A long weekend in Krakow: Auschwitz, Old Town and Salt Mines Adventures

by | Dec 8, 2015 | Blog, Krakow, Latest Posts, Slovakia

Krakow has been perched high on our bucket list for longer than we can remember and as soon as we had the opportunity to visit we jumped at the chance! With a long weekend on the horizon we had big plans to explore the Old Town of Krakow, the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp and the Wieliczka Salt Mines. We were excited to visit Poland, a new country for us both at The Whole World is a Playground, and our trip couldn’t come around soon enough. Krakow we’re on our way!

Krakow: our weekend itinerary!

Krakow Old Town

With only a long weekend to squeeze in all the sights our Krakow itinerary was jam packed! As soon as we arrived we hit the streets of the Old Town of Krakow and we instantly fell in love with both its history and its atmosphere. We touched down late on a Friday evening and the Old Town was buzzing with locals and tourists. We spent a fun few hours people watching with a 2 euro beer in the Main Square under the watchful eye of the stunning Town Hall Clock Tower and St Mary’s Basilica.

The Main Square of Krakow Old Town and St Mary’s Basilica:Weekend in Krakow itinerary ©thewholeworldisaplayground

The Clock Tower by day:Weekend in Krakow itinerary ©thewholeworldisaplayground

Auschwitz-Birkenau

Visiting the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp was something we discussed a lot in the run up to our weekend in Krakow. We had a similar debate during a stopover in Phomn Penh when we were unsure if we should make a trip to its infamous Killing Fields but we’re firm believers in ensuring we understand the history of the places we visit on our travels. We decided to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau early on Saturday morning and our hearts were well and truly broken as we learned the terror and death that happened within its confines. A plaque on the wall with the quote ‘those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it’ really hit home and gave us comfort in our reason to visit. Auschwitz-Birkenau is most definitely a difficult place to see: we saw and shed many tears during our time there and our evening was much more sombre as a result. Even so, we still feel Auschwitz-Birkenau is a place that should be high on the visit list during a visit to Krakow.

Auschwitz entrance: ‘Arbeit macht frei’ meaning ‘Work will set you free’Weekend in Krakow itinerary ©thewholeworldisaplayground

The camp:Weekend in Krakow itinerary ©thewholeworldisaplayground

The ‘tracks of death’ leading the way to Birkenau:Weekend in Krakow itinerary ©thewholeworldisaplayground

Wadowice

Our drive home included a stopover in Wadowice, the birth place of Pope John Paul II, and it was incredible to see the tributes in dedication to the former Pope.

Statue of Pope John Paul II outside the Wawel Cathedral, Wadowice:Weekend in Krakow itinerary ©thewholeworldisaplayground

Kalwaria Zebrzydowska

In an effort to try and lighten our sombre moods before returning to Krakow we opted to visit the UNESCO site of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska a 17th century pilgrimage park with an amazing monastery and beautiful views.

The Monastery:Weekend in Krakow itinerary ©thewholeworldisaplayground Those views!Weekend in Krakow itinerary ©thewholeworldisaplayground

Slovakia

Our Sunday was spent in Slovakia with visits to the traditional Vlkolínec folk Village and the Wooden Churches of Slovak. How did we end up in Slovakia?! During our rental car pickup at the airport we were asked if we would be travelling to any other countries. Other countries you say? ‘Sure’ Hertz said ‘as long as you don’t go to Belarus and the Ukraine’. It was like a lightbulb lit up above our heads! As soon as we arrived at the hotel we googled ‘closest country to Krakow’ and Slovakia was the winner!!

We ended up visiting two gorgeous UNESCO World Heritage sites and experiencing the beautiful Autumn colours in the Slovakian countryside. We still need to return to visit its capital, Bratislava, but our day trip was an awesome introduction to the country and a fun, unexpected jaunt!

The beautiful and picturesque Vlkolínec Village:Weekend in Krakow itinerary ©thewholeworldisaplayground Autumn in Slovakia:Weekend in Krakow itinerary ©thewholeworldisaplayground Slovakian Wooden Church:Weekend in Krakow itinerary ©thewholeworldisaplayground

We rounded up our Sunday with an evening in the Old Town and took a long walk through the historic centre. Wawel Castle was the highlight and we set up camp until its watchful dragon spat fire at us and made our day!

The Dragon of Wawel Hill:Weekend in Krakow itinerary ©thewholeworldisaplayground The Castle towers:Weekend in Krakow itinerary ©thewholeworldisaplayground

The Salt Mines

Our last morning in Krakow arrived all too soon and we were on the road at dawn for a visit to the UNESCO wooden churches of Southern Malopolska about 45 minutes outside Krakow followed by a trip to the Wieliczka and Bochnia Royal Salt Mines about 15 minutes outside the city. The Salt Mines were incredibly busy and we had to hang around for half an hour to get a spot on an English tour but it was more than worth the wait. After descending 400 steps we had a fab time checking out the salt chambers and the many salt sculptures throughout. The Chapel, sculpted by two miners during their spare time, was the absolute highlight of the visit and we were happy we persevered on the wait for a ticket.

Leonarda Wooden Church:
Weekend in Krakow itinerary ©thewholeworldisaplayground

The incredible chapel in the Salt Mines:Weekend in Krakow itinerary ©thewholeworldisaplayground Salt Sculptures:Weekend in Krakow itinerary ©thewholeworldisaplayground

Krakow Jewish Quarter

We wrapped up our weekend with a walk to the Jewish Quarter and a stop off at Schindler’s factory which, while devastating, filled us with hope. Schindler famously saved the lives of the Jewish workforce in the factory during World War II and the factory now serves as a museum.

Schindler’s Factory as it is now:Weekend in Krakow itinerary ©thewholeworldisaplayground

On our walk back to the Old Town we caught a gorgeous Krakow sunset on Lovers Bridge overlooking the Wisla River. A perfect ending to an amazing weekend!Weekend in Krakow itinerary ©thewholeworldisaplayground

Food and Drinks

Krakow was a great destination on the food and drinks front. We ate ridiculous amounts of ice cream and cakes, indulged in numerous kebabs and loved the fresh fish and steak on offer in every restaurant. We took a shine to the truck stop hot dog offerings and lived to tell the tale! 2 euro beers were an excellent accompaniment to the delicious food and, all in all, it was an excellent weekend for indulging!

Flaming steak!Weekend in Krakow itinerary ©thewholeworldisaplayground Fish treats!Weekend in Krakow itinerary ©thewholeworldisaplayground

Where we stayed

We opted for the Senacki hotel on the edge of the Old Town and we were very pleased with our choice. The hotel had a boutique feel and our room, looking over the cathedral, was a real treat. The Old Town is a perfect location for accommodation and we were able to walk everywhere in town.

Gorgeous views of the Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul from our room in the Senacki:Weekend in Krakow itinerary ©thewholeworldisaplayground

Getting Around Krakow

We wanted to visit Auschwitz and the Salt Mines and decided a rental car was best option for us. Our day trip to Slovakia was an added bonus and we loved the freedom of having our own transport. We rented a car from Hertz when we touched down at Krakow airport. The traffic can get congested in the very centre of Krakow and there are some serious issues with driving up one’s rear end when it comes to overtaking but we managed just fine! Parking was aorund 20 euro for a 24 hour session.

Our Krakow wheels!Weekend in Krakow itinerary ©thewholeworldisaplayground

Overall

So there you have it: 2 countries, 3 nights, 5 UNESCOs and a really great weekend! We adored Krakow Old Town and the Salt Mines were a real treat. Auschwitz, while a difficult and sombre experience, was a fascinating insight into a world history which we’d often rather forget. Our jaunt to Slovakia was an added bonus and we loved our day trip to a new country. We can’t wait to return and explore more of both Slovakia and Poland!

We heart Krakow!Weekend in Krakow itinerary ©thewholeworldisaplayground

5 Comments

  1. This weekend sounds right up our alley and I’ve saved it for when we get to go. We had considered Krakow last winter but opted for Bath instead but Krakow is a must-see for sure. I didn’t realise it was so close to Slovakia either. And five UNESCO sites…awesome!

    • We haven’t been to Bath but it looks fab! Krakow was fab, enjoyed it so much!

      Elaine

  2. Thanks for the brilliant post! I’m looking for Kraków ideas and found your blog on Google. I especially like the idea of a side trip to Slovakia!!

    • Thanks Mandy! Hope you have a fab time in Krakow, it’s an amazing city!

  3. Really enjoyed this article as i want to visit there soon

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