Kraków Backpacking Travel Guide

Information on hostels, transportation, cheap food and drinks, sights to see, activities and more.

Search for Kraków hostels at Hostelworld and budget hotels at Agoda.com

About


Kraków has emerged as one of the most popular destinations for backpacking in Central Europe along with Budapest and Prague. All three share elements that make them attractive backpacking destinations. They are cities rich in culture with recorded history dating back thousands of years. They are have excellent nightlife and offer many opportunities to party and have great accommodation options targeted specifically for backpackers. Finally they are much cheaper than comparable travel destinations in Western Europe.

Hostels


Greg and Tom Hostel

This friendly, sociable hostel is very centrally located, less than 10 minutes from Market Square and St Florian's Gate, and an easy walk to the rest of Krakow's main sights. The staff are very highly rated and they serve a different free dinner seven nights a week, perfect for meeting other travellers. This hostel also features two fully equipped kitchens, free internet, free walking tours and no bunk beds.

Mosquito Hostel

Mosquito Hostel is very centrally located just next to the north entrance of Old Town, putting it within walking distance of all the major sights. This modern, friendly hostel features free nightly dinners, drinks, games and events - a great opportunity to meet the staff and fellow travellers. There's also a fully equipped kitchen, free breakfast, free laundry and free internet. They offer discounted tours of Auschwitz, the Wieliczka Salt Mines and Zakopane.

Let's Rock Hostel

Looking for a party? Then this is the place to be! It sits right in the heart of Krakow's nightlife, making that late night stumble all the more easy. But it's not just about the location - they're well-known for 'warming up' guests in style before a night on the town. Vodka tasting, sangria nights - you won't go out dry. Not to mention the on-site bar and common room, which makes meeting fellow travellers very easy.

Pink Panther Hostel

Superbly located just a few steps from the Market Square, short walk from the central train station it offers you the unforgettable atmosphere of Krakow's Old Town. Unique place to chill out, meet fellow travellers and party. The living room and the kitchen are a social centre and a heart of the property with free Wi-Fi internet & activities. Devoted staff will join you in the clubs and arrange evening activities such as vodka tastings and Russian champagne evenings.

Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau


Auschwitz-Birkenau is the name given to the cluster of concentration, labour and extermination camps established by the Nazis during the Second World War and located near the towns of Oświęcim and Brzezinka about 60 km from Kraków. The camps have become a place of pilgrimage for survivors, their families and all who wish to travel to remember the Holocaust.

A visit to Auschwitz involves visiting two areas, Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau. The main museum is at Auschwitz I and it is where all the guided tours start. A shuttle bus will transfer you between the two sites and all tours include both sites.

Entrance

Due to high visitor numbers it is required that you make a reservation before arriving. You have three options for making this reservation. You can reserve a spot as an 'individual without an educator'. This means you will be guiding yourself around the site. This option is free but you must still make the reservation using visit.auschwitz.org. Spaces fill up quickly so make your reservation in advance.

The second reservation option is with a 'general tour' group. These guided tours cost 45zl and the reservations are again made through visit.auschwitz.org. These guided tours take 3.5 hours.

The final option is to pay for a tour through your hostel or a travel agency. These tours are advertised everywhere around Kraków and every hostel offers one. The cost is 100 - 140zl and since they include transport to and from the site, they take around 8 hours to complete.

If you have the time, you could visit Auschwitz twice. Firstly with a tour group booked through visit.auschwitz.org. Then the following day if you feel like you want to see more, return on a free ticket and take your time to visit the various museums and read through the stories within.

How to Get There

If travelling by car you can use any GPS unit to get directions. The best way to get there on your own is by public bus. Buses depart frequently from the Kraków main bus station. You can find an up to date timetable showing upcoming departures at busy-krk.pl/en/oswiecim-krakow. Tickets are about 14 zl.

Visiting Hours

The Museum is open all year-long, seven days a week, except January 1, December 25, and Easter Sunday. Entrance to the museum is allowed during the following times:

  • 8:00 AM - 2:00 PM December
  • 8:00 AM - 3:00 PM January, November
  • 8:00 AM - 4:00 PM February
  • 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM March, October
  • 8:00 AM - 6:00 PM April, May, September
  • 8:00 AM - 7:00 PM June, July, August

A visitor may stay on the site of the Museum 90 minutes after the entrance closes.

The two websites with great information that I recommend reading before heading to Auschwitz are wikivoyage.org/wiki/Auschwitz-Birkenau and auschwitz.org/en/visiting/.

Other Sights and Highlights


 Wieliczka Salt Mine

A must see while you are in Kraków. Also known as"the Underground Salt Cathedral of Poland". The Wieliczka Salt Mine, opened in the 13th century, produced table salt continuously until 2007 as one of the world's oldest salt mines. Throughout, the Royal mine was run by the Żupy krakowskie salt mines company.

Carving in salt in Chapel of St Kinga

The mine's attractions include dozens of statues and four chapels carved out of the rock salt by the miners. The mine also features an underground lake and exhibits on the history of salt mining. Visitors have access to a 3.5 kilometre touring route (less than 2% of the length of the mine's passages) that includes historic statues and mythical figures carved out of rock salt.

Wieliczka

The two standard routes that may be taken through the mine are the Tourist Route and the Miners Route. Each tour looks at the mine from a different viewpoint. The full price for one adult on either tour is 84 zl. A package deal to visit both routes can be bought for 155 zl.

Free Walking Tours

Good Cracow Tours

Two daily free walking tours are offered. One through the Old Town and another through the Jewish Quarter. A paid for, 'Taste of Poland', food tour is also available. Tour times and meeting spots are available at goodcracowtours.eu/tours.

FreeWalkingTour - Kraków

They also offer two daily free walking tours. These are also through the Old Town and the Jewish Quarter. They also offer free tours showcasing street art and the darker side of Kraków in a tour called 'Macabre Krakow'. A range of paid tours are also available. Tour times and meetings points can be found at freewalkingtour.com/krakow.

To Eat


Polish Milk Bars

Polish milk bars (Bar mleczny in polish) are cafeterias that offer cheap meals. They are historically very popular with students as they offer very affordable yet fulfilling meals. I found a couple of decent write-ups on the best milk bars in Kraków. Theculturetrip.com - Best milk bars in Krakow and this article titled Krakow milk bars. I wouldn't worry about being too selective. Just find the closest one to wherever your accommodation is.

For Drinking


Alchemia

Candle lit and with alchemist's tools on the walls and ceilings, Alchemia is one of the oldest bars in Kazimierz. It has become very popular and is full most evenings with tourists and locals alike. With its different rooms and a cellar, there is a unique atmosphere here in which almost anyone can find their nook. In order to move from one room to another you need to open a cupboard and walk through into a Narnia of conversations, meetings and smoke. On weekends wander into the cellar for a concert of one of the local bands or an up and coming band from abroad.

PUB Propaganda

Propaganda is an elegant parody of a past age, hilariously choosing to celebrate the defunct communist past of Poland. Expect to find themed parties, old socialist-style signs on the walls, and paintings of Lenin, all thrown together in a splendid mixture of pure socio-realistic mayhem. The interior is an eclectic mix of decor and cool red neon lighting that creates a wonderful atmosphere.

Singer

A Kazimierz classic. Quite dim and gloomy, with shadows deep enough to drown the moodiest drinker. The bar is named after the Singer sewing machines and trestle tables scattered about the place. The inside is full of candle light and very unusual decor which gives it a fantastic atmosphere. This place is very inviting on a cold night.

Eszeweria

Nice relaxed pub to while away an afternoon. It has an eclectic mix of old furniture and many sofa's tucked away in little snug corners. Good music and great beer. Like all the bars in this area, things start to liven up as dusk falls and the place begins to heave with a nice mix of locals and tourists.

Transportation


Getting In and Out

Warsaw

There are trains travelling back and forth between Warsaw and Kraków all day. Train tickets can be purchased at intercity.pl/en/. Ticket prices vary according to the speed of the train and how far in advance the booking is made. Tickets can be as low as 12€ for some trips.

A bus journey with Polskibus will cost around 8€ but the journey will take about 5 hours. Twice as long as the train.

Wroclaw

Trains between Wroclaw and Kraków run all day and take about 3 hrs 3omins. Train tickets can be purchased at intercity.pl/en/. Tickets cost just over 10€. The best option however is to take the bus. Polskibus operate all hours of the day and the journey time is 3 hrs 10mins and cost 4€ making it quicker and cheaper than the train.

Prague

Getting to Prague can be a little awkward. Currently there is no direct daytime train. The best option is catching a bus with Polskibus. They run a twice daily direct service. It takes 7hrs 30mins and only costs about 7€. It's a no brainer really.

If you really want to use trains, you can catch a train first to Katowice and then finally on to Prague. There's no online booking for this route, so buy tickets through reliable Polish ticketing agency www.polrail.com or at the station. The price quoted online is around 80€ so only take this option if you really want to take the train.

There is a sleeper train that departs Kraków every evening at 22:02 and arrives the next morning in Prague at 07:22. If your travel plans are tight, it's the best option. The sleeper train can be booked at polrail.com. The price quoted there is just over 100€.

Budapest

There is a direct sleeper train from Kraków (depart around 22:02) to Budapest (arrive 08:35).  To book, buy at the station (there's almost always places available) or pre-book through reliable polrail.com.

There is also a bus to Budapest with Polskibus. It runs three times a day, takes 7 hours, and costs about 8€. The best option.

Finally there are buses available through Estonian operator LuxExpress. They have a bus that departs at midday and also a night bus departing at 23:50 for 10€.

Bratislava

The night train to Budapest mentioned above stops in Bratislava along the way and is the best option if travelling by train. The arrival time in Bratislava is 05:36. However if you do not mind taking a night bus and want a cheaper option, LuxExpress have a bus that departs Kraków at 23:40 for 15€.

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