Krakow is an overlooked must visit in Europe. Poland was the epicenter of the continent at some point of history holding some of the most precious historical gems of the world. Also, it is a great city to visit when you are hungry student who wants the best of travel on a budget. These are the top 9 things to do in Krakow on a budget.
I visited Poland with my classmates when we ended our Master’s studies, hence the reason I mostly visited places that allowed you to stay within your budget. Hope you enjoy these suggestions.
1| Stroll around the Old Town
What is a European city break without a good stroll around the Old Town? Admire the buildings, the architecture, maybe do some souvenir window shopping, and relax over a cup of (often overpriced) coffee and avoid restaurants with the pictures of the menu hanging outside of the place.
2| Get the best view from above at Wawel Castle
An epic castle fit for an epic king, King Casimir III the Great. He was in charge of making Poland prosperous again, confirmed rights and protections granted to Jews, and founded the University of Krakow, the oldest University of Poland. The castle is one of the most important cultural centers in Poland, and it even has original Italian Renaissance paintings! It is pretty impressive, and the views are worth the walk.
3| Explore the Jewish Quarters
No trip to Krakow will be complete without a visit to the Jewish Quarters. It is kind of like the party center of the city having a buzzing bohemian scene at night. There are lots of cute bars, cafes and restaurants all around. The architecture is pretty well preserved, and it has what a lot of people will call “character”.
4| Eat a Zapekanki
A Zapekanki is a staple of the street food at the Jewish Quarters. It is a simple piece of bread cover with melted cheese and a topping of your choice, usually vegetables or meats. People enjoy it for a quick afternoon snack, or an after party breakie. Or if you are a student, like I was back when I visited, the perfect budget lunch for the day!
5| Visit the Jewish Ghetto
If you truly want to immerse yourself into Poland’s history, visit the Jewish Guetto with a guide. We chose Sandman’s Free Walking and our guide made our visit incredibly memorable. He was not only a great storyteller, he had a passion for the preservation of Jewish history and heritage. The square next to the ghetto, which was a site of mass shootings of elderly and infants was renamed the Plaza of the Heroes of the ghetto. This moving memorial, called the Empty Chairs monument, was inspired by a ghetto survivor’s story. He witnessed schoolchildren evicted from their school, carrying their chairs through the streets.
6| Taste the traditional Polish dumplings
After a long day of walking and exploring every corner of the city, you deserve to treat yourself with a creamy carb filled plate of delicious dumplings. Honestly, people don’t exaggerate when they say they are good. They taste like home, like something familiar and made with love. Worth every bite.
7| Visit Schindler’s Factory
Personally, the exhibition inside the factory was not impressive as the pictures of the Jewish survivors outside of it. You know how, when you are learning history, you only hear about the stories of great men who fought in the war and succeeded or failed with all their strategies and then they are these tragic pictures of what was left, you just kind of zoom out? Sometimes those things seem too repetitive, or too far away, or they might be too hard to watch. When you actually see the faces of the people targeted by these pointless wars with their names on it, it hits you deeply. It gives you more perspective, those faces stay in your memory forever. And that is why I think it is worth the visit.
8| Take the Legends Walking Tour at night
If you want to do something different at night, on a budget, and with friends that are easily scared, the legends walking tour at night is the perfect activity for you. Did you know that Poland was one of the last places to remove public decapitation? And did you know that decapitation was a whole profession and industry? The historical facts you will learn will blow your mind.
9| Go underground through the Wieliczka Salt Mines
Although this is not an activity that you can do almost for free, it is definitely worth splurging on. Inside this mine you will not only find a great deal of history and plenty of beautiful salt sculptures. You will also enter a breathtaking salt hall with engraved painting replicas on the walls, and you will also leave a year younger! Apparently the minerals inside the mine enhance your health. There is even a spa and resort inside to relax and rejuvenate.
Will Krakow make it to your bucket list?