Before all of you who have been to Prague start on what an amazing city it is and how we should all love it, hear me out!
It’s not that I didn’t like Prague – far from it. It was pretty, fairly cheap, and enjoyable to wander around. But I think Kraków was better.
We didn’t really know what to expect from Poland before we arrived – a day trip to Auschwitz was all we really had in mind, but the cobblestone streets, rich and vibrant history, and wonderfully friendly people made Kraków definitely worth the visit.
1.5 weeks later we visited the much hyped Prague. I actually found it similar to Kraków in many ways and just as beautiful, but considering how pleased I’d been with Kraków I’d recommend it over Prague any day! Here are 5 reasons why I think you should visit Kraków instead.
1. The old town is equally as pretty
Prague is most famous for its picturesque buildings and streets in the old town. But what if I was to tell you that Kraków has just as pretty streets and equally as beautiful buildings, all without the ridiculous amount of tourists?
Walking through Kraków is like something out of a European fairytale. Magnificent looking churches keep popping up beside you as you wander down perfect cobblestone lanes, a rather impressive looking castle is perched on a hill beside the city, and the bell tower in market square chimes with St. Mary’s Trumpet Call (Kraków’s town song) every hour. If you’re looking for a European experience, you’ll definitely find it here.
2. No hoards of tourists
The Astronomical clock in Prague is known as the second most overhyped attraction in Europe (after the Mona Lisa). I thought it was kinda cool, but I certainly didn’t think it deserved the insane amount of tourists crowding around to get photos. There were actually people bottle-necking in a space about 20 metres (65 feet) wide. My mild claustrophobia surfaced in this tight area, I could never have imagined how busy Prague would be.
Sure, Kraków had tourists. Mostly Brits who’d managed to bag some great deals on budget airlines from the UK, but it never felt crowded. We could easily walk down the main street without having to elbow our way through crowds and worry about how we were going to get to the other end of market square without trampling people in the process.
3. So much more local culture
We did walking tours in both cities. In Prague it was run by an American who’d lived there for a few years, but in Kraków it was run by a local university student who told personal stories about growing up there. I felt this gave us a much more genuine understanding of the city.
Kraków’s old town was also full of locals shopping at the Christmas markets, eating out at restaurants, or just wandering around with family members. It was lovely to be surrounded by people that actually lived there instead of only being around other visitors.
4. An abundant history
Yes I know, Prague has history too, but it’s not on the same scale! Kraków’s history is so rich with feeling. Every building, street, and tradition has a compelling story behind it.
Kraków has a rather dark past as the city really caught the worst of WWII. There are plenty of remnants to see while you learn about the shocking affect the war had on Kraków’s inhabitants. You can also visit Schindler’s Factory Museum, the old ghetto in the Jewish quarter, remainders of Kraków’s old city wall, or head out to Auschwitz for a day.
5. Poland is cheaper!
Poland which is easily one of the cheapest countries we visited in Europe! As we normally compare the price of beer to gauge to cheapness of a country, we can concede that the average price of a delicious Czech beer in Prague was about 1.5-2 Euro, but in Kraków we had this handsome hipster man bar pour us beer for 1 Euro. Yep. That’s pretty much $1.50 AUD/USD.
We were also staying in a hostel private room for just over $21 AUD each per night in the centre of Kraków, and in Prague we were staying in a 6-bed dorm for over $29 AUD each per night (which was also further out of the town centre). If you’re looking to do Europe el-cheapo, Kraków is definitely going to save you a few bucks.