Summer holidays are approaching and so is financial uncertainty. Politicians have got us in a spin, doom mongers are giving us palpitations and all we really want to know is “where can we go on holiday without filing for bankruptcy?”. This is not a straight forward question because a holiday means a lot of different things to everybody. But I will let you into a little secret – there is a place that you may have dismissed that will offer an amazing array of cool stuff to get stuck into and won’t break the bank. So hang on in there, open your mind and come with me to Krakow.
Krakow has unfairly been tarnished as a destination primarily for stag and hen parties. These were attracted because of the favourable exchange rate; Poland has the Zloty which bodes very well against the pound. Also, Poland is famed for its excellent vodka and beer which is essential in any celebration. But there’s so much more in Krakow. Trust me, it’s a world class destination nestled between Slovakia and Germany. Just jump in and give it a go.
Where is this mythical land that will solve my travelling dilemma? It is a 2-hour flight from the UK, jump on a plane and head to southern Poland. It is well served by the bad boys of bargain flights – Ryanair often offer seats for £9.99 each way – just get searching. The London airports are favourites, as well as East Midlands, Leeds Bradford and Newcastle. The flights are frequent and run year long. It really is a piece of cake to arrive in the most beautiful city.
Where are you going to lay your hat? Well guess what? Krakow has nailed accommodation. If you think you will end up staying in a below par hotel or a faceless international brand, then think again. There are quirky, unique, sleek rooms that would blend in nicely in New York or London.
Try hotels such as PURO or the Metropolitan Boutique Hotel. Apartments have never looked so good as in Krakow. If you are after a real bargain, search for apartments that are about 2ks outside the main square, this definitely pushes the price right down. Apartmenty galleria is a good choice – expect a traditional Polish apartment, fully kitted out with kitchen and bathroom. It’s a 20 minute walk into the main square but it passes some cool shops and some friendly local bars on route.
What you going to do in this glorious historic town? If you are a history freak, then this is definitely the place for you. Krakow had a main part in the story of World War 2 and the story is told in technicolour here. There are tours galore, some of them will break your heart, others reaffirm your belief in good over evil. The most well-known place to visit is Auschwitz, an emotional day but one worth experiencing.
Other things to take a look at include Schindler’s Factory. Yes, it’s the actual factory and if you’ve caught the Oscar winning film then a trip here will invoke flashbacks as it was filmed there. It’s a fantastic museum well worth visiting. Something a little more upbeat perhaps? Try the Saltmines. They are unique on this planet and are stunning. It’s a city of salt down there that looks like ice. There’s rivers, carvings and a cathedral. It is truly astounding. Try this for something eye opening.
Of course, the main square Stare Miasto is a great place to sit and observe the horse drawn carriages pulling the tourists around. Or to amble around the beautiful buildings. This is the place to let time roll by, have a drink and just chill out. Listen out for the trumpet player, his lonely tune blasts out every hour with a nod to the poor guy who was killed by an arrow hundreds of years ago doing just that. You may observe that the tune is cruelly stopped short.
If a holiday means a little pampering, then simply pop off to one of the numerous spas in town. There’s every type you could wish for including Balinese and several have their own salt rooms.
That famous Krakow salt is hailed as a miracle for the lungs and for other conditions due to the minerals. The idea is to relax under soft lighting and breathe deeply. The beauty of this is that any treatments that you fancy are a bargain compared to the UK’s rates. A couple’s massage is a snip, a facial is a steal and don’t get me started on nails! It is a great treat and professionally done. I was buffed to perfection at the Bali Beauty House and I was treated like a princess, which a good spa should do.
So let’s talk food. The problem in Krakow is that you are spoiled for choice. Fancy a taste of Polish fare? There are giant Schnitzels on many traditional restaurant’s menus. Want Michelin star quality at a fraction of the cost? Head to Cyrano de Bergerac. On the tightest of budgets? Go to the local Milk Bar for food that will melt in your mouth. Milkbar Tomaszar is a clear winner and one to try. The main square, you might imagine, would be expensive for a feed but that’s where Krakow gets it right again. The food is reasonably priced, pizzas are abundant and delicious, as are restaurants serving traditional meat feasts! Honestly, it’s too good to be true.
How about a cold one to wet your whistle? There are so many great bars in Krakow that it is hard to identify The One. Wandering off piste does bring you to the most beautiful little places where the beer and vodka are great. Wandering around the Jewish Quarter is a great idea. There are some fantastic pubs, cocktails are the thing here and the chic bars are world class. Alchemia is stirring up Kazimierz (Jewish Quarter) no end with its inventiveness and if you try Spolem Pub, you can have a taste of Communism with your beer.
It isn’t a hard choice to make. It really is a no-brainer. Get to Krakow as soon as possible because they offer the best possible time for a modest amount of money. It’s simply win win!