The top 5 secret places to visit in Kraków, Poland

We hear the secrets from a Kraków local about the top 5 secret attractions in this beautiful city.  Read our five minute guide below!

Author: Top secret! 

Kraków (pronounced ‘Krak-Ov’) is one of the most famous tourist destinations in Poland. It sits in the south of the country, near the border of the Czech Republic. It has a well preserved medieval core and a vibrant Jewish quarter. Enlisted on the UNESCO heritage list since 1978, Kraków is surrounded by two major tourist sites: the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum (which includes the Nazi concentration camps Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau) and the Salt Mines in Wieliczka (both sites are also on the UNESCO list as well).

Now, let’s be frank from the very start – one or two days in Kraków is definitely not enough to even catch a glimpse of the historical centre and former Jewish district. In order to get to know the city, to immerse yourself in the special atmosphere of the place, you need at least four full days.

The guidebooks and your online searches have no doubt told you about the enormous Main Market Square, St. Mary’s Basilica with Veit Stoss’s exceptional altar inside and Wawel castle hill with the Cathedral. These places are indeed definitely worth visiting, however, if you have a little extra time, here are the top 5 secret attractions to visit on your vacation to Kraków. Best of all they’ll be away from the tourist buses and selfie takers!

The Józef Mehoffer house

http://mnk.pl/branch/the-mehoffer-house

At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries Kraków was the spiritual and symbolic capital of Poland. The only professional School of Fine Arts (converted into the Academy in 1900) attracted future artists from across Poland. One of them was Józef Mehoffer (1869 – 1946): a painter and stained glass window and interior designer and definitely one of the best Polish Art Nouveau artists. In the 1930s he bought a house in Krupnicza Street, which is currently a branch of the National Museum in Kraków.

The house is exceptional as it represents in detail what a bourgeois house from the beginning of the 20th century looked like.

The biggest surprise is hidden behind the house – it’s a marvelous garden with a charming cafe. This place is a secret even to many inhabitants of Kraków!

TYTANO

https://pl-pl.facebook.com/TYTANOkrakow/

After leaving the Józef Mehoffer house, take a few steps into Dolnych Młynów Street and you’ll come across a post-industrial area called TYTANO. Sounds hip enough? TYTANO is often described as Berlin in Kraków and indeed it’s not just a funny comparison. A few years ago a former tobacco factory was turned into the coolest place in the entire city. The builidings still look as if they are about to collapse within seconds, but inside them you will find the best restaurants, pubs and clubs in the city.

You can easily spend the whole evening in TYTANO and crawl from one pub to another. Rumour has it that the complex will be closed by 2020, so enjoy it while you can!

St. Francis Church

http://franciszkanska.pl/

In the past there was the famous saying that if Rome didn’t exist, Kraków would be Rome. In a city with more than 100 churches, becoming indifferent to them is one of the ways to survive. However, St. Francis church is a must see on your list! The gothic structure dates back to the 13th Century, when St.  Francis was invited to Kraków and the interior has amazing Art Nouveau decorations. It was created at the end of the 19th century by Stanisław Wyspiański (1869 – 1907) (Józef Mehoffer’s school friend) and most of all a total genius: playwright, poet, painter and designer.

Wyspiański died very young and the interior of St. Francis Church is one of the few tasks finished by him. Take a closer look at the outstanding stained glass windows with St. Francis blessing Salomea and God the Father above the entrance.

Street art in the Jewish and Podgórze district

Kazimierz, known widely as the former Jewish district, along with Podgórze, are visited mostly because of the Jewish heritage in Kraków and the story about the ghetto during WWII. For a few years Kazimierz has also been known as one of the best places to have a drink in the evening and Plac Nowy is the beating heart of Kraków’s party life.

If you look around while wandering from pub to pub, you might discover great examples of street art spread all over the place. Some murals were done by international stars such as Blu, Broken Fingaz and David Shillinglaw and some others by local artists. The most beloved one is the stencil showing Gene Kelly singing and dancing in the rain on the corner of Bożego Ciała Street, created by Trololo from Kraków. This is one of the best selfie spots in Kraków!

Nowa Huta

After WWII, when Poland was under the USSR influence, the communists decided to build a brand new city next to Kraków. It was called Nowa Huta, which means the ‘New Steel Mill’. The whole complex was planned as an ideal communist city, in the shape of a pentagon. If you’ve also visited Warsaw,  then Nowa Huta will ring a bell. Wide streets, heavy monumental architecture and the impression that time stopped in the 1980s.

Nowa Huta, a souvenir of the communist era, is slowly becoming one of the more popular tourist attractions in the city, but it’s still occupied mostly by the locals. Many companies organize crazy tours to this district, but you can easily go there by public transport (get yourself a Europe SIM Card for your mobile phone with high speed data so you can find your way with Google Maps).

The central square is named after American President Ronald Regan – and it’s not a joke!

Weekend in Manchester, UK: Things To Do

A weekend in Manchester is a great way to explore a bit more of the United Kingdom, outside of London. It’s easily accessible by train from central London, has many great hotels and restaurants, pubs and entertainment, and really is just a lovely city.

About Manchester

Manchester is a major city in the north west England. Once a textile powerhouse, and the birthplace of the modern computer, Manchester today keeps its traditional heritage, fused with modern architecture, a great restaurant scene and many attractions. The city was founded in 79AD and today has a population of over 500,000. It is home to the world famous Manchester United soccer/football club.

Manchester UK

Getting to Manchester

Virgin Trains operates regular express high speed train services from London Euston Station to Manchester. You’ll leave from the center of London and arrive in the center of Manchester at the grand Manchester Piccadilly station in a little over 2 hours. Round trip tickets can be purchased in advance for around £50.

London Manchester Virgin Train

Where to stay

There is an abundance of hotel options, from hostels, to apartments to luxurious 5-start hotels. The beautiful Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel offers luxurious accommodation in the center of the city. Rooms start from around £200/night. A handy hint is to pay a little extra to get a “business class” room – you’ll get complimentary buffet breakfast, and £15/day to spend in the hotel (at the restaurant, bar or for a spa treatment).

Manchester Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel

Manchester Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel

Getting around

Manchester is easy to walk and this lets you explore the hidden parts of the city. You can also get an Uber, jump in a black cab, or use the public bus network system.

Where to eat

There is no shortage of food options in Manchester, from fast food (McDonalds, Subway etc), through to family friendly restaurants to top of the range 5 star eateries. A hidden gem is the Carlo Chicchetti Italian Restaurant located inside the House of Fraser department store. Offering authentic and delicious Italian cuisine and wine, it is one of the best restaurants in town. And what’s more is it’s great value. A glass of wine, starter, entree, desert and tea/coffee will set you back no more than £30. The Papparadelle Porcini is a delicious pasta with fresh porcini mushrooms. And the panacotta for desert with fresh berries was to die for! You can do a walk in without a reservation in less busy times, otherwise book ahead using the Opentable Appon your phone (for this you’ll need data on your phone so pick up a prepaid UK SIM Card with 4G LTE data before you leave Australia).

Weekend in Machester - Carlo Chicchetti Italian Restaurant

Weekend in Machester - Carlo Chicchetti Italian Restaurant

Weekend in Machester - Carlo Chicchetti Italian Restaurant

Weekend in Machester - Carlo Chicchetti Italian Restaurant

What to do at night

Being England, there’s no shortage of pubs to get a quiet (or noisy!) ale. But for something different head to the Comedy Store for a night of laughs and see some of the best stand up comedians in the country. Shows run on Thursday night, Friday night and Saturday night, usually with five acts, with an interval after the third. The comedy store has a bar and restaurant on-site too selling delicious wood fired pizzas. We recommend buying tickets online and collecting them at the will-call window on arrival. If you choose to sit in the front row, be prepared for some of the acts to include you in their routine!

Manchester weekend - Comedy Store

How to Use Paris Metro And Important Tips When Traveling to Paris

If you’re a first time visitor to Paris, you might find things a little daunting. Being in a foreign city and not knowing the language can be stressful for some.

In this article we’re not going to tell you which museums to visit, the best galleries to attend, or the most lavish restaurants to dine at – we’re sure you’ve already done the research for that and if not you can read all about it in our Travel Guide to France. Instead, we’re going to give you some basic information that you might have overlooked: buying tickets for, and navigating, the Paris Metro train system and where you can store your luggage at the end of your trip.

Using the Paris Metro system

Many visitors to Paris will arrive at the Gare du Nord train station in central Paris, on the ultra fast Eurostar train from London. Others might arrive by plane at Charles de Gaulle airport. Either way, you’ll soon find yourself using the highly efficient and fast Paris Metro system (the ‘Métro de Paris’) to see all the sights and venues.

The Paris Metro is one of the most densest train systems in the world, with 245 stations within the 34 square miles of the city of Paris. Other than walking, it really is the only way to get around Paris. Forget taxis or driving because Paris traffic can be absolutely brutal!

Buying tickets for the Paris Metro might appear daunting, with ticket machines in French, not English, let alone then knowing which type of ticket or pass to buy. But it’s really very simple: don’t go buying a weekly or multi day pass, instead just buy a book of 10 tickets (called a ‘carnet’ in French). This is the easiest and most cost effective way. We’ve set out below exactly what you need to do to the book of tickets.

Step 1:

Go to one of the self service ticket machines at the Gare du Nord train station or any other Metro station, and select “Langues” to change the language to English.

Step 2:

Once everything’s in English it’s now time to select your tickets. Just select “Purchase Tickets”

Step 3:

As you’ll be making lots of trips on the Paris Metro, by the far the most cost effective way is to buy a book of 10 tickets (called a ‘carnet’). This gives you 10 individual tickets that you can use yourself, or share with friends and family. The tickets can be used anytime during your stay in Paris (they don’t have to all get used on the same day). Think of it like a weekly pass but instead you get 10 tickets to use across your visit to Paris.

Each ticket gives you one ride on the Paris Metro (and this includes changing trains/lines to get to your final destination). A book of 10 tickets costs just €14.50 ($16.50) so that works out at just €1.45 ($1.65) per trip.

Step 4:

Once you’ve selected the book of tickets, proceed to payment using your credit card.

Step 5:

The machine will then spit out 10 individual tickets for you in the dispenser below. The picture below shows what the tickets look like:

They’re about two inches long and about half an inch wide, so they easily fit in your wallet or purse. Then when you enter a Metro station, just insert the ticket into the gate and collect it when it pops back out.

Citymapper: the best Smartphone app for navigating the Paris Metro

By far the easiest and smartest app for your cell phone is the Citymapper app. With GPS positioning, all you need do is enter an address or Metro station, and the app gives you step by step instructions including walking directions to the nearest Metro station, which platform and train, and even which carriage to use to ensure that you’re closest to the exit when you reach your destination.

You’ll obviously need data on your cell phone to use the Citymapper app, and you can pick up a prepaid France SIM Card here in Australia before you leave from UK SIM Card. It comes with lots of high speed data, minutes and texts, and it also works seamlessly in the UK and across most of Europe.

Luggage storage

If you’ve checked out of your hotel or Airbnb and need somewhere to store your luggage before your departure by train or plane, there are secure storage lockers at Gare Du Nord (the main central Paris train station).

These are large lockers that fit big suitcases and bags. The cost is €9.50 ($11) for up to 24 hours.

You’ll find them at the Gare Du Nord train station, on the lower ground floor, underneath platform 3. Just look for the “Left luggage” sign near platform 3, and go down the escalator to the lower ground floor.

How to unlock your mobile phone or check if it’s already unlocked

If you want to use the UK Prepaid Sim Card or a different SIM card in your mobile phone, you’ll need ensure that your phone is network unlocked.

What does locked mean?

A “locked” phone will only work on your current network – it is “locked” to that specific network.  For example, a phone might be locked to the Telstra network and as a result it won’t work on Optus or Vodafone, or any other network anywhere in the world.
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