Krakow is one of the most beautiful cities in Poland. It is no wonder that this city is also one of the most touristic cities for both local and international tourists. Krakow is full of historical landmarks, interesting museums, great cafes and restaurants, and many other things that you can enjoy. For those who are planning on visiting Krakow I wrote a complete guide to help you organize your time, better navigate in the city, and add the most awesome things you should do here to your own itinerary.
The Complete Guide To Krakow, Poland
Besides exploring the city itself and its highlights, Krakow has a lot of things to do outside the city, such as Auschwitz concentration camp or the Wieliczka salt mines. Therefore you should plan to spend at least 4 – 5 days. Two days for the day trips and the rest for exploring and enjoying Krakow.
Krakow is beautiful during any season of the year. However, I still advise you to visit Krakow during the shoulder season (Spring or Fall). Shoulder season means Krakow is a bit less crowded, and there are comfortable temperatures for lots of walking (not too cold, not too hot).
Krakow has two main desirable areas for tourists: Stare Miasto (the old town) and Kazimierz district (Jewish quarter).
Both of these are great areas to stay. It is the center of the city, full of things to do and places to visit. That said, I do recommend Kazimierz district over Stare Miasto.
Stare Miasto is the place where everyone goes. It can get really crowded and loud. At the same time Kazimierz district is just 10 minutes walk away from Stare Miasto, but it is a more tranquil area. At Kazimierz you don’t feel like you are in a rush to do or see something, you just enjoy your time. Plus Kazimierz district has the best restaurants and cafes in the city.
As I already mentioned, in the Jewish quarter (Kazimierz) you will find all the best restaurants, cafes and bars. Here is some of the places that I highly recommend:
Okrąglak is a place where you can try the best Krakow street food – zapiekanki.
Mirror Bistro is a place known for its delicious Polish pierogi. There you will find pierogi with many different stuffings and great prices. Many places near Rynek Square will charge two or three times as much for a plate!
Restauracja Wręga has a great menu full of traditional upscale Polish dishes. Plus the restaurant has an amazing summer terrace that creates a great atmosphere.
Alchemia is a restaurant/bar. This place is split into two parts and has two different entrances, so you get a great dinner (classic European cuisine) and then head straight to the bar area with dim lights and good music.
Stare Miasto also has some great restaurants. One of my favorite things to do is to grab a seat at one of the summer terraces on Rynek square, have a glass of something tasty, and people watch. I personally avoid getting food on Rynek since it is generally overpriced and worse quality than in Kazimierz, but if you are hungry it is possible to find good food there too.
Stare Miasto (old town) is one of the best locations to start your introduction to Krakow.
In the center of Stare Miasto you will find Rynek Glowny, the main square with tons of cute cafes and restaurants. There are also many things to do and see at the Rynek square.
Mary’s basilica is the 14th century basilica in the Gothic style which is located on Rynek Glowny square.
It is hard to miss Mary’s basilica not just due to the center location, but also due to how magnificent it looks.
I highly advise you to get inside the basilica and see a fantastic altar and very beautiful stained glass for yourself.
The Cloth hall is located in the very center of the Rynek Glowny. It is a beautiful arch structure full of stalls with Krakow souvenirs.
The Cloth hall is a historical landmark and a great shopping spot for tourists. You can find pretty much any souvenir you want at the Cloth hall.
Rynek Underground is an interactive museum that is located under the Cloth hall and half of Rynek Glowny square.
For a small fee you can visit the underground museum with its tunnels and rooms full of Krakow secrets.
Planty Park is the biggest city park in Krakow. It nearly circles Stare Miasto and is at the location where the fortification walls used to be.
Planty park is a great place for a relaxing stroll or a morning run. It also contains many children’s playgrounds.
Wawel Royal castle is one of the biggest castles in Poland and it was built in the 14th century. With time the castle grew and turned more into a castle complex with many additional structures.
Nowadays tourists can visit the Wawel Royal castle. However, you will have to buy separate tickets for every part/exhibition of the castle.
Polish vodka is a well-known product around the world. Poles have drunk and perfected the quality of vodka over many years. Therefore once you are in Poland you cannot skip such an activity like Vodka Tasting.
There is a great small bar near Stare Miasto (just 2 minutes away from Rynek Glowny) that is called Wodka Cafe Bar. At Wodka Cafe Bar they have a large variety of flavored vodka. They also offer tasting sets.
In your tasting set you can choose what flavors you want to try (you get 6 shots per set) and it will cost you around 50 Zloty.
Kazimierz district is one of the best areas in Krakow. It is also known as the Jewish quarter.
The Jewish quarter is located 10 minutes walk from Rynek Glowny square. Because Kazimierz district is less crowded than Stare Miasto, has a lot of great bars and restaurants, and it is located in the center, Kazimierz district is one of the best places to look for accommodation.
You definitely need to walk around the Jewish quarter. Look for street art, funky stores, and charming bars.
The oldest synagogue in Poland is located in Krakow in the very same Kazimierz district that we just talked about.
Nowadays the synagogue is a museum that tourists can visit for a small fee.
Inside the synagogue you will find exhibitions dedicated to the story of the Jewish quarter and its people’s tradition.
There is no exploring Poland without trying Polish traditional food. Krakow has a lot of great restaurants that serve authentic Polish food.
I advise you to look for non fancy, grandma-kitchen-like restaurants (like Kuchnia u Doroty) and old fashioned bakeries ( Cukiernia Pod Arkadami ). At places like these you will try the best food and also avoid spending a lot of money.
Besides trying Polish traditional food in Krakow, you have to try the street food.
Zapiekanki is an open sandwich that is made out of half of what seems to be a french baguette with various toppings.
Every vendor at Okraglak has its own special toppings that you can try out.
Ghetto Heroes’ square is a sad, but important place to visit. At the square you will find 70 bronze chairs that represent the lives of Jewish people that were killed during WWII.
Behind the square with bronze chairs there is a pharmacy/museum that was helping the Jewish community. For a small fee you can visit the museum and learn a bit of history.
Schindler’s factory is another museum that you cannot miss in Krakow.
This museum tells the story of the horrible terror that was happening during WWII and people who survived that terror due to Oskar Schindler and his factory.
Schindler’s factory is located on the same bank as the Ghetto Heroes’ memorial, so you can visit these two sites one after the other.
Auschwitz concentration camp is located around an hour and a half drive from Krakow. It is one of the most popular destinations for a day trip from Krakow and also one of the most horrible.
If you decide to visit the Auschwitz concentration camp on your own you need to know a few rules, and you need to pre-book your personal ticket.
Note: Don’t forget to bring your passport or id card to the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Wieliczka salt mine is another popular place to visit near Krakow. It is also a more relaxing (emotionally) and fun thing to do than visiting the concentration camp.
Down the mine you can expect to see many wonderful things, like salt statues, cathedrals, galleries, an underground lake, and more.