48 hours in… Krakow
By Tamara Hinson – October 2019 – 3 minute read
How to spend a weekend in Poland's second-largest city, including time down a mine, amongst soviet relics and in a royal castle
Day 1: Subterranean fun
Morning: Kick off your day with a visit to Rynek Underground, a subterranean museum beneath the main square. It provides a fascinating insight into medieval Kraków by allowing visitors to explore an excavated section of the city. It's incredibly hi-tech – there are holograms and touch screens galore.
Back on ground level, grab an obwarzanek Krakówski from a food stall. These salt-dusted circles of bread date back to the fifteenth century, when the royal family lifted restrictions on baked goods.
Afternoon: A 40-minute drive from Kraków, the UNESCO-listed Wieliczka Salt Mine dates back to the thirteenth century. It comprises almost 200 kilometres of tunnels, three kilometres of which can be explored on guided tours.
The mine has several chapels, carved entirely out of salt. The most impressive is the enormous Chapel of St. Kinga, with its sculptures, chandeliers and replica of Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper – all made from salt. Back on ground level, head to the mine's Graduation Tower.
The constant flow of natural brine down its stone walls forms a fine mist which has therapeutic properties. Whether your lungs are in need of a deep clean or not, its observatory is a great place to take in the view over the surrounding countryside.
Evening: Head to Kraków's historic Jewish Quarter, Kazimierz, for dinner at Bazaar Bistro, where the decor is inspired by a New York City loft, and the menu is filled with Polish specialities, such as venison tartare and veal sweetbreads. For a nightcap, wander over to nearby Alchemia, a candlelit Polish pub known for its live music.
Day 2: Castles and communism
Morning: Get the blood flowing with a walk to Wawel Royal Castle. The most spectacular area of this sixteenth-century fortress is the Royal Private Apartments, a network of wonderfully opulent rooms filled with priceless works of arts and dozens of enormous tapestries. Next door, Wawel Cathedral is the burial site for Polish monarchs, and there are several sarcophagi on display.
Afternoon: Take a bus, tram or taxi to Nowa Huta, a sprawling concrete suburb on Kraków's outskirts. Built in the 1950s by citizens who'd been told it was their duty to construct this symbol of Poland's prosperous communist future, Nowa Huta is a fascinating example of Soviet architecture. It's best explored on a Communism tour with Crazy Guides in one of their vintage Trabants, although don't be surprised if you're asked to push-start your vehicle.
Evening: Enjoy dinner at Szara Gęś w Kuchni, in Kraków's main square, for innovative takes on Polish classics. Afterwards, for a final dose of communism, toast Kraków at the Jewish quarter's wonderfully quirky Pub Propaganda, with its framed photos of Lenin and communist-era knick-knacks.
Where to book it
TUI has a three-night Kraków break, including accommodation at the three-star Hotel Wyspianski, flights from London Gatwick and airport transfers, from £481pp. Departing on May 1 2020, based on two people sharing.