Intro: Eastern Europe had always been a mystery to me. It was a place I always wanted to venture to, so when I got the chance to visit Warsaw and Krakow in the summer of 2015, I jumped on the chance! I definitely place Krakow into my top 10 cities in Europe. It’s historical, quaint, and inexpensive! You can read my journal-esque blog post regarding Krakow and Warsaw here.
Eat: There are a ton of great places to eat in Warsaw in the city center! We had some of the best burgers I’ve ever eaten at the burger chain Bobby Burger, so if you’re ever feeling homesick in Warsaw for a real American burger, that’s your spot! We also ate at Restauracja Zapiecek, a Polish chain which served up authentic Polish food. It was so delicious, and the waitresses wear Polish costumes so you feel like you’re at Epcot. Krakow’s food scene is the same, and my favorite restaurant in Krakow was U Babsi Malini. They serve up delicious pierogi (Polish dumplings; can be either sweet or savory), kielbasa (Polish sausage), and more. I had both with some mashed potatoes and it was one of the most satisfying meals of our entire trip! For some reason in Poland, they also serve up these MASSIVE ice-cream cones. They’re about a buck and they’re so beautiful you have to eat more than one. LODY is the word for ice-cream in Polish, and you’ll definitely be seeing the world EVERYWHERE. Give in to the temptation. It’s delicious. Speaking of sweets, the Polish do sweet breads VERY well. Pączki are little donuts minus the hole, and filled with cream or a sweet filling. They are DELISH. I loved the Polish cuisine while we were there… except for the żurek (sour rye soup). It was served in a bread bowl like most tasty soups are, but definitely had a tangy sour taste that I could not get out of my mouth for hours (only a slight exaggeration).
Sleep: I made a mistake in Warsaw, and that was that I traded safety for cost. There was a new hostel on the market, and it was so pretty inside! But it was in a shady part of town, and not in the city center at all. Next time I’ll pay a few dollars more to ensure we’re in a good part of town! In Krakow, we stayed in an adorable Havana-themed hostel. It was inexpensive, located centrally, and I’d totally stay there again!
Trek: We flew from Paris (Beauvais airport) to the Warsaw airport (Warsaw-Modlin Mazovia airport) for cheap through Ryanair. Getting from the Warsaw airport to the city center is a little complicated simply because they don’t make the information easy to find at the airport. But take the shuttle into town! We tried to take a more complicated route because it was cheaper.. but just pay the extra bucks and make it easy for yourself. To get from Warsaw to Krakow, we used PolskiBus. It’s super inexpensive if you book early (our tickets were about $10, each) and drops you off in each of the city’s city centers. Great convenience! There’s also wifi on the busses, and they give you a little snack. So cute! As far as transit in Warsaw, there’s a handy underground well worth checking out, as well as a tram system. Krakow is so tiny you can easily walk everywhere.
Do: Warsaw is extremely modern and doesn’t even feel like a traditional Eastern Europe city. It was flattened during WWII, so you can imagine how modernized it has become since nearly all of it had to be rebuilt. However, there is a beautiful old city center that completely transports you to Medieval Europe. Here you can people watch, sit in a cafe, go shopping for Polish pottery, etc. Polish pottery is so fun to shop for! There’s only so many designs released into the world, and they make everything with these patterns- mugs, appetizer plates, tea spoon resters… everything. The legit stuff is called Bolesławiec pottery, and it’s literally the most precious thing you’ll ever see. It’s also relatively inexpensive and sold for about one-third the price you’d see in the States, so it’s well worth checking out over there. In Krakow, you can explore the old town, check out the historical salt mine (Alex said it was cooler than it sounds!), see Schindler’s factory (that the movie was based after), and visit Auschwitz. Auschwitz was one of the most moving experiences of our whole trip for me. It was sad, disturbing, but so educational and I think everyone should visit it if they have the opportunity to do so.
Summarization: I can do without visiting Warsaw ever again (too modern for my tastes), but Krakow is such a special gem and I’d love to go back someday! Polish people are SO friendly, and Krakow is so inexpensive you can eat like a king and not feel broke at the end of the day. My kind of town!
- If you find yourself homesick in Krakow, you can eat at the Cinnabon in the city center. I know, so weird that they have one, right!? I’m not saying we did… but I’m not saying we didn’t.
- We did a free walking tour of Krakow and it was super educational. I always suggest doing this on your first day so you can get better acclimated to the city!