Discover Krakow with Your Teens
by Candyce H. Stapen
Want to figure out where to go in Europe with your teens? Choose Krakow and they will be impressed by your travel savoir fare. Not only is Krakow less “obvious” a pick than Paris or London, but Krakow is less costly. Yet the city still offers history, a castle, cafes and trendy shops, all must-haves for European tours with hard-to-please teens.
In and around the city are three UNESCO World Heritage sites. One is Krakow’s Old Town, crowned by the massive and turreted Wawel Castle, dating to 1499. The market square, reputed to be the largest in Europe, is edged by cafes and bisected by the medieval Cloth Hall, where vendors sell souvenirs, including rings and necklaces made from “Polish gold”—amber from the Baltic Sea.
Go local and enjoy cheap eats by eating goulash, bigos (hunter’s stew) and pirogues (dumplings). To see something different, go underground in the 700-year-old Salt Mine, just outside of the city, and another UNESCO site. Tunnels lead you through chambers and to chapels, some as large as ballrooms, and all carved out of salt.
In Kazimierz, the Old Jewish Quarter, 68,000 Jews lived before W.W. II when 65,000 of them were killed. You can tour the restored 1862 Temple and the tiny Remuh Temple, dating to 1553. A very important UNESCO site lies 30 miles from Krakow: Auschwitz and adjacent Birkenau. The true horror stories related by the guides as you tour the barracks, the gas chambers and the crematorium are powerful reminders of what happens when intolerance and bigotry rule. A visit to these concentration camps provides an opportunity to talk with your teens about big issues--man’s inhumanity, moral choices, and also, about the goodness of the people who tried to help the prisoners.
Impress your teens too by staying at the Hotel Copernicus, a Relais & Chateau property. The hotel combines creature comforts with history and a good location in the heart of heart of Old Town. The hotel is named for Nicolaus Copernicus, the astronomer, who slept in the property during visits to Krakow in the 1500s when the building housed cathedral officials. The hotel is near the castle and within an easy walk of Old Town’s square and shops. Swim in the small, but useable indoor lap pool in the medieval cellar or take in the view from the rooftop terrace. Your and your teens will enjoy the hotel; just avoid the rooms that face the inner courtyard as these can be dark and noisy.