13 Best things to do in Krakow Poland

13 Fabulous Things To Do In Krakow Poland!

Krakow is the second largest city in Poland and one of its oldest, with parts dating back to the 7th century. It’s easy to see why tourists flock to this beautiful city. The historic centre is filled with colourful streets leading off the vast main square Rynek Glówny; it has many excellent budget-friendly restaurants and many historic sights.

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Best Time To Visit Krakow?

As the city has grown in popularity, so has the swarm of tourists. Be prepared for crowds and a steady supply of stag and hen parties! Due to this, I wouldn’t recommend visiting the city during peak season (June-August). Instead, I recommend visiting in the spring/autumn months when the place is much quieter. I would love to return to Krakow in the winter when I can wrap up and explore with steaming hot chocolate. 

13 Fabulous Things To Do In Krakow:

So, if you are planning a trip, here are my recommendations on the 13 best things to do in Krakow:

1. Explore Market Square – Rynek Glówny 

The market square in Krakow is the biggest of its kind in Europe. It’s probably one of the best, too, filled with restaurants, bars and various market stalls selling everything from flowers to cheap souvenirs. 

It’s a fabulous place to grab a drink or lunch and watch the world go by. Check out the town hall and climb the steps to the top. It’s not quite as high as St Mary’s Basilica, but the views are still pretty good!

2. Wawel Royal Castle

Just take a short stroll through the old town, and you will find Wawel Royal Castle perched on a hill overlooking the river. The castle grounds are free to enter. However, you need to pay for each building you wish to visit. 

If you are interested in castles and history, you could easily spend a whole morning/afternoon checking out the entire place. 

If you wish to buy tickets for any of the buildings, I recommend skipping the first ticket office at the entrance as there’s usually a large queue, especially in summer. Instead, walk into the grounds, and you will find another ticket counter inside the visitor centre at the opposite end of the grounds. 

3. Wawel Cathedral

Situated within the grounds of Wewel Castle, you will find the fantastic Wewel Cathedral. If you enjoy visiting Cathedrals and churches, you, like me, will be amazed at this cathedral!

Built in the 11th century, the cathedral holds a special place in Polish history as it was the church of Polish kings for four hundred years. Today, you can visit the many chapels and the sarcophagus of past Polish Kings and admire the beautiful architecture.

4. The Barbican & St Florian Gate

The Barbican is a round defensive fort situated just outside the old town. The building was once connected to the old city walls and surrounded the city. Unfortunately, these walls are long gone except for the Florian Gate, which you can walk along and get some great views of Florianska Street. Entrance to both is included in the same ticket and is very cheap, so it is worthwhile if you have the time.

5. The Sukiennice – Cloth Hall

The Cloth Hall is a fabulous indoor market with traditional sellers selling everything Polish. The hall dates back to the 13th century and is the main focal point within Rynek Glówny. Upstairs you will find a branch of the Krakow National Museum housing a collection of 19th-century Polish art and downstairs you will find the fabulous Underground Museum.

6. St Mary’s Basilica

St Mary’s Basilica is probably the most well-known building in Poland. The church is beautiful and has the most impressive Gothic altarpiece worthy of a visit just on its own. However, you can also buy a separate ticket to climb the 239 steps to the top and enjoy fabulous views of the market square and beyond.

If you are lucky, you may also see the bugler playing the hejnal from one of the windows in the tower. Legend has it that a bugler sounded the alarm hundreds of years ago as Mongol troops approached the city. However, he was hit mid-tune by an arrow and died. He had done enough to save the city, though, as the gates to the city were closed in time. Since then, a bugler had played the same tune every hour and stopped abruptly at the same point each time in honour of the bugler who died. If you plan a trip up the tower right, you may even get the chance to watch the bugler play.

Just so you know, tickets to the tower are limited each day, so you will be given a specific time to climb up with a guide. Make sure you buy tickets early in the day to be sure of a chance to visit at a time suitable for you. Tickets are purchased at the ticket office opposite the side entrance to the church.

7. Take A Boat Trip

Looking for something a little more relaxing whilst in Krakow? Then why not take a little cruise down the River Wisla? If you go to the banks of the river close to Wawel Castle, you will find a variety of boats offering leisurely cruises. On board, you can sit back and relax, enjoying the informative commentary and a drink from the bar. 

8. Wieliczika Salt Mine

One of the most visited attractions in Poland is the fabulous Wieliczika Salt Mine. This place is incredible! Inside, you will find a labyrinth of corridors and chambers 327 metres underground, all carved out of rock salt. This place is just 14 km from the centre of Krakow and can easily be reached via public transport or organised tour. 

For more details, why not check out my guide to visiting the Wieliczika Salt Mine?

9. Rynek Underground Museum

Most people walking around Rynek Glówny are oblivious to what is underneath the square. In 2005, excavations took place on the eastern side of Krakow’s main square. Originally supposed to have been completed within six months, the project was extended and took five years to complete.

Today, a museum underneath the Cloak Hall displays a treasure trove of knowledge of Krakow’s historic past with a mix of artefacts and restored archaeological exhibits. This excellent museum gives great insight into medieval Krakow, including how best to bury vampires! Along with various exhibits, there are many interactive stations, light shows, and holographic displays.

10. Auschwitz – Birkenau Memorial Museum

I wouldn’t classify visiting Auschwitz as one of the best things to do in Krakow. It’s more of a must-do!

Auschwitz and Birkenau were the largest concentration and extermination centres of the Nazi regime. It’s not a pleasant experience but one which should be taken to understand the atrocities that happened here. 

At times, it can be overwhelming, but I believe it’s essential to learn about such events in the hope that they don’t happen again! However, it’s sad to know that even today, similar atrocities are still happening around the world! 

11. Check Out The Jewish Quarter

Head across the river Wisla. You will find a lovely little district called Kazimierz. This place has an entirely different feel than the rest of Krakow. It is filled with beautiful little streets and a unique atmosphere. 

Originally, the area was a place of coexistence of ethnic Jews and Jewish culture, with around 64 thousand Jews living in the district before the war. However, at the start of WWII, most of these people were forced from their homes. Most were sent to what became the Jewish ghetto or moved to various concentration camps, such as Auschwitz.

Today, the area is filled with cute cafes, many fabulous restaurants and bars, as well as historic places and museums. It definitely is a great place to chill out with a drink and watch the world go by.

Don’t forget to check out some of the museums and monuments. One of the most poignant is Ghetto Square. Here, 33 huge chairs symbolise the tragic death and the empty seats that the residents of the ghetto left behind. 

12. Schindler’s Factory, Eagle Pharmacy & Gestapo HQ

If, after visiting Auschwitz, you want to find out more about whatkow, it was like for the Jews in Kra then head to the Oskar Schindler Enamel Factory. 

The story was made famous by the film Schindler’s List back in 1993 and tells the story of Oskar Schindler, a Nazi supporter who arrived in Krakow ready to make his fortune. However, after staffing his factory with Jews, he soon learns of the exterminations of Jews happening within the Ghetto, so he arranges to have his workers protected. In doing so, he soon realises he is also saving innocent lives. 

The factory situated in the Jewish Quarter is now an excellent museum. It tells the story of the factory and the everyday lives of the Jews in Krakow. These stories detail the struggle during the Nazi occupation of Krakow from 1939 to 1945 through a series of well-organised, interactive exhibits. 

Other museums of interest are the Eagle Pharmacy in Ghetto Square and the Gestapo Headquarters on Pomorska Street on the other side of the city.

13. Go Shopping And Enjoy The Local Food & Drink

Finally, after all that sightseeing, you will need to relax and put your feet up! Krakow has an endless number of bars, restaurants, and cafes. Head to the square, and you will find plenty of places to pull up a chair, have a drink or bite to eat, and happily watch the world go by!

Of course, if shopping is your thing, then there are also plenty of shops, markets and malls to keep any shopaholic happy!

Where to stay in Krakow?

Whatever your budget, many hotels, guesthouses and hostels are located within the city centre and close to most of its attractions. The best area to stay in is the old town, close to the main square (Rynek Glówny) or in the Jewish Quarter (Kazimierz).

For the best deals on hotels, I recommend using booking.com

$$$$$ – Hotel H15 Luxury Palace

Set in Kraków and with St. Florian’s Gate reachable within 100 metres, Hotel H15 Luxury Palace offers concierge services, non-smoking rooms, a garden, free WiFi throughout the property and a bar. The property offers a restaurant, a fitness centre, an indoor pool, and a sauna. The accommodation provides room service, a 24-hour front desk and organising tours for guests starting from £220 for a double room and £1200 for the Presidential apartment!

$$$$ – Liebeskind Boutique Hotel

Ideally situated in the Old Town district of Kraków, Liebeskind Boutique Hotel is 650 yards from the Main Market Square, 650 yards from Town Hall Tower and 650 yards from Cloth Hall. The property is around less than 0.6 miles from St. Florian’s Gate and 0.7 miles from Wawel Royal Castle. The accommodation features a 24-hour front desk, airport transfers, a shared lounge and free WiFi throughout the property. Prices start from £75 for a standard double room and £120 for a superior double room.

$$$ – Sereno Apartments

Situated in Kraków, 1.6 miles from Wawel Royal Castle and 1 mile from Lost Souls Alley, Sereno Apartments features city views and free WiFi. Popular points of interest near the apartment include St. Mary’s Basilica, Cloth Hall and Main Market Square. The nearest airport is Kraków John Paul II International Airport, 9.3 miles from Sereno Apartments, and the property offers a paid airport shuttle service. Prices start from £40 for a double room with an exterior bathroom to £60 for a triple with an en-suite.

$$ – Das Hostel

Featuring a shared lounge, Das Hostel is set in the centre of Kraków, 0.7 miles from the National Museum of Krakow. Das Hostel is close to Marszałek Piłsudski Stadium, Wisla Krakow Stadium and Galeria Krakowska. The accommodation offers a 24-hour front desk, airport transfers, a shared kitchen and free WiFi throughout the property. A bed in a ten-bed dorm starts from £14, and a four-bed dorm starts from £20 a night.

All prices are based on a stay in May 2023, expect to pay double in the summer high season.

Final Thoughts

From its beautiful architecture to its vibrant nightlife, Krakow is a city that has something exciting to offer no matter what your interests or preferences. Whether looking for the perfect weekend getaway or planning an extended stay in Poland, it would be a crime to miss exploring this charming city. Plus, thanks to its low cost of living and affordable accommodations, Krakow won’t break the bank either! So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and enjoy your own Krakow adventure today! I promise it will be a trip you won’t regret. 

Read More On Poland:

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Happy travels!

13 Fabulous things to do in Krakow Poland
13 Fabulous things to do in Krakow Poland

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