What you need to know
Kraków also Cracow or Krakow is the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland. Situated on the Vistula River (Polish: Wisła) in the Lesser Poland region, the city dates back to the 7th century. Kraków has traditionally been one of the leading centres of Polish academic, cultural, and artistic life and is one of Poland’s most important economic hubs. It was the capital of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland from 1038 to 1569; the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth from 1569 to 1795; the Free City of Kraków from 1815 to 1846; the Grand Duchy of Cracow from 1846 to 1918; and Kraków Voivodeship from the 14th century to 1998. It has been the capital of Lesser Poland Voivodeship since 1999.
The city has grown from a Stone Age settlement to Poland’s second most important city. It began as a hamlet on Wawel Hill and was already being reported as a busy trading centre of Slavonic Europe in 965. With the establishment of new universities and cultural venues at the emergence of the Second Polish Republic in 1918 and throughout the 20th century, Kraków reaffirmed its role as a major national academic and artistic centre. The city has a population of approximately 760,000, with approximately 8 million additional people living within a 100 km (62 mi) radius of its main square.
Area: 126.3 mi²
The currency of Poland is the zloty (PLN). The modern złoty is subdivided into 100 groszy, the currency sign, zł, is composed of the Polish lower-case letters z and ł.
Visitors to Poland may be assured of easy access to banks and cash dispensers, particularly in larger towns.
Banks are normally open on working days between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., sometimes even up to 6 p.m. Banks offer money exchange, collection of money transfers or cashing traveller’s cheques.
Poland has a dense network of ATM’s (called bankomat), which are connected to all international networks. There are almost ten thousand ATM’s in the whole of Poland, of which over a thousand are located in Warsaw alone.
Annual Weather Averages. July is the hottest month in Krakow with an average temperature of 19°C (65°F) and the coldest is January at -3°C (28°F) with the most daily sunshine hours at 7 in July. The wettest month is July with an average of 69mm of rain.
The official language of Poland is Polish, although you will find English, German and French spoken to some degree in popular tourist areas. Outside these areas, it is advisable to carry a Polish phrasebook.
Poland is generally safer than most European countries, east or west. And Krakow is safer than other major cities in Poland. Certainly, even without asking for it one may get into trouble when in the wrong place in the wrong time and, above all, with the wrong people. Yet mere common sense plus just elementary precautions should suffice to keep a visitor perfectly safe in Krakow. Unfortunately, petty crime seems quite common in the city. Whereas mugging remains sporadic, pilfering is rampant. Although foreign visitors most often fall victim to pickpockets, it is the less prevalent and declining car theft that appears the worst plague in Poland, Krakow being no exception.
Krakow’s Emergency Numbers.
The emergency phone number for integrated services is 112, the police 997, fire brigade 998, and ambulance 999 – all four are toll-free. Unfortunately, there are little chances that anybody on the other end would speak English. So, if you do not speak Polish, get somebody who does (surprisingly many Krakow natives prove very helpful in need). Police stations do not employ interpreters, but they will bring one from the Krakow headquarters if necessary.
Krakow is covered by an extensive network of public transportation consisting of tram and bus lines, managed mainly by MPK (Miejskie Przedsiębiorstwo Komunikacyjne).However, most locals use jakdojade (this is MPK’s official partner) to find connections as the site also displays routes and stop locations on a map. Rush hours are mostly 07:00-09:00 and 15:00-17:00 and you can spend a lot of time in traffic jams. Night tram and bus lines start with 6 (or 9 when zone) at the beginning of their line number. Night lines have a “hub” at the stops close to the main railway station, where they meet and allow for changes at every full hour from 00:00 (every half hour on weekend nights).
Don’t bother driving in the city centre. There’s often a lot of traffic, parking spaces are scarce and can be expensive, and Polish driving takes a lot of getting used to. There are also rules around local ‘driving zones’ that confuse even long time residents. The taxis are cheap and it makes more sense to use them.
Taxis, reliable and fair play taxi drivers from the airport or for a longer transfer should be booked in advance by the internet. For instance Krakow airport transfer to Krakow costs around 70PLN. During the day, most fares will be around PLN20. All taxis should have a ‘Taxi’ sign on the roof and a sticker on the rear passenger window with prices. There is an initial charge of about PLN5-7, plus PLN2-3 per kilometre. Price list should be shown on the passenger side door.
In 2008, Kraków introduced a reasonably priced system of public municipal bikes. There are 15 stations (mostly around Kraków’s centre) but the network is designed to grow. Nice thing about the system is that you don’t need to return the bike to the same station you took it from – you just grab a bike for a few minutes to transfer from one point to another and drop it at any other station. Before using the bikes you need to register in the system and pay some small initial fee