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Why a $55-a-Night Hostel Is My Favorite Hotel Chain for Families in Europe [MEININGER Kraków Centrum Review]

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Keri Stooksbury
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Keri Stooksbury

Editor-in-Chief

30 Published Articles 3097 Edited Articles

Countries Visited: 45U.S. States Visited: 28

With years of experience in corporate marketing and as the Executive Director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Qatar, Keri is now Editor-in-Chief at UP, overseeing daily content operations and r...
Edited by: Jessica Merritt
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Jessica Merritt

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A long-time points and miles student, Jessica is the former Personal Finance Managing Editor at U.S. News and World Report and is passionate about helping consumers fund their travels for as little ca...

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Planning my family’s winter break travels through Denmark and Poland had me facing a common dilemma: Where to land on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day that would likely still have businesses open? Given Kraków’s famous tourist attractions and Christmas market, the city seemed like a natural fit for our holiday schedule.

Though I had booked an Airbnb in Old Town, I desperately wanted to be around other people for the holidays and not feel isolated. No hotel seemed to fit the bill for our family of 5 until I came across the newly opened MEININGER Kraków Centrum. Having stayed at MEININGER Hotels properties, I knew the room setup would be perfect for us. But would the insanely low rates compensate for the extra walking distance to Old Town?

After our stay in Kraków, I can’t keep this chic brand of hostel-style hotels to myself anymore. Traveling comfortably with kids can be fun and affordable. I’ll share my experience at MEININGER Kraków Centrum and explain why this chain should be top of mind when looking to save money in Europe.

What Is MEINGINGER Hotels?

MEININGER Hotels is a hip, budget hotel chain with 36 hotels in 26 cities across 10 European countries. The properties are a hostel/hotel hybrid, similar to a&o, Generator, and Jo&Joe.

Properties offer single/double rooms, multi-bed rooms, family rooms, and dormitories (your typical hostel setup). My family has consistently found modern rooms to accommodate families of up to 6 people in central locations for an incredibly reasonable nightly rate. We’ve enjoyed stays for 5 people at MEININGER Budapest Great Market Hall for $96 a night and Urban House Copenhagen by MEININGER for $100 a night.

Location

MEININGER Kraków Centrum opened in October 2023 in the Grzegórzki district, east of Old Town and north of Kazimierz (the Jewish Quarter). We were able to walk to Old Town in just over 10 minutes.

MEININGER Krakow Centrum exterior
A Żabka mini-mart is next to the property.

The hotel is across the street from a tram stop and the Kraków Grzegórzki train stop, though we didn’t use public transit to navigate the city as walking was comfortable and easy. The property is also about 20 minutes on foot from Kraków Główny, the main train station.

We arrived in Kraków via train and took a tram directly to the hotel from the main station for 11 Polish złoty (~$3) for 2 adults and 3 kids. Upon departure, we chose to walk to the train station and likely saved a bit of time.

Booking

I had a reasonable 2-bedroom Airbnb in Old Town booked for $171 a night. A few weeks later, I received an email from MEININGER’s mailing list touting the opening of the MEININGER Kraków Centrum, and when I realized how low the rates were, I quickly did some vacation math. The hotel was about 11 minutes from the Airbnb, and across 4 nights, we would save $464 in total.

My husband and I contemplated whether an extra 20-minute walk round-trip in the cold with kids would be worth the savings over a better location and decided YES.

The property was not listed on any credit card travel portals, so I booked 4 nights direct for 861.48 zł ($219.58) total — that’s just $55 a night. I charged the room to my Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card as it earns 2x Capital One miles on direct hotel purchases and has excellent travel insurance benefits.

MEININGER Krakow Centrum reservation
Families get a 15% discount on the room price for all children up to age 12. Image Credit: MEININGER Hotels

Check-In

Check-in was a breeze. While I had placed the reservation on hold in October with my credit card, I was not charged until we checked in on December 24. This is notable as the złoty exchange rate fluctuates, so the room cost about 9% more than I originally planned.

MEININGER Krakow Centrum front desk
The check-in desk was welcoming.

The front desk also had items like playing cards, locks, toiletries, and earplugs for sale.

Lobby

The main lobby was hip, modern, and inviting. There were dining tables ideal for having a drink or snack from the bar.

MEININGER Krakow Centrum lobby seating
Dining tables in the lobby were usually full of guests having a drink.

There were also several individual chairs and sofas for groups to gather before stepping out.

MEININGER Krakow Centrum lobby left seating
The lobby’s grouped seating was ideal for gathering parties.

Common spaces throughout the property also had thoughtful seating areas, like this transitional library space between the breakfast room and the guest rooms.

MEININGER Krakow Centrum seating area
A small seating area was near the elevators.

Amenities

Game Zone

The game zone on the -1 level was the highlight of my kids’ stay. This was a great retreat from the room, with space to play and relax. There were 2 foosball tables and board games to borrow. I spent a few hours working from these chairs as my kids played.

MEININGER Krakow Centrum social room
The game zone was the most fun room in the hotel.

The pool table was usually quite lively with groups. The rear of the room had a small kitchen space and what seemed like a potential space for karaoke.

MEININGER Krakow Centrum social room pool screen
The pool table and bean bags were constantly in use.

The projection screen was available to connect to via an HDMI cable. One night, a guest set up Netflix on their laptop and played a family-friendly movie for anyone to enjoy.

These bean bags were also fun for my kids to rearrange and pounce on.

MEININGER Krakow Centrum social room seating
Bean bag seating was arranged in front of the projection screen.

The arcade cabinet, with various retro video games like “Tekken” and “Mortal Kombat,” was something my kids looked forward to daily.

MEININGER Krakow Centrum social room video game
Many hours were lost and hearts broken at the arcade.

Laundry

We only packed 5 days of clothes for 17 days of travel, so access to laundry services was super important (and one of the reasons we initially booked into an Airbnb). I was happy that MEININGER Kraków Centrum had 2 washers and 2 dryers. There was also a leftover community-donated stash of detergents, so we didn’t need to purchase any supplies.

The machines functioned via the appwash app. Each wash and dry cycle costs 15 zł (~$4), and you must top-up your app account before starting a load.

Unfortunately, one of the washers had an error mid-cycle, and we lost quite a bit of time for a staff member to help resolve it (and for our laundry to dry since it was not adequately wrung out). Thankfully, we only needed to do 1 round of laundry on this stay and didn’t have to mess with the equipment any further.

MEININGER Krakow Centrum laundry room
Laundry machines were available to guests.

While we waited in the game room as our laundry was running, there was also seating in the laundry room and just outside in the hallway.

MEININGER Krakow Centrum 1 common
Additional seats were in the hallway of level -1.

Guest Kitchen

If staying at an Airbnb appeals to you because of access to a kitchen, the MEININGER Kraków Centrum’s guest kitchen offers a similar setup. The double kitchen had everything needed to make a meal, including tables for dining.

MEININGER Krakow Centrum kitchen seating
Guests could prepare meals in the kitchen.

There were 2 refrigerators, 2 sinks, 2 ranges, 2 microwaves, and a host of cutlery and dishware.

MEININGER Krakow Centrum kitchen counter
The prep area had cooking supplies and equipment.

While personal items could be labeled and stored in the community fridges, I liked that guests were encouraged to share their leftovers with other guests. This helps reduce food waste and can help a fellow budget traveler.

MEININGER Krakow Centrum kitchen fridge
Guests had access to 2 refrigerators.

Luggage Room

Some MEININGER properties have individual luggage lockers, but the Kraków location has a locked luggage room. We spent our final day touring off-property ahead of a 3 p.m. train, and the front desk attendant was able to unlock the room for us to store our bags.

There were no valet-style tags to indicate whose bags were whose, so this is not a super-secure option.

Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi was free throughout the property, and I had no issues connecting, whether in the game room or our guest room.

Pet-Friendly

Pets are permitted in private rooms for 50 zł (~$12) per day per pet.

Family Room

Our room was on level 5 in the main hotel building. While you could take the stairs, 1 elevator served this area. I was pleased to see that the 6 rooms in our immediate vicinity had a closed door to help reduce any noise from the vestibule.

MEININGER Krakow Centrum floor 5 hallway
The level 5 vestibule was carpeted and had a closed door between the elevator bank and rooms.

I was immediately thrilled upon opening the door to the room. The room was funky, clean, and full of light. The sleeping arrangements were 2 twin beds (that we later pushed together) and 2 sets of bunk beds.

MEININGER Krakow Centrum family room beds from door
The room was funky and spacious.

When sharing a room with our kids, we often feel a bit on top of each other. I appreciated that the adult beds did not have a direct line of sight with the kids in their beds. This gave us a little privacy and meant we could be on our devices after lights out without disturbing them.

You can also see in the image below that there were 2 separate bathrooms. The door to the left of the storage cabinet went to a single toilet with a sink, and the space to the right had an open sink with a shower behind a door.

MEININGER Krakow Centrum family room room from right corner
The double beds had privacy from the bunks.

The twin beds had a small stool serving as a nightstand, a Type E outlet, lighting controls, and a reading lamp activated by touch.

MEININGER Krakow Centrum family room nightstand
The bedside tables were small.

The bunk beds also had an individual outlet, a reading lamp, and a small ledge for charging a phone or holding glasses.

MEININGER Krakow Centrum family room bunk beds
Bunks had bedding and towels.

In the center of the room was a small table with 4 stools. We used this space for storing and eating snacks and meals.

MEININGER Krakow Centrum family room table chairs
A table with 4 stools was in the center of the room.

The second set of bunk beds was to the left, facing the window. There was also a large TV with a small desk. Like our experience at Urban House Copenhagen by MEININGER, the trash bin was much larger than a typical hotel trash bin, meaning we had to empty it less frequently.

MEININGER Krakow Centrum family room bunk desk sink
The second bunk was near the TV and desk.

Every bed is labeled with a letter corresponding to a lockable storage space.

MEININGER Krakow Centrum family room storage
A storage locker with 2 compartments was between the bathrooms.

While not as secure as a safe, we used our TSA luggage locks to secure our valuables in these lockers.

We also used the wall hooks and hangers to store our winter coats.

MEININGER Krakow Centrum family room storage cabinet
Storage near the door included lockable compartments, hooks, and an open closet.

I really enjoyed the wall of windows, and the curtains did a good job of darkening the room overnight.

MEININGER Krakow Centrum family room rooftop view
We enjoyed the expansive windows and view.

The hotel also has a separate building extension behind the street-front building where our room was located.

MEININGER Krakow Centrum family room seperate building
A secondary hotel building was behind ours.

Bathroom

Much thought went into how a group of 6 might best use bathrooms in this room.

The separate sink area had a soap dispenser, hair dryer, and towel hooks. The shower room could be closed off via a door. This meant 1 person could be brushing their teeth while another showered, and yet another was in a separate toilet room.

MEININGER Krakow Centrum family room bathroom sink shower
The sink area was open to the room.

Every guest had their own towel hook, and we all liked making our towels and pajamas toasty by preheating them on this towel warmer.

MEININGER Krakow Centrum family room bathroom towel warmer
We enjoyed the toasty towels.

The door frame had leak damage, but we could keep water from spreading with a spare towel.

MEININGER Krakow Centrum shower damage
The door frame had leak damage.

The water closet was completely separate from the shower space and had a small sink and soap dispenser.

MEININGER Krakow Centrum family room bathroom toilet
The separate toilet room had its own door.

Food and Beverage

The hotel offers a daily breakfast buffet and an all-day bar with snacks.

You can also arrange a packed lunch for 35 zł (~$9). This includes a sandwich, granola bar, fruit, and a drink.

Breakfast Room

The path to any rooms or communal spaces, like the game room or kitchen, led through the breakfast room. It had a vibe of being a comfortable, well-designed, and smart-looking space.

MEININGER Krakow Centrum dining seating
The breakfast room had various table arrangements.

There were various seating arrangements, from high-top tables with barstools to traditional dining tables and chairs.

MEININGER Krakow Centrum dining tables
High-top tables were closest to the buffet area.

There were cushioned benches and spaces ideal for solo, couple, or group travelers.

MEININGER Krakow Centrum dining tables wall
The main path to the rooms led you past these tables.

Pretty much every space was also perfect for remote work.

MEININGER Krakow Centrum dining long table
A communal table also had a kids’ corner.

There was even a kids’ corner with toys and coloring supplies.

MEININGER Krakow Centrum dining kids corner
There were a few toys and coloring supplies.

Bar

The all-day bar served various coffee, non-alcoholic, and alcoholic drinks, with most basic drinks starting at around 9 zł (~$2). Spirits started at 16 zł (~$4), and cocktails started at 22 zł (~$5).

A small bar food menu featured croissant sandwiches, yogurt, and baked goods, with most sandwiches around 15 zł (~$4).

Note that the Żabka mini-mart next door to the property has cheaper drinks, snacks, and picnic supplies, plus an affordable hot dog + drink combo!

MEININGER Krakow Centrum bar
The bar was open throughout the day.

Breakfast

A breakfast buffet is available daily from 6:30 to 10:30 a.m. for 49 zł (~$12) per adult. Children 6 and under are free, and children 7 to 12 are half-price. You can save a few złoty off the rate by booking your breakfast with your room online.

Breakfast for my family of 5 would have run ~$42 daily, so we opted to eat off-property.

Hot Tip:

Cheaper breakfast is just a few steps from the hotel. For a quick morning snack, consider an obwarzanek krakowski (a bagel/pretzel hybrid) sold on street corners for 2 to 3 zł (under $1), or try the donuts from Dobra Pączkarnia in Old Town for 7 to 10 zł (~$2) each and thank me later.

The breakfast options at the buffet were also fairly basic, with few hot options.

Fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers were accompanied by cold cuts and cheese.

MEININGER Krakow Centrum breakfast veg meat cheese
The buffet had veggies, cold cuts, and cheeses.

You could assemble a sandwich using the bread and rolls or select a croissant or pastry.

MEININGER Krakow Centrum breakfast bread
A variety of breads and pastries were available.

Baked beans seemed to be the only hot food offered. Hard-boiled eggs and yogurts were also available.

MEININGER Krakow Centrum breakfast beans egg yogurt
Hot options were limited to baked beans and hard-boiled eggs.

Guests could choose from cold cereals and toppings such as nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. Plant-based milk was available. There were also apples and oranges.

MEININGER Krakow Centrum breakfast cereal fruit
Cereals, whole fruit, seeds, and nuts were offered.

The self-service coffee machine dispensed Lavazza coffee drinks and hot chocolate; a dispenser had water and juices.

MEININGER Krakow Centrum breakfast coffee
Lavazza coffee was self-service.

Service

The hotel was consistently busy, but the front desk staff was always friendly and helpful.

I wish my issue with the faulty washing machine was resolved more quickly, but this incident occurred on Christmas Eve, and the specific staff member capable of fixing the problem was on a break when it happened. Once in action, I think he did his best to help me find a quick solution. While he offered free breakfast for the trouble, I really was just after finishing my laundry. The hotel didn’t charge me for the final load, and the app was able to refund my payment for the error load.

Surrounding Area

Kraków is about 5 hours from Gdańsk by train (tickets for our family of 5 cost 787.50 zł/$195) and just over 2 hours from Warsaw by train (our tickets cost 238 zł/$59 total). If you plan to travel throughout Poland by train, Intercity tickets open for sale 30 days ahead of the travel date, and there is a discount for early booking. Prices vary significantly based on the time of day and how express the service is.

The hotel is a comfortable walk to Old Town, including Cloth Hall at Rynek Główny (where the Christmas market was located) and Wawel Royal Castle. We enjoyed an informative free Old Town Kraków walking tour from Walkative! (make sure to tip your guide!).

We found lots of great food options nearby, including Pierogarnia Krakowiacy for amazing pierogies and hunter’s stew and Kiełbaski z Niebieskiej Nyski (Sausages from the Blue Nysa Van) for wickedly affordable and delicious kielbasa sausage.

MEININGER Krakow Centrum sausages
We enjoyed sausages from the blue Nysa van across the street.

Wieliczka Salt Mine

The Wieliczka Salt Mine was one of the world’s oldest operating salt mines and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Kids will have fun descending the stairs deep into the mine, viewing the chapels and statues carved from salt, and licking the walls. Tickets are 122 zł (~$30) for adults and 102 zł (~$25) for kids. You must book a timed language-specific guided tour, so consider prebooking online.

Wieliczka Salt Mine
St. Kinga’s Chapel is located 331 feet underground.

The train tickets were 32.50 zł (~$8) for our family of 5 (purchased on board), and the train was easy to catch from the Kraków Grzegórzki stop across from the hotel.

Auschwitz-Birkenau

The Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp is a popular excursion from Kraków. While you can visit the sites for free in the afternoon, consider booking a guided 3.5-hour tour in the language of your choice as soon as you know your travel dates. This will give you access to the earlier time slots in the day and can help enrich your experience at the memorial. Guided tours are 100 zł (~$25).

Families should take notice that children under 14 are not recommended to visit the memorial. My husband and I heeded this warning and visited individually on 2 separate days.

Auschwitz gate
The “Arbeit macht frei” (“Work sets you free”) replica gate at the entrance to Auschwitz.

For transportation to Auschwitz, we walked from the hotel to the bus station at Kraków Główny and caught an 85-minute Lajkonik bus to Oświęcim. The bus stops directly at the visitor center and costs ~20 zł (~$5) each way.

Final Thoughts

Who in their right mind pays $55 a night for a hostel-style hotel? Empty nesters, groups of friends, couples, and families — pretty much every type of traveler. Forget grungy rooms full of backpackers. MEININGER Hotels has evolved the hostel concept to a modern budget hotel with comfortable, unique spaces, and our experience has been consistently great across several properties.

Our stay at MEININGER Kraków Centrum was fantastic, especially the accommodating family room. When kids are happy with bunk beds and a game room, parental stress melts away just a little bit. The rates were wildly reasonable, and with Kraków being such a walkable city, the location was central enough to easily access all the area had to offer.

My family agrees that MEININGER Hotels is our favorite family-friendly hotel chain, and it is absolutely worth seeking out on your next European vacation.


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Frequently Asked Questions

Does MEININGER Kraków Centrum have parking?

MEININGER Kraków Centrum has underground parking at a cost of 70 zł (~$17) per day.

Does MEININGER Kraków Centrum have breakfast?

MEININGER Kraków Centrum serves a breakfast buffet daily from 6:30 to 10:30 a.m. for 49 zł (~$12) per adult. Children 6 and under are free, and children from ages 7 to 12 are half-price. You may be able to save on the rate by booking your breakfast with your room online.

What are the check-in and checkout times at MEININGER Kraków Centrum?

Check-in at MEININGER Kraków Centrum is 3 p.m., and checkout is 11 a.m. If you are booked in a private room, you may be able to request late checkout for 60 zł (~$15).

Is MEININGER Kraków Centrum family-friendly?

Yes! MEININGER Kraków Centrum has private rooms that can accommodate a family with up to 6 people. Kids will love the bunk beds and in-room TV. Baby cots are available upon request. There is also a game room on the -1 level with foosball, billiards, a video game console, bean bag chairs, board games, and a projector.

Guests receive a discount of 15% when booking online with at least 1 child under 12 years old.

Keri Stooksbury's image

About Keri Stooksbury

With years of experience in corporate marketing and with a nonprofit, Keri is now Editor-in-Chief at UP, overseeing daily content operations and reviewing thousands of UP articles in the process.

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