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Whether you’re flying in for a quick weekend break or staying for a couple of weeks, here are my essential top tips on the best things to do in Krakow.
Things To Do in Krakow
First stop– the heart of Old Town Krakow. You can’t go wrong with a leisurely stroll through the bustling historic center of the city. Krakow’s Old Town is simply beautiful, composed of cobbled streets and lively cafes dotting the perimeter of the expansive square. The Rynek Glowny (Main Square), a whopping 10-acres squared, is officially Europe’s biggest market square and a fine place to spend the day people-watching.
Market Hall Unitarg
Hit up the lively Unitarg on the weekends to experience what a Polish flea market feels like. Walk through tons of stalls filled with random treasures—they’ve got everything from leather bags to Soviet trinkets, and age-stained pins to vintage cameras. Haggle for everything and be sure to get in early for the best deals.
Albeit a bit touristy, you’re sure to pass through Florianska Street at some point. Florianska Street is a wild assortment of things— there’s a McDonalds and Starbucks, various clubs and bars, as well as souvenir emporiums, street vendors, and vodka tasting joints. No matter the day or time, it’s sure to be bursting with visitors during the high season. It’s a decent place to just take some time and soak in the atmosphere and energy of the city.
Don’t miss out on the majestic Wawel castle and cathedral. Located on a picturesque hill, this complex is the best place to learn about Polish history. The castle is visible from almost everywhere in the city, so you definitely won’t miss it!
Pro Tip: Wawel Castle is Krakow’s most essential landmark and it’s definitely worth setting aside a few hours to explore its grounds. This highly recommended 2-hour tour reveals the castle’s fascinating history and also includes skip-the-line access so you can see and do more with your time.
The green belt Planty Park encircles the outer perimeter of Krakow’s historic Old Town. You’ll stroll past art sculptures and ornate water fountains and see locals walking their dogs and meeting up with old friends. It’s filled with life in the summertime and should not be missed.
Pro tip: This is an awesome place to go for a morning or early evening run. There are always people sitting at the benches lining the park, so rest assured your run or stroll will be filled with sights.
Visit The Kazimierz Neighbourhood
Such an enchanting neighborhood! You know a neighborhood’s going to be good when the whole thing has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you’re only here for the weekend, then Kazimierz is probably the best neighborhood in Krakow to prioritize. What was once a historic Jewish district is now a bustling, creative hub full of art, cool coffee culture, trendy bars, and restaurants. It’s vibrant and dynamic, perfect for drinks and/or a romantic meal. Another draw: there are plenty of artisan shops selling unique gifts and intimate cafes to spend time and waste the day away.
Pro Tip: Join the Jewish Krakow Free Walking Tour to learn about the history of Jewish people in Poland, the synagogues and wartime stories, and the backstory of the many historic buildings in this area. It’s a really enriching tour!
Oskar Schindler’s Former Factory
If you don’t already know the story of Oskar Schindler and his contributions during WWII, then first, you’ll need to watch Schindler’s List by Steven Spielberg. Second, you’ll need to stop by Schindler’s Factory Museum. The factory, still standing, is now home to the Oskar Schindler Museum dedicated to his story as well as Krakow’s role in WWII.
Pro Tip: Admission is free on the first Monday of each month. If you are looking to go any other day, book your tickets online in advance, as there is a daily cap on the number of visitors.
On a related note: If you’re interested in Jewish history in general, then I would highly recommend this 3-in-1 Jewish History tour through the Jewish Ghetto and includes skip-the-line access to the Schindler’s Factory Museum.
St Francis’ Basilica
St Francis’ Basilica is a beautiful Art Nouveau church that your eyes deserve to feed on. The famous stained glass windows are the work of Polish artist Stanisław Wyspiański, and are a site not to be missed.
Main Market Square Underground Museum
Rynek Underground, opened in 2010, is the museum that was built to showcase Kraków history, mixing artifacts with interactive lasers, smoke machines, and holograms. There are also a number of interpretive displays, including life-sized model houses and recreated burials, including a ‘vampire’ burial. Not a bad way to spend a few hours if it’s too cold, too hot, or too rainy outside.
Soak in the street art
Head towards the graffiti-covered streets of Józefa Street or Plac Bawół, if you want to stroll and admire the work of various street artists. If you’d like to know more about the artists and the interpretation of each work, there are walking tours, maps and even a free app for this. Some of the most impressive murals to check out are Ding Dong Dumb (Piwna 3a), Judah (Św Wawrzyńca 16), and Bawol Square (Plac Bawół 3).
Go on a countryside bike ride
Nothing beats reserving a day to take a break from walking. Instead, hop right onto a bike and get into the countryside. Krakow has long stretches of easily accessible biking trails right on the outskirts of town. With views like this, how can you pass it up?
Pro Tip: Take a page out of my book. Rent a bike yourself, punch “Tyniec Abbey” into Google Maps, and ride along the Vistula River through the tranquil Wolski Forest to visit Poland’s oldest functioning monastery. This is an extra-scenic, relatively flat ride. A must-do if you have an extra day in Krakow!
Coffee Stop: Bunkier Sztuki
If you love unusual and thought-provoking contemporary art, then you’ll love Bunkier Sztuki. Bunkier Cafe is one of a kind – with a garden in the middle of the Planty Gardens and transparent walls which are open in warm weather and lowered when it’s cooler. Make sure to visit on a Tuesday, when it’s totally free to enter. Housed in a quirky greenhouse with vintage vibes, you’ll find excellent coffee, refreshing beer and delicious food –what better way to rest your feet after hours of exploring?
Fancy a quick hike? A serpentine path leads to the top, approximately 1,070 feet above sea level, with a panoramic view of the Vistula River and the city below. From the top, enjoy sweeping panoramas of the city— you deserve it for making it up there. On clear days, you can even see the Tatra peaks to the south. You can definitely get some great photos of Krakow from above. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
This is one of the city’s most original and hip hang out / party spots. Speckled with dozens of beach chairs, bean bags, graffiti art, and vintage neon signs, Forum Przestrzenie definitely has a bit of an alternative, chill vibe to the place. During summer days, hang out at the rocky beach among the lounging locals and order a good sandwich/pizza and a beer. During the night, check out their DJ parties and other nightlife events. This venue is so versatile and needless to say, it’s an amazing spot for enjoying a full view of the Wawel Castle.
Day Trips from Krakow
This is hands down one of the most picturesque places in Krakow. A true gem a little ways out of the city center. Just look at it! The best part is, only locals know about it so you can enjoy it without having to fight for a view. The crystal waters are surrounded by trees, rocks, and amazing views. You’d never expect something like this so close to the city. It’s an amazing place to appreciate nature, have a picnic, sunbathe, and meet friendly locals.
The Tatra Mountains
Being a mountain girl at heart, this was hands down my favorite part of my trip to Poland. Also known as the ‘Polish Alps’, the Tatra Mountains lie south of Krakow and make for a great day trip or even a multi-day if you need to get away from the city life. Take one of the many buses from Krakow to the quirky mountain town of Zakopane, which lies at the foot of the mountains. You can easily spend one whole day shopping and eating in Zakopane, and the next day hiking in the mountains. If you love the outdoors, this really can’t be missed!
Pro Tip: Hiking the trails of the Tatras is really easy (despite the confusing trail names), as the trails are marked by color— just keep an eye out for the colored paint on the trees and rocks.
It sounds odd to say this is one of the best things to do in Krakow, but it really is. Everyone I’ve spoken to (including myself) who’s visited Auschwitz notes how enriching, moving, and unforgettable the experience was. A visit to this site may leave you a bit uneasy afterwards, but it’s extremely worthwhile, and you will appreciate the deeper knowledge you receive regarding the atrocities that took place during WWII.
Pro Tip: Auschwitz is located quite a ways away from Krakow and can be a challenge to get to on your own. I highly recommend taking this full tour of the Auschwitz Museum and Birkenau Camp. It includes a fully-guided tour of the concentration camp, gas chambers and prison blocks as well as transportation to and from your accommodation in the city.
Wieliczka Salt Mine
Located just outside of Krakow, the Wieliczka Salt Mine offers an unforgettable sight of underground salt art and architectural design. Yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site, this former salt mine has to be seen to be believed. First of all, it’s hundreds of meters below ground; second of all, this salt cave is decorated with ornate statues and chandeliers. Not to mention, there’s even an underground lake.
Interested in both Auschwitz and the Wieliczka Salt Mine? Check out this combo tour.
Where To Eat in Krakow
First, let’s start with a list of traditional foods to try…
Pierogi: A dumpling stuffed with meat, spices and vegetables.
Kotlet schabowy: A tenderized pork shnitzel dipped in egg and flour and coated in breadcrumbs. Served with dill and creamy mashed potato.
Barszcz: Beetroot soup thickened with sour cream and served with hunks of bread
Kielbasa: Hefty sausages served with fried onions and dill
Placki ziemniaczane: Potato pancakes served with a rich beef goulash (goulash is to die for!)
U Babci Maliny
If you are looking to try Traditional Polish Cuisine – look no more! I’m telling you, this super cute and cozy joint is not to be missed. The food here is about as authentic as it gets – not to mention how cheap it is! You will have one of your top meals here, as they serve some of the best Polish dishes in Krakow. It’s totally hidden away in an old library building. You’ll think you’re lost once you follow the wooden sign, but keep going through the corridors until you see the little sign and steps down to the restaurant.
A really simple, down-to-earth canteen in the Jewish Quarter, where you can get authentic Polish cuisine at unbeatable prices.
Offering steaming platters of traditional pierogi dumplings, sausages, and sheep cheese sourced from the pastures of the Tatra Mountains, Morskie Oko is the place to go for your fix of Polish regional cuisine.
For an experience of the new breed of modern Polish milk bars, be sure to hit up Milkbar Tomasza at some point during your trip. Cheap and delicious, the menu boasts some hearty items to start the day off.
If you’re particularly interested in tasting and learning more about Polish vodka then you’ll love this fun vodka tasting tour, which includes a guided visit to 4 different vodka bars. If you’re not used to drinking straight shots of vodka during such a short time period, then you may prefer this vodka, food and culture tour, which includes traditional food pairings to help keep things lighter.
Polish Folk Show and Traditional Dinner
Don’t have dinner plans yet? Why not dinner and a show? This 3-in-1 event mixes Polish cuisine, music, dance all in one night! Encounter Polish folklore through music and get a taste of the tradition and culture of the country.
Got any other favorite things to do in Krakow? I’d love to hear about your favorites in this wonderful city!