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How to beat the summer crowds?

Hong Kong, China
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How to beat the summer crowds?

I'll be traveling to Krakow in late June/early July with my husband and my elderly parents, who have been talking about taking this trip for the past 30 years. We're interested in all the usual things, such as the castle, the market square, Wieliczka Salt Mine, a river cruise, museums, etc. My parents are active for their age (mid-seventies), but they can become tired if they have to stand around waiting for a long time, so I want to make sure the trip runs as smoothly as possible. I understand that this is high season, so I'd like to know if anyone has any suggestions on how to beat the crowds. Does it help to book tickets in advance for the castle, etc? Are there shorter lines for holders of the Krakow visitor's card? Do certain days of the week or times of day seem to be less busy for certain attractions? Should we make reservations for restaurants before we leave? Thanks in advance for any suggestions!

London, United...
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1. Re: How to beat the summer crowds?

Hi

My mother has been to Krakow with me on 3 occasions for her 79th, 80th and 81st birthday.

My advice is simply the same as in every destination around the world, to miss the crowds, get to the destination close to opening time.

The other advantage is that you are not out in the heat of the day and can sit down under an umbrella in the main sq in the afternoon.

The same goes for restaurants. The only restaurant I have booked in Krakow was piano rouge.

I have taken my mother to Krakow for her last three birthdays, the last of which she was 81. To help preserve her energy we caught taxis to save a 20 min walk (probably 40 min walk for my mother) Eg when going to Kazimierz from Old Town.

I hope you all have a wonderful time

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Old Town
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Nowy Sacz, Poland
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2. Re: How to beat the summer crowds?

I’m with Mark – take it easy, but start early. I use a wheelchair or (for very short distances or for stairs) two crutches. We plan our trips so we never have more than two “gotta sees” planned each day and we build in a lot of down time – time we spend sitting outside cafes (the Rynek is a superb people-watching place, along with all the buildings close together for you to amble between) or on river trips (Tyniec is a half day cruise). Or maybe your mum would enjoy the rafts in the Dunajec gorge (maybe you would, too!).

The mine is hard going – 800 steps and 2.5 km – but you can book the disabled tour, when you descend by lift instead of 400 steps and the tour is kept to the flat part of the mine. You need to pre-book, but that means you’re in your group of no more than 35 for the duration and your start time is fixed so no hanging around. (There are loos on the surface and at the underground café).

Watch the “free” days at the museums, etc, as they are potentially busy.

Jerusalem, Israel
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3. Re: How to beat the summer crowds?

My advice comes from the incredibly busy museum i work at. Our museum opens at 9, to a huge rush crowd consisting of organised tours, school groups, individuals etc. There is usually a morning peak to this rush around 9:30, when everyone gets headsets etc and goes in, than relatively quiet until 10. when there is another peak. By 11 or so is quieter , and than 13:00 pm is mega busy again.Scheduled tours and tour companies usually start on the hour- so if you come on the half hour, you may catch a lull in the crowds. Also in the late afternoon, 2 hours before closing, is often slightly quieter.

As a tour guide in our museum and also traveling with my my 80 year old parents, i can also tell you that when traveling with people who are elderly, schedule in a lot of breaks- for a coffee and a people watching rest.

Even if you don't see as much as you wanted to,its more about quality of the visit than quantity of the places visited. Enjoy and happy travels!

Hong Kong, China
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4. Re: How to beat the summer crowds?

Thanks so much, Mark, John and Lizzy, for all your great answers. You've given me a lot of ideas for how to plan the trip better. It's also very encouraging to hear about people's success traveling with elderly parents. I'm still getting used to the idea that my parents can't do everything they could before. I'll be sure to book the disabled tour for the salt mine and look into the rafting trip and the river cruise to Tyniec. My father should enjoy these as he has requested that I plan more active things and don't drag him around every church and art museum in the city.

Nowy Sacz, Poland
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5. Re: How to beat the summer crowds?

The interiors of many of the churches in Krakow are stunning - even to an evangelical atheist like me! So your dad may enjoy an amble into those around the rynek, and elsewhere! And if you work on one church to one coffee or beer, he may enjoy it more!

The balloon may appeal, too. It;s just across the river a little ways from Wawel.

Rafting the Dunajec Gorges is not a white-water affair - more of a stately progress through some stunning scenery with the chance to see some of the local fauna, too. A tour will take you to the boarding point and collect you when the raft trip ends. You may also find a tour which goes on to Czorstyn (lake and castles) or even Zakopane (though Zak is better seen on more than a "flying visit".

Krakow has its own excellent museum system PLUS the main units of the National Museum so there are some excellent museums on offer - your father might like to see the Polish Air Museum or the City Engineering Museum in the old tram depot (trams and cars) or the Museum of the Occupation in the Schindler Factory. If they're up to 2.5 hours walking you could do a Jewish Krakow walking tour ending with a visit to the Schindler Factory and Ghetto Heroes Square (where there is also the small museum in the Pharmacy Under Eagle - the centre of resistance in the Krakow Ghetto).

There is a lot to see without getting bogged down in one topic - a trip to see the lady with the ermine means a visit to the former Royal Castle and Cathedral complex on Wawel Hill - check out what else is on display there and maybe work the art into the history? And promise your dad he can see the dragon, down on the riverbank below the walls of Wawel, afterwards.

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Zakopane
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Lesser Poland Province, Poland
National Museum
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6. Re: How to beat the summer crowds?

I don't know what your budget is, but taxis are quite inexpensive in Krakow so don't hesitate to use them instead of walking. I just recently went to the salt mine and would agree that the handicapped/disabled tour MIGHT be a good idea. We are in our mid-sixties and had no problem with the regular tour but I would not recommend it for anyone with orthopedic problems.

Also, our Krakow experts can answer this one: is there an easier way to get to Wawel besides walking up that hill?

Hong Kong, China
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7. Re: How to beat the summer crowds?

Thanks again, John! Those sound like great ideas. I think I could even park the family at a cafe in the Rynek with beer or ice cream while I visit one more church, painting or statue. By the way, your website has been a big help with trip planning. I sent my parents the link before and it was easy for them to navigate.

Seeing the Lady with the Ermine at Wawel is high on our list, as is the dragon's den. Do you think it's necessary to reserve tickets in advance for the castle attractions? Donna, I'd also like to know if there is any way around that hill. I plan on using taxis heavily as it doesn't seem to cost that much more than a tram with four people. Are these easy to take from the Rynek or are there long queues?

Nowy Sacz, Poland
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8. Re: How to beat the summer crowds?

Sadly, Poland is not a very accessible place - even buildings put up in the last 10-20 years can have poor access - we often find hotels, restaurants, bars and shops which make no efforts to be "friendly" and even if entrance is possible, moving around can be hard (TESCO, Nowy Sacz!!!). We even have our own system for dealing with one shopping centre where entry is ONLY possible via diagonal moving walkways (involving a run and a slamming on of brakes!). The other side of the coin is that our cities have many very old buildings still very close to original - one advantage of the years PL did not have the money to change them! It will take many years before money is found to make them sympathetically accessible.

For Wawel, the access is described as "up ramp-like roads" which is a bit like saying " WADDAYA EXPECT??" I'd suggest parking mum and dad at a cafe and walking up yourself to see if they'll be ok, and to buy tickets for a next day visit - ticket numbers are limited and can run out so if you;re taking them up there, you may as well be certain of entry. If mum and dad are up for it, you can go down through the caves to see Smok afterwards!

Edited: 03 June 2014, 10:07
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Poland
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Nowy Sacz
Nowy Sacz
Lesser Poland Province, Poland
Krakow, Poland
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9. Re: How to beat the summer crowds?

There are two routes in to Wawel - one is up the short but steep ramp up to the main gate, while the other is a less steep but longer road on the other side of the castle complex. You should be able to get a taxi to take you up the latter, which will save a bit of a walk. But if you're asking whether there's an elevator or escalator - no, there isn't.

London, United...
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10. Re: How to beat the summer crowds?

Or you could drive in to Wawel, jump out and swing an axe and tell everyone to get out of your home :)