Regular readers probably know that when it comes to travel, I am the F-man when it comes to Frugal. Grocery stores and public transportation are my best Friends when traveling. I hardly ever meet a restaurant I like and riding in a taxi cab to me is something to be avoided as much as riding in the back seat of a police car. But in Krakow, Poland my travel style changes. Every day this week we have eaten all our meals in restaurants and three taxi rides matches the number of taxi rides I have taken in the past two years. I have not paid more than $5 for a ride.
Krakow is a great city for tourism. Stare Miasto is the old town city center and relatively compact at about one mile by one-half mile and surrounded by a tree lined narrow park green belt called Planty. Most of the big chain hotels like Sheraton, Radisson Blu, Holiday Inn and Hotel Indigo are located just outside the Planty. These are the hotels where I tend to book reservations due to good points deals and loyalty program promotions. Walking around Stare Miasto for the past several days revealed many apartment hotels in the old town area priced as low as $45 to $50 during this winter season.
Krakow gets an astounding number of tourists, in the millions, and for good reason. I find this to be one of the most lively, cultural and upscale city centers I have seen anywhere in Europe. And most definitely the best value for dollar for a traveler who wants a city break in a historic and beautiful space. Krakow is a bit grittier outside the Stare Miasto, but no more than a place like Prague. But you really don’t need to travel outside the Stare Miasto area if you are only here for a few days, except maybe to take a taxi to Schindler’s Factory Museum, if you want to get a sense of World War II history as depicted in the movie Schindler’s List, a story that took place in the Jewish ghetto of Krakow. Another area outside the Stare Miasto is Kazimierz, about a 10 to 15 minute walk. This was the historic Jewish quarter and now one of the artistic and entertainment districts in town that has been revitalized in the past 20 years.
While many cities in Poland were badly damaged in World War II, historic Krakow, the medieval capital of Polish royalty, was the German seat of power in the country during World War II and the old town Stare Miasto made it through the war relatively intact.
Horse carriages on Krakow’s Rynek Glowny, market square.
Within the Stare Miasto there are hundreds of restaurants, bars, pubs and shops. The average cost of meals in fine dining restaurants is about $2-$4 for appetizers, $8-11 for entrees and $2-3 for beer. A hamburger and beer can be found for 15 PLN is many places, about $3.25 USD. Most of our dinners have cost around 75 PLN for two entrees, an appetizer and 2 to 4 beers. A bottle of wine tends to be $8-15. We have eaten lots of salmon, Polish cuisine and excellent Indian meals.
Borscht beet root soup with pierogi meat dumplings and a plate of assorted pierogi at Goscinna Chata. $12 for lite dinner and beer.
Goscinna Chata Polish cuisine.
Our favorite pub is Antycafe, a dark place that is very popular and usually packed with small groups and young couples and a fairly equal mix of men and women. The wall décor kind of sucks with a sort of eugenics-morgue artsy look, but two full bars, generally good music sounds and about 60 varieties of regional beer for 6 to 9 PLN ($1.50-$2.25) per 0.5L fit our bill as a good drinking place to hang out for evening drinks.
Today is a travel day and we are leaving Krakow for Stockholm and a flight home to California. I’ll write more about Krakow in the coming weeks.
If Krakow is not on your radar yet, then start checking out some travel sites and trip reports. This is a dining, drinking and shopping jewel in central-eastern Europe and one of the easiest places to get around for travelers. English is widely spoken in restaurants, bars and shops.
Returning to Krakow is definitely in our travel plans.
Trip Report: December 2016 Vienna – Bratislava – Krakow