Krakow is a magical and enchanting place to visit with its rich history, myths and legends blending with today’s modern and state of the art services, activities and attractions on offer in Poland’s oldest city open to everyone. There are two main central areas the Old Town and Kazimierz which are full of restaurants of all international culinary delights, quaint cafes, cinemas (in original language too), museums, art galleries, multi-level & music dance clubs, unusual pubs, spa & wellbeing centres plus a host of must see attractions. Also, along the Vistula riverbanks lots of floating restaurants, cafes, clubs and pubs you can also go on river cruises by day or night.
Krakow’s most requested and frequented attractions besides the Old Town and Kazimierz areas.
A visit to 1 – Auschwitz/Birkenau Memorial, Nazi Concentration Camps, It’s best to arrange a visit via an agency or dedicated company with a morning departure too to fully explore this holocaust site. Oświęcim which is the Polish name for this city was originally a concentration camp to hold Russian POWs. Approximately 10,000 Russian soldiers were interned there and not very many survived. Soon after, the camps were converted to mass murder camps and Mengele’s diabolical medical experiments of Jewish, Roma (Gypsies) and anyone else not to the liking of the Nazi regime. It is estimated that 1.1 million people were exterminated with only 200 survivors. Each barrack house in the Auschwitz camp is dedicated to the various countries that mainly Jews were deported from and telling the tragic stories of the harsh conditions in which they had to endure. Today, the Auschwitz/Birkenau Memorial is a World Heritage Site and is a stark reminder of the horrific crimes committed there for all humanity to reflect upon. A word of cash saving advice– you can book this tour on your own by visiting http://auschwitz.org/en/ and reserving your ticket. Finding a convenient bus transfer from Krakow city centre is also not that hard.
To follow up on Krakow’s Nazi occupation during WWII you can visit the Oskar Schindler Factory Museum in Podgorze in Krakow with the Plac Bohaterow Ghetta Memorial nearby. The square has oversized chairs representing all the people that were forced to wait there with all their belongings to then be transported to Auschwitz and ultimately their undignified deaths.
A further attraction in the Krakow vicinity and only a 30 minute coach ride is the exciting 2 – Wieliczka Salt Mine Excursion this particular mine has over one million visitors a year.
Once again a morning departure is advised to see everything properly. A must see attraction that offers an insight to how salt was an important commodity especially in the past. You get the chance wander the many kilometres of tunnels & caverns as a real Salt Miner for a while. When you meet a fellow miner you must say ‘God Be With you’, it’s a traditional custom. You can also hire a cavern for a dinner party if you wish or just take in the sights of all the salt carved monuments and statues, truly, a fascinating place to spend some time.
The highlight of the tour is St. Kinga’s Chapel, everything you see, touch or stand on is or was carved from rock salt, even Da Vinci’s Last Supper is reproduced but totally carved in rock salt. The 5D interactive museum room is a truly magic experience.
As for high adrenaline pumping activities this next one will surely rank with the best, that is the extremely popular 3 – AK 47 Kalashnikov Shooting Range if you have never shot a gun before or would like to then make time for this super event. The sheer force and power of firing one of the most well-known automatic machine guns in the world is a feeling you will never forget, you get to use up to 7 different weapons depending on how much you want to spend and you can take your target score cards home as a reminder of your sharpshooting skills.
As well as the AK 47 there is the PPK pistol favoured by James Bond no less and a pump action shotgun which really does appeal to your Rambo instincts. The gun range also offer extra shooting with specialised weapons such as the M4 – AR15 and other gems.
The activity that is thoroughly recommended, especially on your first evening here in Krakow is a 4 – Organised Bar & Pub Crawls as they are a great introduction to visiting Krakow’s best drinking parlours. The many local breweries provide an excellent choice of beers and ales as well as non-Polish and mainstream brands, a guided pub crawl is the best way to appreciate Krakow’s unusual cellar and garden bars on the first night to set you up for the rest of your stay. Experienced guides will entertain you with drinking games, Karaoke and recommend the best drinks to try on your travels. Also included in some pub crawls entry to some of Krakow’s hottest dance clubs. Krakow is an avid follower of the Ruin Bar trend too, instead of the shiny, modern design and brightly lit establishments Ruin Bars promote a more lived in feeling with rickety, non-matching furnishings, incomplete renovations, the run down or dilapidated effect and often candle lit snugs with sofas, very atmospheric.
The Polish national beverage is vodka and contrary to what many people believe vodka originated in Poland as early as the 8th century. The word ‘vodka’ was first recorded in the court of the Palatinate of Sandomierz in 1405 and was used for medicinal purposes with it being exported to Russia by merchants in the early part of the 16th century. So, to taste some of Poland’s finest and well known vodkas, we have 5 – Polish Vodka Tasting which can be introduced during your pub crawl or taken apart. To drink vodka the Polish way platters of drinking snacks accompany the shots, the snacks usually include oily or greasy foods to better absorb the top quality grain based vodkas such as Pan Tadeusz or Belvedere brands which have a long history in making vodka.
When it comes to booking the above tours it’s usually much harder to book them direct, but fortunately there are many expert Krakow Stag Do operators which can organise the activities for you.
Now when it comes to events Krakow is a truly vibrant city. Numerous festivals are organised here on annual basis, and some of them are world class, even though you might have not heard about them. Just to list my top 3:
The Dragons’ Parade
Krakow Wawel Dragon legend is deeply embedded in local tradition and therefore it comes as no surprise that Krakow organises a dragon themed festival ! A colourful parade of dragons marches through the streets of the Old Town, and there is a major laser and music show organised as well on the Vistula river which flows next to the Wawel castle and Dragon’s Den. It’s truly a remarkable spectacle to see. The festival is usually organised on the first weekend of June.
Jewish Culture Festival
The Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow is an annual cultural event which has been running since 1988 in the once Jewish district of Kazimierz, and is jointly organised by the Jewish Culture Festival Society and the city of Krakow. The main aim of the festival is to educate people about Jewish culture, history and faith (Judaism) which flourished in Poland before the Holocaust, as well as to familiarize them with modern Jewish culture. Every year the Festival features almost 300 events during 10 days. Arouind 30,000 participants from many countries take part in workshops, lectures discussions and guided tours. Of course there are also various musical events: from concerts to DJ-parties to jam sessions. Plenty of artists, instructors and lecturers share their experience with our audience. The Jewish culture Festival is organised at the end of June and last till the beginning of July.
Krakow Rugby Festival
This rugby festival is an annual international sports event taking place every 3rd weekend of June. It gathers male and female teams from all over the world. It’s Poland’s biggest amateur rugby festival and it truly fulfils Its motto which says “the true spirit of rugby, and not only drinking”… however there is plenty of beer and beer orientated animation / contest involved !