I had wanted to visit Poland for some time, but it was always “someday” I would like to go. But as my son grew up Poland rose further and further up on his bucket list, so I finally decided to look into it.
We flew on Lufthansa Airlines from Los Angeles to Krakow, with a layover in Madrid. Since it was such a long flight we splurged for premium economy seats. I chose our seats carefully, as I always do. I looked at the seat configurations on the various flights and chose a flight that had a 2-4-2 seat layout. I picked the 2 seats to the side, window and isle seat, as well as seats that’s were next to the stairs leading to the upper first-class level. By being next to the stair case we didn’t have anyone next to us, there was no middle seat section. This gave us a lot more room, it felt much more open and we had room next to the stairs to standup and stretch out.
We were also give access to Lufthansa’s airport lounge which was a huge plus since our layover in Madrid was several hours. It was a very comfortable lounge with a good choice of food and drink.
I had pre-arranged for a car to pick us up at the airport. It was inexpensive and reassuring to know I h
ad a ride to our hotel. We arrived in the evening and I knew we would be exhausted, this was my first time there so the convenience of having a car waiting for us made it much easier. As it turns out the city center was only about 1
5-20 minutes from the airport so it was a quick ride.
We stayed at the InGo Aparthotel. It is located about a 3 minute walk to the city square. It’s a small hotel but very nice. The prices were incredible compared to hotels in other European cities. We opted for a suite and paid $470 for a one week stay. This included a very nice continental breakfast which offered eggs, bacon, ham, hot and cold cereal, cheeses, breads, fruit and much more.
Our room was located on the front side of the hotel and over looked a small one-way street. The room was large with plenty of space it included a large closet, table and chairs, desk and large bathroom.
After arriving we walked to the main square to find something to eat. The city square is surrounded by restaurants that all had outdoor seating with tables and large red umbrella’s and outdoor heaters. I told my son maybe we could splurge one night and eat at one of these restaurants, but they would be too expensive for our budget to eat at every day. Restaurants like these in Europe are very expensive. We noticed each restaurant had a menu posted outside so decided to take a look and were shocked at the prices. I actually got out my calculator to confirm the exchange conversion and yep, I had figured the prices correctly. We chose one of the restaurants, sat outside under the large red umbrellas, stayed warm by the outdoor heaters and were even offered soft red blankets for our laps. We had salmon wrapped in a croissant with strawberry and mango salsa, we drank mojitos and had apple strudel for desert, all for $27 for both of us. Needless to say, we ate at one of these restaurants each night. We chose a different restaurant each night, sat outside, enjoyed good food and watched the activity of the square. As it turns out Krakow is a budget travelers paradise.
We went to a tour office about a half a block from the hotel and booked tours to Auschwitz, the salt mines, the old Jewish quarter and Schindler’s factory. The prices were much cheaper than if we had booked tours online.
Auschwitz was extremely moving and educational. Our tour included both the main camp and Birkenau. We were picked up at a nearby hotel and taken by bus to the camps. We were so moved by what we saw we arranged to have a private driver take us back a couple days later. If you go before 10am you can roam around on your own but after 10am you have to be part of a tour. We had our driver take us out early and arrived about 8:30am. The camps were practically deserted and had a quiet, eerie feeling. We walked around in silence, reflecting on the events that had taken place there. It was a very moving experience.
We also toured the salt mine which was very interesting. Alt, as many people know, is a great healer. You can now find salt rooms or cave that you can go sit in for the healing properties. I am a huge skeptic so I didn’t think too much about it when we went into the mine and this is not just a cave type mine you walk straight into, you descend about 800 steps down a winding staircase. But don’t worry there is an elevator to bring you up. Before going into the mines my son was struggling with his asthma and I was on day 3 of a major migraine. After being in the mine for a short time we both felt really good. By the time we left his asthma and my migraine were both gone, I became a believer.
As a side note, at the bottom the there is a small gift shop that sells bath items made from the salt in the mine. I bought a few bars of the soap because they smelled good and thought they would make good gifts to bring back. When I got home I tried out the soap and it was amazing. My skin felt so good, I loved it. I gave a bar to a friend and her family loved it as well and is always asking when I am going back to Krakow, so I can get some more soap. So pickup a bar or two while you’re in the mine.
There is a large mall that is about a 7 minute walk from the InGo hotel. We walked over there several times to do some shopping. There is also a small shopping building in the square that has really good prices. Around the square the off streets also were lined with restaurants and shops.
We took a walking tour that led us across the bridge to the old Jewish quarter. Our guide gave us the history of the area which was very interesting. The tour ended at Schindlers factory. The factory was very interesting and worth going through.
Krakow is a great destination for the budget traveler. Prices of food and shopping were excellent and there is a great deal to see and do in the area. This is a destination that should be on your short list.