Essential information when visiting Krakow
Updated: Oct 31, 2019
Krakow is the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland. Based in Southern Poland near the border of the Czech Republic it is well known for its beautiful architecture, its well preserved medieval walls and beautiful market squares. Krakow (also spelt Cracow and apparently pronounced Krakoff) is Poland's former capital city and more well known in the UK as a popular stag and hen do destination in recent years due to the cheaper cost of food and drink than other European cities. But do not let this put you off. Whilst we did see a few merry groups wandering the streets, it did not take away from the cities charm and warming character as we explored the city's attractions.
Best time to visit
Krakow has changeable weather for most of the year including periods of heavy rain and whilst it enjoys warm summers hitting around 30 degrees C, this is their peak season meaning it brings in crowds and higher number of tourists. We visited in May and despite it raining for the first few days, the weather then brightened up and was a warm 22 degrees C. Online research suggest the best time to visit is May to June and September to October as there are less tourists, its still fairly warm, rainfall is lower and snow (which they can experience a huge amount of in winter) is non existent.
Krakow is a very walk able city meaning unless you are going outside the city you don’t really need to consider transport too much. Much of the city centre has no traffic meaning its lovely to walk around and relax in the bustling town squares whilst enjoying a drink without the noise of vehicles whizzing past! Also to mention is google maps is very reliable in Krakow so unlike Marrakech we avoided spending tedious amounts of time getting lost!
Tram and Bus system
If you would prefer to use transport or are less mobile then there is a very good tram & bus system in Krakow which will take you to most of the main attractions. You can purchase tickets from most newspaper stands, the ticket machines at some bus and tram stops (They are also in English) or actually on board the bus or tram. Tickets start around the equivalent of 1 euro for a 20 minute journey through to a 72 hour pass for under 10 euros and the tickets include bus and tram travel throughout the city.
Uber is in operation In Krakow but we really didn’t find it worth using. Unlike Lisbon and other cities we have visited, Uber seemed to make things more difficult. The collection points were usually a good 10 minutes walk away despite us being very close to accessible roads and on the return we kind of just got asked to get out where we were as he felt he couldn’t get to the hotel….. we were a 10 minute walk away and again there were plenty of roads he could use to get us there! Since it was raining I was not happy but lesson learnt.
There are taxis on most roads and they are fairly easy to flag down and we found them to be much more reliable in terms of actually taking you where you want to be. As with most things in Krakow in comparison to the UK everything was super cheap, and this included transport which meant if you needed to use it we didn’t really need to worry about the cost involved!
If you want to get around in the day time we would recommend hiring bikes! Krakow is actually a great city for cycling although near the centre you will struggle to get any speed at all.. and I mean you will be going so slow you can’t keep your balance….due to the crowds but once you are out of the main squares the city is fairly bike friendly. You can hire standard bikes or electric bikes and as we visited a few sites outside of the city we found them really a really fun and different way to get from a to b. There are a couple of bike hire places near to the centre that we found simply using google.
Horse & carriage rides
If you want a more scenic mode of transport, there are horse and carriage rides that take you on a tour around the city or from place to place and you can find all lined up proudly in the main Market square. Of all of the European cities we have visited we have to say the horse & carriages in Krakow do it best! The carriages are straight out of a fairy tale, the horses are dressed up in their grandeur and the riders are look beautiful in their top hats and waistcoats. They honestly looked stunning! Rides are negotiable depending on what you want to see so its worth discussing with of the lovely carriage riders.
Golf buggy tours
Lastly there are many many tour companies offering golf buggy tours. They are not hard to find if you fancy being whizzed around the city whilst listening to an informative audio guide. In the main square there are plenty of friendly vendors selling tours and if you are short on time and want to see and learn as much as possible in a few hours it may be a good option for you.
Airport transfer time
If you fly in to Krakow’s main airport which is John Paul II you are really close to the city centre, approximately 11km away and a shortish 20-30 minute taxi ride to the main squares and hotels.
We booked a transfer with our apartments, but you can pick up a taxi straight outside the airport if you would prefer. The cost is between 15-20 euro to the centre depending on traffic and where you are staying. If you decide to take a train, you can get the free shuttle bus to the train station and then the journey is around 20 minutes or less to the city centre for around 1 euro 50 so it’s a really cost effective way to transfer in. We generally opt for taxis or transfers because our time is so limited. Most of our short breaks are three or four nights away and so the last thing we want to do is spend time on the train when we could be exploring but it really depends on your style of travel and budget.
The currency for Poland is the Zloty which for most of us travelling from inside Europe makes it a really cost effective place to visit as they do not use the euro. You can get your polish Zloty before you travel or from various exchange shops at the airport or in the city centre. We also used our Revolut card most of our trip which is a travel visa card which has no fees attached to paying on card or withdrawals. There were plenty of ATM machines inside the city and nearly all shops and restaurants took debit and credit cards.
The power sockets in Krakow are type C and E, confusing right? Some hotels now also have an earthing pin which means if you have an EU adaptor without the hole to take this then they won’t work. Most EU adaptors do now come with a hole for the earthing pin but it is worth checking yours before you leave. It’s also worth mentioning that the 220 v is compatible with all UK appliances but if you are travelling from America then you may need a transformer to step down the voltage for your appliances to work!
Some basic yet useful phrases:
Hello – czesc
Goodbye – do widzenia
Please – pro - she
Thank you – jyen-koo-ye
Yes – tak
No – nie
We did find that in Krakow English was widely spoken and so this did make us slightly lazy when using phrases we would normally try and learn when visiting another country….. that said after our trip to Marrakech when no one seemed to speak English we were slightly relieved!