I took an early Ryanair flight at 06:35 from Brussels-Charleroi Airport and landed in Kraków John Paul II International Airport around 08:30 a less than two hour flight. Charleroi airport is small, nothing much to do for an early departure except clear security checks and wait for the boarding announcement. Plane departed on time and cruised into the sunrise over Central Europe. Views as the plane approached Krakow were an endless spread of colourful fields. I felt the morning sun slightly slanting on my window seat, it looks like a glorious day ahead!
There was no boarder security, perhaps it’s one of the fastest clearances I have had in Europe. Since I traveled with carry-on bags, I availed Ryanair’s priority plus 2 cabin bags option for additional €9, 1 x 10 kg and a small bag that can fit under the seat. Advantage of this is you get a dedicated queue when boarding the aircraft, and the chance to store your luggage above your designated seat. Fees for this ad-on differs throughout their destinations, so check it out when you book your flight.
Currency in Poland is the Zloty, one euro is about PLN zł4.50. Kaching! Finally a country where I can stretch my Australian Dollar. My private transfer to my Airbnb accommodation was organised by my host for €11. Apartment was smack bang in the middle of the city. Everything was so handy, Old Town district, shops, convenience stores, and all the interesting landmarks, especially in the limited time I had.
Kraków in English, Krakow or Cracow, is one of the oldest cities in Poland. It’s a wonderful place with fascinating architecture, historic buildings, vibrant atmosphere and friendly people. All the sights are compact and in easy walking distance from each other.
Just a mere 7 minute walk from my accommodation is The Wawel Cathedral! One of the famous cathedrals in Poland, it’s on par with almost any other Catholic church in Europe. It’s free to enter but if you want visit the Sigismund Bell, Royal Tombs and Cathedral Museum admission is PLN zł14.00 per person, there are concession rates available. The Cathedral Museum contains Papal finery and other treasures of the former Kings of Poland.
After my visit to the Cathedral, I headed towards the Most Dębnicki bridge which overlooks the Vistula River with a breathtaking view of the Wawel Cathedral/Castle and the city. There are good walking and bicycle paths on the right bank of the river.
Located in the old Podgórze Market Square is the historic St. Joseph’s Church. Designed by Jan Sas Zubrzycki, this huge red brick church was constructed between 1905-1909. The church features lavish architectural and sculptured décor. Impressive facade with three doors surrounded with numerous sculptures of Saints and a neo-Gothic style interior. Inside there are several side chapels.
Directly behind Saint Joseph Church is Park Bednarskiego. A stunning park with lots of high trees, grass to sit, picnic and kids play area. It’s a cool place to chill and rest those feet after a long walk.
Krakus Mound is one of a number of prehistoric monumental mounds and it’s also the highest. On top, you can see the stunning views of the city. It can be reached by foot or by public transport. It is close to the renowned Schindler’s Factory, a museum that houses a permanent exhibition entitled Kraków under Nazi Occupation 1939-1945, definitely a must visit.
If you want a rich exhibition that perfectly reflect the yesteryears of Poland then include the Seweryn Udziela Ethnographic Museum. Admission is PLN zł14.00 with available concession rates, Sunday it is free. A digestible amount of information, the way of life in Poland and almost all of it translated into English.
Exploring Krakow Old Town! There is so much rich heritage that can be experienced in an easy walk. Dating back to the 13th century, the Main Market Square (Polish: Rynek Główny) is the largest medieval town square in Europe. The walled city within Krakow has everything anyone would want from a European city. Cobble-stoned streets and centuries old buildings many of which are still standing and used today as modern shops, restaurants and bars. A place where you can try some of Poland’s culinary offerings and if you are game, a shot of high quality vodka. I highly recommend their mouthwatering sweets, they are to die for. An unforgettable experience awaits every visitor to this magical Old Town.
The imposing statue of the 12 apostles welcome each and every visitor to Saints Peter and Paul Church, a Catholic Church. It was the first structure in Krakow designed entirely in the Baroque style with stunning interior touches. There are regular ticketed classical concerts which can be booked in advance or on the door. Admission is by donation to enter the Church.
A popular meeting point in the Market Square, the Adam Mickiewicz Monument is one of the best known bronze monuments in Poland. The statue of the greatest Polish romantic poet of the 19th century was unveiled on the 16th. June 1898 on the 100th anniversary of his death. A hotspot for selfie and groupie fanatics, but also a nice place to sit and people watch.
A fine red brick building on the East side of the huge Market Square, St Mary’s Basilica is the next most important church after Wawel Cathedral. Construction started in the late 13th century, today it dominates Krakow’s skyline. A must visit church, the architecture is amazing it will take your breath away. The lavish altar was carved by Wit Stwosz, truly awe inspiring! Admission is PLN zł10.00 per person with available concession rates.
Buzzing with shoppers The Cloth Hall – Sukiennice is located in the centre of the Main Square. Dating back to 1275, this historic landmark was once the centre of major international trade. Consisting of two rows of stone stalls forming a street in the centre of the market square. Nowadays the Hall is full of market stalls with quality goods to choose from for gifts and personal souvenirs. Tip: Check out the stalls that sell amber jewellery.
Well that was my eventual first day in Krakow. The following day, I headed to Auschwitz-Birkenau and The “Wieliczka” Salt Mine. Stay tuned.