Working on the Krakow Tourism Board has to be one of the cushiest jobs ever. Right up there in terms of popularity with the likes of Prague and Riga, this city enjoys a reputation so epic that it could almost be suspected of subliminal advertising. The very mention of it’s name brings grown men to their knees and, if you’re the kind of person whose sub-conscience does the shopping for you, then years of glossy media hype and glowing post-stag-do reports will have Krakow perched comfortably at the top of your Polish wish-list.
Any Pole will also give it a standardised stamp of misty-eyed approval (largely because it’s the only city in the country to have ‘survived” the Germans and Russians) and the place obviously has it’s attractions and places of interest, most notably the old town and Rynek, Wawel Castle (which sadly looks nothing like the Disney castle), the socialist housing development at Nowa Huta and, of course, Auschwitz. It has history, it has atmosphere, it has nightlife (check out the old Jewish district of Kazimierz) and, yes, it is generally a very, very nice city.
However, the hype surrounding the city is definitely in overdrive and you’ll be making a misjudgement of Bush-ish proportions, along with countless coachloads of lets-see-Europe-in-a-day express tourists, if you think that it’s the only one worth visiting. Almost all Polish cities have an old town, a socialist housing development (or three!) and a concentration camp and, with the exception of Warsaw, none of them are anywhere near as crowded or as expensive.
If you do decide to go then be sure to pay a visit to the grossly-overlooked KoÅ›ciuszki’s Mound (Kopiec Tadeusza KoÅ›ciuszki), from which you’ll get the most impressive view of the city and the surrounding area.