Preparing for Poland: A Guide for Krakow & Zakopane

Updated: May 14, 2019

In November 2018, we ventured to Poland to explore #Krakow and #Zakopane and were BLOWN away by how amazing both of these places were. Poland is also a great country to visit if you like to #travelonabudget like we do!


Interested in going to Poland yourself? Here's what you need to know:


Currency: Polish Zloty (PLN)

Language: Polish, click here for some helpful phrases

Location: Eastern Europe When to Go & Weather: Visit the Lonely Planet website

OUR RECOMMENDATIONS:

Places to stay & suggested length:


1) Krakow 3-4 nights: Greg & Tom's Hostel

Greg & Tom's actually has 3 different hostels in Krakow to fit your needs!

  • Home Hostel

  • Beer House

  • Party Hostel

We stayed in their "Home" hostel because we wanted to be in a social environment, but still have decent quiet hours for sleeping. They include two FREE meals a day (breakfast and dinner) and they were delicious! If you stay here, don't be late for meal times because other guests will scoop up all the good stuff. They also have a happy hour each night before leaving to join the other two hostels for a pub crawl. Overall, the environment, the cost, the food, and the comfort of this hostel has made it one of our favourite European hostel experiences.


2) Zakopane 2-3 nights: AirBnB

We wanted to be close to Tatra Mountains and within walking distance to the city center. We visited Zakopane in their low season so there were lots of great AirBnbs to choose from. Check out their seasons here and book as early as you can to save on costs!


Transportation:

  • Use Flixbus to go between Zakopane and Krakow (and many areas in Europe!), it is cheap and decently efficient

  • Krakow near Old Town is very walkable

Things to eat/drink in Poland:


1) Pierogies

Pierogies are similar to a dumpling, made with a dough wrapping around a filling, and usually pan fried or boiled. There are so many different kinds and variations (the ones shown below were boiled and then topped with bacon)- I guess you're just going to have to try them all!

2) Paczki (Polish Jelly Doughnut)

We don't have our own picture of one because we both ate ours too fast... whoops! Paczkis are delicious jelly filled Polish doughnuts that are great for dessert or a walking around snack. We tried one for the first time in Krakow at Gorące Pączki and we weren't disappointed! It's a tiny little shop with a window you walk up to from the street to order.

Photo courtesy of https://thetravelmechanic.com/2017/10/12/gems-of-eastern-europe-krakow-castles-amber-bagels-paczki/

3) Mulled Wine & Mulled Beer

Mulled wine is a hot wine beverage that be found all over Europe during the colder months. It's not uncommon to see people walking around at winter markets and festivals with a hot cup off mulled wine. What we weren't expecting was mulled beer. Mulled wine is usually hot red wine, cinnamon, cloves, lemon and sugar. Although we're not sure what was in Greg's mulled beer that day, it was likely a variation of the above in boiled beer instead of wine. Try it and let us know what you think!



Things to do in Krakow:

Things to do in Zakopane (dependent on time of year):


1) Hike

We spent a day exploring in the Tatra National Park and it's beauty took our breath away! The park entrance fee is about 5 PLN/person ($1.75 CDN) making it quite an affordable day activity. We'd suggest packing a picnic lunch, bringing water bottles, and to wear good hiking footwear to ensure you don't have to head back to your accommodations early. The trail varies in intensity and can become muddy/slippery (we even saw people using hiking poles!). We didn't plan ahead what we wanted to see, and instead just followed signs based on estimated distance away until we stumbled upon the valley shown below. If you want to do research ahead of time, you can plan out your route here.


2) Ski

We didn't go skiing ourselves, but that is what Zakopane is known for! Consider making this beautiful place your next skiing destination.

3) Visit the Water Park

It was too cold to swim outdoors when we were in Zakopane, but if you find yourself there in the summer you can visit the Aqua Park.


OUR LESSONS LEARNED:
  • Poland in the late fall and winter is VERY cold. Dressing in layers allowed us to explore outside more comfortably

  • Visiting in the late fall meant fewer crowds and amazing, quiet hikes in Zakopane

  • Book the early tour of Auschwitz (ours was at 7 AM) as it gets quite busy later in the day and can feel rushed. Pack snacks and water and leave them on the bus. Note: you cannot bring your own food or drinks onto the tour (not even the ones purchased in the shop on the grounds, i.e. wait until after your tour to buy a coffee). Also be prepared to need time to digest a lot of emotions- the stories and artefacts from this experience may weigh heavy on your heart. If you go with a group give each other space afterwards for some quiet reflection

  • The drinking culture in Poland can be intense, but also really fun! Locals like to encourage others to drink (you've been warned haha)

EXAMPLE COST BREAKDOWN 10 days for 2 people (in CDN$):
  • Transportation: $69.95 = 36.78 (Budapest to Krakow via Flixbus) + 15.17 (Krakow to Zakopane via Flixbus) + 18 (Zakopane to back to Krakow via Flixbus)

  • Food: $275.24 = 12 (Groceries) + 37.20 (Dinner in Zakopane) + 24 (Lunch in Zakopane) + 202.04 (Meals & drinks in Krakow)

  • Accommodations: $315.50 = 128.50 (42.83/night for AirBnb in Zakopane) + $187 (37.40 in hostel in Krakow)

  • Entertainment: $90.55 = 3.51 (Tatra National Park entrance in Zakopane) + 72.04 (Aushwitz-Birkenau guided tour) + 15 (Tip for Krakow walking tour)

TOTAL MONEY SPENT FOR TWO PEOPLE: $751.24 or $75.12/day


This could be you having this much fun in Poland

Do you have any questions or other recommendations for these spots in Poland? Let us know!


Enjoy your next adventure,

- Greg & Krystal

Read more about this amazing country: Powerful Moments in Poland

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