How to Fall in Love with Kraków in 30 Steps

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I wondered if I was doing myself a disservice, waiting so long to visit Kraków and Poland as a whole. As much as I hate to admit it, you do lose a bit of sense of wonder when you travel constantly. Would I greet Kraków with the enthusiasm of my early twenties? Or be underwhelmed and head to cafes to work the whole time?

The good news, however, is that traveling this much teaches you what you like and don’t like. You can often tell in an instant. And that’s how Kraków was for me. It hit me all at once. It was beautiful, it was comfortable, it was interesting. This is a great place, I said to myself.

Here’s how I fell in love with Kraków. In 30 steps.

1. Start by walking a few minutes from your accommodation to the main square.

2. Admire the purple flowers that seem to be everywhere.

3. Discover a gentleman making bubbles for the kids! Play with them, take hundreds of photos, and curse the little girl in the pink shirt for jumping in front of all your photos.

4. Try to catch a moment where the bubble guy looks like God. This will do.

5. Realize that the whole Old Town is encircled by a park. Think to yourself that if you lived here, walking this park would be how you caught up on all your podcasts.

6. Pass a sidewalk cafe and debate whether to go in and get a cup of coffee — until this girl catches you taking a photo and you feel too intimidated to set foot beyond the fence.

7. Head back into the Old Town, find another coffee shop, and order a coconut latte topped with blue syrup. Giggle when you realize that you’ve only had coconut lattes in Guatemala and Poland.

8. Realize that the light is changing fast and head back to the main square to photograph the sunset. Be immediately spellbound by the exquisite, perfect light.

9. Catch the clock tower and a wisp of cotton candy clouds.

10. Nearly burst into tears at how perfect the colors are. This photo won’t need a single tweak. Marvel that it’s just the kind of photo that will do great on Instagram. (Spoiler: it does.)

11. Say goodnight to the sunset and the purest light you’ve seen since Japan.

12. Practice a little panning on your camera with the many tourist vehicles that drive by.

13. Try a few motion shots of the trams as well. Why not? The sky looks great!

14. Pick up your laundry from Frania Cafe, the cafe laundromat where you dropped it off three hours earlier. Wonder to yourself whether a laundromat cafe would work in your neighborhood in New York. It could be great. Also, rejoice at getting to wear a bra again.

15. Spend a morning hopping around Kazimierz, the Jewish quarter. Hop in and out of the vintage boutiques and odd shops, then meet up with a lovely reader of yours.

16. Realize that you’re falling into the trap of imagining what your life would be like if you lived here. Even though you know it won’t be happening. Do you have a ghost life here?

17. Stroll up to the cathedral at Wawel Castle.

18. Take another pic that you know will do great on Instagram. It does.

19. Contemplate adding a knocker like this to your apartment in New York.

20. Head to one of your reader’s favorite spots, Camelot, a funky cafe in the Old Town.

21. Get up to use the bathroom…and take photos of everything inside.

22. Taste your first Polish cheesecake — it’s milder than its American counterpart, and not as smooth, but very delicious, especially with berries.

23. Take an evening stroll to confirm that yes, Kraków looks just as good by night.

24. Discover that paczki, Polish donuts, are apparently being sold right around the corner from your guesthouse! Give in to temptation, purchase one, wait until you’re in the privacy of your room, then take a bite and sigh.

25. Eat soup. Again and again. Decide that Poland is your new favorite soup country in the world.

26. See that there is a Sephora near the main square and this is all that matters right now. Realize they only stock foundations for the very pale, but get recommended an eyebrow pencil that you use till this day.

27. Follow a group of four friends around the park — then realize that they remind you of The Wizard of Oz!

28. Evaluate whether you’ve been missing out by only having two beers during your entire duration in Poland.

29. Admire the first trees turning red for fall.

30. And finally, on your final night in the city, capture the perfect sunburst after five or six tries. Vow to remember this moment forever.

Essential Info: In Kraków I stayed at Poselska Góscinne Guesthouse, one of the best budget guesthouses I’ve experienced in a long time. It was close to perfect: good-sized private room with a private bath, super comfortable, great internet, modern facilities, very nice owners, in an ideal location in the heart of the Old Town. AND they charge solo travelers less! Double rooms 150-180 zloty ($36-44) for one person, 230-260 zloty ($56-63) for two people.

You can find the best rates on other hotels in Kraków here.

Two restaurants I loved happened to be on the same street as the guesthouse: Restauracja Miód Malina has delicious local food in a building from the 1300s, while Corse is an outstanding Corsican restaurant (what a surprise to find it in Poland!). And the cafe pictured above with the cheesecake is Camelot.

If you plan to visit Auschwitz from Kraków, I urge you to book as early as possible. I didn’t go in part because the English tours were sold out. More information is here.

Don’t visit Kraków without travel insurance — it could save your life. I use World Nomads for insurance on every trip I take and I highly recommend them.

Have you been to Krakow? Or does it look like your kind of city?

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62 thoughts on “How to Fall in Love with Kraków in 30 Steps”

  1. I visited Poland 2 years ago and fell in love! I learned that the park that surrounds the city was actually where the city wall used to be to protect Old Town. So magical!

  2. Poland is a country high at the top of my wishlist, especially as my great-grandmother’s village is only a couple of hours from Krakow and I would so love to make a pilgrimage to it one day.

    Your photos look dreamy and amazing that just like in Prague, this beautiful city escaped the destruction that befell how many other European cities during WWII. I think my favorite photos are numbers two and 10.

  3. Great photos! But you don’t mention the history! Like the Cathedral, there are layers upon layers of history in this great city and nearby. I’d recommend the free walking tours (I went on three different walking tours there). Of the 16 cities I visited in Europe, Krakow’s tours and guides were my favorites. The Oscar Schindler factory is a short walk from the old town. There are many companies offering transportation to/from the city and guided tours (in English) of Auschwitz and the Salt Mines. This is the company I used
    I was a bit disappointed with the Wawel Castle exhibits. But don’t miss the fire breathing dragon!

  4. What fantastic pictures! I went to Krakow alone for my 22nd birthday but unfortunately that was in late January during a blizzard. It wasn’t so fun trying to explore in minus 15 degree weather! I ended up drinking a lot of hot chocolate in tiny cafes. This post has just pushed Krakow back to the top of my ‘places to visit again’ list!

  5. A great Post Kate! I can’t wait to see Krakow – you have influenced me with your beautiful photos! Those flowers are heather.

  6. Wow, these photos are stunning! Krakow is on my list of places to visit but it just got bumped up, might see if I can fit in a trip this year, I love the idea of a park surrounding the city.

  7. I lived there 5 years and I’m visiting now again with my Scottish boyfriend who is discovering Poland for the first time. It was -20 when we arrived and it was new even for me to survive in the city in such cold 😀 but all of the hot beer and mulled wines in cosy cafes saved us 🙂 I’ll write a post about that in my blog soon! Poland is really beautiful in winter as well!

  8. “… until this girl catches you taking a photo and you feel too intimidated to set foot beyond the fence.” Haha I always feel so awkward when I am trying to take a photo and other people are clearly moving on with their lives way more efficiently…

  9. “traveling this much teaches you what you like and don’t like” – AMEN. This only hit me last year, and now I think I have finally synthesized what my perfect holiday/destination needs to have to be a success. So while I havent been to Poland (and it’s not on my agenda), the 30-step recap felt eeriely familiar, because I’ve experienced something similar in London, Budapest and Alsace.

  10. I was in Poland and Krawkow and Aushwitz in 1974 before the Iron Curtain fell and your pictures are so familiar and so hopeful. There is much color and joy that was not present in 1974. Our high school choir toured Poland for 2 weeks. I believe we sang in one of the cathedrals in your pictures as well. Such a joy to see these pics.

  11. I visited Krakow during my last year of secondary school. I was only there for a day, but I fell in love with the place instantly. I’d love to go back – it was so gorgeous!

  12. Great post!

    Less ‘wordy’ than a lot of yours I’ve read, but really loved it! Wondered if the four friends realised you were following them?!

  13. Lovely pictures, watching the light change chronologically was gorgeous! I hope to visit Krakow on the big central Europe trip I’m dreaming up for 2018 (I really enjoy planning far in advance, haha!)

  14. We’ll be going to Poland for the 1st time in April and will use Krakow as a base for at least a month (we’re slow travellers). Looks beautiful.

    Did you happen to come across a good Indian restaurant there? It’s the first thing we look for whereever we go 🙂

    Frank (bbqboy)

  15. Thank you! I just relived my time in Krakow with your post!
    Although, it only took me 2 steps to fall in love: just steps 1 and 24 will do me 🙂

  16. Travelling to Poland is so great. I done Warsaw a d Krakow last summer at it was great. You can go on your last day by night train to Budapest, Bratislava or Viena from Krakow. That safe you one night in a hotel and you wake up in the next city

  17. Love the photos, Kate!

    I’m planning to visit Krakow this summer, so it’s extra-relevant for me. Good to know about booking an Auschwitz tour ahead of time, although I’ll be traveling by bike, which makes an exact schedule more difficult…

  18. Amy-Anne Williams

    I looove this, and some parts I found so hilarious, like capturing the bubble guy to look like God. But it seems like you only need one step to fall in love here – arrive! My goodness, you make me so jealous with this captivating writing and photographs.


  19. Warsaw is at least seven times as good as Krakow. Kraków is a tourist trap, Warsaw is a city you can actually live in. Wile yes, there are no ancient castles or mounds, there’s plenty of memorable places still. I hope you’ll visit Warsaw or some of the smaller towns in Poland like Plock or Bialystok!

  20. I taught in Krakow in 2000 when I was 23 and fell in love with it. Growing up Polish Anerican, having visited many times but never staying in one place for long, it was nice to really explore the city during my free time. I can’t wait to return- maybe this year! Thanks for your lovely memories and photos 🙂

  21. We were in Krakow 3 years ago and we spend there 3 nights, but I fell in love with the place instantly
    We had an amazing experience at the Auschwitz and Wieliczka Salt Mine in one day. It was also good to visit one of the biggest Castle in Poland Wawel was amazing. Food was so delicious 🙂 anyway, nice photos you got there.

  22. Beautiful photos. Makes me dream of my next visit. My husband owns a company there, and he spends 2-3 months a year Krakow, 2 weeks at a time.. I visit at least once a year for his company Christmas party, and lately at least one other time for a wedding or other social event. We love the people, the food, the Polish pottery. I’m endlessly fascinated by the tragic history of the whole region of Europe. Krakow at Christmas is especially wonderful. The Christmas market fills the Market Square, with actual crafts, and delicious local food. It is festive, but not overrun like the Vienna Christmas markets. It is magical and I always feel so lucky to be there. Another thing I love about Krakow is that it is easy to visit other central European cities for a weekend from there. We’ve visited Prague, Bratislava, Vienna, and Budapest, which are all stunning at Christmas time, and all have fantastic, if sometimes overcrowded, Christmas markets. So glad you had the chance to fall in love with one of my favorite cities.

  23. I had a funny reaction to Krakow. I had no expectations because I’ve clearly been living under a rock and didn’t realize how popular it was (I went on a whim when EasyJet had a sale!)

    And I mostly loved it, for all the reasons you say, and for the history and culture that are its backbone along with its sheer beauty and friendliness and music everywhere.

    But – and my age is showing here – what I didn’t like was the culture of drunkenness. Having a few is fine, go enjoy! But dude, when you start taking out your privates in public, it’s time to go home. This is a huge stag party destination and I’m sure I must have visited during a particularly “active” period. That said, this was the only downside of the city, and easily avoided when forewarned.

    I loved Krakow, and would return in a flash to see all the things I was unable to see in my full week there.

  24. God bless you Kate as you seem to have fallen in love with Poland too !

    Have you ever been to the northern Baltic towns of Gdansk, Gdynia and Sopot. Don’t tell anyone but I think that those towns are even nicer than Krakow 🙂

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