A weekend itinerary when teaching English in Krakow
Posted on 1-03-2019 by Joseph Francis
So, you’re heading off to Poland’s second city for a spot of teaching English in Krakow? Congratulations! Or, gratulacje, as the locals might say. With its cobbled Old Town area and bohemian Kazimierz district, medieval church spires and smoky jazz bars, there’s all sorts to get stuck into in this UNESCO-tagged destination. This weekend itinerary offers a good grounding on the ins and outs of life in Krakow, with some of the major sights, eateries, and areas involved…
Breakfast in the Old Town
There’s simply no more an enchanting district in Krakow than the Old Town. A UNESCO World Heritage Site in its own right, the whole area is a patchwork of rich and enthralling history. Alleys wiggle this way and that, while cobbled streets laced with beer bars and vodka shops pass underneath mysterious Slavic churches. It’s a great place to have breakfast, especially thanks to the mix of uber-cheap ‘milk bars’ – classic Soviet-style diners with wallet-friendly eats.
Wander the Main Square
The Main Square is the epicenter of Krakow. It’s one of the largest medieval plazas of any city in the world, and home to some of the town’s most bucket-list sights. If you’re hanging around teaching English in Krakow for a while, then it’s certainly worth getting your bearings here – it’s a great meeting point for after-work dinners and the like. For today, stroll the perimeter of the colossal piazza and take in the towering Town Hall, the brick-fronted St Mary’s Church (one of the most important basilicas in all of Poland), and the souvenir-brimming Cloth Hall market in the middle.
Go people watching in the Planty
There was a time when Krakow’s Old Town was ringed by mighty medieval fortification walls. They were totally ripped down in the 1800s, being gradually replaced by grand gardens with bandstands and water features. These days, they form a ring around the historic heart of the city, known as the Planty Park. It’s peppered with great cafes like Bunkier Sztuki, where you can grab a strong coffee and watch the rollerbladers, dog walkers, and cyclists whiz by.
Join the afternoon walking tour
Any history buffs teaching English in Krakow will find that the free walking tour that departs from outside the main church on the big square is a top way to unravel the centuries – nay, millennia – of tales that coalesce in this town. You’ll learn about the powerful Polish kings and queens who ruled great swathes of Eastern and Central Europe from the hardy castles above. In fact, the trip takes you right through the Old Town and down to the Wawel Castle itself – the piece de resistance of Krakow’s historic relics.
Dinner by the Vistula
Right next to the Wawel Castle is the snaking Vistula River (the Wisla, in the local lingo). If you happen to be arriving for your teaching English in Krakow in the summertime, you’re sure to find this buzzing with life – sunbathers, cyclists, street performers, flower hawkers. A few excellent restaurants and bars pepper the edges of the water, with the best offering views of the nearby Tatra Mountains from their rooftops.
A morning in the Salt Mines
Get up early, grab a quick obwarzanki (a traditional Polish-Austrian pretzel) to go, and hop on a tour to the Wieliczka Salt Mines. In an outer district of Krakow, these are an amazing remnant of the city’s golden age, showcasing the deep salt mines that gave the monarchs their great wealth throughout the late medieval period. You can delve 100s of meters underground to encounter curious salt-rock carvings and even an entire cathedral chiseled out of the rock.
Lunch in Kazimierz
After checking off the caverns of the salt mines, jet back to the center of Krakow as fast as you can and make for the district of Kazimierz. You don’t need an official guide to Kazimierz to get around – simply getting lost in the maze-like warren of blocks is a pleasure. You’ll see cafés and vegan eateries, food trucks and intriguing Jewish restaurants popping up on all the corners. Some of the best sit on Plac Nowy in the middle of the area, with the antique beer bar of Alchemia a veritable must for that post-lunch cold one.
Hop across to Schindler’s Factory
From Kazimierz it’s just a 10-minute walk across the bridges on the Vistula to the area of Podgorze. Cool and collected, it’s now Krakow’s boho hub. But it’s also where you’ll find the striking museum at Schindler’s Factory. Head there to get a feel for the sobering and dark history of southern Poland, and learn all about the ravages of Nazi occupation in the 1930s and 40s.
Vodka tasting – a Polish rite of passage
To cap off a long day, there’s arguably no better activity than a spot of vodka tasting in Krakow. You’re likely to be doing quite a bit of this if you’re teaching English in Krakow, which means it can’t hurt to learn the roots of the potent tipple that Poles glug like it’s water. You’ll trace the story of fermenting potatoes and rye back 100s of years, and see why the Russians are so determined to claim it as their own.
Has the prospect of teaching English in Krakow captured your imagination? Be sure to check out our destination page on Poland for information on how to get started in the classroom. Or, have you been teaching English in Poland and have something to add to this list? We’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments below…