Whether it’s the cobbles of the Old Town Market Square or the soaring Gothic spires of the Wawel Castle, Poland’s second city is bursting at the UNESCO-attested seams with historic architecture. Unfortunately, all of Warsaw’s was destroyed in the tumult of WWII, while Krakow’s emerged virtually unscathed.
Warsaw can try, but it will really never reach the same culinary heights as Krakow. What with smoky sheep’s cheese courtesy of the Zakopane folk, red blood sausage and filling zapiekanki breads on the menu, most of the locals here reckon the capital can keep its fancy fine dining!
From the acclaimed Krakow pub crawl to the smoky cellar bars of Kazimierz district, nightlife in the second city of Poland does more than enough to stare down its compadre in the capital to the north. In fact, one urban myth has it that there’s more bars per square meter in Krakow’s Old Town than in any other town in Europe.
When the winter snows begin to fall and the High Tatra Mountains get caked in ice, the ski fields of Zakopane, Kasprowy Wierch and Bialka Tatrzanska all open. Not only do these resorts offer the best skiing in Poland, but they also do it for darn cheap!
The High Tatras aren’t just an awesome skiing destination in the winter, they are also a year-round hiking hot spot. The best months to hit the trails are between June and September, when the chiselled peak of Rysy and the Giewont shimmer in the sun, alpine meadows come into bloom, and the forests are at their greenest.
Krakow is leading the pack when it comes to Poland’s all-new obsession with microbrew beers. Check out the subterranean drinking hall of C.K. Browar for some of the top home-crafted ales and dunkels. Or, taste the interesting concoctions of Browar Twigg in acclaimed Tea Time Pub, sat right on the edge of the Vistula River.
Auschwitz might just be the most iconic UNESCO site in all of Europe. Made infamous by the horrors and atrocities of the Nazis, an estimated 1.1 million people were exterminated there during WWII. Today’s monument and museum complex fuses history with memorials, to help chronicle what happened and honour the victims at the same time.
Krakow was actually the capital of Poland until as late as 1569, which means it reigned over the nation during its glorious golden age. The result is a city that oozes regal elegance. Just look up to the gilded towers of the great Wawel, or check out the prestigious Royal Way!
It’s no secret that Warsaw is much bigger than Krakow. It’s also sprawling and ever-expanding, meaning only this southern gem can promise walkable neighborhoods and easy-to-navigate historic districts. Yep, you don’t even have to ride the rattling trams to the Wawel or enchanting Kazimierz area here.
There’s nothing quite like delving into the twinkling lights of the Krakow Christmas market, or wandering the empty cobbled lanes of the Old Town area when a low mist has set in. Sometimes the Gothic turrets poke out of the clouds, other times the smell of sizzling blood sausage wafts between the medieval facades and arcades. It’s hard to deny this is Poland’s fairy tale city – not Warsaw!
Kazimierz is the old Jewish Quarter of Krakow. A place steeped in history and heritage, it’s now one of the most boho neighborhoods in all of central-eastern Europe. Think cool hummus joints and Middle Eastern restaurants, thumping all-nighter bars and some of the best coffee joints in Poland (sorry, W).