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Getting around Cracow

Public transport

Cracow’s buses and tram are operated by MPK (tel: +48 12 19 150; www.mpk.krakow.pl). Public transport is cheap, but if you need to use more than one bus or tram, it's better to buy a one-hour ticket.

Tickets can be bought at kiosks, shops or from the driver (although this costs extra). They should be validated by punching the ticket using the box inside the bus or tram. Also punch a ticket for each large piece of luggage (free with a pass). Tickets are more expensive for night buses and buses that cross the city limits.

Unlimited travel passes are available for one, two or three days, or for a month. Students get reduced fares upon presentation of an International Student Identity Card. Anyone caught without a valid ticket receives an on-the-spot fine.

Taxis

Taxis in Cracow are metered and can be found at taxi ranks, located in most of the major squares on the Old Town’s perimeter. You can also hail roaming taxis in the streets. Those with a hail-light, displaying a telephone number and company name, usually charge reasonable rates. Others are to be avoided.

A cheaper option is to order a taxi by telephone. Reputable companies include Barbakan Taxi (tel: +48 12 19661; http://barbakan.krakow.pl), Lajkonik Taxi (tel: +48 12 19628) and Radio Taxi Mega (tel: +48 12 19625, http://megataxi.pl). Check how much the trip will cost before entering the taxi. Taxi drivers are not normally tipped.

Driving

Driving in Cracow can be frustrating, especially for non-Polish speakers. The Old Town is closed to traffic, though there is a car park at Plac Świętego Ducha, about a two-minute walk from Rynek Glowny. The street parking situation outside the Old Town is confusing, so use car parks to avoid fines. If you are driving to Cracow, the least stressful option is to find a hotel that offers parking and leave it there.

Car hire

Both Avis (tel: +48 12 629 6108; www.avis.pl) and Hertz (tel: +48 12 429 6262; www.hertz.com.pl) have rental offices in Cracow, as do Europcar (tel: +48 12 374 5696; www.europcar.com.pl) and Joka (tel: +48 12 429 6630; www.joka.com.pl). Most agencies have a desk at the airport. To hire a car you must be at least 21 years old (23 for some companies) and have a valid driving licence and International Driving Permit.

Bicycle hire

Cycling around Cracow isn’t risk-free as locals drive fast and trams come out of nowhere, but it is nice to explore the car-free Old Town on two wheels. You can hire bikes from Kazimierz’s Dwa Kolo (Two Wheels), ulica Józefa 5 (tel: +48 12 421 5785; www.dwakola.internetdsl.pl). Alternatively, Cracow's bikeshare scheme, KMK Bikes (tel: +48 12 616 7000; www.kmkbike.pl), has over 300 bikes at 30-plus stations; after buying an initial membership, the first 20 minutes of any journey are free. 

 

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Palac Bonerowski

In the 16th century, Palac Bonerowski was the opulent abode of a wealthy, aristocratic family called the Boners (no chuckling at the back). Today the former royal residence is one of the finest, most lovingly restored hotels in Cracow. Located directly opposite the Main Market Square, Palac Bonerowski sits within a UNESCO World Heritage site and has some of the best views in town. Inside, the elegant rooms are still fit for royalty, and there are period features aplenty.

Hotel Polski

This slice of local history has been operating as an inn since 1815, making it one of the oldest hotels in Cracow. Modern amenities aside, guests could be forgiven for thinking they've stepped back in time; the hotel retains its decadent, 19th-century charm with beautiful antique furniture and period features. Add to that the stunning, Old Town location and exemplary service and you have to surmise this hotel will be good for another 200 years.

Hotel Mikolaj

Nestled down a quiet side street near the Main Market Square, Hotel Mikolaj is a tranquil retreat in the centre of this lively city. The refurbished town house has 10 cosy rooms, including suites which come with a kitchenette and lounge. If you don't fancy the short stroll into town for dinner then the hotel boasts an in-house restaurant, which serves Polish and international fare over two atmospheric levels.

The Piano Guest House

Enter The Piano Guest House and you follow in holy footsteps; Pope John Paul II visited twice when he was vicar of the parish in the 1950s. Today, this beautifully preserved, Viennese-style town house (which has been in the same family since 1886) is something of a diamond in the rough, although the legendary hospitality, beautiful breakfasts and the property's raconteur owners more than compensate for the scruffy neighbourhood.

The Secret Garden Hostel

The Secret Garden Hostel covers all bases, offering guests a choice of dorm rooms, luxury doubles and apartments within staggering distance of the lively Jewish quarter, Kazimierz. Private rooms are simple and contemporary with wrought-iron furnishings, colourful walls and vibrant bed spreads making for a clean and comfortable stay. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable and, although the buffet breakfast is a fairly basic, DIY affair, you really can't grumble for the price.

Hotel Amadeus

Located within the labyrinth of Santa Cruz, Hotel Amadeus is set in a classically-furnished, 18th-century manor house and has music as a theme. Several instruments, including a grand piano, are available for use by guests. Rooms are small but attractively furnished, with antique furniture and original patterned tile flooring. The hotel's rooftop terrace opens up to a panorama of Seville’s historic centre and is an excellent spot to enjoy breakfast.