Old Town Walking Tour & Beers in Kraków
For our second morning in Kraków, we went on a free walking tour around Kraków’s Old Town.
Foremost on the day’s agenda, however, was breakfast. Located a short walk from our apartment, on the way in to the Old Town Square, was Nakielny; a cosy, yet modern, cafe. We soon cleared the shelves of chocolate and hazelnut filled croissants and pain au chocolat and ordered fresh orange juice and cappuccinos. It was scrumptious and the ideal start to the day – I particularly enjoyed the pulpy juice!
Dave and I had never been on a walking tour before, but our friends had and they highly recommended it. So, we trusted their judgement and all waited at the base of St. Mary’s Basilica to go on the Old Town Walking Tour with Cracow Free Tours.
Maria, the tour guide, joined us and introduced herself, before diving straight in to spilling facts about the grand basilica that stood before us.
After St. Mary’s Basilica, we headed towards the medieval city walls and Florianska Street. Here we learnt about the ‘Trumpeter of Kraków’.
Every hour, on the hour, a trumpeter plays the Hejnał mariacki – the St. Mary’s Trumpet Call. Originally, the melody was played out in every direction of the tower in order to notify the city of sunrise, sunset and any warnings. Now, it is simply played to uphold tradition. Having not heard the tune until that moment, it was hard to not notice it afterwards! The girls and I also loved that the trumpeter waved afterwards, to show that there was a real person in the tower and not a recording. We thought it was pretty cute!
At the base of the Tower was Eros Bendato, the famous statue of a head, created by Polish artist, Igor Mitoraj. As interesting and almost out of place that it is, Maria warned us not to peep through the eyes or to go inside like others were doing. There were a couple of reasons for this; mainly because it isn’t regularly cleaned. Maria told us that pigeons shelter in it and people have a tendency to be ill inside it too. A couple have even been caught ‘doing the deed’ in there! Our tour guide was definitely full of fun facts!
We left the Old Town’s Square and made our way towards Wawel Hill, stopping at some of the one hundred plus churches located in the city. As well as John Paul II’s – a.k.a. the Pope between 1978 and 2005 – Kraków residence.
Finally, we reached Wawel Castle and learnt more about the royal family’s original residence.
One of Maria’s themes during Old Town walking tour was the legends and stories of Kraków. She would often say “and so the story goes…”, followed by some interesting tale. One in particular was the legend of the Wawel Dragon, who lived under the hill. I won’t ruin it for those who want to take the tour but be warned, the fire-breathing dragon still lurks beneath the castle!
Although the Old Town walking tour was free, tips were welcome and we gave so eagerly. Maria was a brilliant guide and the tour was fascinating. It was great to learn about the history behind the city and find out the secret hot spots.
In the afternoon, Dave and I parted ways from the group for a couple of hours whilst they went on a walking tour of the Jewish Quarter. Dave was recovering from the night before and with my dodgy knee, we thought it was best to spend a couple of hours relaxing in the Old Town.
Locating a bar – Chopin Restaurant – on the edge of the square, we settled under blankets and outdoors heaters to enjoy the view. We both ordered Zywiec beer – a smaller glass for me – accompanied by some cherry flavoured vodka. F.Y.I., the best way to enjoy beer for a non-beer drinker. It was the perfect mix of bitter and sweet!
Vodka is popular in Kraków and it’s easy to see why –especially at the Wodka Bar, but more on that in another post. Dave and I chilled out with our drinks, whilst I nattered on about the horse-drawn carriages lined up outside of St. Mary’s Basilica because I was unsure of how humane it all was.
But after a while of sitting there, we could tell they were in good hands. Their owners treated them gently and didn’t whip them – as far as we could tell. Their hooves looked in good condition, as did their coats and general body mass. And so on. Therefore, Dave and I – mostly me, as he had zoned out by this point – concluded the horses were most likely well-cared for. They looked absolutely gorgeous too.
Moving to where we had lunch the day before, Dave and I waited for our friends to return. Accompanied by a couple more drinks, of course!
Once back together, we booked a table at MooMoo for dinner. Fast forward a couple of hours and we returned for burgers and fajitas, in Craig’s case. Again, the food was tasty and arrived in generous portions – although I forgot to take any photos whilst there!
After food, our group tried to get in to the Wodka bar – which was tiny – and the House of Beers – which was heaving – without success. We opted for ice creams instead and headed back to the apartment for an early night.
We had another cracking day in Kraków – pardon the pun! – and I’d highly recommend doing the free Old Town Walking Tour.