My expectations were low, but my time spent in Kraków was exceptional. It was just a cheap place to visit at the start of our journey, but turned out to be a vibrant city with friendly people, tasty food and affordable fun. Attempted on a tiny budget, here’s what I think you should know:
- Kebabs are meals. Instead of greasey piles of unknown meat that leave a furry coating on the roof of your mouth after a night out, the kebabs in Kraków are flavourful, fresh and sizeable portions of affordable deliciousness. Try one early in your trip because your scepticism will be squashed and you’ll learn to love their kebabs as a regular meal.
- Ignore the strong beer. Browsing any convenience store’s alcohol section will lead you to a shelf where the beer is between 8 and 15 percent. It’ll probably come in litre cans as well… Don’t do it. Not because you’ll get wrecked, but because it tastes like absolute ass. It’s like they’ve bought a horrid can of ASDA Smartprice lager and added a shot of “vodkat” to make it stronger. It’s just not enjoyable.
- Exchange wisely. This is true everywhere, but especially so in Kraków. The exchange rates have such wide margins from place to place, it’s actually worth the time spent shopping around. In most places you’ll manage to get an extra 0.1% or so, but in Kraków the difference can be as high as 10%.
- Hostels are delightful. I don’t have a huge sample range for this, but from limited experience I can safely say the hostels were in the nicer range I experienced around Europe, despite being amongst the cheapest.
- Crawl. Every city is littered with pub crawls and Kraków is no exception. Whilst they’re all great fun and excellent value, try making friends with a rep; this bumped the crawl down to half price and was worth it from the first all-you-can-drink bar alone (there were multiple along the way).
- Pimp city. On a night out, assume any locals that approach you are either pimps or hookers. Ask early and send them on their way. Even the people that seem like they’re just being innocently friendly are probably connected to the trade. Stick with tourist friends in clubs.
- You’re rich. Absolutely everything is dirt cheap here. Most “cheap” locations will balance out their cheap thrills by emptying your funds on other things – not here. Honestly every single thing was so cheap you’ll feel like a billionaire and will stop paying attention to prices because it’s all pennies.
- Rzeszów is pleasant. This likely won’t apply to you, but flying to Rzeszów was much cheaper than Kraków and was a truly wonderful little town full of beautiful views and lovely people. Don’t go and visit, but if your flights are cheaper there, it’s worth a day of your travels.
- Perogies are forgettable. Presented as a traditional Polish dish and relatively cheap, I can comfortably say this was a meal I’ll never repeat. There was nothing wrong with them, but they taste bland and are just… meh. There’s no harm in trying them but you won’t care enough to have them again.
- Sing in the salt mines. I rarely promote something I didn’t actually do, but a bunch of hostel-mates reccomend it and so do people back home. Unfortunately I spent the day led face-down on the hostel sofa with a hangover due to a bar crawl so missed out, but everyone rates the salt mines incredibly highly.
There’s plenty more to do in Kraków but it’s all cheap/free and within walking distance from anywhere so I’ll let you explore and figure the rest out yourself. I really enjoyed my 4(?) days there and will hopefully return, although it’s definitely a city for young backpackers, not real world adults seeking a fancy family holiday.