Captivating Krakow

Kraków is the Boston of Poland:
a captivating old-fashioned city
buzzing with history, intriguing sights,
colorful eateries, and college students.”

–Rick Steves

Krakow (Cracow) is the gem in Poland’s hard-fought crown – its cultural and intellectual jewel. Both medieval and modern, with a history of triumph and tragedy, Krakow is a bustling center of Polish life.

Heavy trams rumble along the avenues, clearing a path through dense traffic. Students and grandmothers stroll along the lush Planty – the lovely moat-turned-park that rings the Old Town. All streets seem to lead to the energetic Market Square where mimes and mascerons (grotesque faces on top of the Cloth Hall) amuse the crowds, and merchants peddle their colorful painted pisankas (Polish painted Easter eggs).

Side alleys host street fairs where folk entertainers in regional costumes chat with locals and tourists; while an amusing accordion player casts a sly wink at onlookers.

High on the hill overlooking town, Wawel Castles shines in its glory, and the Jewish Quarter, Kazimierz, continues its slow recovery and rebirth. Krakow is a fascinating city that begs to be explored.



We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

26 thoughts

  1. While it might be difficult to top Wroclaw based on your reports, you are in Poland – you have to see Krakow! In the U.S., we do not know much about Krakow other than the horrifying tales from the Nazi occupation. Nor do we have Poland in general high on our radar, so your reports about the color and the history are enlightening. I am grateful for your upbeat and positive take on Poland. It whets my appetite all the more to visit there. How long will you be in Poland? Do you have an itinerary or are you playing it more by ear?
    Thank you for the photos and stories. I look forward to learning more. Poland is definitely on our list! – Mike

    1. Mike, like you, Poland was not on our radar for the same reasons you mentioned. But when we did our Baltic trip and visited cities like Tallinn and Riga, we started researching other areas of Eastern Europe. Poland kept popping up … and although we were skeptical, we’re SO glad we came. It’s done nothing but impress us. We only had time for Wroclaw and Krakow this trip, but we definitely want to see Gdansk and Poznan, so we put them on a future list. ~Terri

    1. Hi Virginia. Krakow has one of the coolest market squares we’ve ever seen. Evidently it’s the biggest in Europe – even beating out Prague! But I think my favorite feature is the Planty – a green space park that encircles the center. It’s the former moat with some of the original wall remaining. ~Terri

  2. It sounds like a wonderful blend of the old and new. I love the tradition and rituals of places like this, but I also love the fresh energy a college town provides. Lovely colors too!

    1. Hi Anita, Great to see you! Hope all is well in your world. It sounds like Krakow is your kind of place – all those great things you described rolled into one cool package. 🙂 ~Terri

  3. Hi Terri and James: love your post! The colors your captured reminded me that I bought a bunch of these colorful eggs the first day in Warsaw, because I thought they were hand painted folk art. At least they all look different. I also saw a number of musicians in the street in Krakow but I didn’t take their picture. I look forward to reading more of your posts about your Poland trip!

    1. Hi Denise, It’s so hard to resist those lovely Easter eggs … and they seem to be everywhere, in every size. We also saw lots of street musicians and managed to get a few candid shots. When you visited, were you in Krakow or Wroclaw? ~Terri

    1. Many thanks Jeff. If you like the bustle of larger cities, then Krakow is for you. If not, then you might prefer Wroclaw. We also got lots of recommendations to visit Gdansk and Poznan, so we’ve put them on our list for next time. And if you’re planning an Eastern European sweep, you might consider Tallinn, Riga, and Budapest, too. ~Terri

    1. Our apartment was just a 10 minute walk to Kazimierz and we really enjoyed wandering the narrow streets. It’s becoming quite the “destination” – kind of Bohemian (so we fit right in). 🙂 We went to the weekend flea market which was quite a hoot! But we didn’t make it to the salt mines. I hear they’re fantastic. Did you go? We’re off to Bratislava, Slovakia next. ~Terri

  4. One of the things I love about reading your blog (and there are many) is that you are introducing me to places in the world I had not thought to visit, but after reading your posts, I want to add to the list. Can’t wait to hear more. 🙂

    1. What a heart-warming comment LuAnn. Many thanks. We didn’t consider Poland for many years, but the more we researched, we discovered that it has so many of the elements that appeal to us – so we gave it a whirl! So glad we did. 🙂 ~Terri

    1. It is a pretty place Tricia, and I can only imagine that it must be quite frigid in the winter. I’m sure that summer – or even a shoulder season – would be more appealing. But of course, there is something quite magical about winter, too. 🙂 ~Terri

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