Updated 2016

Kraków is a large city in southern Poland, which is near the borders of both the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Unlike much larger Warsaw, Kraków survived World War II almost completely in tact so its historical neighborhoods and cathedrals are still authentic and have become a major tourist draw. This is also a university town so visitors can experience all the energy and nightlife that usually comes with that status as well.

What To Do

Ringed by parklands, the Old City is compact and very well preserved and is definitely one of the city’s best features. At the center of the area is the impressive Medieval town square, which is one of the largest in the world. On one corner of the square you’ll find St. Mary’s Church. This interesting building was erected in the 15th Century and is Kraków’s most important church.

The Wawel Castle is the other don’t-miss attraction in Kraków. Located atop Wawel Hill, this was the home of Polish kings for 5 centuries and remained important even after the seat of power moved to Warsaw. The castle was mostly built in the 1700s, but the fortress surrounding the castle has its beginnings in the 11th Century.

Read: Planning an Extended Trip to Central Europe.

Getting There

If you are coming from Warsaw, Berlin, Prague or one of the other nearby cities you can arrive in Kraków by train, of course. The location near several borders helps make is accessible to people coming from several directions. But if you are coming from further away you’ll want to book a flight into Kraków’s Balice Airport (code: KRK). It’s the second largest airport in the country and it’s served by most major European cities as well as a few from overseas. There is a train that goes from the airport into the city so there is no need to get a taxi.

Read: Off the Beaten Rail Path: Six Alternative Destinations in Central Europe.

Where To Stay

This city is experiencing a tourism boom, but proper Western-style accommodations are not blanketing the city yet. There are several hostels in Kraków and many hotels in Kraków as well, but some of them might be more basic than you are used to. The Old City is the best area in which to stay and it’s probably worth paying a bit more for a place at least close to the center, especially as some of the low standard and cheap places tend to be further out. Summer is by far the most popular time, with July being festival season, so if you are coming during the busy months it pays to plan ahead.