In leaving Warsaw for Kraków, we learned that train stations are great for stocking up on essential supplies – looking at you, cold meds, vitamin C tablets, and big-and-fancy European McDonald’s lattes. (Unapologetically waving our American flag here.
Oversized Normal caffeinated beverages definitely count as essential objects if/when you’re growing weary of the mini espresso thing everybody’s rocking over the pond.)
When we arrived in Kraków, we were reminded of why AirBnB (<– psst: click if you’d like to claim a free $25 credit from us!) is such an amazing option for travelers (us) exploring cities they’ve never been to before (us again). The tram we needed to take to get to the city center was inexplicably cancelled, which would have been a much bigger issue had we not had the luxury of texting our host and asking for a back-up suggestion. Having a direct line of communication with a local is by far one of the biggest advantages of choosing an AirBnB location over a hotel! Plus, how nice are these digs?
more details about the listing here if you’re interested in booking a stay!
After checking in and deciding that we loved our location, we went to a nearby market where we motioned at the meat counter until we somehow ended up with chicken. Since our check-in day just so happened to be Taylor’s birthday, we also picked out birthday beer and chocolate in addition to our more standard supplies: bread and cheese for sandwiches, cucumber and tomatoes to slice up for breakfast, apples, chips, and few other odds and ends. In grand total, we spent less than $11 and purchased enough food to last multiple days. Taylor claims THAT was the best birthday present of all time!
TAKEAWAY TIPS: Stretch your trip budget by choosing AirBnB listings with full kitchens or selecting a hotel with a mini fridge, then shop local markets for the supplies you need to make easy meals “at home.”
the coolest of murals at a bus stop in Kraków
On our second day in Kraków we took a day trip to the Wieliczka Kopalnia salt mine. The commute was lengthy, but the sight was so worth the extra bus stops! Construction of the mine began in the 13th century and took around 700 years complete. The structure is hundreds of meters deep and primarily built from pine wood, which would have made the tour down into the depths extremely scary except for the fact that, through the years, the wood has been petrified by salt and basically turned into stone. (Can you tell we were taking notes on our tour?)
It was difficult to believe that the walls, floors, bas relief sculptures, and even the chandeliers were all made from salt until Taylor took a lick of the wall and confirmed that the substance was indeed that which we sprinkle on our eggs in the mornings. As for the stunning figures in the chapel? They were sculpted by “amateur” artists throughout the 17th and 18th centuries as an act of after-work devotion to God!
After venturing outside the city limits of Kraków to see the salt mine, day three demanded a walking tour of nearby Old Town Kraków and Wawel Royal Castle. It was very cool to walk the medieval square (the oldest one in Europe!) in Old Town, and we truly enjoyed every aspect of our Wawel Castle experience as well.
wawel royal castle views
Note to other travelers: Early arrival is recommended at Wawel as a limited number of tickets are made available for each exhibit. Since we got a late start, we missed out on seeing the Royal Apartments. However, we did catch the “Lost Wawel” (featuring artifacts such as medieval shoes and ornate stove tiles), the Treasury and Armory rooms (which included goblets made of conch shell with gold stems, Turkish riding adornments captured during battle, a coronation sword, and jeweled broaches), and the State Rooms (picture apartments and ballrooms covered in ornate leather wallpaper, writing desks crafted from ebony and tortoise shell, and enormous tapestries depicting Noah’s ark hanging in the same place they were 400 years ago).
Afterward, we ate at a Polish pierogi restaurant that we thought/hoped was semi-authentic until we bit into the center of a dumpling as cold as the freezer we can only assume it came from. That being said, the traditional sour soup with egg was delicious and earned back a few points on our Four Square review. Still, if we could do it over again, we probably would have just eaten at one of the wooden stalls in the Old Town square serving up fresh veggies, dumplings, and chicken roasting over an open flame.
TAKEAWAY TIPS: Research the sites you want to see in advance so that you’re aware of any special ticketing policies. Even though we were aware of Wawel’s ticket limitations, we assumed we’d be able to see whatever we wanted since we were traveling during shoulder season…a mistake on our part. Also, if a restaurant looks kinda kitschy, chances are that it’s, well, kinda kitschy. Pass on it and look for options slightly outside the city center to save dollars (and regrets).
That’s all for our time in Kraków!