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Christmas Market Tour 2019

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Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Kraków (also spelled Cracow) is a beautiful city located in the south of Poland. This stunning medieval city features a castle, 14th Century Gothic Cathedral, beautiful buildings, amazing restaurants and a magnificent market square where a fascinating Christmas market is set up annually.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Every year, I enjoy doing a Christmas trip during the month of December. I started this tradition in December 2017 when I went to Lapland, Finland with Crawford Concierge by SitInMySeats. In 2018, I visited Munich/Bavaria, Germany; Salzburg and Hallstatt, Austria; Budapest, Hungary; Bratislava, Slovakia and Vienna, Austria. During December 2019, I started my Christmas trip in Kraków, Poland and then made my way to Prague and Česky Krumlov, Czechia; Nuremberg and Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany along with Frankfurt and Cologne, Germany.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Kraków is an amazing city to visit during Christmastime and I am excited to show you everything I did during my two days there. It was my first time ever visiting the country of Poland and personally, I wish I would’ve spent at least 3 days in Kraków because I definitely feel like I didn’t get enough time there. I also would love to see more cities in Poland, so it gives me a reason to go back soon. Below are the top things I did during my time in Kraków, Poland.

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Getting to and Around Kraków:

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Getting to Kraków, Poland required a flight from JFK in New York City to John Paul II Kraków-Balice International Airport with a layover in Oslo, Norway. I found affordable one-way flight deals through Skyscanner, which I ALWAYS use! (I had to book one-way flights since I flew from JFK to Kraków, Poland and then went home from Düsseldorf, Germany to Newark Airport in NJ.)

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

During my time in Kraków, I was able to walk everywhere since my hotel was centrally located in the city. What is nice about the city of Kraków is that Uber is everywhere! There are also taxis as well, but I obviously prefer to use Uber when I am getting from one place to the next.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

If you are traveling around Poland or just looking to do a road trip through Eastern or Central Europe, I highly recommend renting a car. You will need to get an international driver’s license though!

Where to Stay in Kraków:

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Throughout the city of Kraków are plenty of hotels and accommodations to suit all budgets. In addition, you could also stay in a hostel, Airbnb or HomeAway!

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

During my two nights in Kraków, I stayed at Amber Boutique Hotels, which is located in the Old Town historic district and only a 5-minute walk away from Rynek Glowny where the city’s Christmas market takes place. It also isn’t far from Wawel Castle and Cathedral as well as the infamous Jewish Quarter.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

I stayed in the Single Room (which is fit for a solo traveler like myself or a couple). It featured a double bed, ensuite bathroom, high-speed WiFi, coffee/tea set, flat screen television, mini-fridge, a phone, safe, heating and air conditioning, desk, hair dryer and more. In the morning, Amber Boutique Hotels offered a complimentary breakfast that included fresh breads with fruity jams, cold cuts, fruit, cereal, vegetables and some small baked goods. It also included coffee, tea, juice and more.

Top Things to do in Kraków During Christmastime:

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Enjoy the Christmas Markets:

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Kraków’s Christmas markets are nothing short of magical between late November through early January. Located in Rynek Glowny within Kraków’s Old Town, the Christmas market takes place next to the Renaissance Cloth Hall and the beautiful St. Mary’s Basilica. Rynek Glowny dates back to the 13th Century and offers a stunning location for the Christmas markets. There are decorations everywhere, wooden stalls dominate the square and the entire atmosphere smells like mulled wine and pierogis that are fresh out of the oven.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Traditionally, Kraków’s Christmas market was set up so that locals could buy their Christmas trees, decorations and ingredients for the 12 dishes that are served on Christmas Eve. Nowadays, you could find local crafts, jewelry, clothing, home décor, pottery, Christmas decorations and more! (They also sell bundles of mistletoe, which is used for good luck, or if you’re from the Western World, it encourages people who are in love to kiss.)

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

When it comes to food, you will definitely not have a tough time finding some delicious goodies at the Kraków Christmas market! Since Kraków was the first city on my Christmas market adventure, of course I headed straight there upon arrival. Because it was early December, the sun had already gone down, so I was able to see everything lit up. The first place I headed to at the markets was the pierogi stand. I absolutely LOVE these delicious dumplings and finally being able to savor real Polish pierogis definitely felt like Christmas Day. I enjoyed sauerkraut (cabbage) and mushroom pierogis as well as chicken, zucchini and pesto pierogis. They were amazing! In addition, I had the Polish version of mulled wine with it all (called Grzaniec Galicyjski).

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Afterwards for dessert, I had a delicious chimney cake with chocolate sprinkles. Chimney cakes, or otherwise known as Kürtoskalács (in Polish or Hungarian) is the official dessert of Transylvania, but they are also popular in Central or Eastern Europe. It is a sweet bread that is freshly baked into a cylinder shape with a hollow center that resembles a chimney. You pull it apart to eat it. The traditional chimney cake is covered in cinnamon, but you could get it with different sugary toppings such as sprinkles, nuts, cocoa or fruity powder and other crunchy toppings. They could even be filled with Nutella, white or dark chocolate, caramel, fruity jams, ice cream and more. It is absolutely delicious and heartwarming and you cannot visit a Central or Eastern European Christmas market without trying one!

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Besides pierogis, sausages, potatoes and chimney cakes, another delicious Polish delicacy to try at the Christmas markets are smalec, which is a traditional spread made of lard and spices. It is usually served on a piece of bread and is topped with sausage or other meats as well as fried onions and pickled cucumbers. Oscypek is a smoked cheese made from sheep milk by the inhabitants of the Tatra mountains located in the south of Poland. These small pieces of cheese could be purchased at the Christmas market with cranberry jelly. Other polish treats to try are gingerbread cookies, cream fudge, Polish cookies, Christmas-themed candies, Polish jelly donuts, chocolate-covered fruit and just chocolate alone. When it comes to drinks, obviously Grzaniec Galicyjski is the most popular beverage, but hot beer is also a popular staple at the Kraków Christmas market. It is usually a regular Polish beer mixed with sweet syrup in a raspberry, cranberry or ginger flavor. Meads (honey wine) is also popular in this region of the world as well!

Also located in Rynek Glowny is the Kraków Cloth Hall (Sukienniece). Built in the mid-14th Century when Kraków was used as an east-west trading post, the Cloth Hall was a space where locals would trade textiles and fabrics. Later on, wax, spices, leather, silk, lead and salt (from the nearby mines) were later sold there. Nowadays, you could find Christmas stalls in the Cloth Hall and during the summer, Kraków hosts the 19th Century Polish Art Gallery. In addition, there are also cafés and other stands to enjoy within the 700-year old shopping mall. It is absolutely beautiful too!

Savor Authentic Polish Food:

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Besides all of the amazing treats at the Kraków Christmas market, there are also a plethora of amazing eateries in and around the city. Even though I wasn’t in Kraków long enough to enjoy a lot of local restaurants, the couple that I did go to were authentic and didn’t disappoint.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Marchewka z Groszkiem: Prior to my visit in Kraków, I knew that I wanted to eat at a traditional Polish restaurant. Thanks to The Blonde Abroad, I found a cute and cozy candlelit place located in Kraków’s Jewish Quarter. Since I was traveling through Kraków by myself, I felt very comfortable at this restaurant and ordered potato pancakes with a mushroom gravy along with sauerkraut and mushroom pierogis. I also had a local Polish beer with my dinner and it did not disappoint. I recommend this amazing restaurant and I also love how affordable it was too. During the summer months, they have outdoor seating.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Lajkonik: A lot has changed over the years since communism got booted from Poland and the country eventually joined the European Union. One thing that has remained in a variety of Polish cities are milk bars. Back in the day, milk bars were steamy cafeterias where people could enjoy a glass of milk or a milk-based meal for cheap. Experiencing an ex-Socialist milk bar in Kraków is definitely something you need to experience when you visit. During my time in Kraków, I went to Lajkonik in the Jewish Quarter (there are a few locations throughout the city). I enjoyed a creamy caramel treat and it melted in my mouth!

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Other great places to check out are Restauracja Wesele and Wierzynek Restaurant. They are both recommended by my friend Magdalena of Fly Like a Wasp. She is originally from Kraków, but is currently living in Abu-Dhabi.

Participate in a Historical City Tour:

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Kraków is one of the oldest cities in Poland, where archaeological evidence date back to 50,000 BC. Legend has it that Kraków had a dragon too! It was also home of the Wiślanie tribe who occupied Małopolska (Little Poland) until the 10th Century. The city rapidly became a trade center after that. When King Władysław I reunited Poland, he made Kraków the capital, where the kings of Poland were traditionally crowned in Wawel Castle and entombed in Wawel Cathedral.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

In the 17th Century, Kraków began to decline. The capital was moved to Warsaw and the city became economically impoverished after the devastating Swedish wars. For a couple centuries, Kraków was controlled by Austria. In 1918, Kraków was finally returned to Poland and then was quickly taken over by the Germans at the beginning of World War II. The German government made their headquarters in Wawel Castle, executed the teaching staff at Jagiellonian University and sent over 55,000 Jews to Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. In 1945, Kraków was liberated by Soviet forces. After World War II, Russian forces supported the Polish government as they rebuilt Kraków’s industry. Nowadays, Kraków is a thriving city that attracts visitors from all over the world. What is great about Kraków is that it mixes modern with historical Poland.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

There are a variety of city tours that you could participate in Kraków to learn more about its history. Click here to discover more!

Walk through the Cathedral:

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

One of the top things to do during a trip to Kraków is visit Wawel Hill where Wawel Castle and Cathedral are situated. A piece of advice I would like to give everyone is to visit Wawel Hill earlier in the day. It takes a while to walk through both the cathedral and castle and they do close earlier in the winter, so you want to make sure you have enough time to see it all. (Plus tickets available daily are limited, especially during advent season.)

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Wawel Cathedral is a Roman Catholic church. For more than 900 years, Wawel Cathedral has been the Polish national sanctuary and traditionally has served as the coronation site of the country’s monarchs. The style of the cathedral features Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture and it is absolutely beautiful!

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

An important thing to note is that you unfortunately cannot take photos in Wawel Cathedral, unless you walk up to the tower bell and want to capture the views of the city. When you walk in, you could grab an audio set and there will be signs that lead you throughout the cathedral. You could see The Royal Sigismund Bell, Sigismund Bell-Ringers, Sigismund Tower, Silver Bells Tower and The Clock Tower. What is interesting about visiting this cathedral is that you could see the crypts and burial grounds of Polish kings and saints as well as national poets, princes and princesses plus more.

Admire the Castle:

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Wawel Castle is a breathtaking royal complex, which is also located on Wawel Hill. Poland’s rulers started their residency in an early Romanesque stone building during the 11th Century, called the palatium, whose remains are located in the northern wing of the present-day castle. Throughout the years, the royal residence on Wawel Hill expanded with the cathedral to comprise the Upper Castle, while the Lower Castle held the houses of the courtiers and clergy.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Throughout the centuries, more was added to the castle until the fire of 1499 destroyed it. In the early 16th Century, King Alexander I commissioned a German architect and Italian sculptor to rebuild the castle Renaissance style. The castle you see today, is the same Renaissance palace. It has a beautiful courtyard, a gorgeous interior and beautiful views of Kraków.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Wander through the Jewish Quarter:

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Another top thing to do during a trip to Kraków is wander through the Jewish Quarter, called Kazimierz. Jews started to settle in Kraków in the 12th Century. Prior to World War II, around 64,000 Jews lived in Kraków. In 1939, they were displaced from the city and then in 1941, they were removed from their homes and relocated to a ghetto where many starved and were killed. The ones who survived were sent to Auschwitz. After the war, only 10 percent of Cracovian Jews survived with the help of Oskar Schindler, but most of them did not return to Poland.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Kazimierz is the perfect area in Kraków to wander and get lost in. Some great places to check out is The Old Synagogue, Jewish Galicia Museum, Museum of Municipal Engineering and Ghetto Heroes Square. Kazimierz is also the location Kraków’s infamous party scene. You could also find amazing bars, restaurants, cafés, food trucks and stands plus more.

Tour the Oskar Schindler Factory:

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

If you have the time, definitely visit the Oskar Schindler Factory. Oskar Schindler was a German industrialist and a member of the Nazi Party who saved the lives of 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his enamelware and ammunitions factories in Poland, Bohemia and Moravia.

At the Oskar Schindler Factory, you could see exhibitions that presents the tragedy of World War II. You could also walk through the recreated hairdresser’s salon, stereoscopic studio, typical Kraków basement apartment and also see photographs, objects, newspapers and other documents from the time.

See St. Mary’s Basilica:

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Located in Rynek Glowny is the stunning brick Gothic church of St. Mary’s Basilica. Built in the 14th Century, the church serves as one of the best examples of Polish Gothic architecture and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In fact, you could see the beauty of this church from the Kraków Christmas market.  

Visit the Wieliczka Salt Mine:

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

A cool site to visit if you make your way to Kraków is the salt mine, which is located a little south of the city. From Neolithic times up until 2007, table salt was produced at Wieliczka and was considered the oldest operating salt mine.

The salt mine reaches a depth of 327 meters (1073 feet) and extends through horizontal passages and chambers for over 287 kilometers (178 miles). The Wieliczka Salt Mine is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Do a Half Day Trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau:

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Prior to my trip to Kraków, I knew that I had to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau. One thing to note about visiting the former German Nazi concentration and extermination camp is that it attracts millions of visitors worldwide, so it is best to get your tickets in advance. What is great about doing an organized tour is that you are provided with transportation to and from Auschwitz. We were picked up by a bus in the heart of Kraków and returned at the same spot. Plus, you don’t have to wait on long lines and you get assigned a specific tour guide. Click here to book your tour to Auschwitz-Birkenau today.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Auschwitz-Birkenau is a very dark and sad place and it is asked that all visitors to the museum behave with solemnity and respect. You should dress reserved, not take any photos of yourself and switch your mobile device to silent. In addition, you are not allowed to bring a large bag or backpack into Auschwitz. You could bring a smaller purse and cameras are welcomed, but flash cannot be used in certain areas of the museum. There is also an area that is closed off for photos all together, but your guide will let you know when you can and cannot take pictures. All visitors will also need to go through security before they enter Auschwitz.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Getting to Auschwitz is around an hour and 15-minute drive west from Kraków. It is located in Oświęcim, Poland, which is a suburban area in the country. Oświęcim became Auschwitz after the Nazis took over and the neighboring town of Brzezinka became Birkenau. The Polish civilian population in these towns were evicted by German Nazis and their houses were demolished. The remains helped built some of the buildings at the camp.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Overall, Auschwitz is a symbol of terror, genocide and the Holocaust. It was the largest extermination center of European Jews. Originally, Auschwitz was established due to the mass arrests of Poles. Local prisons had an overcapacity of inmates, so in June of 1940, the first transport of Polish prisoners arrived in Auschwitz. In 1942, a large population of Jews arrived at Auschwitz, so the camp was divided. Auschwitz I, which is the main camp, held around 15,000 to 20,000 prisoners and Auschwitz II, also known as Birkenau, held over 90,000 inmates.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

The entire concentration camp was closed off to the outside world through barbed wire fencing. At the beginning of the 1920s, the Nazi Party in Germany came to rise through public dissatisfaction with the outcome of World War I. Unemployment was extremely high and there was severe poverty in Germany. Adolf Hitler was the leader of the Nazi Party and he hated Jews and blamed them for the problems that were going on in Germany.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Besides Jews and Polish political prisoners, other inmates at Auschwitz were Sinti and Roma Gypsies, Soviet POWs, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Czechs, Byelorussians, German and French political prisoners, Russians, Yugoslavian political prisoners and Ukrainian political prisoners. There was also a small percentage of Albanians, Belgians, Danish, Dutch, Greeks, Hungarians, Italians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Luxembourgers, Norwegians, Romanians, Slovaks, Spanish and Swiss. There was also one person from the countries of Argentina, China, Bulgaria and Estonia.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

The conditions in the camp were atrocious. Prisoners were only allowed to use the bathrooms twice a day. They were given spoiled food and limited water. Due to the limited bathroom usage and spoiled food, prisoners were getting extremely sick and had zero privacy to do their business. This led to contagious diseases and people died very quickly. The barracks that prisoners lived in were frequently damp and were filled with lice and rats.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

If prisoners weren’t obeying the rules, doing unsatisfactory work, smoking, relieving oneself at the improper time, wearing non-regulation clothing or attempting to commit suicide, it resulted in either punishment, torture or execution. Prisoners were also used for medical experimentations in the most disturbing way. Most died or were left with deadly infections and diseases. In addition, if the Nazis felt that someone couldn’t work, they were quickly sent to the crematoriums (or otherwise known as the gas chambers). For some, such as the elderly and sick, pregnant women and young children, they never were given a chance and went straight to the gas chambers from the cattle wagons they came in from.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

January 27, 1945 was the Day of Liberation for Auschwitz-Birkenau prisoners by Soviet forces. In total, 1.3 million people were deported to Auschwitz between 1940 and 1945. Of that 1.3 million, 1.1 million of them were murdered.

Overall, my half day trip to Auschwitz was a very surreal, sad and educational experience. As you walk through the barracks of Auschwitz and see how the prisoners lived; when you hear about how many of them died and in the worst ways possible; when you walk through the museum and see the old suitcases and mounds of hair that was shaved off women’s heads and when you take that walk in Birkenau where people were lead to the crematoriums, you think a lot to yourself… How anyone could treat other humans so evil and cruelly the way the Nazis did during the Holocaust is very hard to wrap your head around. If you travel to Kraków, you definitely should not miss out on visiting Auschwitz. My personal experience at Auschwitz-Birkenau will be something I remember for the remainder of my life. (If you are someone who is interested in World War II history, I also recommend visiting the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam as well as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial in Japan.)


Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

I hope you all enjoyed reading about my time in Kraków. If you have any questions, please email me at [email protected]

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Basic Facts of Poland:

Currency: Polish Złoty, Capital: Warsaw

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12 Comments

  1. Kimberly Deer on December 17, 2019 at 8:53 pm

    Another excellent and very educational blog ~ enjoyed seeing the beautiful Christmas markets, cathedrals, and awesome food. Your description of Auschwitz was an eye opener for me. We grew up reading about the Jews and the concentration camps but your blog writings on this made it so surreal.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences with us ~ Love you, Mom xoxo

    • Taylor Deer on December 17, 2019 at 9:07 pm

      Thank you mom! Love you too! <3

  2. Courtney on December 17, 2019 at 11:18 pm

    The food looks so delicious

    • Taylor Deer on December 18, 2019 at 8:51 am

      It was absolutely amazing! The best pierogis ever! 🙂

  3. Theresa Deaver on December 18, 2019 at 8:49 am

    that was amazing especially because I am half polish .to see Poland through ur eyes was wonderful! the markets were amazing and ur info on the concentration camps seemed like i was there seeing it! Thank u for showing us ur trips its like we r with u seeing the same things!Keep up the good work!

    • Taylor Deer on December 18, 2019 at 8:53 am

      Thank you so much Terry! Krakow was absolutely beautiful and I hope to go back to Poland in the future to see more cities. 🙂

  4. Elena Pappalardo on December 18, 2019 at 9:14 am

    What a great guide; Krakow looks so beautiful! I am definitely using this as inspiration for my Christmas market trip. All of your information on Auschwitz really struck a chord with me and I would be interested in visiting for myself.

    • Taylor Deer on December 18, 2019 at 12:07 pm

      Thank you Elena! You would love Krakow! Also yes, Auschwitz is definitely an eye opening and educational experience.

  5. Jen on December 18, 2019 at 1:52 pm

    Such a detailed and insightful guide! I’m really interested in visiting Krakow and Auschwitz is somewhere we all need to see to make sure something like that never happens again. It must be heartbreaking but important and educational.

    • Taylor Deer on December 18, 2019 at 2:13 pm

      Thank you so much Jen! I totally agree about visiting Auschwitz.

  6. Dominik on December 23, 2019 at 4:09 pm

    Krakow looks like an amazing time. Living in Canada this year I definitely miss the European Christmas markets! This one in Krakow looks stunning and it looks like you had the city to yourself at times! 🙂 Or else you’re a great photographer! 😉 I’m looking forward to using the guide and checking out Krakow when we move back to Europe this summer!

    • Taylor Deer on December 26, 2019 at 9:22 am

      It seriously was such a beautiful city! I definitely want to see more of Poland in the future. 🙂 Also thank you on the photography skills haha, I tried to crop as many people out.

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Krakow-Christmas5

Christmas Market Tour 2019

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Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Kraków (also spelled Cracow) is a beautiful city located in the south of Poland. This stunning medieval city features a castle, 14th Century Gothic Cathedral, beautiful buildings, amazing restaurants and a magnificent market square where a fascinating Christmas market is set up annually.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Every year, I enjoy doing a Christmas trip during the month of December. I started this tradition in December 2017 when I went to Lapland, Finland with Crawford Concierge by SitInMySeats. In 2018, I visited Munich/Bavaria, Germany; Salzburg and Hallstatt, Austria; Budapest, Hungary; Bratislava, Slovakia and Vienna, Austria. During December 2019, I started my Christmas trip in Kraków, Poland and then made my way to Prague and Česky Krumlov, Czechia; Nuremberg and Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany along with Frankfurt and Cologne, Germany.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Kraków is an amazing city to visit during Christmastime and I am excited to show you everything I did during my two days there. It was my first time ever visiting the country of Poland and personally, I wish I would’ve spent at least 3 days in Kraków because I definitely feel like I didn’t get enough time there. I also would love to see more cities in Poland, so it gives me a reason to go back soon. Below are the top things I did during my time in Kraków, Poland.

**Please note that this blog post uses affiliate links meaning that if you make a purchase via my affiliate link, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. I only promote and talk about products and services that I have used and like.


Getting to and Around Kraków:

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Getting to Kraków, Poland required a flight from JFK in New York City to John Paul II Kraków-Balice International Airport with a layover in Oslo, Norway. I found affordable one-way flight deals through Skyscanner, which I ALWAYS use! (I had to book one-way flights since I flew from JFK to Kraków, Poland and then went home from Düsseldorf, Germany to Newark Airport in NJ.)

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

During my time in Kraków, I was able to walk everywhere since my hotel was centrally located in the city. What is nice about the city of Kraków is that Uber is everywhere! There are also taxis as well, but I obviously prefer to use Uber when I am getting from one place to the next.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

If you are traveling around Poland or just looking to do a road trip through Eastern or Central Europe, I highly recommend renting a car. You will need to get an international driver’s license though!

Where to Stay in Kraków:

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Throughout the city of Kraków are plenty of hotels and accommodations to suit all budgets. In addition, you could also stay in a hostel, Airbnb or HomeAway!

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

During my two nights in Kraków, I stayed at Amber Boutique Hotels, which is located in the Old Town historic district and only a 5-minute walk away from Rynek Glowny where the city’s Christmas market takes place. It also isn’t far from Wawel Castle and Cathedral as well as the infamous Jewish Quarter.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

I stayed in the Single Room (which is fit for a solo traveler like myself or a couple). It featured a double bed, ensuite bathroom, high-speed WiFi, coffee/tea set, flat screen television, mini-fridge, a phone, safe, heating and air conditioning, desk, hair dryer and more. In the morning, Amber Boutique Hotels offered a complimentary breakfast that included fresh breads with fruity jams, cold cuts, fruit, cereal, vegetables and some small baked goods. It also included coffee, tea, juice and more.

Top Things to do in Kraków During Christmastime:

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Enjoy the Christmas Markets:

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Kraków’s Christmas markets are nothing short of magical between late November through early January. Located in Rynek Glowny within Kraków’s Old Town, the Christmas market takes place next to the Renaissance Cloth Hall and the beautiful St. Mary’s Basilica. Rynek Glowny dates back to the 13th Century and offers a stunning location for the Christmas markets. There are decorations everywhere, wooden stalls dominate the square and the entire atmosphere smells like mulled wine and pierogis that are fresh out of the oven.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Traditionally, Kraków’s Christmas market was set up so that locals could buy their Christmas trees, decorations and ingredients for the 12 dishes that are served on Christmas Eve. Nowadays, you could find local crafts, jewelry, clothing, home décor, pottery, Christmas decorations and more! (They also sell bundles of mistletoe, which is used for good luck, or if you’re from the Western World, it encourages people who are in love to kiss.)

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

When it comes to food, you will definitely not have a tough time finding some delicious goodies at the Kraków Christmas market! Since Kraków was the first city on my Christmas market adventure, of course I headed straight there upon arrival. Because it was early December, the sun had already gone down, so I was able to see everything lit up. The first place I headed to at the markets was the pierogi stand. I absolutely LOVE these delicious dumplings and finally being able to savor real Polish pierogis definitely felt like Christmas Day. I enjoyed sauerkraut (cabbage) and mushroom pierogis as well as chicken, zucchini and pesto pierogis. They were amazing! In addition, I had the Polish version of mulled wine with it all (called Grzaniec Galicyjski).

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Afterwards for dessert, I had a delicious chimney cake with chocolate sprinkles. Chimney cakes, or otherwise known as Kürtoskalács (in Polish or Hungarian) is the official dessert of Transylvania, but they are also popular in Central or Eastern Europe. It is a sweet bread that is freshly baked into a cylinder shape with a hollow center that resembles a chimney. You pull it apart to eat it. The traditional chimney cake is covered in cinnamon, but you could get it with different sugary toppings such as sprinkles, nuts, cocoa or fruity powder and other crunchy toppings. They could even be filled with Nutella, white or dark chocolate, caramel, fruity jams, ice cream and more. It is absolutely delicious and heartwarming and you cannot visit a Central or Eastern European Christmas market without trying one!

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Besides pierogis, sausages, potatoes and chimney cakes, another delicious Polish delicacy to try at the Christmas markets are smalec, which is a traditional spread made of lard and spices. It is usually served on a piece of bread and is topped with sausage or other meats as well as fried onions and pickled cucumbers. Oscypek is a smoked cheese made from sheep milk by the inhabitants of the Tatra mountains located in the south of Poland. These small pieces of cheese could be purchased at the Christmas market with cranberry jelly. Other polish treats to try are gingerbread cookies, cream fudge, Polish cookies, Christmas-themed candies, Polish jelly donuts, chocolate-covered fruit and just chocolate alone. When it comes to drinks, obviously Grzaniec Galicyjski is the most popular beverage, but hot beer is also a popular staple at the Kraków Christmas market. It is usually a regular Polish beer mixed with sweet syrup in a raspberry, cranberry or ginger flavor. Meads (honey wine) is also popular in this region of the world as well!

Also located in Rynek Glowny is the Kraków Cloth Hall (Sukienniece). Built in the mid-14th Century when Kraków was used as an east-west trading post, the Cloth Hall was a space where locals would trade textiles and fabrics. Later on, wax, spices, leather, silk, lead and salt (from the nearby mines) were later sold there. Nowadays, you could find Christmas stalls in the Cloth Hall and during the summer, Kraków hosts the 19th Century Polish Art Gallery. In addition, there are also cafés and other stands to enjoy within the 700-year old shopping mall. It is absolutely beautiful too!

Savor Authentic Polish Food:

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Besides all of the amazing treats at the Kraków Christmas market, there are also a plethora of amazing eateries in and around the city. Even though I wasn’t in Kraków long enough to enjoy a lot of local restaurants, the couple that I did go to were authentic and didn’t disappoint.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Marchewka z Groszkiem: Prior to my visit in Kraków, I knew that I wanted to eat at a traditional Polish restaurant. Thanks to The Blonde Abroad, I found a cute and cozy candlelit place located in Kraków’s Jewish Quarter. Since I was traveling through Kraków by myself, I felt very comfortable at this restaurant and ordered potato pancakes with a mushroom gravy along with sauerkraut and mushroom pierogis. I also had a local Polish beer with my dinner and it did not disappoint. I recommend this amazing restaurant and I also love how affordable it was too. During the summer months, they have outdoor seating.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Lajkonik: A lot has changed over the years since communism got booted from Poland and the country eventually joined the European Union. One thing that has remained in a variety of Polish cities are milk bars. Back in the day, milk bars were steamy cafeterias where people could enjoy a glass of milk or a milk-based meal for cheap. Experiencing an ex-Socialist milk bar in Kraków is definitely something you need to experience when you visit. During my time in Kraków, I went to Lajkonik in the Jewish Quarter (there are a few locations throughout the city). I enjoyed a creamy caramel treat and it melted in my mouth!

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Other great places to check out are Restauracja Wesele and Wierzynek Restaurant. They are both recommended by my friend Magdalena of Fly Like a Wasp. She is originally from Kraków, but is currently living in Abu-Dhabi.

Participate in a Historical City Tour:

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Kraków is one of the oldest cities in Poland, where archaeological evidence date back to 50,000 BC. Legend has it that Kraków had a dragon too! It was also home of the Wiślanie tribe who occupied Małopolska (Little Poland) until the 10th Century. The city rapidly became a trade center after that. When King Władysław I reunited Poland, he made Kraków the capital, where the kings of Poland were traditionally crowned in Wawel Castle and entombed in Wawel Cathedral.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

In the 17th Century, Kraków began to decline. The capital was moved to Warsaw and the city became economically impoverished after the devastating Swedish wars. For a couple centuries, Kraków was controlled by Austria. In 1918, Kraków was finally returned to Poland and then was quickly taken over by the Germans at the beginning of World War II. The German government made their headquarters in Wawel Castle, executed the teaching staff at Jagiellonian University and sent over 55,000 Jews to Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. In 1945, Kraków was liberated by Soviet forces. After World War II, Russian forces supported the Polish government as they rebuilt Kraków’s industry. Nowadays, Kraków is a thriving city that attracts visitors from all over the world. What is great about Kraków is that it mixes modern with historical Poland.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

There are a variety of city tours that you could participate in Kraków to learn more about its history. Click here to discover more!

Walk through the Cathedral:

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

One of the top things to do during a trip to Kraków is visit Wawel Hill where Wawel Castle and Cathedral are situated. A piece of advice I would like to give everyone is to visit Wawel Hill earlier in the day. It takes a while to walk through both the cathedral and castle and they do close earlier in the winter, so you want to make sure you have enough time to see it all. (Plus tickets available daily are limited, especially during advent season.)

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Wawel Cathedral is a Roman Catholic church. For more than 900 years, Wawel Cathedral has been the Polish national sanctuary and traditionally has served as the coronation site of the country’s monarchs. The style of the cathedral features Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture and it is absolutely beautiful!

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

An important thing to note is that you unfortunately cannot take photos in Wawel Cathedral, unless you walk up to the tower bell and want to capture the views of the city. When you walk in, you could grab an audio set and there will be signs that lead you throughout the cathedral. You could see The Royal Sigismund Bell, Sigismund Bell-Ringers, Sigismund Tower, Silver Bells Tower and The Clock Tower. What is interesting about visiting this cathedral is that you could see the crypts and burial grounds of Polish kings and saints as well as national poets, princes and princesses plus more.

Admire the Castle:

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Wawel Castle is a breathtaking royal complex, which is also located on Wawel Hill. Poland’s rulers started their residency in an early Romanesque stone building during the 11th Century, called the palatium, whose remains are located in the northern wing of the present-day castle. Throughout the years, the royal residence on Wawel Hill expanded with the cathedral to comprise the Upper Castle, while the Lower Castle held the houses of the courtiers and clergy.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Throughout the centuries, more was added to the castle until the fire of 1499 destroyed it. In the early 16th Century, King Alexander I commissioned a German architect and Italian sculptor to rebuild the castle Renaissance style. The castle you see today, is the same Renaissance palace. It has a beautiful courtyard, a gorgeous interior and beautiful views of Kraków.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Wander through the Jewish Quarter:

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Another top thing to do during a trip to Kraków is wander through the Jewish Quarter, called Kazimierz. Jews started to settle in Kraków in the 12th Century. Prior to World War II, around 64,000 Jews lived in Kraków. In 1939, they were displaced from the city and then in 1941, they were removed from their homes and relocated to a ghetto where many starved and were killed. The ones who survived were sent to Auschwitz. After the war, only 10 percent of Cracovian Jews survived with the help of Oskar Schindler, but most of them did not return to Poland.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Kazimierz is the perfect area in Kraków to wander and get lost in. Some great places to check out is The Old Synagogue, Jewish Galicia Museum, Museum of Municipal Engineering and Ghetto Heroes Square. Kazimierz is also the location Kraków’s infamous party scene. You could also find amazing bars, restaurants, cafés, food trucks and stands plus more.

Tour the Oskar Schindler Factory:

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

If you have the time, definitely visit the Oskar Schindler Factory. Oskar Schindler was a German industrialist and a member of the Nazi Party who saved the lives of 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his enamelware and ammunitions factories in Poland, Bohemia and Moravia.

At the Oskar Schindler Factory, you could see exhibitions that presents the tragedy of World War II. You could also walk through the recreated hairdresser’s salon, stereoscopic studio, typical Kraków basement apartment and also see photographs, objects, newspapers and other documents from the time.

See St. Mary’s Basilica:

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Located in Rynek Glowny is the stunning brick Gothic church of St. Mary’s Basilica. Built in the 14th Century, the church serves as one of the best examples of Polish Gothic architecture and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In fact, you could see the beauty of this church from the Kraków Christmas market.  

Visit the Wieliczka Salt Mine:

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

A cool site to visit if you make your way to Kraków is the salt mine, which is located a little south of the city. From Neolithic times up until 2007, table salt was produced at Wieliczka and was considered the oldest operating salt mine.

The salt mine reaches a depth of 327 meters (1073 feet) and extends through horizontal passages and chambers for over 287 kilometers (178 miles). The Wieliczka Salt Mine is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Do a Half Day Trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau:

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Prior to my trip to Kraków, I knew that I had to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau. One thing to note about visiting the former German Nazi concentration and extermination camp is that it attracts millions of visitors worldwide, so it is best to get your tickets in advance. What is great about doing an organized tour is that you are provided with transportation to and from Auschwitz. We were picked up by a bus in the heart of Kraków and returned at the same spot. Plus, you don’t have to wait on long lines and you get assigned a specific tour guide. Click here to book your tour to Auschwitz-Birkenau today.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Auschwitz-Birkenau is a very dark and sad place and it is asked that all visitors to the museum behave with solemnity and respect. You should dress reserved, not take any photos of yourself and switch your mobile device to silent. In addition, you are not allowed to bring a large bag or backpack into Auschwitz. You could bring a smaller purse and cameras are welcomed, but flash cannot be used in certain areas of the museum. There is also an area that is closed off for photos all together, but your guide will let you know when you can and cannot take pictures. All visitors will also need to go through security before they enter Auschwitz.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Getting to Auschwitz is around an hour and 15-minute drive west from Kraków. It is located in Oświęcim, Poland, which is a suburban area in the country. Oświęcim became Auschwitz after the Nazis took over and the neighboring town of Brzezinka became Birkenau. The Polish civilian population in these towns were evicted by German Nazis and their houses were demolished. The remains helped built some of the buildings at the camp.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Overall, Auschwitz is a symbol of terror, genocide and the Holocaust. It was the largest extermination center of European Jews. Originally, Auschwitz was established due to the mass arrests of Poles. Local prisons had an overcapacity of inmates, so in June of 1940, the first transport of Polish prisoners arrived in Auschwitz. In 1942, a large population of Jews arrived at Auschwitz, so the camp was divided. Auschwitz I, which is the main camp, held around 15,000 to 20,000 prisoners and Auschwitz II, also known as Birkenau, held over 90,000 inmates.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

The entire concentration camp was closed off to the outside world through barbed wire fencing. At the beginning of the 1920s, the Nazi Party in Germany came to rise through public dissatisfaction with the outcome of World War I. Unemployment was extremely high and there was severe poverty in Germany. Adolf Hitler was the leader of the Nazi Party and he hated Jews and blamed them for the problems that were going on in Germany.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Besides Jews and Polish political prisoners, other inmates at Auschwitz were Sinti and Roma Gypsies, Soviet POWs, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Czechs, Byelorussians, German and French political prisoners, Russians, Yugoslavian political prisoners and Ukrainian political prisoners. There was also a small percentage of Albanians, Belgians, Danish, Dutch, Greeks, Hungarians, Italians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Luxembourgers, Norwegians, Romanians, Slovaks, Spanish and Swiss. There was also one person from the countries of Argentina, China, Bulgaria and Estonia.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

The conditions in the camp were atrocious. Prisoners were only allowed to use the bathrooms twice a day. They were given spoiled food and limited water. Due to the limited bathroom usage and spoiled food, prisoners were getting extremely sick and had zero privacy to do their business. This led to contagious diseases and people died very quickly. The barracks that prisoners lived in were frequently damp and were filled with lice and rats.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

If prisoners weren’t obeying the rules, doing unsatisfactory work, smoking, relieving oneself at the improper time, wearing non-regulation clothing or attempting to commit suicide, it resulted in either punishment, torture or execution. Prisoners were also used for medical experimentations in the most disturbing way. Most died or were left with deadly infections and diseases. In addition, if the Nazis felt that someone couldn’t work, they were quickly sent to the crematoriums (or otherwise known as the gas chambers). For some, such as the elderly and sick, pregnant women and young children, they never were given a chance and went straight to the gas chambers from the cattle wagons they came in from.

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

January 27, 1945 was the Day of Liberation for Auschwitz-Birkenau prisoners by Soviet forces. In total, 1.3 million people were deported to Auschwitz between 1940 and 1945. Of that 1.3 million, 1.1 million of them were murdered.

Overall, my half day trip to Auschwitz was a very surreal, sad and educational experience. As you walk through the barracks of Auschwitz and see how the prisoners lived; when you hear about how many of them died and in the worst ways possible; when you walk through the museum and see the old suitcases and mounds of hair that was shaved off women’s heads and when you take that walk in Birkenau where people were lead to the crematoriums, you think a lot to yourself… How anyone could treat other humans so evil and cruelly the way the Nazis did during the Holocaust is very hard to wrap your head around. If you travel to Kraków, you definitely should not miss out on visiting Auschwitz. My personal experience at Auschwitz-Birkenau will be something I remember for the remainder of my life. (If you are someone who is interested in World War II history, I also recommend visiting the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam as well as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial in Japan.)


Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

I hope you all enjoyed reading about my time in Kraków. If you have any questions, please email me at [email protected]

Christmastime in Kraków, Poland. Discover all of the top experiences in and around the city of Kraków.

Basic Facts of Poland:

Currency: Polish Złoty, Capital: Warsaw

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12 Comments

  1. Kimberly Deer on December 17, 2019 at 8:53 pm

    Another excellent and very educational blog ~ enjoyed seeing the beautiful Christmas markets, cathedrals, and awesome food. Your description of Auschwitz was an eye opener for me. We grew up reading about the Jews and the concentration camps but your blog writings on this made it so surreal.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences with us ~ Love you, Mom xoxo

    • Taylor Deer on December 17, 2019 at 9:07 pm

      Thank you mom! Love you too! <3

  2. Courtney on December 17, 2019 at 11:18 pm

    The food looks so delicious

    • Taylor Deer on December 18, 2019 at 8:51 am

      It was absolutely amazing! The best pierogis ever! 🙂

  3. Theresa Deaver on December 18, 2019 at 8:49 am

    that was amazing especially because I am half polish .to see Poland through ur eyes was wonderful! the markets were amazing and ur info on the concentration camps seemed like i was there seeing it! Thank u for showing us ur trips its like we r with u seeing the same things!Keep up the good work!

    • Taylor Deer on December 18, 2019 at 8:53 am

      Thank you so much Terry! Krakow was absolutely beautiful and I hope to go back to Poland in the future to see more cities. 🙂

  4. Elena Pappalardo on December 18, 2019 at 9:14 am

    What a great guide; Krakow looks so beautiful! I am definitely using this as inspiration for my Christmas market trip. All of your information on Auschwitz really struck a chord with me and I would be interested in visiting for myself.

    • Taylor Deer on December 18, 2019 at 12:07 pm

      Thank you Elena! You would love Krakow! Also yes, Auschwitz is definitely an eye opening and educational experience.

  5. Jen on December 18, 2019 at 1:52 pm

    Such a detailed and insightful guide! I’m really interested in visiting Krakow and Auschwitz is somewhere we all need to see to make sure something like that never happens again. It must be heartbreaking but important and educational.

    • Taylor Deer on December 18, 2019 at 2:13 pm

      Thank you so much Jen! I totally agree about visiting Auschwitz.

  6. Dominik on December 23, 2019 at 4:09 pm

    Krakow looks like an amazing time. Living in Canada this year I definitely miss the European Christmas markets! This one in Krakow looks stunning and it looks like you had the city to yourself at times! 🙂 Or else you’re a great photographer! 😉 I’m looking forward to using the guide and checking out Krakow when we move back to Europe this summer!

    • Taylor Deer on December 26, 2019 at 9:22 am

      It seriously was such a beautiful city! I definitely want to see more of Poland in the future. 🙂 Also thank you on the photography skills haha, I tried to crop as many people out.

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