When it came to our hotel and tour guide selection for our recent trip to Kraków, we absolutely hit the jackpot. Both were amazing and very reasonably priced, and I highly recommend them to all of my clients traveling to this wonderful city.
First, let me tell you about the fabulous Hotel Wentzl, which is the only hotel situated right on Rynek Główny (the main market square).
As soon as we arrived at the hotel after a very long day of travel, I knew I was going to love it. The location is absolutely unbeatable, and, if you are lucky enough to get a room facing the Rynek, the view is just magical.
The hotel used to be a private mansion, and the beautiful fresco of the Madonna and Child you can see in the photo above has survived since the 18th century. The reception area of the hotel is small and kind of dreary, but the rest of the hotel was much brighter, spotlessly clean and comfortable. Best of all, the staff was incredible. Everyone always had smiles on their faces, and seemed more than happy to answer questions, make recommendations and make reservations. The day we went to Wawel Hill and did a great deal of walking, my mom had a sore and swollen knee afterward. When we mentioned it to the staff at the front desk, they immediately brought a bag of ice to the room for her.
My mom and I were in room 34 and my aunt was in room 41, which were deluxe doubles. Both looked out on the Rynek, and room 41 had a small balcony. There seemed to be two different decór themes for the rooms, either traditional or modern.
Our room (34) was traditionally decorated. It was large and extremely comfortable (though the mattresses were too firm for my liking). There was a good-sized wardrobe, a desk, and a comfy chair to sit on.
The bathroom was spacious with a good-sized shower. The water pressure was wonderful and we always had plenty of hot water. As seems to be the case with most European hotels, there was very little shelf/counter space in the bathroom, which is challenging for two women traveling together.
The absolute best thing about the room, however, was the view:
As you might suspect, there can be quite a bit of noise from all the goings-on in the square below. However, they do have double windows, which drastically cut down the amount of noise that made its way into the room. If you are a light sleeper (which I am), bring some earplugs. I only needed to use them one night, when there was a rather exuberant group of people partying in the square well into the wee hours of the morning.
There was a Nespresso machine with coffee and hot chocolate in the room and we were supplied with two bottles of water and Wawel chocolates every day. The mini bar was well-stocked and the prices not too bad:
There is a restaurant on the second floor of the hotel where you can get dinner, which we did one night and it was very good. It’s also where the breakfast buffet is served. We didn’t have breakfast included in our room rate and it was quite expensive (60 zloty), so we only ate there once. There was a lot to choose from – fruits, meats, cheeses, breads, cereal, yogurt and even herring. You can also get eggs made to order. To drink, there were several juices as well as a coffee/cappuccino machine.
But as far as breakfasts go, unless you want a buffet every morning, there are plenty of other cafés and restaurants nearby that can feed you for much less. Unless you get breakfast included with your rate, that’s what I would suggest you do.
There is also a smaller café on the main level as well as outdoor seating right on the square – blankets and heaters are provided during the colder weather. We had dessert and coffee there several times and enjoyed both the food and the atmosphere.
A nice perk is that hotel guests receive 11% off their bills at all of the hotel dining areas…just let your server know that you are staying there. Another great perk was the free wi-fi, which always worked without a hitch.
The hotel had a small area where you could use their computer and printer, if needed. They also offered a few bicycles for guests to use at no charge.
Was there anything that I didn’t like about the hotel? Yes…two minor things, which weren’t terrible, but bugged me just the same. I guess I felt like they were unnecessary eyesores (especially in such a nice hotel) and easily remedied.
Our room was located in a little alcove with one other room, and, right outside the alcove was where they kept the cleaning cart. Right inside the alcove – which was lit only by a motion activated light, so was sometimes dark – was where they kept the vacuum cleaner…right out in the open. When I took the picture below, the hose was laying right in the entry to the alcove and could have easily tripped someone if they weren’t paying attention.
Again, these are minor things, but not what I would have expected from an otherwise perfect hotel. And being the only “infractions” I found in our four days spent at the Wentzl, I’d say they could certainly be forgiven (but they should really find a different place to store these things).
Above all, the location of this hotel is what makes it so perfect. We spent a lot of our time in and around the Rynek, and it was wonderful to just be able to pop back into the hotel for a few minutes if needed. Many of the top attractions of Kraków are literally at your doorstep, and countless others are only a short walk away. If I ever return to Kraków, I will absolutely stay here again.
The other treasure we found in Kraków was our driver/tour guide, Chris Blaszczyk. We spent a lot of time with Chris during our time in Poland, beginning from when we first landed in Warsaw, and Chris came to airport to pick us up. We got off the plane and picked up our luggage in record time, but Chris was waiting there for us as we exited the baggage area.
Right from the start, he was welcoming, friendly, funny and very helpful. Due to road construction and traffic, it took us almost five hours to get to Kraków. During the trip, Chris made sure we were comfortable, pointed out things of interest, and gave us a general introduction to Poland. His English is impeccable and he is a very safe driver. But what really brought him to a higher level (at least in my eyes), was that he has three cats that he rescued during his various tours around the city and clearly adores them all. (My apologies for the blurry picture below. It was at the end of a long travel day and I didn’t realize it was blurry until it was too late!)
When we arrived at the hotel, Chris helped us take our luggage inside and made sure we were properly checked in. We set a time for him to pick us up in a couple of days for our trip to Auschwitz and Wieliczka (the Salt Mine). These excursions are covered in separate posts.
On that morning, he was waiting for us with a smile when we walked outside. During the hour and a half drive, Chris shared more stories about life in Poland and patiently answered all of our questions. When we arrived in Oswiecim (the town that the camps are located in), we discovered that the next available English tour wasn’t for another two hours. Chris suggested that we head to Birkenau, which we did, and that turned out to be a great suggestion on his part.
We had intended to visit the Salt Mine after Auschwitz, but we realized that it would be just too much to do in one day. Chris very graciously agreed to take us on another day with no problem at all. When we went to the Salt Mine, Chris worked his magic and got us into the group that was just beginning the tour, saving us from having to wait for the next one. Had we been on our own, there’s no way we could have made that happen.
Chris also drove us to Zakopane for an overnight stay, and then back to Warsaw with a stop in Częstochowa. He was always prompt and waiting for us with a smile, and you could tell that he genuinely wanted to make sure we had great experiences. By the time he left us in Warsaw, I felt like we were leaving a friend.
I really can’t say enough how wonderful our experience with Chris was. He is truly an amazing person with tons of knowledge that he loves to share, and a warm and wonderful personality.
Have you been to Krakow? What did you think?