It’s not a contest or a competition, but rather a healthy debate in Poland: Krakow vs. Warsaw. If you only have a limited time in Poland (as I did), which city do you choose (if you have to) – Krakow or Warsaw? Warszawa is more modern in appearance (largely re-built after World War 2) with many newer buildings but Kraków is more historical with the Sukiennice and Wawel and a short trip to the salt mines in Wieliczka.
Krakow has a lot going for it with a warm and comfortable vibe. Krakow is compact compared to the much larger urban sprawl of Warsaw. In Krakow, you can take a short walk almost anywhere. From the old Jewish quarter; to the Market Square; to the shadow of Wawel Castle and beyond. There’s a great range of bars, restaurants, and music venues. Food choice includes everything you find throughout Europe including Thai, Italian, French, Russian, Hungarian and, of course, Polish. Kogel Mogel, Szara, Morskie Oko are among the many very good Polish restaurants. Museums to visit include the National Museum (21 branches in Krakow), the gallery of 19th- century Polish art and the Schindler Factory museum on the original premises. There’s also the Wieliczka Salt Mine and a short drive to Auschwitz (see my Auschwitz post- Poland: My Visit to Auschwitz).
The “new” Warsaw is the greenest city in Poland. With over 80% of Warsaw destroyed in World War 2, city planners had a chance to modernize the city. The city gained new squares, parks and monuments. In Warsaw, you can explore the Old Town (reconstructed after the war) and the Royal Route to the baroque Wilanow Palace. Warsaw has several newer museums including the Chopin Museum, Copernicus Science Centre and the Warsaw Rising Museum – all worth a visit. The much anticipated Museum of the History of Polish Jews has been built on the grounds of the Warsaw Ghetto. The city centre is a modern downtown area with glass buildings and a newer subway system. Warsaw is an eclectic mixture of history, culture, a communist past and modern business.
I hate to choose. Do you like red wine or white wine? Black or white? I like both. It depends. Although Warsaw is the capital of Poland, Krakow is probably the country’s favourite city. They are different and for many different reasons. I choose not to choose. The truth is…I’ll go back to both.