A relatively expensive city in terms of accommodation, Krakow has grown to attract many tourists, who are drawn to the city by its charm. The city is riddled with little gems, and beautiful little romantic hotels where the meticulous decor reflects the city itself. The chain hotels offer international standards of quality by combining modernity with the wide variety of services they offer their guests, but if it's basic accommodation right at the heart of the city that you're after, you won't be disappointed either. A word of advice though - don't judge the property by its exterior, and make sure you check the rooms themselves before booking in! Whatever it is you're looking for, book as early as possible!
The best way of finding your way around in Krakow easily is to start from the Main Market Square, where the sound of a trumpet rings out every hour from the towers of the Church of Our Lady St. Mary. This is also where you'll find the Cloth Hall, the oldest shop in Poland. If you travel to Krakow you will see streets teeming with cafés, jazz cellars and night-clubs where the lively entertainment keep going until the early hours. A little further on, on the hill where the Wavel Royal Castle (dating back to the Renaissance) is located, the ambience takes on a more Bohemian style, thanks to the various contemporary art galleries and alternative bars, as well as many souvenirs relating to the customs of the Jewish community who settled here.
There are many ?must-see' sites to visit in the area around Kraków, but it is advisable to rent a car to take you to them. There is the Wieliczka Salt Mines: a unique underground world of the mines which were exploited for 800 years, including a chapel which has been carved out of salt. There is the concentration camp Auschwtiz, a place of sinister memories and the neighbouring camp of Birkenau, where the extermination of millions of victims, including Jews and Gypsies, took place during World War II. You can also visit Wadowice, the birthplace of Pope John Paul II, where the house of his childhood has been transformed into a museum. Then, 62 miles from Kraków, at the foot of the Tatras, you will find Zakopane; the ski resort which has been famous since the 19th century, which houses a museum dedicated to the nature park proclaimed as national heritage.
To find your way around in Kraków, start from the Grand Market Square. This is where trumpets from the top of the church towers of Notre-Dame sound every hour and it is also in this square that you will find the Cloth Hall, the oldest shop in Poland. All around, the streets are teeming with cafés, jazz cellars and night-clubs where the entertainment continues until late into the night. Further away, on the hill of the Wavel Royal Castle (which dates back to the Renaissance), you will discover a Bohemian atmosphere of contemporary art galleries and alternative bars, but also many souvenirs which recall the customs of the Jewish community who settled here.
Surface area : 120,727 sq mi km2
Population : 38,518,241 inhabitants
A relatively expensive city in terms of hotels, Kraków has begun to attract many tourists who are lured in by its charms. The city is dotted with gems, notably the small beautiful romantic hotels whose decoration is immaculate, much like the city's image. The hotel chains respect the quality of international standards and offer a wide choice of services to their guests. If you just want somewhere basic to stay, you will always find somewhere in the heart of the city. However, do not be seduced by exteriors without seeing the quality of rooms first! Whatever you're wanting, you must make a reservation as early as possible!
Avoid taking your car! The city is best explored on foot so that you can get lost in the city's romantic streets and admire every detail of the Renaissance façades. In Poland, be careful when it comes to settling your hotel bill, do not say thank you before having received your change, otherwise the person at the reception will think the difference between the sum to be paid and the change to be given is to be regarded as a tip!
On every street corner, you will find the Kraków pretzel snacks. Just try one, ask for a ?Papieska Kremowka!' This papal pastry with cream is unmissable in the region, but don't eat it before meal times when inns, cafés, restaurants, pubs provide either very international or traditional decoration and cuisine. Pork, beef, duck, veal, mushrooms, beet, cabbage and cucumbers are common ingredients in Polish cuisine. On the menu during festivities for example you will find soups (which are very popular) like the 'Bortch', beetroot soup, ravioli stuffed with mushrooms, traditional dishes, and the most famous dish of all, 'Bigos' which is made of beef, sauerkraut, prunes , mushrooms and various condiments. As for dessert, there is cream pastry and fruit, including 'Sernik,' a type of cheese cake.
In terms of souvenirs, the Cloth Hall (Sukiennice) in the market square will rapidly give you an idea of what you can bring back from Kraków. The wooden crafts like the chess boards or the dolls, the handpainted earthenware, the glass objects or even the original pieces of pottery will give you a few ideas. Poland also offers a nice selection of jewellery, including amber, silver and coral jewellery. As for fabric, there are embroidered tablecloths, lace and multi-coloured traditional clothing and you will find all these in the shops scattered around the square and in the adjacent streets. Then, for those who want it, there is Oscypek, ?THE' traditional mountain cheese, smoked near a fireplace. Finally, do not forget to bring back a bottle of plum vodka!
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