Nowadays, Krakow has become the new trendy hot spot for travelers to visit in Central Europe and for good reasons. Unlike Warsaw, even though Krakow is a big city, being there will make you feel like you are in a warm, closely-knitted neighborhood. The charming little district of the Jewish Quarter (Kazimierz), the stunning Wawel Cathedral surrounded by the Vistula river, and the colorful St. Mary's Basilica, there is no shortage of things to see in Krakow.
Within this guide, other than all the usual things you can do, I will take it a little further and recommend you some insider's tips I gathered from a local I know there, and from being based there for 3 months while I was backpacking Europe. Here are the top 10 things to do in Krakow according to the locals.
Looking for a complete Poland itinerary? 2 Weeks Backpacking Itinerary for Poland.
- Krakow Itinerary Map
- Poland Travel Video
- When to Go to Krakow
- Where to Stay in Krakow
- Internet in Krakow
- Travel Insurance
- How to Get to Krakow
- How to Get Around Krakow
- Top 10 Things to Do in Krakow
- 1. Explore Kazimierz
- 2. Eat your way through Kazimierz
- 3. Explore the Old Town
- 4. Walk around the Wawel Cathedral
- 5. Climb the Kościuszko Mound
- 6. Admire the Work of Oskar Schindler at his Factory
- 7. Wander around the Wieliczka Salt Mine
- 8. Learn about the Holocaust at Auschwitz
- 9 . Get away from it all and Head to the Tatra Mountain
- Further Reading for Poland
Krakow Itinerary Map
Poland Travel Video
When to Go to Krakow
Krakow is the most fun in the summer months of May - October where it is warm outside and all the outdoor festivities are in full swing. You will see that the locals become more lively during this time, picnicking, enjoying the sun with their friends, and best of all, most of the high viewpoints are open for you to climb and absorb the view of Krakow from above.
Let's be honest, it is no longer possible to escape the crowds in Europe. Places like Krakow is no longer a hidden gem and even though, you can try to avoid the peak months, you will likely see many tourists still. The question to ask is, is it worth trading that with nice clear days, warm temperature and having places be opened when you are there? I'd say no because winter Poland is really really cold and there are still tons of tourists everywhere I go.
Where to Stay in Krakow
Budget:Crakow Hostel - 12.91 USD/Night (Dorm)
Mid-Range: Home Sleep Home Wietora - 45 USD/Night (Double Room)
Internet in Krakow
Fast WIFI can be found in literally any cafe (Costa Cafe always have it) or restaurants you walk in around touristy areas or in most hostels and hotels you are staying. You should not need to buy a local sim card to stay connected if you are only visiting Poland for a few days.
If you want to buy one, I personally use Play and I have never had coverage issues or unreliable speed when I was traveling around Poland. To see the price for calls and data, please visit: Everything you need to know about buying a sim card in Poland.
If you are looking for a travel insurance to go along with your trip to Poland, I would recommend WorldNomads.com, which is what I use to look for a travel insurance that fits my kind of adventure.
How to Get to Krakow
Krakow has a great international airport and you will be able to find a flight that flies directly to Krakow from abroad without going through Warsaw. I flew with KLM from Bangkok to Amsterdam and from Amsterdam straight to Krakow. Feel free to browse on Momondo or Skyscanner to find the best and cheapest deal that works for your itinerary.
If you are within Europe, you can also fly cheaply via Ryanair, or take a bus from big cities like Budapest, Berlin or Prague via FlixBus/PolskiBus. You can also look up bus schedule and price on BusRadar.com.
How to Get Around Krakow
Buses and trams in Krakow are very well connected throughout the city and is very easy to navigate even if you don't speak Polish, with the help of an app I always recommend people when they travel to Poland. I always use Jakdojade to find a bus/tram route to go somewhere.
You can simply punch in your destination and it will tell you which bus to take, how many transits and what time you will arrive. If you are going to travel in Krakow independently, I would recommend you to download Jakdojade app (Android | iOS)
For places that are a little further like Auschwitz and Zakopane, you will have to take an inter-city bus which leaves from Kraków MDA near the main train station (Kraków Główny).
Top 10 Things to Do in Krakow
1. Explore Kazimierz
Kazimierz (the Jewish Quarter) is probably one of my favorite places in Krakow. With its chill vibe, laid-back culture and liveliness of the neighborhood, it is like a little Berlin where everyone can find something they enjoy.
You can go shopping at the vintage flea market on Plac Nowy, sip a nice cup of latte and read your personal "quote of the day" scroll at the Cytat Cafè, or you can learn about the history of the Jewish Quarter by exploring the old part of town like visiting the oldest synagogue in Krakow.
You can spend an entire day, just by exploring Kazimierz, so take your time, and give yourself a day to enjoy this wonderful neighborhood.
Insider's Tips: One of my favorite places to sit and watch people or simply work on my computer is at the Cytat Cafè. They have a very cozy space for you to sit and enjoy a cup of latte while watching people go by.
They have excellent WIFI and staying true to their names (Cytat means quotes in English), a cup of coffee comes with a small scroll and in it, you will find a nice inspiring quote about life. It's the little touch that makes every cup of coffee unique here.
2. Eat your way through Kazimierz
No, we are not done with Kazimierz yet! One of the most interesting parts of traveling abroad is the food and Kazimierz have everything you crave for. Are you craving for street food? Do not worry, Kazimierz has plenty for you to choose from.
Insider's Tips: You can try the best zapiekanka (baguette sandwich) in the country at the New Square on Plac Nowy street where you can choose your own toppings and it is served to you fresh and hot from the oven.
Andrus Food Truck is another great option when it comes to street food in Krakow. They open in the evening and there are several food trucks serving all kinds of food and snacks for you to choose from.
You have to try the Maczanka, a Krakowian burger that serves with juicy pork in onion gravy. You can also try the famous Hungarian sweet bread here and many other delicious snacks!
Sick Polish food? There's also a nice Georgian restaurant called Chinkalnia where you can find delicious Khinkali, a Georgian dumpling, and then you can compare it with the Polish one (Pierogies).
Relevent reading:The Ultimate Guide to Tbilisi, Georgia.
If you want something lighter (European food can be quite heavy sometimes), you can go to a restaurant called Baozi House and try their dumplings. Definitely my favorite kind of dumplings but I am Asian so I'm pretty biased. 😂
You crave Indian food in Poland (hey, it happens!)? I've got you covered! Head over to Taste of India restaurant and order yourself a butter chicken and a garlic naan. It's cheaper than most Indian restaurants I found and it is delicious!
Do you like Jazz? There are many cool jazz clubs around Kazimierz and one of the most well-known is the Alchemia. Tucked away in a basement, this hip jazz club is decorated with old vintage furniture, lit by candles and are not fond of large tourist groups, the best combination for everyone to have a great time.
Seriously, you can eat your way through Kazimierz for days!
3. Explore the Old Town (St Mary Basilica and more)
Step into the Fairy-tale-like Old Town Square of Krakow and admire all the old architecture like the St Mary Basilica, the Town Hall Tower, and the Kraków Barbican. Go down the Florianska tourist street and experience the liveliness of the city in full swing.
If you are there in the summer months, you might be able to participate in many activities organized in the Old Town Square like a flea market or street food market as well.
Insider's Tips: You can climb up one of the towers of St Mary Basilica for a grand view of Krakow and the Old Town Square. If you climb up there at the right time, you will be able to witness the old tradition of St. Mary's Trumpet Call where a trumpeter on the tower will come out and play the five-note Polish anthem on the hour every hour, 4 times on each side of the tower.
You can read more about this tradition here: The Trumpet Call of Krakow: Facts and Fiction.
4. Walk around the Wawel Cathedral
Wawel castle is one of the most important landmarks in Krakow, and a must visit when you are in the city. The architecture of Wawel castle is a mixture of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Early Baroque due to it being occupied and captured by different rulers over its existence. I recommend you spending at least a few hours there to learn more about its importance among the Polish people.
Insider's Tips: The best place for the best view of the Wawel castle is from the Grunwald Bridge across the Vistula river, south of the castle. During the day, you will see plenty of people walking around the river, and you will be able to get a clear view of the castle in its entirety while at night, the reflection of artificial lights on the river added to the mystical and magical feel of the castle.
5. Climb the Kościuszko Mound
There are several ancient prehistoric mounds in Krakow that are believed to either be monumental tombs or fortifications or pagan temples. Nowadays, the mounds serve as a great place to climb up at get a nice view of the city.
Krakus mound is another great one with a closer view of the old town than from Kościuszko Mound so if you don't have much time, you can climb up Krakus mound instead.
Insider's Tips: Kościuszko Mound is the largest one and it is located far enough from the city that you will be able to see both the Wawel Cathedral and the St Mary Basilica in one go. You will also have a panoramic view of the city and its surrounding landscape that you can't see from any other place.
Be sure to go there when the weather is clear, otherwise, you will be disappointed to see nothing but fog and clouds. Pollution is a big problem in Krakow and you will be able to see how bad it really is from here on cloudy days.
6. Admire the Work of Oskar Schindler at his Factory
Photos by Adrian Grycuk
If you have not watched the movie "Shindler's List", do so now before your trip and you will understand why Oskar Shindler's factory is a must-see. He was one of the few lights of hope to the Jewish people during Poland's darkest time, and this is the location where he helped many to escape the concentration camps. If you are a history buff, you can not miss this place.
Insider's Tips: They only allow a certain number of tourist per day so if you are there during the summer months, be sure to book a ticket online prior to your arrival. The entry fee is 24 PLN. You can book the ticket here on their website here.
7. Wander around the Wieliczka Salt Mine
One of the most popular tourist attraction in Krakow, the Wieliczka Salt Mine located in the city of Wieliczka, located only 15 km away from Krakow. The labyrinth of tunnels goes as deep as over 300m underground and inside, you will find large chambers, chapels, and even a salt lake.
One of the large chambers housed the Chapel of St Kinga, which was made entirely out of salt. There's also a salt lake in the Erazm Barącz Chamber which is apparently even denser than the dead sea!
Insider's Tips: The cheapest way to get there is by the 304 bus that leaves from the bus main station near the Old Town which should cost you 4 PLN one way. Make sure you get off at the "Wieliczka Kopalnia Soli" stop.
Unfortunately, you can't explore the salt mine on your own so you will have to book a tour guide which can be done easily from the Wieliczka salt mine webiste.
8. Learn about the Holocaust at Auschwitz
This is a must for those who want to learn about what went down during the Holocaust. How the Nazi systematically exterminated a large population at once is heart-wrenching but it is important to know how low humanity can go so that we do not repeat the same mistake.
There are 2 concentration camps in Auschwitz, the original concentration camp which is turned into a museum (and required that you have a ticket) and the Auschwitz 2-Birkenau, the second concentration and extermination camps where the infamous train track goes, and you have to visit both. You will need an entire day to see it all.
Insider's Tips: Not many people know this but you have to have a ticket prior to arriving at Auschwitz 1 in order to get in. During the summer months, the place is jam-packed and if you want to get in, I would recommend you reserve a ticket online and pick a time slot that works for you, days before you arrive.
You do not need a ticket to go to Auschwitz 2-Birkenau, which is connected to Auschwitz 1 via free shuttle buses so if you got an afternoon time slot, you can easily travel between the 2 camps.
To get to Auschwitz, you will have to get a bus from the MDA bus station in Krakow to Oswiecim or you can tell them to Auschwitz and they will issue you the right ticket. If you want to do it in a day, you will have to go as early as 8 AM and get the ticket from the counter downstairs. You can see the bus schedule here.
Once you got the ticket, you can get on the bus on the upstairs platform. The bus will cost you around 12 PLN and it will take around 1.5 hours to get there.
9 (Extra). Get away from it all and Head to the Tatra Mountain
If you are sick of Krakow already, why don't you get out of the city and head to the mountains? Only 2 hours by bus, you can be surrounded by the snowy peaks of the Tatra mountains. You can go hike the Morskie Oko trail or simply enjoy the cozy vibe of Zakopane.
Walk around the tourist street, have a nice Polish dinner at Karcma Zapiecek and listen to traditional music performed by local musicians, or go up a gondola to Kasprowy Wierch to see the view from above. Zakopane is the perfect side-trip for nature lovers when you are in Krakow.
Insider's Tips: Zakopane is ALWAYS crowded, may it be summer or winter so to prevent disappointment, be sure to book your accommodation and a bus days prior before you plan to go. You can book the bus online through BusRadar.com and book accommodation through Booking.com.
Further Reading for Poland
I hope you found this Poland guide useful. If you want to read more about Poland, here is a selection of articles you might like:
- Looking for a complete itinerary for Poland? 2 Weeks Backpacking Itinerary for Poland.
- Are you traveling to Poland as part of a bigger Europe trip? Be sure to check out my 3 months itinerary for Europe from Portugal all the way to Sweden.
- Warsaw is one of the most colorful capital city I’ve ever seen in Europe. If you are a photographer, you will love Warsaw. If you are looking for a great photo spots in Warsaw for your Instagram, here is my travel guide on best photo spots in Warsaw.
- Not convinced by my words? Here are 125 photos that will inspire you to visit Europe.
- You can also watch my Poland travel video here: "Proudly Poland" travel video.
- To see all the articles about Poland, visit Poland Travel Guide page.
- Looking for a place to go after Poland? How about Lithuania, Germany or Hungary? Visit our Germany travel guide page, Hungary travel guide page and Lithuania travel guide page for more.
- Looking for more travel guides for Europe? You can find more on my Europe Travel Guide page.
- Or if you want something more specific to the region, visit our Eastern Europe Travel Guide page.
- For more of my travel guides like this, visit my Destinations page.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links.