Where to stay in Krakow ? Find the best area to stay in Krakow to visit Poland’s second largest city, city of art and history.
With 326.8 km², Krakow is three times bigger than Paris. It is also the second largest city in Poland and one of the most attractive cities in Eastern Europe. Former royal capital of Poland, Krakow has many assets: between Slavic and Latin influences, it is a major artistic and cultural center of the country, a city steeped in history, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a student city (200,000 students), and visited by 200,000 people a year …
Since you probably do not know much about the Lesser Poland Voivodeship, here is a presentation of where to stay in Krakow. The second Polish city is divided into 18 administrative districts, but most of the things to do or see are grouped together in three neighborhoods of the city center and outlying districts, all obviously depends on your desires – calm, relaxation, party, shopping – for your stay: Staré Miasto (old town), Kazimierz (old Jewish city), Podgorze (new student town) and the outskirts (Nowa Huta, Klepartz, Piasek, Nowy Siat).
Stare Miasto, the old town
Photo credit: Flickr – Jorge Láscar
A real historic center of Krakow, Stare Miasto is perched on Wawel Hill. It hosts many historic monuments, many architectural wonders – Renaissance, Baroque, Gothic – having survived through the ages, and includes more than 2 million works of art. It is not for nothing that Polish tour guides call this district “Florence of the North”. Ideal for housing in Krakow, the district is bordered by a green belt that surrounds the old city – the park of Planty -, installed in the 19th century by the Habsburgs of the Austro-Hungarian Empire on the site of the old ramparts. Accessible all day without interruption, this green space offers pleasant, peaceful or romantic walks in the heart of Krakow. You will find in this area with checkerboard streets, all the must-sees of the city: the Market Square (Rynek), the Basilica of St. Mary (Kosciol Mariacki), the former Cloth Hall (Sukiennice) – its cafes, shops and restaurants. arts and crafts museum – and the Wawel Royal Castle.
The district, very touristic, concentrates the majority of the bars, cafes and restaurants of the city. Pedestrian streets can be noisy: in Krakow, the bars are closed only at the exit of the last customer, paved streets can remain active until 3 or 4 am or more. You will fall in love if you want to go shopping, enjoy the excitement and excitement of the night and simultaneously perform a cultural pilgrimage through the corridors of Time.
Kazimierz, the old Jewish quarter
Photo credit: Flickr – trinchetto
During the Second World War, the Nazis exterminated 90% of the Krakow Jews, most of them in Auschwitz. Kazimierz, located on the edge of the Vistula, was populated by Jews exclusively from the 16th century to 1940, and has the largest concentration of synagogues in Europe after Prague. Victim of anti-Semitic persecution and intolerance, the neighborhood was the macabre theater of several Jewish ghettos through the darkest pages of its history. Ignored by the general public for half a century and the Soviet era, the district is rehabilitated by the filming on its soil of the film “The list of Schindler”, released in 1993. A place of memory of the atrocities committed against the Jews, it is today – despite a gentrification that all cities now know – much appreciated by artists.
It is the second most tourist district of Krakow. If you like history, places to go out – bars, cafes, restaurants – then this neighborhood where to stay in Krakow is for you: central, you can also enjoy Polish life listening to the minor notes of a gypsy violin crying, a group of klezmer, jazz swing, rock or electronic music. Book now your hostel or your accomodation: many Poles rent their apartments, and prices are affordable!
Podgorze, the new student city
Photo credit: Flickr – Praktyczny Przewodnik
Located on the southern banks of the Vistula River, the Podgorze district was initially marked by its fishing activity. It is also the place where the old Krakow ghetto was installed during the Nazi occupation. It is on this southern fringe of Krakow’s city center that the places of student life are located. The neighborhood may be less attractive to you than in the old city, but it has the advantage of offering cheaper rents: resulting in a large influx of students and artists, who settle there. Cafes, bars and jazz clubs punctuate the social life of the neighborhood, ideal for romantic walks along the Wisla River or visit some interesting museums: The Oskar Schindler Factory Museum, Mocak, a museum of contemporary art , Cricoteka, on the director Tadeusz Kantor. Podgorze is a popular district and therefore, less bourgeois than the old town and can therefore seem a little duller, darker, less “fun”. But different, historical and authentic.
Finally, other neighborhoods are less attractive, but still interesting to stop there if you stay in Krakow.
Photo credit: Flickr – Konrad Krajewski
City of the future Pope John Paul II, it was built in the 1950s by and for communist workers. The city that has become a part of Krakow reflects what life could have been like during the Cold War, under the Soviet economy, a churchless city for metallurgical activity, in the middle of which stands a gigantic statue of Lenin: the communist city par excellence. Before the transition to the capitalist market economy, many streets bore the emblematic names of socialist ideology – Lenin, Marx – or those of the Cuban Revolution – like Che Guevara or Fidel Castro.
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, a deep anti-communist sentiment has seized souls, and the neighborhood is becoming the opposite: bourgeois. This is an interesting area to see the socialist past in Poland, an open-air museum to observe typical Soviet urbanism – very wide squares and avenues, very large green spaces and collective buildings – if that is yours animates. If you are still looking for a place to stay in Krakow, spend a night in Nowa Huta … but maybe not much more!