A city that's sophisticated, affordable and filled with secrets… these are just some of the reasons why we're in love with Krakow (also spelt "Cracow") in southern Poland. According to Polish folklore, Krakow was founded by the legendary King Krak after he defeated the terrible Wawel Dragon. Whether or not that's based in any truth, there's certainly a mythical feel here to this day.
The UNESCO-listed Old Town in Krakow is positively rife with fascinating sites and landmarks. A must-see is Rynek Glowny (Krakow Market Square), which is one of the largest medieval town square in all of Europe. Also sometimes referred to as Main Market Square, this area of the city was first laid out back in 1257 and is home to beautiful buildings including the Church of St Mary, the white Church of St Adalbert, and Cloth Hall, a huge covered marketplace with vendors selling clothes, nick-knacks and jewelry.
Old Town also has a high concentration of great restaurants serving up delectable Polish food like golabki (boiled cabbage leaves stuffed with meat, onions and rice) and pierogi (potato and meat-filled dumplings). If you're on the go, Krakow street food is worth a try.
To discover all that Krakow Old Town has to offer, join one of the free walking tours that depart daily from St Mary's Church in the Main Square. There's a huge variety of options in the city, from cured beef sandwiches to Obwarzanek (a bagel-slash-pretzel baked snack).
Visiting Krakow is no less safe than visiting any other big city. As always, you should keep your wits about you when walking around at night and make sure you keep your valuables close at hand and out of obvious sight. But in general, the crime rate is relatively low in Krakow and it's not something you should be worrying about too much on your trip.
However, it is worth noting that some of the laws in Poland differ from those you may be used to. For example, the police in Poland are very strict about drunk driving and public drunkenness. If they find you acting drunk in a public place, you may be taken to a clinic where a nurse will help you sober up.
They may be hard to pronounce ("Bee-esh-chardy", for the record), and even harder to spell, but the Bieszczady Mountains are a beautiful hotspot for keen hikers and nature lovers. Located between four and five hours east of Krakow, this beautiful mountain range runs from Poland through part of Ukraine and Slovakia. We're almost reluctant to tell you about the Bieszczady Mountains because they're practically undiscovered, but you really should include them in your itinerary if you like going off the beaten path.
The infamous former World War II concentration camp at Auschwitz is a harrowing sight to behold. This is the place where more than one million men, women and children lost their lives under the harsh conditions imposed by the Nazis. These days, Auschwitz is a memorial to the victims with a museum describing the lives of the people who lived there. Entry to Auschwitz-Birkenau is free, and it's a one and a half to two hour train journey from Krakow.
The UNESCO-listed Wieliczka Salt Mine is one of the most popular destinations in Poland, with an annual visitor count of more than one million. This 700-year-old salt mine is 327 metres deep and 287 kilometres long, with an "underground town" featuring lakes, passages and the eerie but beautiful Chapel of St Kinga.