a weekend celebration at work. I liked it so much that I said I must do a vacation soon in Kraków. I planned a 10-day vacation to see everything possible and meet friends/collegues from here… my TL loved me so much that she asked me if I would not want to join the team in Kraków. Get a transfer! Why not? Plan done – stay in Krakow for 6 months to build more of an international experience and the move maybe to London. Well… meanwhile I met the love of my life, got married and we are now expecting a small LadyBug Baby. Life is never what you plan it to be!