After living in Germany for almost four months, I really needed a break. I had missed the wedding of dear friends in October in the States, but we hatched a plan to meet up somewhere in Europe in December during their honeymoon. Being Americans, a jaunt from Germany to just about anywhere else on The Continent is just like flying from LA to Chicago–if not shorter. The great advantage to visiting Europe during the winter is that a lot of tourists can’t stand inclement weather. But the snow and cold didn’t bother us. Krakow’s justifiably famous architecture, walkable size and layer of snow made for a great weekend.
Poland does not operate on the Euro, but on złoty. At the time of our visit, it was about 1 Euro per 4 złoty. A beer or glass of wine runs about 8-10 złoty. The large meal we ate at the fancier restaurant was about 240 złoty for 4 people, including tip. A regular lunch for two without drinks is about 40-45 złoty.
There are an abundance of accommodation options, including standard hotels, hostels and private rental places. I rented a large apartment on the southern end of the city on the Vistula River and it was about 70 Euros per night. It was okay but there were cheaper places that were just as big and well-equipped. Even though it was on the edge of the inner part of the town, it was only a 15- to 30-minute walk to most destinations.
We did not use public transportation until the end. I did see that Uber is operating there, so I would’ve used that had we been in a time crunch or if the weather had taken a turn for the worse.
Everyone has to go see Wawel Castle. It’s free, it’s the focal point of the city and the views are beautiful. The cathedral has catacombs and they are definitely worth a look. The mishmash of architectural styles makes this structural complex even more interesting.
MOCAK (Museum of Contemporary Art Krakow) is an absolute must. It can be difficult to emotionally connect with modern art, but everything at MOCAK is arresting. The Muntean/Rosenblum exhibit, Walking Wounded, runs through March 24th, 2019, and it’s stunning.
Compared to MOCAK, the Rynek Underground is a hot mess, but an interesting one. It’s dedicated to Old Krakow and the cloth guild that operated on the grounds, but the English translations won’t enlighten you much. The disjointed short films are entertaining in their weirdness.
My friends found out about the Burial Mounds in Atlas Obscura. It’s a lovely walk up there and the views are great.
Just walk and the scenery presents itself. The old Jewish area, Kazimierz, is wonderfully atmospheric. Another tip: There are a limited number of cheap seats to the opera and other classical music events, but we could not figure out how to reserve anything online. If you are interested, head to the box office when you arrive to see if you can snag some value seats.
If you want to shop, there are two gigantic shopping centers. One is adjacent to the main train station, called the Galeria.
The two most popular day trips from Krakow that we did not do are visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp and the Wieliczka Salt Mine.
Actual Vegan Options
Krakow has many vegetarian and vegan options! Even at the tiny 24-hour Carrefour market around the corner from our rental place had vegan milk, cheese, chocolate and other snacks.
I highly recommend Veganic (restaurant). It’s not only adorable and cozy, but also has a huge array of dishes and inventive hot cocktails. Why are hot cocktails not more of a thing? The gnocchi and the soups were amazing. This is the place to go for a more upscale, sit down option. Reservations highly recommended as it’s always busy.
Mihiderka (café) is miniscule in size but has some very hearty food. I had a bowl of hummus, beets and greens topped with granola. It sounds odd but it worked. The curry dishes and burgers were delicious.
Nova Krova (café) served a bowl of fake cheese and pesto as a “salat,” but hey, it was a very tasty confusion. I had the quinoa cutlets, which were served with beet puree and mashed potatoes and it was the best “vegan fried chicken” of my ENTIRE LIFE.
As if all that good vegan food wasn’t enough, there were actual beer pubs serving a variety of microbrews. Krakow officially has everything. We stumbled across Tea Time Brewery and House of Beer and both are worth a visit for beer lovers.
All in all, Krakow was enchanting and I can’t wait to go back in summer! But do not let the cold stop you. There is both a youthful energy and calm vibe to this charming city that is enjoyable year-round.