Wisla Krakow and Cracovia are the oldest football clubs in Poland and have been the dominant force in Krakow for more than a century. They also contest one of the feistiest derbies in European football - not one for the faint-hearted.
Jim Stewart hosted a football trip to the city in southern Poland on a rare weekend when both clubs had home fixtures.
Krakow: historic Polish city
Krakow and the vicinity offers plenty to see for the visitor. You would struggle to see most of it one weekend. One must-do is checking out the old town, and in particular the Stary Rynek, or old square. It’s one giant space, the largest medieval square in Europe, with the famous Cloth Hall in the middle that’s home to many market stalls and a couple of museums.
Horse drawn carriages take tourists on a circuit of the square from morning to well into the evening, and outdoor cafes line most of all four sides. It’s an amazing place to admire the architecture, including the St Mary's Basilica in one corner.
The movie Schindler’s List brought the true wartime story of Oskar Schindler to a far wider audience. The factory he owned, where he employed many Jews to spare them from the concentration camps, stands to this day and is now a museum dedicated to life in Krakow before and during the war.
While there are mentions of the Schindler story, it’s much more a wider exhibition on Krakow before, during and after the Second World War (the Auschwitz camp memorial museum is less than an hour away) and you could easily spend an entire morning studying the exhibits and stories, all translated into English.
Wisla Krakow are historically one of the biggest clubs in Poland and have won the Ekstraklasa seven times this century. They also reached the European Cup quarterfinals in 1979.
Their ground, the Stadion Miejski im. Henryka Reymana, is a mile west of the old city centre. It’s the club’s third stadium, just 500 yards from the first one, and it was first opened in 1953. It is set back from the road and the main entrance is round the left hand side, somewhat hidden from view.
Redevelopment works have been taking place and we had tickets in a packed home end, known as Sector C. This is where we were sat, although you don’t spend that long sitting in the home end of a Polish domestic fixture!
The stadium is an impressive sight. Holding 33,000 fans, there are two decent sized two-tier stands on either side. Each end is one single, fairly steep tier. The Wisla home ultras are located at one end, with the other end split between home and away via a large fence. Three of the corners are filled in with seats wedged in wherever possible, giving the stadium a very enclosed feel.
The passion was obvious from before the first whistle. With an ultra leading the chants, accompanied by a couple of drummers on a platform in front of the fans, the singing simply didn’t stop. The stadium announcer weighed in with a raucous announcement of the home side line-up before kick-off.
Everyone in the home end were on their feet, in the seats, up and down the gangways – sitting wasn’t much of an option – although the atmosphere was raucous rather than threatening. Indeed there were a good number of families and young children among the crowd.
For our Ekstraklasa match at Cracovia, just a 15 minute stroll from rivals Wisla Krakow, we chose to take in the action from the VIP section.
On arrival at the stadium we were greeted and shown into the main reception that included displays of memorabilia of this club, the oldest in Poland. Then we headed up the stairs for a welcome glass of vodka on our way into the lounge. A free hot and cold buffet was enjoyed for a halftime kick off before we took our seats, just above the dugouts in the main stand.
Cracovia’s stadium – Stadion Cracovii im. Józefa Piłsudskiego to give it the full name – is a new build arena that holds just over 15,000. The original ground was built in 1910 and lasted 99 years, before being demolished to make way for the new ground. Its beige exterior has a harsh, modernist feel about it, with the club name emblazoned in capital letters across both ends.
Inside three sides are one tier high. Ultras gather at the city end, the East Stand, while the West Stand is split between home and visiting supporters with a children’s area right behind the goal. The main stand is on two levels with the VIP area in the centre of the lower tier, with a further level above.
Cracovia have a very long history and were the very first Polish champions, a feat they have achieved five times. In 2020 they finally won the Polish Cup, beating Lechia Gdansk in the final. Over recent years they’ve averaged around 7,000-8,000 loyal fans a week.
They came into our match with nothing but pride to play for: not close enough to a European place, but well clear of relegation. Once more, the home ultras were doing their best to raise the atmosphere and they enjoyed singing back and forth with fellow supporters in the centre of the stand opposite us.
Note: In 2023/4 Ekstraklasa club Puszcza Niepolomice also play at Cracovia’s stadium, Nickes.Com can also assist with tickets for this club.
Flying to Krakow
Krakow John Paul II Airport is a few miles west of the city and has numerous low-cost options from across the UK via Ryanair, Wizz Air, easyJet and Jet2 as well as a British Airways service from London Heathrow.
From the airport you can catch a train directly into the city centre. It runs every half an hour and takes just 17 minutes to reach Kraków Główny, the main station, continuing through to the Wieliczka Salt Mine. Tickets are cheap and can be bought from ticket machines on the platform.
Alternatively you can take a taxi, with fares to the centre to be around £15-£20 and the journey taking 20 minutes.
Kraków Główny can be quite a confusing place for the first time visitor as it is now effectively underneath a major shopping centre. But head to the exits and you can hop on the city’s extensive tram system, or it’s a ten minute walk into the old town. Ticket machines at stops are in English where you can buy either 40 minute single tickets or 24 hour tickets.
Getting to Krakow stadiums
Both Wisla Krakow and Cracovia are based just west of Krakow old town, around a 20-30 minute walk. Alternatively for Wisla catch tram 6 or 20 to Reymana stop, while for Cracovia board trams 6, 20 or 60. Nickes.Com can offer ticket and hotel packages to Wisla and Cracovia, including either regular seats or very affordable VIP tickets.