The film Schindler’s List wouldn’t encourage anyone to rush off and book flights to Krakow.
But despite being the scene of such atrocities during World War II, today’s Krakow is a destination that retains its old dignity while simultaneously attracting crowds of holidaying young people.
The town’s relative cheapness makes it the perfect stop-off for backpackers. A beer in your average Polish pub will set you back somewhere between one and two quid- a tough concept to get your head around after nights out in Temple Bar!
This good value applies to everything from food to accommodation. There is no shortage of youth hostels- the Goodbye Lenin Hostel deserves a special mention. Here you’ll find a Communist-themed bar, pool tables, communal kitchen and free breakfast- and it’s clean, well-run and friendly.
After you and your comrades check in, what is there to do? Plenty, and the town is so compact you won’t even have to bother with public transport if you don’t mind walking (which might burn off the beer-belly).
Familiarise yourselves by going for a wander, taking in the baroque churches, parks and synagogues along the way.
Wawal Castle, perched above the Vistula River, is a must-see. Do not miss the royal treasury and armoury: packed with guns, crossbows and swords, it’ll keep even the most sadistic tourist occupied for hours on end.
Tacky-souvenir-shopping can be done in the Cloth Hall, which is lined with stalls selling everything from beer mugs and katanas to jewellery and handbags. Trips to Aushwitz-Birkenau are also on offer.
Krakow is not the place to be counting your calories. The local speciality is pierogi: doughy dumplings stuffed with meat, cheese or fruit. There are stalls selling delicious obwarzanki (ring-shaped pretzels) on every street and these make a filling and cheap lunch.
The droves of visiting students mean Krakow’s vibrant nightlife caters for all tastes. Frantic, in the Old Town, is the perfect clubbing spot, while indie acts can be found at The B-Side Bar.
Krakow has managed to cater for tourists of all types without becoming tacky or overcrowded. Perfect as a stop-off on the inevitable interrailing trip or as a destination in its own right.