Hi, I’m Niall, Head of History Tours here at Halsbury. I recently visited Krakow (for the fourth time!) with my colleague James Wylie, one of our experienced Itinerary Managers. Here’s what we got up to, and why we’re still convinced it’s an incredible choice for a school history trip.
James and I had visited Auschwitz, Schindler’s Factory Museum and the Wieliczka Salt Mines on our previous trips to Poland. So on this trip, as well as inspecting all seven of the centrally-located hotels that we use to accommodate school groups in Krakow, our aim was to visit the places that do not always make it on to a ‘typical’ itinerary for a school trip to Krakow.
Centrally-located, three star hotel accommodation
Our base for the three days we would be in the city was the Hotel Astoria, a three star hotel in the heart of the Jewish Quarter. The hotel was described as ‘outstanding’ by the last school group that visited, so we were looking forward to our stay.
The Astoria hotel was OUTSTANDING with the service superb. The service from Halsbury in the UK was also VERY impressive, detailed and helpful (as usual!). Oakwood Park Grammar School, July 2016
The hotel certainly did not disappoint with its excellent location, substantial buffet breakfast and free WiFi. Within a short walk were two of the other hotels we use, the Hotel Regent and the Hotel Kazimierz. We felt these hotels both also boasted excellent locations and were of the same standard as the Astoria – meaning we had three very good accommodation options for our groups.
Everything was fantastic and ran very smoothly. This was my sixth trip to Krakow with Halsbury and the first time we’ve stayed at Hotel Kazimierz – by far the best hotel we’ve stayed at. I look forward to booking again next year. Hilbre High School, February 2016
We then visited two hotels that have been firm favourites with our school groups for many years. Groups can have exclusive access to the annexe at three star Hotel Batory, which is within walking distance of Rynek Glowny – Krakow’s beautiful main square. And we learned that the Hotel Wilga, with its basement games room and bowling alley, will double in size in 2017, ensuring more availability for our groups.
We later spent the evening at C.K. Dezerter, a Polish restaurant serving excellent Polish cuisine. This restaurant is a favourite among our school groups and we actually spent the evening surrounded by a school group from the UK - if you were there on 26th October 2016, your pupils were a real credit to you, as they were very polite and well behaved!
The following day was spent with our informative guide as she took us around the city. We visited Wawel Castle, the Royal Tombs and the Sigismund Bell. The castle gave us an excellent opportunity to learn more about Polish history and its kings. This was developed further with visits to the excellent Rynek Underground Museum and St. Mary’s Basilica.
With perfect timing, our guide had ensured we arrived just at the right moment for the opening of the altar, which takes place every day at 11.50, followed by the hourly bugle call (Hejnał Mariacki) at noon.
After a brief stop for lunch, we then went on to visit the university where Pope John Paul II studied. It was then time for one of the more difficult but important visits of the day – Pomorska Street. This was the site of the Gestapo HQ in Krakow.
Here, your group has the opportunity to visit the underground interrogation cells – a visit made even more poignant when you see the graffiti left on the walls by the prisoners held here, not only by the Nazis, but also by the Communists after them.
All of our itineraries for Krakow include a guided walking tour, whether it’s on the history of the city, the Jewish Quarter, or the Communist regime. We also offer an ‘In the Footsteps of Pope John Paul II’ walking tour.
After final hotel visits to Hotel Maksymilian and Hotel Alexander (both of which are within walking distance of the main square) and a final stop for lunch at Morskie Oko, another traditional Polish restaurant that’s a firm favourite with our school groups, we waved goodbye to the busy main square and returned to the redeveloped and now modern airport for our departure. Krakow has changed a lot over the years and we now both feel that we know it even better as a result of this trip.
Krakow is the ideal destination in which to bring 20th century history to life. Need any information or advice on planning a school history trip to Krakow? Please don’t hesitate to contact me!