Krakow or Warsaw?

Jun 17th, 2014, 09:46 PM
  #1  
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Krakow or Warsaw?

I am planning on taking a tour of Europe where the last two days are spent in Krakow. I am wondering if I should stay in Krakow for a day or two longer and then fly to Warsaw for three or four days, before returning to Canada. A colleague has suggested that I forget Warsaw and do a couple of day trips from Krakow to some small towns and villages in the surrounding area. He didn't mention which ones, but that I can find out myself.
Any thoughts?
vanessagillian is offline  
Jun 17th, 2014, 09:56 PM
  #2  
kja
 
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Krakow is absolutely lovely and well worth at least 3 or 4 days (if not more). IMO, Warsaw has a few sites that are worth seeing; they can be seen in about a day. (The difference: Krakow, a cultural center for centuries, was not damaged during WWII; Warsaw was seriously damaged.)
kja is offline  
Jun 17th, 2014, 10:48 PM
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Personaly I like to visit less iconic cities/towns and get a feel of the place. I enjoyed my visits to both Krakow and Warsaw but Warsaw felt more "real" to me exactly because it has its ungly corners and less tourism. I guess answer lies on what your traveling style and interests are. Once I took a bus to ungly residential Sobiet-era-architecture areas just to get a glimpse on people's everyday life, something I often do on my trips.
Warsaw has some very nice corners too, not only the obvious ones such as the Royal Castle and/or the Old Town Square areas but spots on the outskirts too. Bus system is very easy to use if you have done some research before hand.
One of my most precious memories is taking my time to walk around and blend with locals in the Lazienki park. I enjoyed to have a couple of beers in places that not many people spoke English too.
I am a nutcase for everything history and I enjoyed different museums such as the Archeological one and more importantly the Warsaw Uprising museum among other sights...

Krakow is lovely for different reasons. It retains one of the few real "old towns" in Poland. As kja says, the original medival town was saved from WW2 bombardings (most old towns you see around Poland were destroyed and reconstructed later...). And it was the base of Polish kings for centuries so there is pleasant architecture and plenty to see. Somehow more "posh" eateries and shopping availiable too. Of course you can't escpare the WW2 history, Jewish Quarter and Schindler's factory are a must for most people...
In Krakow I hated the fact that I could often find pizza places and cheap gyros eateries that seem to be a recent addition to serve many foreigners coming on chapter flights for a weekend of booze and partying. My visit was on early February and I could still see lots of stag and hen parties around.
While in Krakow I could not not visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. This side trip took most part of a day. Wieliczka Salt Mines was a pleasant half-day trip too. So depending on your interests and how fast or slow traveler you are you can easily spend 4 FULL days in Krakow anyway.
My visit in Poland was on winter months so I concentrated mostly on cities. I am sure there is a fabulous country side to explore out there (Glimpses of amazing forests and deers roaming away on the snow, especially on the north-west of country stayed with me for long). I know there is plenty of hiking, biking etc opportunities if this is your thing, maybe check Zakopane south of Krakow. There is a ski center there on winter months but Zakopane is supposed to be a traditional town with specific architecture and serves as a get-away on Tatras mountains.
mariha2912 is offline  
Jun 17th, 2014, 11:34 PM
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If you want to see real, gritty, Soviet-era part of Krakow, just take a tram ride to the steel-town suburb of Nova Huta, with a recent history of Solidarity Movement in 1980s and efforts by the late Pope John Paul II as Archbishop of Krakow to open the first Catholic Church there. With a good museum. Mentioned in all good guide books.
Alec is offline  
Jun 17th, 2014, 11:43 PM
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You could easily find enough to see and do in Krakow to fill 4 or 5 days, especially if you're interested in the Salt Mine, Auschwitz, or Wawel, all of which take the better part of a day each.

Krakow is a beautiful small city while Warsaw is a sprawling city mostly filled with Communist era (ugly) buildings except for the small old town area which was rebuilt as it was pre WWII.

The only small town I know of in the area Krakow is Zakopane, about 2 hours away by bus so I don't think of that as "in the area." I was not impressed with the town probably because many tour buses stop there resulting in tacky souvenir and cheese stands lining the main road in town. The cheese was not very good and it's all the same - stand after stand of the same molded cheese (cheese made in a mold rather than cheese with mold which would be good). You could do this as a day trip from Krakow but the scenery getting there was nothing to rave about. The wooden architecture was interesting but not worth leaving Krakow for unless you're very interested in this type of building.

Many Polish people speak with awe of the Zakopane area but my opinion is this is because much of Poland is flat and agrarian and Zakopane is in the Tatra mountains, offering winter and summer sport and a landscape diversity. I believe that there used to be a lot of local crafts sold in the town and area but that's not true now.

There may be other small towns but you would need to speak Polish to get around in them. I took a tour of the wooden churches outside Krakow (within 1.5 hours of Krakow) with a private guide and didn't see any towns of exceptional beauty. I did ask the guide if it were possibly for someone to tour the area independently if they did not speak Polish and she said that it would not be easy to do so without some knowledge of the language.

I would be interested to know what towns your colleague meant.

I absolutely adored Krakow (I've been there twice) and would return.
adrienne is offline  
Jun 18th, 2014, 07:18 AM
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Stay in Krakow. There's more than enough to see and do there. Oswiecjim is nearby. So are the salt mines. Nowa Huta is definitely worth a trip. We took a tour with this lot - http://www.crazyguides.com/ - and had a blast. Just make sure you see the Arka Pana, which itself is worth a pilgrimage. Do a touch of research on Karol Wojtyla - famous Polish gent, had a fair bit of a role in Polish and world history from the 1960s to the early aughts.

Somehow the addition of pizza and gyros didn't put a damper on Krakow for us - just highlighted the fact that Europe has mostly open borders and people from all corners of the continent go to visit its iconic cities. It's not like you can't find pierogi.
BigRuss is offline  
Jun 18th, 2014, 08:39 AM
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I have never been to Warsaw, but I have been to Krakow, and it truly is a wonderful city. Warsaw was leveled in WWII, the old city was rebuilt but it will never been what it used to be, sadly.
Krakow is a picturesque city, one of the most underrated and unspoiled in Europe. The old city has a great architecture, multiple attractions, and quite of atmosphere. Explore the Jewish heritage of the city, in Kazimierz the historic Jewish quarter, its century old synagogues, and graveyards. If you liked the Schindler's list film, the Schindler factory is situated in Krakow. Visit the largest medieval square in Europe, the medieval market, the medieval cathedral, and the imperial citadel of Wawel. The prices in the city are quite low. It also is a UNESCO monument. It is a true European Jewel.
PetrosB3 is offline  
Jun 19th, 2014, 06:22 AM
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I just spent 5 days in Krakow and wished I could have stayed longer. I arrived in Warsaw yesterday for a 10 day stay. My trips are based on home hospitality/home exchange deals so I don't get a lot of choice in where I go and for how long. I take what I get.

I absolutely loved Krakow but everything there takes awhile to see. I see the Salt Mine, Auschwitz and Wawel Castle mentioned. You need to set a day for each of them. You also might want to do the walking tour I did (even if it almost killed me) of Jewish Krakow. There is plenty that I missed even in 5 days. The nice thing about Krakow is that it is compact. By the way do not miss Wawel Cathedral (adjacent to the Castle). I liked it better than the Castle. It's Poland's version of Westminster Abbey.

I just arrived in Warsaw (and spent the day doing laundry, updating my blog and sleeping a lot) so I don't have an opinion yet.

For more information, you might want to check my blogs on both cities. I will be posting most days of my trip.

Here are the links:

http://altecockertravels.weebly.com/...rned-2014.html

http://altecockertravels.weebly.com/...ange-2014.html

I wish I had had more time in Krakow and would love to return one day. Judgment on Warsaw will come later.
lauren_s_kahn is offline  
Jun 19th, 2014, 11:04 PM
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You left off the Salt Mine tour. I am sure it was an oversight. Krakow needs a lot of time. Even 5 days was not enough for me.

So far in Warsaw I've been to Plac Zamkovy (Castle Square) and seen the castle and adjacent picture gallery. I'll be back down there today doing something, but who knows what?
lauren_s_kahn is offline  
Jun 21st, 2014, 12:16 PM
  #10  
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I do so appreciate all the information you've sent me. I will be able to plan my trip just from the tips and recommendations you've sent on. I spent five days in Sofia last fall and walked for miles outside the main tourist area. Seeing the grittier side of the city and how people are still living in the run-down, soviet-era buildings was a wake-up call to how fortunate we are. But are we any happier than they are, I wonder?

I am a history nut myself and generally travel alone as my husband has had enough of the inside of a cathedral after 45 minutes. In Toledo, I was able to spend over three hours in its amazing citadel without having to worry about what he wanted to do. So all your advice is going to be put to good use when organizing this trip.

I was also in the Praid Salt Mine in Romania last fall. Would you still recommend going to the one in Poland?

Also, I will contact my colleague and ask which towns she recommended and let you know.

Thanks again.
vanessagillian
vanessagillian is offline  
Jun 21st, 2014, 02:10 PM
  #11  
 
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Just chiming in here. I completely agree with everything cargo13 listed. I might add the Schindler Factory in Krakow. Agree with other posters who feel more time should be spent in Krakow over Warsaw. As for the salt mine in Krakow, you may want to skip it if you visited the one in Romania. Others may disagree. I enjoyed seeing the one in Krakow, but probably wouldn't visit another one again. Hope you have a wonderful trip.
lucy_d is offline  
Jun 21st, 2014, 02:15 PM
  #12  
kja
 
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"I will be able to plan my trip just from the tips and recommendations you've sent on." -- perhaps, but do invest in a guidebook or two! IME, there are many things that one only learns about that way.

When in Krakow, don't miss the Lady with an Ermine. She is very special.
kja is offline  
Jun 21st, 2014, 04:18 PM
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I haven't been to the salt mine in Romania you mention but I have been to one at or near Berchtesgarden in Germany. The one in Krakow was a much bigger deal than that one.

I am continuing to enjoy Warsaw as well. Most recently I went to Wilanow Palace, the home of King Jan Sobietski. If you follow the previously listed link to the blog on Warsaw, you will find what I am doing.

Actually, I think Warsaw is every bit as interesting as Krakow, but more spread out. To find out what bus to take to any site, I just ask at tourist information in Stare Miasto (the Old City). They have been very helpfu.
lauren_s_kahn is offline  
Jun 21st, 2014, 04:54 PM
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Agree with most of the posts, while we enjoyed Warsaw, we felt 2.5 days were plenty, krakow was wonderful. We loved the cafes, ambiance and so much to see and do or NOT. You may want to take a look at the salt mines http://www.wieliczka-saltmine.com/en/visiting, they were a highlight of our stay in Krakow. Enjoy your trip.
wunderbar2 is offline  
Jun 21st, 2014, 05:57 PM
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In my opinion, yes, the *history* of Warsaw is as interesting as that of Krakow, but the city itself is not. Check out the rebuilt Old Town and these sites previously mentioned, and you're done, IMO:

>>>Warsaw:
Major metropolitan city. Try to stay near old town, but there are few/no hotels in old town.
-Free walking tour of Warsaw
-Uprising museum + film
-War museum in old town
-Marie Curie house<<<
lucy_d is offline  
Jun 21st, 2014, 06:09 PM
  #16  
kja
 
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All in all, I agree with lucy_d There may be a few things worth seeing in Warsaw that haven't already been mentioned -- maybe they have been closed? -- but if they are still open and are of interest to you, they'll be covered in any competent, current guidebook. Given your timeframe, it makes sense to give a LITTLE time to Warsaw and MOST of your time to Krakow.
kja is offline  
Jun 22nd, 2014, 09:40 AM
  #17  
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Great! thanks so much. It will certainly help with my planning. I have heard back from my friend and the town she mentioned was Zakopane, about a two hour drive from Krakow. She said that it was mainly a ski resort, but lovely in the summer as well. I'm not sure I've got the luxury of time to consider going there.
vanessagillian is offline  
Jun 22nd, 2014, 11:49 AM
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I went to a Sunday Chopin concert in Lazienski Park today. I'd add that to your Warsaw list if here on a Sunday. Tomorrow my plan is to do a walk in the area of the World War II Jewish ghetto area.

Also on my list but not on lucy_d's is the National Museum and the Chopin Museum. Any city is what you make of it.

I do agree that for a short stay like the one the OP is planning, he should just remain in Krakow, but please do not give Warsaw short shrift. There is plenty to see in Warsaw as well.
lauren_s_kahn is offline  
Jun 22nd, 2014, 12:58 PM
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Thank you for mentioning the Chopin concert, lauren. I forgot that I attended one of those, too, also an outdoor concert in a park. It was lovely.
lucy_d is offline  
Jun 22nd, 2014, 01:10 PM
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I'll try to help with your decisions on the Salt Mine and Zakopane.

I looked at photos of the salt mine in Romania and the one outside Krakow is very different as there are lots of rooms with sculptures and carvings made of salt. There's a chapel completely carved from salt and even the chandeliers are made of salt. It's really beautiful.

You don't have time to combine this trip with Wawel, Auschwitz or Kazimierz so you would need at least 4 full days in Krakow.

If you visit Zakopane, get a private guide and driver to take you there and back in one day and show you various things in the area (I wish we had done this). There are interesting wooden structures that are outside of town and someone with a car, who knows the area, would be able to get you to all the interesting sights very quickly. Everything is small so you don't need a lot of time in any one place. There's no need to stay there overnight as the town is dead; best to come back to Krakow for the interesting happenings in the main square.

If you're interested in a guide I can give you the name of the woman I used to visit the wooden churches outside of Krakow. She makes trips to Zakopane and has reasonable rates.

I would only do Zakopane if you have 5 full days in Krakow or 4 full days if you're not going to Auschwitz. The only reason to visit Zakopane is the wooden architecture as I'm sure you've seen lots of natural beauty in Canada.

Here's a link to my last trip report on Krakow. I had 3.5 days there plus a long day trip and didn't visit Wawel, Auschwitz, or the Salt Mine on this trip.

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...rip-report.cfm
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