This 1,000-year-old former capital is practically everybody’s favorite Polish city: Poland’s most charming city has certainly been fortunate, emerging unscathed from World War II and the only major Polish city that wasn’t reduced to rubble. Coupled with Krakow’s physical beauty is its standing as the country’s cultural center, making it a truly must-see destination.

The ancient seat of kings comes steeped in legend and myth, and Krakow’s postcard-worthy Old Town is home to Europe’s largest market square and even a fairy-tale castle overlooking the river.  The district of Kazimierz – once home to one of the most important Jewish communities in the world – is also enjoying a renaissance.


A Feast for the Senses

  • Sights—Eclectic mix of architectural styles at Wawel Castle; intriguing Gothic altars at St. Mary’s Church; colorful fabrics at Cloth Hall; one of the original stone gateways to the city at Florian Gate.
  • Tastes—Classic and refined cuisine at Illuminati; excellent Polish fare at Pod Baranem; aromatic and hearty food at Szara Kazimierz.
  • Sounds—Soaring arias at the Krakow Chamber Opera; jazz festivals and live music at Piwinca Pod Baranami; cutting-edge tunes and live performers at Lodz Kaliska.
  • Activities—Take a cruise down the Vistula River and enjoy a great overview of some of the city’s most inspiring sights; ride in a horse-drawn carriage near the Church of St. Andrew; stroll around Kazimierz and then on to the Schindler Factory for a retrospective of the city’s Jewish history.

Best side trip from Krakow

Perhaps not the best side trip from Krakow, but certainly the most powerful. Harrowing as it may be, a visit to Auschwitz is almost reason enough to visit Krakow. The entire complex, just over an hour drive from Krakow, has been preserved as a museum to honor the estimated 1.1 million people who died in the Holocaust at Auschwitz alone. The complex is divided into two key areas: Auschwitz I, the barracks that housed the prisoners, now present haunting exhibits that paint a clear picture of life during World War II; and Auschwitz II (Birkenau), the extermination camp with its infamous “showers”.  It is essential to visit both parts of the camp in order to acquire a proper sense of the place that has become the symbol of the Holocaust and Nazi crimes against Jews, Romas, Poles and other groups. Visitors should behave with the appropriate solemnity and respect. Dress should be appropriate for a place of this nature.


Hotels we recommend

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Once called the “Paris of the North” and “The Phoenix City”, over ninety percent of the city was destroyed during World War II.  Even the famous ‘Old Town’ is actually fairly new – almost 50 years old – but due to its amazing reconstruction it has earned a place on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites, and in the very essence of its Polish character, it has managed to return from the brink of destruction time and time again.


A Feast for the Senses

  • Sights — Take in Warsaw’s past and present with an aerial view of the city from the thirtieth floor of the Stalinist Palace of Culture; visit Old Town, New town and Wilanow Palace; experience the world capital of poster art at the Wilanów Poster Museum; don’t miss a visit the Museum of the History of Polish Jews.
  • Tastes — Tranquil atmosphere and waterfront location at Boathouse Restaurant; decadent food and surroundings at U Fukiera; a trip for the tastebuds at Dom Polski.
  • Sounds — A summertime Chopin concert in the Royal Garden at Lazienki Park; cool jazz at Tygmont; world-famous National Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir of Poland at Filharmonia Narodowa.
  • Activities — Take an evening stroll along the Royal Way where you will see the Royal Castle, which was completely rebuilt after World War II.


Best side trip from Warsaw

The Masurian Lake District, located a three hour drive from Warsaw, is a stunning ’land of a thousand lakes’. Created by glaciers, the lakes form an extensive system of waterways interconnected by rivers and canals, that offer plenty of activities for the adventure-lover such as yachting, sailing, canoeing, kayaking, and even international boat racing events. Situated among primeval forests, the location is also ideal for hikers, bikers and horse-riders; but if you are none of the above, the fresh air, natural beauty and scenic nearby towns are an attractive alternative. 

As a former province of East Prussia, now inhabited by Germans, Poles and Lithuanians, the’Masurian’ identity of the surrounding towns and restaurants is truly unique, and the culinary offerings at the Black Swan Inn (Gospoda pod Czarnym Łabędziem) are particularly worth experiencing. The Inn offers 17 guest bedrooms and has an interesting museum, should you wish to stay on longer.


Hotels we recommend

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Hotel Bristol Warsaw 
Hotel Le Regina 
Sofitel Warsaw Victoria 
Polonia Palace 

Raffles Europejski Warsaw 

Hi Kitty, We are just back from Poland and had a marvelous trip. Thanks so much for arranging the hotel in Krakow - a terrific location and an interesting place. The guide on Sunday was wonderful - very knowledgable and able to answer all our questions. Your guide sources in Spain last June and now in Poland are excellent. Thanks again, Eileen

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