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Poland : Travel Diaries – A Long Weekend in Krakow

One destination I would have never imagined spending a vacation in, is Poland. More specifically – Krakow.

Indeed, in recent years, Warsaw, Poland’s capital, has become a favorite holiday destination, especially for those who take pleasure in shopping. Although, in my eyes, Poland has never been a particularly intriguing destination, at least not for the delightful kind of vacation I have in mind.

Although I’ve never been to Poland on a Holocaust Memorial trip, I always saw Polish cities as gray and gloomy, while the only context I had of them were the horrors of the Holocaust and jokes about Polish women that sit alone in the dark.

In short, images of holiday pleasures did not appear in my personal encyclopedia beside the term Poland.

And yet, this year, Daniel and I decided to spend one of our traditional winter vacations in Krakow. Those who know us, know that Daniel and I have “ants in our pants” when it comes to going abroad. We love to go abroad so much so that just before we return from one holiday, were already planning the next. And, as if we needed another excuse to spend some more time traveling, ever since the Open Skies agreement, which has significantly lowered flight rates especially during the winter season – prices are so low, especially to Eastern European destinations, that our pleasure costs us even less than a local holiday in Tel Aviv.

Why Krakow, you wonder? The truth is, unlike our summer vacations, the destination for our traditional winter vacation is always decided upon by the price of flights. The cheaper the flight, the more eager we are to fly to its destination. {Did I mention yet that I’m married to a Romanian, and that I myself am one sixth Romanian ? :)} To me, it makes no difference whether it’s a famously known tourist destination, or rather one in which you can count its tourist attractions on one hand. I truly believe that no matter where we fly to, we will always find interesting things to do in any destination. Besides, we didn’t exactly plan on checking off endless tourist attractions from our checklist. This trip was all about rest and relaxation – to absorb the city’s atmosphere, sit in cool cafes, visit the Christmas market, and, of course, shop around 🙂

So yeah, I had no idea what there is to see and do in Krakow, but I’ve always wanted to go away during Christmas time, and the tickets we found through Ryanair, were perfect not only for their price, but also thanks to their dates. We decided not to waste too much time, and ordered the tickets without thinking twice.

By the way, the day before the flight, Daniel and I made a last minute decision to leave behind any photography equipment and our laptops.

Shocking? I admit, for me it was a totally unexpected move!

I think it was the first time in the last two and a half years that I had left the house for more than two days without my dear equipment. For this there were two reasons: 1. We flew low-cost which is limited in space, and 2. we decided that this was going to be a vacation dedicated solely to resting and didn’t want to be carrying heavy equipment around with us (in fact, to be honest, this was the main reason).

As you’ll see in this post, the fact that we decided to skip out on our photography equipment didn’t exactly keep us from documenting our wintery trip. I was well equipped with my iPhone and couldn’t help myself from taking pictures of this amazing, old city (festively adorned for the holiday season!), the famous castle, and of course – the excellent food we ate! Truth is, a phone’s camera is not yet a substitute to a professional camera, but this time, it was totally worth the sacrifice.



Our flight landed in Krakow at dusk, which happens to be my least favorite time to arrive at a new destination, one may say I even find it a bit depressing, particularly in wintertime when it’s cold and gray. This time something was different. Maybe it was the sparkling Christmas atmosphere we encountered as early as in the airport, or perhaps it was the amazing granola cookie I bought at the airport that upped my sugar and my mood 🙂 But already in the taxi, on our way to our Airbnb apartment, my heart filled with a warm joy that seemed to be telling me this vacation was going to be especially dreamy…

 

Things to do in Krakow, Poland - Tips for ways to spend a long weekend in the winter! My photography dairy - HEDONISTIT.COM

 

STAY

When we first looked for a place to stay, we originally planned on choosing a hotel, as opposed to an Airbnb apartment, which I usually prefer for urban trips such as this one. Unlike urban trips in the summertime – during which most of the time is spent strolling around outside – in the freezing cold, European winter, it is often especially fun to indulge in long sessions of quality pampering in a luxury hotel spa. After quite a long  and unsuccessful search for a hotel that met our criteria, we decided nevertheless to check out Krakow’s market of Airbnb apartments. What can I tell you – contrary to the hotels we’d looked at, which were a bit old-fashioned, the Airbnb apartments were actually really well designed and inviting!

Finally, we opted for an Airbnb apartment and were most certainly not disappointed. The apartment we chose to stay in was simply perfect in every way and looked exactly like the pictures on the website. One of the more important things to consider, when choosing a place to stay in Europe during the winter, is location, and this apartment’s location was no less than perfect – right in the center of the old city, less than five minutes walking distance from the city’s well known market square. Apart from its ideal location, the apartment is spacious, clean and decorated, and its hosts were especially kind and helped us with every request.

If you’re planning a trip to Krakow and this apartment is available – you shouldn’t give it up!

 

First time booking an Airbnb apartment? You’re welcome to use my link and receive a $43 discount on your next trip.  

 

 

Things to do in Krakow, Poland - Tips for ways to spend a long weekend in the winter! My photography dairy - HEDONISTIT.COM
Source Airbnb.com

 

 

DO

 

The Old City

Krakow’s old city is a real gem! It’s not for nothing that it is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The city looks as if it was pulled out of an old fairytale – the cobblestone, the wonderful pastel-colored architectural structures, and the little pastry stands in every corner, selling poppy, sesame, or salt-decorated pretzels, known as the city’s trademark. Alongside all these are beautiful cafes, excellent restaurants and cool bars. Since our apartment was located right in the center of the old city and near the market square, we spent most of our time strolling the city’s beautiful streets and passageways.

 

Things to do in Krakow, Poland - Tips for ways to spend a long weekend in the winter! My photography dairy - HEDONISTIT.COM

 

 

Market Square

My favorite place in Krakow is by no means the famous market square, also known as Rynek Glowny, right in the center of the old city. The square, which was built in the 13th century and is considered to be the largest market square in Europe, is the beating heart of Krakow's tourist industry, and one can understand why. The square is especially large and impressive, and is surrounded by buildings dripping with the local history (including St. Mary’s Basilica, easily identified thanks to its two prominent towers at different heights, and the elongated building of the old Cloth Hall). To add to the fairytale ambiance of this square, beautifully groomed horse-drawn carriages surround the square and offer passers-by a ride through the city streets and its multitude of cafes and restaurants. (I gave up on this experience because I wasn’t not sure about how animal-friendly the lovely sight actually is).

I’m not sure if I was especially fascinated by the square because of its festive Christmas market held during the days of our visit, thanks to which the square is decorated with thousands of bright Christmas lights, or perhaps because, although it is known to be a very touristy area of Krakow, it manages to maintain a pleasantly authentic atmosphere. Either way, not a day went by without having visited the Christmas stands which were open all day in the center of the square. What didn’t they have? Traditional polish food stands, barrel-shaped stalls selling mulled wine, stands filled with candies and gingerbread cookies, flowers, holiday gifts and decorations, as well as artists selling unique, artisanal handmade works. It was my first time ever at a Christmas market, and I enjoyed it so much that I decided I must re-experience it every year. {Thank God for low-cost, right? 🙂 }

Hedonis-tip: Beware of tourist traps around the square. If you want to take a short coffee break in the area, try one of the Starbucks or Costa Coffee branches. It will be that much cheaper, and tastier too.

 

 

 

Things to do in Krakow, Poland - Tips for ways to spend a long weekend in the winter! My photography dairy - HEDONISTIT.COM

 

Kazimierz – Jewish Quarter

Krakow’s Jewish quarter, which was hit hard during the Second World War, and was nearly destroyed structurally and mainly culturally, is considered today to be the hot, hipster spot in the city, and is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.

This part of town was the Jewish people’s residence in Krakow since the 13th century, until the Second World War, when almost 50,000 Jews were deported from the city, of which many were sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp. Although not many Jews are left in Krakow today, the rich, Jewish culture that flourished in the area for hundreds of years is still very present throughout the old quarter – from the renovated synagogues {most of them now functioning as museums}, to Yiddish signs and captions, and restaurants serving traditional Jewish food.

It was nice to walk around the quarter’s streets, decorated with colorful street art and set with trendy cafes, cool bars, art galleries and boutiques. Yet, the peeling, “wounded” facades of the quarter’s buildings, drenched in the character and history of the place, allowed me not to forget the terrible horrors which took place right there, not that long ago. I believe this could be the reason why the quarter’s buildings have not been renovated. The fact is,  that even today, while the area is considered to be one of the more popular, trendy neighborhoods in town, it is impossible to disregard the extensive Jewish heritage that had put down its roots here.

Hedonis-tip: Worth a visit is the Księgarnia Austeria bookstore, which sells books not only on Jewish history and heritage, but also lovely designed paper products decorated with Hebrew letters and more beautiful souvenirs.

 

 

 

Things to do in Krakow, Poland - Tips for ways to spend a long weekend in the winter! My photography dairy - HEDONISTIT.COM

 

 

Wawel Royal Castle and the Wawel Hill

The Wawel Castle and Hill are one of Krakow’s, and even Poland’s, most famous sites. We were lucky to have had beautiful weather throughout our entire trip {not a drop of rain or snow to keep us stuck indoors}, but on the day we visited the impressive hill, the sun come out through the clouds making our visit that day a very perfect one.

We circled the extraordinary castle buildings, looked out over the city and the Vistula River which runs under the hill,  and were simply impressed by the beauty of the place.

 

Things to do in Krakow, Poland - Tips for ways to spend a long weekend in the winter! My photography dairy - HEDONISTIT.COM

 

EAT

 

We’ve reached my favorite part of the trip – the food! If this isn’t your first time reading this blog, you already know that I’m quite a little piggy, and when it comes to going abroad I leave behind all my inhibitions, thousands of kilometers away. This time, I took my love of food a step further and dedicated my planning efforts to finding the best restaurants and cafes in which we could spend most of our relaxing weekend.

Cupcake Corner –

We encountered this sweet bakery on our way toward the Jewish quarter form the old city. Just after breakfast, the bakery’s display, laden with the most beautiful selection of cupcakes, had us stop in without thinking twice. After much deliberation in front of the display, we decided to order an Americano, a Macchiato, and two cupcakes {red velvet and peanut butter}, which turned out to be the most delicious I have ever tasted. They were so moist, I could die then and there. Of course we went back twice more to sample the other cupcakes, all were excellent.

By the way, this sweet bakery has four more branches, and besides perfect cupcakes, you can also nosh on particularly tempting ice-cream, brownies, and bagels.

 

 

Cupcake Corner | Things to do in Krakow, Poland - Tips for ways to spend a long weekend in the winter! My photography dairy - HEDONISTIT.COM

 

 

Nakielny Cafe –

When I spotted this cafe’s assortment of cakes my jaw simply dropped! There is a great selection of cakes and chocolates that made me feel as if I had just landed in Paris… but the prices were entirely Polish 🙂

We sat down in the one located at the Galeria Kazimierz mall, which, as you can see in the picture, didn’t feel like just another average local mall cafe.

If you’re into quality cakes, don’t miss visiting one of their four branches in the city.

 

 

Things to do in Krakow, Poland - Tips for ways to spend a long weekend in the winter! My photography dairy - HEDONISTIT.COM

 

 

Mr. Pancake –

We arrived at this cool pancake restaurant, its decor purely inspired by the 90’s, thanks to Instagram. After seeing countless posts tagging the place and the variety of pancakes one can order {both sweet and salty!} we decided to start one of our days by going all-out with a royal pancake breakfast. Just as the little flags served upon each pancake dish noted – ”FUCK DIET”…

 

 

Things to do in Krakow, Poland - Tips for ways to spend a long weekend in the winter! My photography dairy - HEDONISTIT.COM

 

 

Frankie's –

This cafe serves a range of healthy juices and shakes {warm ones too!}, good quality sandwiches and fresh salads, and was located just below our Krakow apartment, I couldn’t have asked for more!

 

Things to do in Krakow, Poland - Tips for ways to spend a long weekend in the winter! My photography dairy - HEDONISTIT.COM

 

House Of Donuts –

This too is a cafe we reached via Instagram. Specializing in donuts, the place is relatively small but the decor especially sweet, and they also have donuts that are vegan friendly and gluten-free.

 

Things to do in Krakow, Poland - Tips for ways to spend a long weekend in the winter! My photography dairy - HEDONISTIT.COM

Three more great restaurants…


Pimiento –

An elegant Argentinian grill restaurant with excellent food {apart from the empanadas which were a little disappointing…}. Best to reserve a table in advance because in the evenings the place is filled to capacity.


Mo-ja café & bistro –

A quality bistro cafe with a homey atmosphere. It is worth showing up during lunch hours for their business meal that changes on a daily basis.


Restauracja Pino –

An excellent fusion restaurant located at a short walking distance from the city’s square market. The restaurant is modernly decorated and serves a wide range of dishes {pizzas, pastas, salads, hamburgers, meats, seafood and more}. All emerge from an open kitchen set in the center of the restaurant, or from an Italian brick oven located at the back of the restaurant.

 

 

 

 

Things to do in Krakow, Poland - Tips for ways to spend a long weekend in the winter! My photography dairy - HEDONISTIT.COM

 

I adore the tradition of our winter vacation! Every time we go away I continue to discover the special magic of these vacations… This trip to Krakow was exactly what the doctor prescribed – lots of sleep, rest, good food, and tons and tons of inspiration!

You should try it yourself  🙂

 

Things to do in Krakow, Poland - Tips for ways to spend a long weekend in the winter! My photography dairy - HEDONISTIT.COM

 

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Know about more interesting things to do in Krakow? Leave me a comment below  ♡

 

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20 Responses

  1. AmAzing!!! It looks stunning there and delicious food 🙂 Just found your blog today and loving your Japan posts and now found this one ?✨?⛄?? beautiful..Xo

      1. Hi hun. I was not planning to but i have a Polish friend i met in London and I have just started considering going to Poland about a month ago hehe i didnt know anything about it till I have started researching. I am from NZ and visiting my bf in Sweden now. So while I am in Europe I think it’d be good to see some.new places I have never seen 🙂 What are some.of your 2018 travel goals or plans ? 🙂 ?✨?

        1. Hey Katie! Thanks for stopping by 🙂
          You’re going to have such a great time in Krakow! it’s a beautiful city!
          So far, I’m planning to travel to Berlin, Budapest, Greece and London!!

  2. very good information sharing. I will follow your new writings from now on. you give people useful information. I wish you continued success
    Thank you

  3. Aloha! I recently stumbled upon your Crete post, as my Fiance and I are getting married in Chania this September. We are also planning a trip to Japan next year, so I found your dos and donts to be very helpful, thank you! I really like your style, your photography and your focus on food! Beautiful blog! Do you travel full-time? My Fiance and I left our corporate jobs last April to travel abroad for half a year. We returned in October and now live in Hawaii, but I miss traveling sooooo much!

    1. Hi Lisa!! congrats for your upcoming wedding celebrations 🙂 Chania is aaaamazing, I’m sure it’ll be lovely!

      Thanks for all of your compliments! You are so nice ??

      I’m a full time blogger & photographer, so I do travel a-lot 🙂 You should think about starting your own blog if you like to ditch your 9to5 job!

  4. Hi,
    Just chanced on your write-up on krakow today and I was pleasantly surprised. We have planned a visit to krakow and Auschwitz next month and your article was just what we needed at this time! So full of interesting photos and your happy experiences. Thanks a lot. Now I’m eager to read your entire blog – follow your travels!
    Usha, india

  5. Great Article!!
    After seeing your post and beautiful picture of Krakow I add this city to our list of long Weekend in
    Krakow so I enjoy every moment of this trip when I come. It helped me a lot in gathering information.
    Thanks a lot!

  6. Poland is very beautiful especially Krakow. One advice though because I think you might have missed the best part .. polish food :). I don’t see anything polish except pretzel and their traditional food is simply amazing. Instagram is not a best option to looking for those as it puts you in very hipster places instead. I hope you had a chance to taste some pierogi, gołąbki or placki po węgiersku 🙂

  7. A really interested read thank you.
    My wife, brother and sister-in-law all fly out to Krakow in 2 weeks.
    We really can’t wait.
    If there is just one thing you recommend what would it be?
    Thanks

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