One of the best parts about living in Europe is that new countries and entirely different cultures are just a short plane ride away. My experience has also been that traveling within Europe is much cheaper than traveling within the U.S.
So, because I had a few extra vacation days to use this summer, I decided to spend an extended weekend in Poland. From what I read online, and what my friends told me, Krakow was the place to go.
Unfortunately, I just happened to be there during a major heat wave, so it was tough to be outside for long periods of time. But, I still managed to see and do a lot.
I stayed in Kazimierz, the Jewish Quarter, which was by far the liveliest part of the city, especially during the evenings. With beautiful street art around every corner, the streets are lined with small shops selling goods from local Polish designers and bars, cafes, and restaurants offering a huge variety of cuisines and dining experiences. Two of my favorites were Kuchnia u Doroty for traditional Polish cuisine at very affordable prices and Hevre Café for signature cocktails and a unique atmosphere with great music.
The second day I was there I decided to take a tour to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration and Extermination Camp complex. While it took a total of 8 hours to get there, do the guided tour and get back to the city, it was totally worth it (and it cost less than 40 euros for the whole thing). I think it’s important for everyone who visits Krakow to make time for this, as it’s such an important part of history for us to learn and continue to relearn, as sad and devastating as this part of history is.
Of course, I dedicated some of my time researching and searching out Polish beauty products around town. In Poland, much like in the U.S., you can buy most of what you need from local drugstores. For higher-end, designer cosmetics you have to go to a department store or shopping mall, but I was there for the Polish products. And let me tell you, there was a lot to choose from!
My favorites were Ziaja (super affordable!), Dermika (I bought the 24k gold beauty serum), and Dr. Irena Eris (this was the most recommended brand by Poles when I did my research). They also had about 100 different masks to choose from at every drugstore, which was perfect for my carry-on luggage.
On my last day I went to check out Forum Przestrzenie, an old renovated hotel that acts as a free space for art exhibitions, fashion shows, culinary events, and the like. They have a restaurant and bar in the old reception of the hotel, where I had a delicious sandwich and Polish cider.
In the end, I don’t think a long weekend was enough time to see everything, and I’d love to spend some time exploring other cities in Poland. Hopefully one day!