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 all leading off the huge main square Rynek Glówny, it has an abundance of amazing budget-friendly restaurants and so 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) I instead recommend visiting in the spring/autumn months when the place is much quieter. I would love to go back to Krakow in the winter when I can wrap up and explore with a steaming hot chocolate in hand.
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 a variety of market stalls selling everything from flowers to cheap souvenirs.
It’s a fabulous place to grab a drink or some lunch are watch the world go by. Be sure to 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 a short stroll through the old town 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 then you could easily spend a whole morning/afternoon checking out the whole place.
If you wish to buy tickets for any of the buildings then I recommend skipping the first ticket office at the entrance as there’s usually a large queue, especially in the peak of 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
Also situated within the grounds of Wewel Castle you will find the amazing Wewel Cathedral. If like me you enjoy visiting Cathedrals and churches, then you 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 as well as admire the beautiful architecture within.
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 worthwhile if you have the time.
5. The Sukiennice – Cloth Hall
The Cloth hall is a fabulous indoor market with traditional sellers selling all things Polish. The hall dates back to the 13th century and it’s 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 amazing 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 take in fabulous views of the market square and beyond.
If you are lucky you may also get to see the bugler that plays the hejnal from one of the windows in the tower. Legend has it that hundreds of years ago as Mongol troops approached the city, a bugler sounded the alarm, however, he was hit by an arrow mid-tune 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 stops 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.
Please note tickets to go up the tower are limited each day, 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 bought 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 whilst enjoying 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 walk around Rynek Glówny completely oblivious to what is underneath the square. Back in 2005 excavations took place on the eastern side of Krakow’s main square. Originally supposed to have been completed within 6 months; the project was extended and took a further 5 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 is an excellent museum giving a great insight into medieval Krakow including how best to bury vampires! Along with various exhibits, there are many interactive stations and light shows as well as holographic displays. Definitely, something different to do whilst in Krakow!
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 quite overwhelming but I believe it’s important to learn about such events in the hope that these 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 a completely 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 and a multitude of fabulous restaurants and bars as well as historic places and museums. Defo 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 what it was like for the Jews in Krakow 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 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 a great museum. It not only tells the story of the factory but also 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.
13. Go Shopping And Enjoy The Local Food & Drink
Finally, after all that sightseeing you will need to relax and put ya feet up! Krakow has an endless amount of bars, restaurants and cafes. All ready to help you recharge ya batteries whilst doing a spot of people-watching.
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 there is an abundance of hotels, guesthouses and hostels 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 Royal Mile, here most of Edinburgh’s attractions will be right on your doorstep. For the best deals on hotels, I recommend using booking.comBooking.com
$$$$$ – Hotel H15 Luxury Palace
Set in Kraków and with St. Florian’s Gate reachable within 100 metres, Hotel H15 Luxury Palace offers concierge services, non-smoking rooms, a garden, free WiFi throughout the property and a bar. Offering a restaurant, the property also has a fitness centre, as well as an indoor pool and a sauna. The accommodation provides room service, a 24-hour front desk and organising tours for guests. Starting from £220 for a double room and £1200 for the Presidential apartment!
$$$$ – Liebeskind Boutique Hotel
Ideally situated in the Old Town district of Kraków, Liebeskind Boutique Hotel is situated 650 yards from the Main Market Square, 650 yards from Town Hall Tower and 650 yards from Cloth Hall. The property is around less than 0.6 miles from St. Florian’s Gate and 0.7 miles from Wawel Royal Castle. The accommodation features a 24-hour front desk, airport transfers, a shared lounge and free WiFi throughout the property. Starting from £75 for a standard double room and £120 for a superior double room.
$$$ – Sereno Apartments
Situated in Kraków, 1.6 miles from Wawel Royal Castle and 1 miles 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. Starting from £40 for a double room with exterior bathroom to £60 for a triple with en-suite.
$$ – Das Hostel
Featuring a shared lounge, Das Hostel is set in the centre of Kraków, 0.7 miles from 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 10 bed dorm starts from £14 and a 4 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.
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 you’re 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 plenty of 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.
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Thanks so much for stopping by, I appreciate every one of you who takes the time to read and make it to the end! I have lots of exciting new content coming in the next few weeks so make sure you pop back to catch up!