Krakow, in southern Poland, offers an affordable alternative to other European capital cities. Teeming with art and architecture, historical artifacts, fine food, and nightlife, Krakow rewards its visitors with a value-packed experience. Tour an authentic castle and its dragon's lair, feast on pierogies and bigos, and visit ancient churches and synagogues, among other countless options in the greater metropolitan area.
Poland is still on the zloty, which is good news for American travelers wary of the euro. At press time, $1 USD gets you 2.80 zloty, which goes a long way in day-to-day expenses such as meals and transportation. Spring airfares from New York City start at $615, and a three-star downtown hotel can be booked from $59 per night. A week's vacation (airfare and accommodations) would cost $1,643 for two people traveling together.
Let's compare a Krakow vacation with a trip to Florence, another major European city known for art, architecture, and culinary delights. Flights from New York to Florence start at $820 in spring, and a three-star downtown hotel starts at $92 per night. Two people taking a week's vacation could expect to pay $2,284 for airfare and accommodations—about $640 more than a comparable Krakow trip.
Then, consider how far the dollar goes in Poland compared to Italy (which is on the euro), and Krakow becomes an even more desirable destination. Meals in Krakow can be had for just a few dollars per day. In 2007, my friend and I often went out for dinner and typically spent in the range of $30 total for a multi-course meal, including drinks and gratuity. Pub food and more modest options can be purchased for even less. Additionally, the Krakow Tourist Card offers transportation and attraction admission on the cheap. Choose a two- or three-day pass for 45 zloty or 65 zloty ($15 or $23), respectively, and get unlimited travel on city buses and trams and free admission at up to 32 Krakow museums. If you didn't already consider Krakow a bargain, the tourist card adds even greater value.