Beaches are at a premium in landlocked Kraków, and the options for a dip are mostly in the local swimming baths. However, if you’re after the more traditional sun, sand and sea combo, there’s a beach at Zalew Bagry which sits on the edge of a beautiful lake.
At Plaza Kraków, you’ll come across the biggest city beach in Europe. Perched on the riverside, it’s home to 10,000 square metres of imported sand, and there’s a pool on a barge which floats just steps away. You’ll find plenty of sun loungers to relax on, and an al fresco bar and restaurant, too.
Just beyond the city limits, there’s a reservoir known as Zakrzowek Lake. Boasting natural beauty, you’ll find limestone cliffs overlooking a deep blue lagoon. It’s a top spot for sunbathing, barbecues and scenic hikes, and if you’ve got a head for heights you can practise your cliff diving skills.
Plac Targowy is the city’s best open air market, with row upon row of stalls, selling everything from fresh fruit to vintage vinyl records. It’s open every day, with most sellers not packing up until sunset. It’s a mecca for bargain-hunters, and there’s some top-notch street food to be had too
Helpfully sat next to main train station, Galeria Krakowska is the place for shopping. It’s got over 270 shops and restaurants set over three floors, with the likes of H&M, Bershka and Zara all making an appearance. Back in the old town, Florianska is a bustling shopping street lined with high-street brands, while the Kraków Cloth Hall – one of the world’s oldest shopping malls – sells plenty of traditionally Polish goods, as well as glittering Baltic amber jewellery.
If splashing out is on your agenda, the Rynek 13 Shopping Arcade’s the place. Found in two converted town houses, it’s a designer hive of elegant boutiques. Here, you’ll find names like L’Occitane and Diesel lighting up the bare stone interior.
If you’re on the lookout for a low-key affair, head to one of the many wine bars dotted around the city centre. Normally low-lit with candles, and tucked away from the hustle and bustle, many have a tapas menu to browse and mellow background music.
For a night of pulse-pumping music, Kraków Old Town is the place to be. Whether you're into jazz or techno, lots of the bars and nightclubs are located underground. They're usually found in cavernous cellars with vaulted ceilings and lots are located on Szewska Street – Kraków's clubbing corridor. Sample the national spirit at Wódka, where you can order a selection of flavoured vodkas served on a plank of wood. If cocktails are more your thing, try Movida Bar. Decorated with famous faces and serving up an assortment of very reasonably priced drinks, this lively bar is a great place to round off a even greater day.
Unlike other European cities, a slap-up meal in Kraków is very good value. The restaurants here are trendy, with many found on the roads branching off the market square and in the Jewish District, Kasimierz. You’ll also come across milk bars, small cafés selling dairy-based products and vegetarian dishes that were brought about in the 1960s as a way of feeding workers. Since then they’ve had a revamp, and sell everything from schnitzel to goulash, all washed down with a cool glass of the white stuff. Also in abundance is street food. Make sure you try zapiekanka – an open baguette covered in pizza-style toppings – and pierogi, a dumpling-style snack filled with cheese, meat or even wild forest fruits.
Tucked away in one of the corners of the market square is Wierzynek, one of the oldest restaurants in Poland, dating back to the 14th century. It’s seen esteemed guests from De Gaulle to Kate Moss and is decorated in original period furnishings, tapestries and oil paintings. The food here is based on the traditional feasting habits of the Polish monarchy and is made from high-quality organic produce from local suppliers.
This small, unassuming café is on Dajwór, on the outskirts of Kasimierz. The perfect place for a quick lunch, this trendy jaunt successfully reclaims a traditionally Jewish delicacy – bagels. Choose from an assortment of seed-topped bagels, filled with a variety of ingredients from the classic smoked salmon and cream cheese to warm brie and tomato.
For some authentic Jewish fare, head to the lively Szeroka square in Kasimierz. Decorated like a modern Israeli café, this atmospheric restaurant’s slogan is ‘hummus and happiness’. It’s popular for its mouth-watering mezze, the majority of which are meat-free, and a wine list that consists solely of wines from Israel, Armenia and Poland.
Kraków is a fairly compact city, meaning you can get almost anywhere on foot. The terrain is fairly flat and there’s a nice riverside promenade you can enjoy on sunny days. All the hotels are conveniently located too, under 20 minutes’ walk from the market square and Jewish District. There’s also a fair few parks and green spaces, ideal for an afternoon stroll.
The Vistula River is Kraków’s sole waterway, offering an alternative way of seeing the city. There are two types of boat operating on the river, the first by double-decker Pleasure Boat. Departing from the Wisla Bank near Wawel Castle, these boats make it easy to navigate the city towards St. Norbert’s Convent and Bielany Monastery. The rides last an hour and run every day between 9.30am and 5.30pm, or up to 4pm on weekends. The other is by river bus. Like land buses, this boat stops at multiple places along the river on its 10km route, meaning you can hop on and off whenever and wherever you like.
Kraków Glowny is the city’s main station, and is located within walking distance from the market square next to the Galerie Krakowska. From here you can hop on trains to major cities around the country – like Warsaw in 2 hours and 30 minutes or Wroclaw in 3 hours and 40 minutes.
You’ll find the bus station right next to the train station. From here you can travel to numerous places around the country – including Zakopane in just 2 hours and 20 minutes, or Oswiecim (the town close to Auschwitz) in just over an hour – for a very decent price. The buses depart quite regularly, too.
The most convenient and cost-friendly way of getting around the city is by tram. A full service runs regularly between 5am and 11pm, with some night trams in operation after dark. Trams are included with the Krakow Card, but you can buy tickets from the machines at major stops (which also operate in English) and on board most trams. All tickets are timed, meaning you can hop on more than one tram within your allotted time, and come at very good prices.
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