I’m really excited to interview Brandon Neth of FinanceBuzz.com about Krakow, Poland. This interview is a little different than our normal episodes because we talked about multiple cities – Krakow, Gdansk, and Wroclaw. Brandon said that Poland is the most underrated destination in Europe. It is clean and affordable, and the people are incredibly nice and welcoming. He has some great tips to share for the best things to do in Krakow, Gdansk, and Wroclaw.
Many people believe that Krakow, Poland and the rest of the country are drab and boring based on their Communist history. However, much has changed since the trade union Solidarity won an overwhelming victory in a partially free election on 1989. This resulted in the peaceful fall of Communism and embrace of democracy and Western culture.
Brandon was traveling on his way to the World Cup in Russia and ended up in Poland as a stopping point. He decided to make the best of his stopover, and he is incredibly happy that he did.
He and his wife booked a week’s vacation to spend time in Krakow, Gdansk, and Wroclaw. They spent two to three days in each city to sample the best each town had to offer. These three cities were highlighted in a CNN Travel article of Poland’s most beautiful places.
The best time to visit Poland is from May through September. Poland has harsh winters. Brandon visited in May and the weather was gorgeous with temps in the mid-70s the entire time.
We share a lot of resources and local suggestions in today’s podcast, but you should also check out Visit Krakow, the local convention and visitor’s bureau. They are a wealth of information and can help you plan an itinerary based on your time, budget, and interests.
Best things to do in Krakow, Poland
Here are some of the best things to do in Krakow, Gdansk, and Wroclaw according to our local expert, Brandon Neth. I’ve also added some additional options based on my research.
- Walking tours – Brandon highly recommends you start by taking a walking tour in any city that you visit. Almost every city around the world offers these for free. Just be sure to tip the guide at the end!
Gdansk, Poland – from Brandon’s experience, there are almost no tourists here. It is 100% worth visiting, though. There’s a great art scene, amazing food, and wonderful people.
- Old City Gdansk – stroll the old cobblestone streets of Gdansk lined with colorful houses.
- Sopot – if you’re traveling in the summertime, Sopot is the favorite beach city for locals.
- The Museum of Second World War – Brandon said that this museum was tear-jerking. It was one of the most special places he visited in Poland.
Krakow, Poland – Brandon called Krakow a “poor man’s Amsterdam.” It is inexpensive and beautiful. It is like walking the canals of Amsterdam for a third of the price.
The churches in Krakow are amazing. So many were destroyed during the WWII occupation. The citizens tried to hide churches behind facades of normal homes and businesses. The outside may not always look like a church, but once you get inside, you are in for a real treat.
- St. Mary’s Basilica – the towers offer spectacular views of Krakow. Visiting hours are from 11.30 AM until 6.00 PM.
- Wawel Royal Castle – has an Italian Renaissance-inspired courtyard that is gorgeous. A crypt inside the cathedral is the final resting place for Polish kings, national heroes, and revolutionaries. For art lovers, an original Leonardo da Vinci painting (“Lady with an Ermine”) hangs inside. Brandon says that it is free to get in and totally worth a visit.
- Wieliczka Salt Mine – this UNESCO-protected site is located southeast of Kraków. The mine contains the St. Kinga’s underground Chapel and many statues made entirely from the rock salt. For explorers, there is also a lake and a labyrinth of passages.
Wroclaw, Poland – the little gnomes were amazing. There are over 165 bronze gnome figures spread all over the city. During Poland’s WWII occupation, paintings of gnomes were a sign of resistance. Today, the city celebrates this heritage with each gnome has its own name and career.
- Cathedral of St. John the Baptist – historic church with brilliant views of the city.
As you explore these cities, the people are extremely friendly. In some cases, you almost have to be rude and end the conversation so that you can continue to explore. Definitely a good problem to have.
Looking for other things to do? Here are the top 10 sightseeing tickets and packages for Krakow, Poland.
Or, you can buy one of the Lonely Planet books, which are another excellent resource. Their current promo offers 3 books for the price of two.
Best places to eat in Krakow, Poland
When you travel internationally, you want to try the local specialties. Brandon said that his favorite was the perogies and the karums.
He says that, if you don’t try pirogies in Poland, you’re missing out on life. They are filled with potatoes and veggies with a little drizzle on top for added flavor. Brandon calls karums “life-changing.” They are a sweet cheese snack that is incredible. He says that he would never eat ice cream again if these were widely available in the U.S.
These are the best places to eat in Krakow, Gdansk, and Wroclaw from Brandon’s trip.
- Eliksir – this bar and restaurant is focused on pairing food with drinks. The combination of flavors allows them to flourish and intensify the taste experience. Each dish on the menu has a specially matched cocktail to go with it.
- Pierogarnia Mandu – Brandon says that you need to have pirogies in Poland, and the best one he had was here in Gdansk.
- Pracownia Cukiernicza – Stanisław Sarga. Lody Tradycyjne, Pączki – this place is no secret to locals, but tourists don’t know much about it. This place has ice cream unlike any Brandon has ever had. They run it similar to the “Soup Nazi” on Seinfeld. In, out, pay, go. Totally worth the experience.
- Trattoria La Famiglia. Resteuracja – although Brandon doesn’t eat pepperoni, the best cheese pizza he had was in Krakow.
Getting around Poland
On the way to Russia for the 2018 World Cup, Brandon and his wife flew into Gdansk, Poland. The local airport is the Gdańsk Lech Wałęsa Airport. It is about 12km outside of the city center. Brandon and his wife flew on Finnair using American Airlines miles.
During Brandon’s trip throughout Poland, he didn’t rent a car. They took trains, public transportation, and, of course, walked. This helped them to explore as much of each city as possible.
Brandon used PolRail.com to get around. He enjoyed it, but he warned that the trains can be a bit hot since the A/C didn’t work well during his ride,
The Final Countdown
1) If a traveler could only have one meal in Poland – have some pirogies at Pierogarnia Mandu in Gdansk. You can’t go wrong having one of these Polish delicacies no matter where you travel in Poland. But Pierogarnia Mandu was his favorite.
2) Favorite memory of Gdansk, Poland – Brandon says that his wife is a child at heart. Once they learned about the Wroclaw gnomes, they began sprinting around the city trying to find them all. At one point while waiting in line to take a picture with one particular gnome, he stepped back and realized that his wife was the only one older than 7 years old in line to see the gnome.
3) Happiest Happy Hour in Krakow, Poland – Brandon loves the concept at Elikser. Not only do they have great drinks and food, the way they pair them brings out the best in both. Highly recommended when you travel through Gdansk.
4) Best place for pepperoni pizza in Krakow, Poland – at Trattoria La Famiglia. Resteuracja, their pizza was a beautiful combination of New York and Sicilian style pizza. The crust was perfect and the cheese was melted just right. Delicious.
Places we talked about on the podcast
Here is a map of all of the places we talked about on the podcast episode with Brandon Neth about Krakow, Gdansk, and Wroclaw. You can zoom into the map and click on each dot to explore the city.
- Red dots = best places to eat in Krakow, Gdansk, and Wroclaw.
- Green dots = best things to do in Krakow, Gdansk, and Wroclaw.
- Yellow dots = best places to stay in Krakow, Gdansk, and Wroclaw
Who is Brandon Neth?
Brandon Neth is a travel enthusiast from Portland, Oregon. His wife and his wiener dog are his best friends. He loves to travel almost as much as he loves rewards points, good deals, and saving money. So far, he has visited over 500 cities in 56 countries in the last 10 years.
Here are a few of articles that Brandon has written at Finance Buzz:
- 10 Easy Steps That Could Earn New Award Travelers $7,500 in Rewards
- How To Book The World Cup 2018 On Points & Miles
- Bank of America’s Free Museums on Us Program: 2018 Dates, How It Works & When To Go
As you can tell, his writing is a valuable resource for travelers and people looking to use travel rewards to reduce the cost of travel.
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Stay tuned for our next episode
Listen to the next episode when Irene Baker Levy, author of Unique Eats and Eateries of Philadelphia tells us how to gain entrance to hidden speakeasies in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We hope you’ll join us when We Travel There.
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