Jul202016

Krakow, Poland Europe’s Best Travel Bargain

Hard to believe the numbers of the electronic digital scale in my Krakow, Poland hotel bathroom this morning showing my weight has dropped 0.6 kg / 1.3 pounds since arriving almost 72 hours ago. This weight loss is after consuming some 30 beers and six restaurant full hot meals in Europe’s best travel bargain. Krakow is a low key, tourist friendly 24-hour city. My diet has literally gone down the drain in Krakow.

You might expect a city with numerous 24 hour alcohol shops would be filled with falling down drunks, yet that is not the kind of city we have experienced. Of course, the weather has been mostly cloudy and kind of cool and we have not been here on a Friday or Saturday summer night.

Krakow 24 hour alcohol

Krakow has 24 hour alcohol/restaurants all around the central downtown tourist zone.

This is my first time to Poland and I truly had little idea what to expect aside from reading this is one of the lowest priced countries in Europe for a tourist. I assume Poland is quite a bit easier for an American tourist to navigate than Belarus, Romania or Ukraine, other lower priced countries in Europe than Poland. The other day I spoke with two travel writers who had recently been in Krakow earlier this month. Both tourists mentioned Krakow was overrun with party people and it got rather wild on the weekend. We arrived on a Sunday afternoon and we have not yet encountered any unruly behavior or wild party people, but then we have been back in our hotel room by 10pm each night after a day of drinking and dining.

Krakow Main Square-1

Each day we enter a different pub and find lower priced beer and food than the day before. And we have not even ventured outside the primary Old Town/Kazimierz tourist zones of this large city with some 700,000 residents. We can’t walk more than 50 meters in this place without stumbling across a restaurant or pub with $2 to $3 beer and $3 to $7 meal entrees in contrast to the dearth of budget food options in Stockholm, Sweden where we stayed the week before with 4x-5x more expensive alcohol in bars and restaurants.

U-Szwagra Burgers-Pizza

U-Szwagra 24 hours burgers, pizza and under $2 for a 500 ml beer. Kelley’s $3.75 danie kebab spicy chicken, vegetables and french fries plate was too large a meal for her to finish. I had a two handed hamburger for $4. If we make it back there again, and no reason to expect we will with a couple hundred budget dining restaurants in the area, I’d go for her meal choice.

Danie kebab chicken   Duzy hamburger

We were even able to do the travel chore of laundry after a week in Europe while spending a couple of hours drinking $2 pints of Polish pilsner inside a quiet and comfortable bar with free wi-fi and cool tunes and only a five minute walk from our hotel. Frania Café is open morning to midnight with seating for about 25 people in three separate rooms, yet only around 6 or 8 washing machines in a back room and there was about a 20 minute wait for a washer and a 40 minute wait between the end of the wash cycle and availability of a dryer. I was writing up a Loyalty Traveler California airfare deal so not a big concern. A load of laundry using their soap cost 20 PLZ or $5. We washed two loads. The staff will wash your clothes for you for an extra $2/load and you can return in 3 to 4 hours for pick-up. A large selection of pub drinks includes margaritas for $3.50 and all kinds of cocktails for 14-17 PLZ or $3.50 to $4.25 per drink.

Frania Cafe beer-laundry   Frania Cafe

In Stockholm I tag-lined our summer visit last week with the phrase “There’s nothing happening here.” In contrast, Krakow has so many distractions that we rarely get more than 10 or 15 minutes from our hotel before encountering a happening that ends up delaying us for an hour or two in unplanned activities.  We found ourselves at the finish line of the Tour of Poland 8-day cycling race final day and stage award ceremony and a few hours later, by chance. I think we saw the Prime Minister or President of Poland at Wawel Castle. There was a small crowd of people thrilled to have taken some dignitary’s photograph as the party with security guards loaded into the motorcade of cars for the drive out of the castle. That was the one time I walked out of the hotel without my Nikon and my phone battery had drained out.

Tomorrow we already have a standing invitation to an art show from an American artist we met at Frania Cafe laundromat-pub.

Bierhalle

Bierhalle liter mugs

Bierhalle in Old Town Krakow is a couple hundred meters from our hotel. By Krakow standards this beer is expensive at $6 for a 1.0 L mug, but we found it to be a great place for watching Tour de France cycling on TV. Even Kelley admits the young server girls look pretty darn cute in their uniform outfits.To top off the meal, Bierhalle serves two complimentary Cherry Vodka shots with your restaurant/bar tab.

Bierhalle waitress photo

Bierhalle server photo in pub. The blouses the young women wear are a bit more low cut than shown here.

Tour of Poland Cycling Race

On Monday afternoon we were walking to Wawel Castle when we saw barricades lining the street around Krakow’s Main Square, the largest medieval square in Europe by the way. We soon learned Krakow was hosting the final stage of the 8-day Tour of Poland international professional cycling race.

Kelley and I are two American spectator fans of international cycling. The Tour of California came to Monterey in May and Kelley was envious that I saw Peter Sagan win the race stage in Monterey. He is a powerful Slovakian cyclist who currently is the Green Jersey points leader going into the final week of the 21-stage Tour de France and expected to win the points jersey again this year at the conclusion of the annual race this Sunday in Paris.

Kelley was collecting free cycling swag around Main Square and I purchased a discounted Tour de Pologna jersey for 100 PLZ or $25 USD. Quite expensive by Polish economic standards, but far cheaper than the $85 Tour of California jersey I avoided purchasing in Monterey.

In Monterey I could not even get near the finish line for the Tour of California race stage. We went to the Bierhalle for late lunch and walked back to Main Square for the last hour of the Tour of Poland race. We quickly worked our way to the front of the crowd in position to see the main square big screen TV and a position on the square where cyclists slowed down for the final turn to the last 50 meters of the course for finish line views.

Tim Wellens Tour of Poland winner

Belgian rider Tim Wellens of Lotto Soudal as he rounded the corner on Krakow’s Main Square for the final 50 meters and ultimate winner of 2016 Tour of Poland.

Tour of Poland finish line

Auschwitz Museum sets record with over 1 million visitors in 2016

One of the primary excursions we had planned for our Krakow trip was a day trip to visit the Auschwitz Museum and Birkenau Concentration Camp located about 50 km west of Krakow. The Krakow Post reported yesterday the number of visitors to Auschwitz Museum has already topped 1,000,000 visitors in 2016, a new visitor record for this early date. Unfortunately, we learned yesterday the Auschwitz Museum closed to the public today for the next two weeks due to the World Youth Day Krakow 2016 event starting next week. World Youth Day is a major Catholic global event held every three years for children who gather in a location (2013 Rio de Janeiro, 2016 Krakow) and get the opportunity to see and hear the Pope. The event begins next Tuesday, July 25 and Pope Francis is scheduled to arrive in Krakow next Thursday, July 27.

While I will not be around Krakow for the Pope’s visit and loudspeaker address to the youth, I’ll always remember hearing a techno version of The Doors “Riders on the Storm” blasting out of loudspeakers on Krakow’s Main Square during the Tour of Poland cycling race.

While an Auschwitz visit won’t happen this trip, we still have the opportunity to wander around Kazimierz, the historic Jewish area of Krakow and Podgórze, across the Vistula River, site of the Krakow Jewish ghetto during the Nazi occupation. Spielberg’s 1993 movie Schindler’s List was filmed in Kazimierz and Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory is about 2.5 km from Krakow Main Square.

Kazimierz Jewish Cemetery

Portal to Remah Cemetery, the Old Jewish Cemetery in Kazimierz established in 1535. Krakow held about 68,000 Jews at the time of the Nazi invasion. Over 90% of Poland’s pre-war 3.5 million Jews were killed during WWII.

Remah cemetery Kazimierz

Remah Synagogue (1557) in Kazimierz Krakow is one of two remaining synagogues in Krakow.

Krakow, Europe’s Best Travel Bargain

Krakow continues yet again as Europe’s best travel bargain. The low prices have drawn in larger numbers of Europeans for weekend breaks, and there are many great and cheap hostels, bars, and restaurants to keep prices low while you are enjoying the beautiful old city and the local culture. Put this one on your list before demand forces prices up like in Prague and Budapest.

Price of Travel.com – European Backpacker Index

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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  1. Enjoy Krakow and Poland. Back in June 2005, we visited Warsaw for 3 days and Krakow for 5. Although Poland was not on the main tourist map at that point, we ended our trip sitting on the Vistula riverbank with thousands of locals celebrating the Wianki summer solstice festival. Never went to Auschwitz – we’d been to Dachau back in 1988 (and all through the Holocaust Museum in Wash, DC), and other Jewish memorial sites in Prague and Berlin on other trips, so my husband did not want to visit another camp. But we have many wonderful memories of our time in Poland. I hope you will get to Collegium Maius and the Museum of the Jagiellonian University – amazing to see Copernicus’ book with his drawing of the solar system on display.

    And lucky you to see the Tour of Poland finale! I am a die-hard cycling fan – back in my younger days – 1982 – I cycled in the French Alps over some of the same passes used in the Tour de France, and am currently glued to watching the Tour every day.

  2. Thanks for recommending Collegium Maius and the Museum of the Jagiellonian University. We will head there before leaving Krakow.

    Spent nearly 3 hours today touring Oskar Schindler’s Factory – Historical Museum of the City of Krakow and found it to be extraordinary museum experience. Multi-sensory experience focused on 1939-1945 and the rapid changes introduced in Krakow after the invasion by Nazi Germany.

    The museum is immense and weaves visitors through dozens of rooms and exhibits with Polish and English language text and films, photographs and artifacts creating a deep immersion into life in Krakow for the Poles and Jews living under Nazi occupation and the changes through the years.

    Essentially a visitor has to follow the path from 1939-1945 with rooms where you hear the sounds of bombs in the initial attack with video imagery, see the development of the campaign to redesign Krakow through Germanification with place name changes such as Krakow Main Square (its Polish name) being renamed Adolf Hitler Platz and the assignment of Polish workers to various types of war industry employment.

    Then the museum moves the visitor into the Jews experience of segregation in the Krakow Ghetto and life in work camps and factories and the Schindler Enamalware Factory and the ultimate liquidation of the Ghetto when residents were either killed or transferred to the concentration camps.

    The museum requires a minimum 1.5 hours and hard to shorten tour since it is basically one direction of movement. Not really suitable for young ones and fortunately very few young children to disrupt the experience. Lots of reading required and some gruesome imagery.

    We went at the end of the day around 5 pm and probably far less crowded, open until 8 pm in summer. Some rooms were still way too crowded whenever a group passed through with more than four people accompanied by a private tour guide and that often blocked access to move around and read. Fortunately only encountered three tour groups, one group with ten or more people, and we waited until they passed ahead before leisurely continuing through exhibits.

    A powerful and impressionable museum experience and good substitute for missing Auschwitz Museum this trip.

    I visited Dachau as a child. That experience was enough for one lifetime, but my wife has wanted to travel to Auschwitz for years. Krakow is so interesting that we will likely be back.

  3. Poland is on my list somewhere; so many places to see! I like the laundry pub idea – that would be a nice change from sitting in some hotel basement or washing clothes by hand in the sink.

  4. The Schlinder factory museum sounds so interesting. It was not yet open when we were in Krakow. In fact, we could only see the outside gate of the factory. As I said, Poland was still not yet on the main tourist map. We did get to the small museum in the Pharmacy Under the Eagle (think that was its name), and we walked all thru the ghetto, the cemeteries and synagogues, and walked down to the Plaszow concentration camp site and saw the Grey House, but we did not walk the rest of the site.
    One other fun thing we did, which was new at the time (2005), was take a Trabant tour that included seeing the communist housing developments, store and cafe and the Nowa Huta district.
    Reading your reports reminds me of how much we enjoyed Poland. Can’t believe it was11years ago! Need to make a return trip to see more.

  5. We just returned from a trip to Krakow and Wroclaw and would absolutely recommend making the trip to see Wroclaw and the Unesco Churches of Peace in the surrounding area of Jawor and Swidnica.

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