20 issues to know earlier than visiting Kraków

The one main metropolis that wasn’t diminished to rubble throughout WWII, Kraków is Poland’s most charming city vacation spot. 

The millennia-old seat of kings, it’s residence to a fairytale fortress steeped in legends of dragons, a Unesco-listed, picture-perfect, church spire- and monument-studded Outdated City that’s a match for any European metropolis, in addition to considered one of Europe’s oldest universities that fuels a frenetic nightlife scene. Its recognition requires some advance planning, and whereas Cracovians are usually easygoing in terms of costume code and chatting with strangers, there are some notable exceptions to the previous. 

It’s price remembering that regardless of outward similarities with liberal Western European cities, Kraków may be very, very Polish. Faith is central to many individuals’s lives, outdated mindsets die exhausting (particularly should you’re a member of the LGBTIQ+ neighborhood), and peculiar legal guidelines and quite a few scams might journey the unwary. Fortunately, we’re right here that will help you navigate your well beyond any potential pitfalls.     

Carrying layers is crucial in Kraków throughout autumn and winter © Imgorthand / iStock / Getty Pictures

Pack for the proper season and for all events

Kraków has a continental local weather, so your packing record will differ significantly, relying on the time of yr you journey. Winters are chilly and snowy, usually with piercing, icy winds, whereas summers will be scorching. More often than not, layers are key, besides throughout the warmest months, when all you’ll need is light-weight, breathable summer season put on. A heat, mackintosh, hat and gloves are a should for autumn and winter. Carry an umbrella or a rain jacket for year-round downpours. Kraków is usually casual, however contemplate bringing a dressy outfit or two should you intend to hit the clubbing scene.

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Keep in one of the best neighborhoods for sightseeing

For a metropolis of its dimension, Kraków is surprisingly compact, so it’s simple sufficient to flit between its neighborhoods, both on foot or utilizing public transport. Nonetheless, most guests – particularly first-timers – are likely to base themselves in considered one of three distinguished, attraction-heavy neighborhoods.

The preferred is the medieval Outdated City in central Kraków, with its wealth of must-see sights, legendary cellar bars and cobbled lanes. Others select adjoining Kazimierz, the inventive bohemian ‘hood that was a middle of Jewish tradition earlier than the conflict and is now having fun with a revival. Alternatively, head south of the river to Podgórze, the up-and-coming former Jewish ghetto the place Steven Spielberg shot a lot of Schindler’s Listing.

Two tourists standing outside and looking up at Wawel Royal Castle
Wawel Royal Fort’s 5 museum areas every require a separate ticket © yasinemir / iStock / Getty Pictures

Guide tickets for in style sights upfront

Few of Kraków’s museums and sights require advance bookings, however the must-see sights do, so when you’ve got your coronary heart set on visiting any of the next, make preparations on-line forward of time. Exhibitions inside Wawel Royal Fort e-book up weeks upfront in summer season, as do group excursions of Auschwitz (although solo vacationers might wander round with out becoming a member of a guided tour). Entry to Rynek Underground and Schindler’s Manufacturing facility is by way of timed slot, so purchase your ticket a couple of days earlier than your go to.

Pack your ISIC card and contemplate getting a Kraków Card

Quite a few Kraków sights supply reductions to bearers of ISIC and different related playing cards. In the event you’re planning on frenetic bouts of sightseeing and heavy use of public transport, it’s price getting a Kraków Card (1, 2 or 3 days) that offers you free entry to 39 museums, free use of public transport and extra. In the event you favor a extra relaxed keep, skip the Kraków Card.

Make reservations for Kraków’s finest eating places forward of time

Kraków’s eating scene is Poland’s most various, and whereas walk-ins are acceptable for many eating places, e-book forward – significantly if touring throughout the busy summer season season – should you plan to dine out at any of the next, to call a couple of: Restauracja Wierzynek (14th-century royal restaurant), Morskie Oko (up to date tackle regional delicacies), Szara Gęś w Kuchni Restaurant (upscale Polish fare served in a Gothic eating room), Trzy Gęsi Restaurant (effective eating; goose a speciality), Cyrano de Bergerac (atmospheric brick cellar serving effective French fare) or Pod Nosem (Michelin-star, memorable Polish dishes).  

Purchase some zloty upfront

Despite the fact that Poland is a part of the EU, it retains its personal forex – the Polish Zloty (zł). Kraków is basically cashless, and you should utilize your credit score or debit card just about anyplace; if paying by card, all the time pay in zloty relatively than your house forex to keep away from being hit with conversion prices and a crappy change price. Exceptions to cashless transactions embody newsagents, public bogs, small retailers and outside distributors, so it’s clever to have some zloty on you for these events. Many of those exceptions will refuse to interrupt a big be aware for you, so dangle on to your unfastened change.

Have some unfastened change prepared for public bogs

If you end up mystified by the symbols on the doorways in Kraków’s public bogs, it is a triangle for males and a circle for girls. Keep in mind that many public services – even in bars and eating places the place you’re a part of the clientele – usually cost a nominal charge to be used, so have some unfastened change prepared. 

Have a puff (or don’t) in smoking areas of Kraków’s many cafes

Whereas smoking in public locations in Kraków is unlawful, those that take pleasure in a puff might be thrilled to know that many cafes, bars and eating places have retained designated indoor smoking areas, sealed off from the remainder of the institution. Whereas this quantities to cancer-inducing, smoke-filled broom cabinets in lots of circumstances, some institutions have opted to allocate a tiny house to non-smokers, giving the vaping and smoking clientele the lion’s share of the place. Such smoker-friendly institutions embody Eszeweria, Klub Re and Jama Michalika.  

Tip a minimum of 10% in eating places

It’s customary to tip servers and bar employees in Kraków. Locals will tip round 10% of the invoice if consuming out, or spherical up the invoice on the very least. Paying 1zl tip per drink in bars is customary and a good suggestion if the bar is busy and also you’d wish to be served promptly.

Costume up for nightclubs

With a inhabitants of 200,000 college students, Kraków is rumored to have extra bars than folks, and whereas something goes in most locations costume code-wise, Outdated City’s nightclubs are a bit fussier. Verify forward whether or not which means no trainers, or whether or not you’re anticipated to go full go well with and tie or costume, and bear in mind that some locations train ‘face management’, that means that they flip you away should you’re deemed insufficiently enticing. It’s no use arguing with the bouncers; in actual fact, it’s finest not even to make eye contact with them.

Strike up conversations with locals

In contrast to cities akin to London and New York, the place putting up conversations with strangers is a large fake pas, particularly on public transport, Cracovians are a well mannered and approachable bunch who genuinely take pleasure in speaking to foreigners and are completely satisfied to provide instructions should you’re misplaced. Whereas English isn’t extensively spoken amongst older generations, many college students and hospitality employees communicate wonderful English.

View inside a large church with ornate ceilings, windows and arches
Inside the attractive 14th-century St Mary’s Basilica in Outdated City Kraków © Jokerbee12 / Getty Pictures / iStockphoto

Keep in mind that Kraków’s church buildings usually are not museums

The vast majority of Poles (over 75%) are Catholic. Very Catholic. In case your expertise of the Christian religion entails attending church twice a yr (if that), Polish enthusiasm for Catholicism might come as a shock. There’s extra to Polish Catholicism than the solemn, opulent processions commemorating holy relics and saints, a few of which you’ll be fortunate to witness.

For a lot of, Catholicism has lengthy been a supply of nationwide and social unity and offered solace throughout Communist occasions, when non secular practices had been pushed underground. So should you go to considered one of Kraków’s many church buildings, keep in mind that they’re revered locations of worship and deal with them with the utmost respect.

Keep away from inadvertently breaking the legislation

Be conscious of not breaking legal guidelines that won’t exist in your house nation. Dressing up and partying exhausting is okay, however should you’re silly sufficient to seem hammered or make a public nuisance of your self in entrance of the native police, anticipate a 500zl effective, a strip search and an in a single day keep within the drunk tank on ul Rozrywka with fellow raveled vagrants. Using public transport with no legitimate ticket and jaywalking (crossing towards the sunshine or not on a pedestrian crossing) can even earn you an on-the-spot effective of 100zl.  

Pay attention to native attitudes in direction of the LGBTIQ+ neighborhood

Poland is a hardcore Catholic nation, with anti-LGBTIQ+ sentiment rife amongst a large chunk of the inhabitants. Whereas it’s tough to explain it as explicitly LGBTIQ-friendly, Kraków is essentially the most liberal of Poland’s cities; in 2022, Kraków’s annual Pleasure parade celebrated its 18th anniversary.

Attitudes in direction of the LGBTIQ+ neighborhood in Kraków are slowly enhancing. Nonetheless, public shows of affection (with the socially acceptable exception of hand-holding between younger girls) are prone to appeal to jeers and generally outright violence – significantly on the excessive nightlife streets of Floriańska and Szewska on the weekends. That mentioned, quite a few nightlife venues in Kraków are both LGBTIQ-tolerant (Movida, Kraina Szeptów, Lastriko) or outright LGBTIQ-friendly (Szpitalna 1, Spolem Deluxe).

Do drink the faucet water…possibly

Kraków’s faucet water is formally deemed protected to drink, and plenty of locals do, whereas others keep away from it as a result of the standard could also be affected by the vintage plumbing in lots of the older buildings. So if gastric Russian roulette isn’t your factor, you might want to drink bottled water or a minimum of purify the faucet water first. Talking of water: it’s not complimentary in Kraków’s eating places and often is available in tiny glasses until you order a big bottle of gazowana (carbonated water) and niegazowana (nonetheless water).

Old city center view with Adam Mickiewicz monument, St. Mary's Basilica and birds flying in Krakow on the morning
The Adam Mickiewicz monument and St Mary’s Basilica in Outdated City Kraków © RossHelen / Getty Pictures / iStockphoto

Dial the foreigner-friendly traces in case of emergency

Whereas Kraków usually has a low crime price in comparison with many Western European cities, guests have to be careful for pickpockets on public transport and different busy public locations and pay attention to varied scams. In addition to the usual emergency quantity (112 for ambulance, police or fireplace division), Kraków has separate traces for English and German-speaking foreigners in misery wishing to report a rip-off or stolen property:  +48 608 599 999 or +48 22 278 77 77, reachable by cell phone or landline.

Use a personal clinic within the case of a medical emergency

When you’ve got a medical emergency, name a personal clinic (a listing is obtainable out of your nation’s embassy) relatively than cope with the effort and lengthy queues in considered one of Kraków’s hospitals.

Keep away from bar scams

Given Kraków’s common recognition with international guests, significantly with stag and hen events from overseas, it’s little surprise that quite a few scams exist to reap the benefits of the inebriated and unwary. In Outdated City, keep away from promoters outdoors ‘gents’s golf equipment’ (usually disguised as whisky bars) who attempt to lure males in with guarantees of discounted drinks. As soon as inside, you’ll be advised when paying by card that the fee didn’t undergo when they’re, in actual fact, charging you a number of occasions.  Some vacationers have reported having their drinks spiked to make them extra intoxicated and simpler to reap the benefits of.

In the event you’re a international man, be cautious of enticing girls taking a large curiosity in you and convincing you to take them to a bar (the place, unbeknown to you, they’re employed) and purchase them a drink, whereby you’ll be charged stratospheric costs for the drinks and intimidated by thuggish bouncers into paying up. Additionally, bear in mind that whenever you order drinks in bars and golf equipment, it’s vital to specify your most popular model of alcohol; in any other case, the bar employees will robotically attain for the most costly top-shelf manufacturers, as they make a fee on the drinks they promote. There’s no disgrace in asking for the most cost effective choice on the menu.

Dodge dodgy forex exchanges

You’ll be able to change forex into zloty anyplace with a ‘Kantor’ signal, however watch out for dodgy 24-hour forex exchanges providing 0% fee on the change as a result of the change price is horrible. As an alternative, go to the dependable forex exchanges on the highest ground of the Galeria Krakówska (above Kraków’s fundamental prepare station) or the one at ul. Karmelicka 1. Equally, watch out for some ATMs round Kraków that supply horrible change charges and cost excessive withdrawal charges.

Avoid unlicensed taxis

Unlicensed taxis that find yourself charging you no matter worth they see match are the scourge of many guests to Kraków. Fortunately, they’re simple sufficient to keep away from by reserving a completely licensed taxi akin to Radio Taxi, Mega Taxi or Eko Taxi, or else choosing Bolt or Uber (although, not like licensed taxis, they might not drive inside Outdated City).