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Tuesday, 16 August 2016

10 Frequently Asked Questions About Krakow

Dearest hearts,
Dear travellers that wish to have a good time in Kraków but have 1000 questions on their mind,

Please feel free to contact me, especially on the Facebook page, and ask any questions. I know how hard it is to find relevant and updated info about Krakow but I must also admit the platforms about the city have been improving - I can see big changes since I first came here over 5 years ago! Either way, in the expat and the travel groups, I always bump into - more or less - the same questions. Even during the World Youth Day Kraków 2016, the people I met on the street, besides asking for directions, they would pop up one of these beauties I try to answer below. Of course these are not all the questions one would ask and you probably have a few in your pocket, so if you want... reach out to me and help me help you ;) Without any further ado, here are the questions & my answers to them:
Public Transport in Krakow
1. How can I get from the airport (also know as Balice Airport or John Paul the 2nd Airport) to the Old Town?
Well Old Town is a very generic address... but let's say you wish to get to Galeria Krakowska, the mall that also has underneath the Main Train Station and on the side it has all the possible bus lines to go anywhere in Poland or abroad. That's what you will want to reach, as from there to the Main Market Square there is only a 5-10 min walk - depending how fast you walk and how many pictures you will stop and take... There are multiple options on how to get from the airport to the Galeria Krakowska:
1) by taxi - not recommended if you don't speak the language as they might try and cheat you and take a longer route than the usual. Getting to the Galeria may take you around 45 min and cost you around 100 zloty.
2) by UBER - never tried it but I have friends who only use UBER so I guess it ain't that bad! It's cheaper and more reliable than taking the actual cab service. It will still take about 45 min to reach the Galeria Krakowska. Not sure about the price but it should be way cheaper than the taxi ;)
3) by public transport - bus - used it hundred and hundred of times, always came and went at the scheduled time. It costs around 3.8-4 zloty a ticket (It has to be Strefa 1+2 ticket for 60 minutes!). It usually takes 50 min or more (if there is a traffic) as it has a lot of stops throughout town. It's the cheapest but probably also the slowest option.
4) by public transport - train - there is a direct connection between the new Balice Airport terminal and the Galeria Krakowska - Main Train Station. During daytime the trains run every 30 min, after 10 pm the schedule changes due to low number of flights and until 5-6 am there is not much traffic. The fastest option possible, taking you in less than 20 min to the station, and quite cheap! Only 8 zloty per ride - you can but tickets from the machine outside, in the train station, or the machine inside the train, or from the lady who checks the tickets. I think this is the best way to go! The line reopened last year and I stopped using the bus option since then ;)
Feel free to read more about the transport options in Krakow!

2. Should I change some money for when I come to Krakow? Will I be able to exchange my local currency?
Well I always be lived that travelling with a lot of money on yourself if not the best way to go. When we travel we put most of the money on our card and do the transactions with the card. The banks we use don't have a bad rate and we never get screwed. We don't pay extra fees as well. But we also take a bit of money, in local currency, just in case... that's also what I recommend my friends who come to visit: have at least 100 zloty changed for the bus/train tickets and maybe a bottle of water as you may get thirsty... you never know! But don't change all the money! There is no point! Almost all the shops and restaurants have card readers and especially in the big cities like Kraków you can see an ATM every a couple of meters. There are of course also exchange offices (Kantor, in Polish language) that exchange Dollars, Euros, GBP, Swiss Francs... the regular! As long as you come with that and not some Pula currency from Botswana, you should be fine!

3. Can I pay in Euros or other currency?
Well... some shops can let you do that, and they usually have signs saying that paying in Euros (usually, not dollars) would be possible, but I really recommend you to go local. Exchange a bit of your Euros for the local Zloty. It's going to make your life easier and you will probably get a better rate at the exchange office (Kantor).

4. Will I be able to find a wide variety of restaurants to choose from? I don't eat meat/dairy... will I starve?!
No, you won't starve, don't worry! But you must know you have come in a country where meat is always a part of the main dish. Meat is a must for traditional Polish dishes! And it would be sad if you would not try the local dishes :( but if you are a vegan or a vegetarian don't you worry! There are more and more restaurants opening their doors on this perspective of living without meat/dairy. What I can recommend is... Vegan/Vegetarian/Healthy Food - Slow Food:
5. Where should I get accommodation? Is it better in the Old Town, Kazimierz or Podgorze district?
To tell you the truth, it all depends what you are planning to do, what you are planning to see and whom you are coming with. Old Town is perfect as you are a short walk away from all the main attractions. In the Old Town I can recommend you Globtroter Krakow Guest House - it's located in Plac Szcepanski, a few footsteps away from the best places to have breakfast! They have rooms for 2 or more - they can even host a full family! Very nice location and price and inner garden. Even though it's in the Main Square area it does not get loud due to its lovely and peaceful inner garden. Of course if you go alone maybe a hostel (and there are plenty to choose from!) would be a better option for you. If you want to live much nearer to Kazimierz, right on the other side of the Vistula river from the Wawel Castle, there is another option I can recommend with all my heart: Zamkowa 15 Apartments! Again for families 2+ the apartments have their own mini kitchen included! The place is nice and cozy and quiet and it's only 5 min walk from the Manggha Museum ;) Of course Kazimierz and Old Town hostels will get noisy in general due to the location and the amount of tourists and passer-bys but it all depends what you want... I gave you 2 quiet and clean and comfortable options for couples or families ;)
Breakfast Option at Charlotte - Plac Szcepanski
6. Where would you suggest having a decent breakfast in the Old Town?
Well this is a frequent question, even between Kraków's expats ;) so this deserved a post on its own - drop by and read my favourite breakfast options inside the Old Town. I did not include Kazimierz or Podgorze - maybe another time ;)
7. I don't have much time... what should I see in Kraków?
That's always been an awful question to answer as it all depends on multiple factors like: how much time do you actually have, what are your tour preferences, do you want to include museums, do you want it only outdoor, are you willing to pay for the attractions, are you OK with walking a lot or do you prefer public transport or do you get fancy and only take cabs... there are so many variables depending on each person! Of course there are some locations that I see as a must... There are also some museums that you should not miss - Kraków National Museum:
  • Palace of Erazm Ciołek - you actually can spend there around 3 hours at least and you will feel like you have been at a church 
  • Stanisław Wyspiański Museum / Kamienica Szołayskich, the Museum in Plac Szczepanski - very beautiful paintings made by Polish artists ;) 
  • Gallery of the 19th Century Polish Art in Sukiennice, with the collection of some of the best known paintings of the Young Poland Movement, including sculptures (more)
  • Palac Krzysztofory - Cyberteka Krakow. Time and Space - presents the urban development of the city between 1909 and 1915, when the project of Great Kraków was executed
  • Czartoryski Museum - awesome Ancient Egypt collection of several mummies + 1 cat mummy in really really awesome condition (first visit)
Other Museums In Krakow:
And there are some locations outside Kraków,  but not very far away, that you should put on your Bucket List: Auschwitz I and II, Wieliczka, Trail of the Eagles' Nests - Ojców, Ogrodzieniec and Bobolice and the lovely yet unknown Pszczyna:
But then again... if you only have one day to spend in Kraków, there is not very much you can fit in... this city deserves more time and patience. It deserves that you should fall in love with it slowly ;)
8. I heard about some Free Walking Tours happening in Kraków,  would you recommend them?
Wholeheartedly I do! But only the ones from Free Walking Tour Krakow team - the ones with the yellow umbrellas! They are the first on the market of free walking tours in this city ans they have also expanded in other cities like Warsaw, Wroclaw, Gdansk Poznan and Zakopane. I remember them ever since I first came here over 5 years ago ans I must admit I almost seasonally take some of their tours - to see what's new and learn new things I could share on the blog or with my friends when they come over. They also have Free Walking Tour Specials that I especially love! Like:
  • FreeWalkingTourKrakow - StreetArt - FreeWalkingTourKrakow provides city tours in Polish, English & Spanish. You can find them on Facebook or on their website or you can just call them at +48 513 875 814. I joined them in a StreetArt Tour and it was amazing!
  • FreeWalkingTourKrakow - Macabre Krakow - stories about ghost and real vampires... methods of torture, bodies under the Main Market Square with their hands and legs tied, stories of impailing living people... dark and twisted and perfect for a rainy Saturday evening :)
  • FreeWalkingTourKrakow - Her Story - there is a saying that if the men is considered to be the head of the family, than the heart belongs to the woman.
  • FreeWalkingTourKrakow - Pagan Krakow - do you wish to know about the old beliefs of Polish people but also about interesting facts like: "Did you know that General Hans Frank along with other members of the Nazi party celebrated the Yule holiday when they were living inside the Wawel Castle?" - join this tour once you see it up and running ;) (Beginning of March) 
  • FreeWalkingTourKrakow - Foods Of Krakow - traditional foods and drinks from Krakow. Lasts around 2 to 3 hours and takes one around Old Town and Kazimierz (a lovely Sunday afternoon in August 2015) 
  • FreeWalkingTourKrakow - Centre of the World - learn why Krakow can compete with other grand(er) cities, for being the possible center of the world (28th of November 2015 - around 2 hours (and a bit))
I bring all my friends who come and visit me to these tours and for beginners I really recommend the Old Town route + Jewish district + Foods of Kraków ;) it will give a full view of Kraków in time! Plus the guides are awesome and friendly and they will answer any questions that you may have ;)

9. I also heard about some Beer / Pub Crawl tour - where can I get it from and is it worth the time and money?
To te you the truth, I have never done it ans I don't know first hand anyone who did it... but the things I hear and read are positive for the youngsters who just wanna go out and have fun (read it as "get drunk"...). It's not my thing but I heard they are fun... so you need to Google some more on that. I saw people gathering up for the pub crawls in the weekend,  usually at the Adam Mickiewicz statue in the Main Market Square or in front of the St. Mary Church in the Main Market Square... they usually have banners where it says "Pub Crawl Tour" or something similar. I also know that in some places you have shots included, but for more... Google!
Handmade scarfs from Poland - a MUST!
10. What souvenirs should I bring home? What should I buy traditionally Polish for my folks back home? And where should I go buy it?
Now that depends on the amount of luggage that you have and the money you are willing to spend. It's customary to buy vodka for example but if you have oh hand luggage you should buy that from the Duty Free shop at the airport and there are not that many true Polish options there... for example Zubrowka is no longer a Polish company vodka, so you should by something like Belvedere or Chopin or Debowa ;) Your mother may enjoy some Kredens preserves from homemade fruits. Or maybe some typical chocolate - like plums in chocolate, which are delicious! Your granny might enjoy a warm shawl, but be careful to get the homemade one and not the Chinese imitations that you can see at every corner. Some shops in Sukiennice (Cloth Hall in Main Market Square) still have homemade goodies - like wooden jewelry boxes or traditional blouses or shawls. Support the local economy and buy one of those beauties there for the ones you love! Also Poland is worldwide know for its amber so you can get the ones you love something made out or amber: necklace, bracelet or earrings for the ladies and cufflinks for the lads. You pick and choose! :) it's all going to be a lovely surprise for them, trust me!

Of course now you may want to ask me more questions. Fire away! I am ready for that! :) looking forward for your input!

Yours sincerely,
The Twisted Red LadyBug that loves to help

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