Before arriving in Kraków, I watched Schindler's List on the bus ride -- my first time seeing the film. It is easy to see how it is considered one of the greatest movies of all time, as I sat there once it finished speechless and ruminative. It set the mood for Poland and its somber and difficult, albeit important and incredible, history. The ghetto created here by the Nazis during the second World War was one of the major ghettos of the Holocaust, and Kraków was originally a huge Jewish community, home to tens of thousands of Jews before the genocide. There are only a few hundred living there today, and most are non-active. Though I have seen the DC Holocaust Museum and read an ample amount of literature about what happened in Europe seventy years ago, it is nothing compared to walking on the same ground as those poor souls, seeing where and how they lived up close. There are no words to describe some of the experiences I had here, and would encourage anyone to visit this historic city.


What to Do

Visit Schindler's Factory


One of the most well-known aspects of Kraków history, this museum takes you on a journey through World War II and the stories of the 1200 Jews whose lives Oskar Schindler saved by employing them in his enamelware factory.

There are also places in the city that you can visit to see where Schindler's List was filmed, specifically in Jewish Quarter, including scenes of the liquidation of the ghetto.

Shop at the Town Hall Tower


This market is inside the Town Hall Tower, and offers thousands of beautifully handmade and incredibly priced souvenirs (Poland is a great destination for budget travelers right now; everything I purchased was less than $10). I was able to find some nice gifts even for my 16-year-old and 12-year-old brothers, and let me tell ya, that is usually a CHORE.

Take a day-trip to Auschwitz


Auschwitz is sobering, horrifying, and overwhelming. On the way out I was stopped to look at a book with photographs comparing present-day Auschwitz to Holocaust Auschwitz, and it is chilling to see how little the camp itself has changed, that where I stood is the same place that all the refugees stood. This trip was by far the most memorable and important thing that I did while in Kraków.

Where to Eat


This cute little Polish restaurant is right on Kraków's iconic main square, Rynek Główny, with authentic cuisine and a beautiful view.


Zurek soup, which is specific to Poland and Belarus, and is made with soured rye flour and sausage.

Zapiekarnia in Jewish Quarter


Zapiekarnia is a booth located inside Plac Nowy serving (shockingly enough) zapiekanka (basically an open-faced sandwich made with mushrooms, cheese, and additional toppings). Zapiekanka in Kraków is like pasta in Rome, beer in Prague, or paella in Madrid - if you visit and leave without getting one, you seriously fuxked up.




Located just off the main square of the city, you can find anything from veal to wild boar to potato pancakes to pierogi at this restaurant, and when we went, the service was awesome.

Pijalnia Czekolady Wedel

For dessert, we came here, a restaurant whose entire menu is dessert and coffee. Amazing food, but also right after I ate dinner and had two beers, so on my way out I literally bumped into the doorframe with my hyper-extended gut.


What to See

Vistula River


The longest Polish river, the Vistula runs through both Kraków and Warsaw. We took a golf cart ride across the river and looked out over the back, which actually gave us a really cool little panorama of the river and the city.


Wawel Royal Castle


Visit this gorgeous castle on top of Wawel Hill if for nothing else than because it is the most historically significant spot in all of Poland (it is now a museum, but was once home to Polish kings).

St. Florian's Street


It is one of the most famous streets of Kraków, right as you enter through St. Florian's Gate and along to Rynek Główny, and is full of restaurants, bars, vendors, and shops.


I feel richer having visited this city (also heavier; seriously, try going to this region without gaining about 10 pounds from pierogis, beer, and zapiekanka) in a way I have not felt in a lot of places. Head here with a pocketful of złoty (but not too much...a little will get you far here!), an open mind, and a pack of tissues, and get ready for some really, really cool experiences.


Published by Robin Beck