You can read about Auschwitz here and the Salt Mines here. If you are interested in visiting the area I would recommend it, here are some things that might help.
I flew from Dublin into Krakow. I booked the executive lounge at Dublin airport and to be honest it was worth every cent. My flight was around 5pm and if I hadn’t booked the lounge I’d have missed lunch and dinner. In the lounge you are away from the crowds, there’s as much food as you want including cheese and crackers, hummus, soup, sandwiches, wraps, salad, cakes, biscuits and a variety of drinks including alcohol. There are plenty of plugs so not only do you recharge your own battery you can recharge your phone too. I’d loved that there was a shower complete with towels, shampoo etc…just a shame there wasn’t a hairdryer. Anyway – the flight was around 3 hours, fairly uneventful.
I was travelling on my own and I have had experience of wandering around in a strange country and not knowing where I was going – this was pre-anxiety days so I booked an airport taxi with Krakow Direct. The driver was waiting in the airport for me and took me straight to my hotel which was twenty minutes away.
I stayed in the Pergamin Old Town Apartments and would have no problem staying there again. It was a huge room – it even had an upstairs! It was spotlessly clean, there was a kettle, fridge with mini bar and it was as cheap as chips. It was opposite the Planty Park, about a 3 minute walk from the old town square/castle etc. and about 15 minutes from the train/bus station and shopping centre. Only one UK channel on the TV (BBC news) but I wasn’t in the room much. There was WiFi and air conditioning but I couldn’t work the air conditioning so I was melting. Three downsides:
1. It was right by a tram line – I didn’t mind this though as I found it relaxing.
2. Don’t expect a warm welcome or even a smile because you won’t get one.
3. They don’t take credit cards – but there is an ATM just beside the door.
I had breakfast one of the days, it had all kinds of things and you can eat as much as you like, it was fairly pricey compared to food in the city but I didn’t have to eat for the rest of the day.
I booked a tour of Auschwitz with Krakow Direct. Our driver Michael was fantastic, very friendly and helpful and I wish he’d been our guide for the museum. You can make your own way to the museum and it’s free to get in but I found it all too confusing so went with the tour. Auschwitz is over an hour away from Krakow and I’d recommend you just did that trip on a day and not try to combine anything else – you’ll be tired and overwhelmed.
I didn’t eat out much, I was quite apprehensive about that part of the trip so I tended to bring a sandwich back to the room. I did love the Cat Cafe though, the people working there were so lovely and friendly – and they smiled! Who can resist a Catpawcino?
I had a lovely dinner in Bar Italiano which is just alongside St. Mary’s in the old town. The people were friendly and the calezone was bigger than my head and delicious! One day I had lunch in the shopping centre, they had a food hall so there was a lot of choice, I went for a Polish buffet – the food was lovely – the lady serving wasn’t friendly though. For a treat I went to Bubble Waffle, I saw this place on the internet so I had to go and check it out, it was very nice.
I went to the underground museum but to be honest I couldn’t make head nor tail of it. This was probably due to the fact I went after Auschwitz and I was just walking around in a daze. That’s why I’d suggest taking a day for Auschwitz and doing something lighthearted afterwards.
The old town area is beautiful, there were horse drawn carriages and the place was buzzing. Check out the Wawel Castle, although I didn’t go inside it the grounds are stunning.
Walk down by the river and you’ll see the fire breathing dragon. Take a walk in the park by the dragon and visit the most faithful dog in the world statue.
I walked quite a way along the river because I wanted to see the ‘lovers lock bridge’, I loved the statues along the bridge too – it’s very striking. I’d checked out the Jewish Quarter and saw the places where Shindler’s List was filmed, I also saw the Ghetto Chairs Memorial.
There are lots of free walking tours available which would be a great idea if you had the time. Wear comfortable shoes because if you are anything like me you’ll walk for miles. Bring a rain coat because when it rains it rains….but bring sun cream and sun glasses too because when the rain stopped it was 24 degrees. Expect crowds, I preferred getting up early and exploring without the crowds.
I found my trip fascinating and moving. The one downside which in all honesty would put me off going to Krakow again was the airport. I found it very confusing of where I was meant to go and the security were quite aggressive and rude – I was barked at to remove my camera from the bag and other people had their cases rummaged through. It made me quite anxious and kind of dampened the whole experience.
Anyway if you decide to go I hope you enjoy it, you’ll certainly come back with a different outlook on life.