Krakow, an adoring Gothic city, used to be the capital of Poland before Warsaw. This cute little town is full of interesting places to explore. The main sights are located within a walking distance. So interested
How to get to Krakow
Getting to Krakow is not a big deal. There are various ways to get to this Polish city. The most comfortable way, of course, is flying into Krakow John Paul II International Airport, located outside of the city, in a small village of Balice. There are budget-friendly airline companies like Wizzair and Ryanair flying directly from various cities around the world.
Krakow is also well connected to other European cities via train or bus. And if you are located somewhere close by, you can even easily drive here. For instance, we drove from Prague to Krakow.
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What to do in Krakow
The city’s existence dates back to at least 50,000 years before the Slavic rule. The golden era in Krakow was in Middle Ages and once here, you fill the sense of it.
WWII barely affected the architecture of Krakow, unlike Warsaw. The landmarks remain authentic, but they do tell the horrific stories of Nazi occupation. The best way to discover the city is by foot – most of the sights are within walking distance.
Free Walking Tour Krakow
If you wish to experience Krakow with a guided tour, the best way is to tag along with the Free Walking Tour. The guides are locals, so they know their city pretty well. The company has several walking tours you can choose from, like Old Town, Jewish Krakow, WWII in Krakow, and Street Art to name a few.
There is no fixed price, free walking tours operate on tips.
Built in 1257, after the Mongol invasion, this main square of Krakow covers at least 100 sq. meters. It is the largest market area in the region. It used to be the epicenter of country’s historic events, festivals, and social gatherings.
Since the beginning, it was a social, commercial, and social hub of the city and a connecting gate with the West.
It serves the same purpose even today. You see locals scattered across the area enjoying warm sun, snacks, feeding the pigeons, drinking a cup of coffee. You can even climb the St. Mary Basilica for spectacular views of the area.
It was the Easter period during our visit to Krakow. We were lucky enough to see the parade of locals dressed in their traditional costumes – white dresses and shirts with colorful embroidery.
This is another interesting place to explore in Krakow. Located under the main market square, the underground museum is a hi-tech venue taking you four meters down. Here, you’ll be able to explore medieval retailer stalls and to encounter with Krakow’s entire history – starting from its first inhabitants to the death of Pope John Paul II.
The museum features around 6,000 meters of multimedia exhibits. As the museum is very popular and only 300 people can visit it at once, buy tickets in advance either online or at the information office located on the other side of the Cloth Hall.
- Opening Hours: Winter Season (Nov-Mar): Mon, Wed-Sun 10 a.m – 8 p.m; Tue 10 a.m – 4 p.m
Summer season (Apr-Oct): Mon 10 a.m – 8 p.m; Wed-Sun 10 a.m – 10 p.m; Tues 10 a.m – 4 p.m
- Entrance Fee: Adults – 21 PLN. Tuesdays are FREE.
One of the main things to do in Krakow is to visit Jagiellonian University, the oldest university in town and learn more about its façade and legendary history. Founded in 1364, Nicolaus Copernicus and Nawojka, the first women to studied in school in the 15th century attended the university.
Kazimierz or Jewish quarter does attract many visitors to its streets. Jews who lived here have created an important culture seen everywhere you look. Rich with history and heritage, Kazimierz district is popular among the young and alternative crowd. If you are looking for a budget dining and nightlife, be sure to check it out.
Barbican is the city’s Medieval defense castle build in the 15th century to protect Krakow’s main entrance. 24.4 meters in diameter, Barbican has 3 meter thick walls is the only existing construction of its kind in Europe.
Today, it hosts different events like contests and medieval pageants. From April until October, you can visit the castle as an outdoor museum and learn about its history.
- Opening Hours: Winter Season (Nov-Mar): Closed
Summer season (Apr-Oct): Mon-Sun 10:30 a.m – 6 p.m; closed on every second Monday of the month
- Entrance Fee: Adults – 9 PLN.
- Note: The ticket also includes a visit to the Defence Walls. You can buy tickets in the Visitor Centre at Sukiennice, Rynek Główny 1.
Wawel Royal Castle
Located on top of the hill, Wawel Castle is visible from everywhere in the city. It is as iconic as Eiffel Tower is to Paris. It’s fairytale windows, and dramatic spires persuade you to disconnect from modern daily life and imagine the time of its glory.
The Royal Cathedral situated within the compound has witnessed many coronations and marriages of Polish kings, as well as the burials and funerals of the countries monarchs over the centuries.
Spend at least half of the day here. Wander through the Royal residences, chapels, and cathedral. Do not miss seeing dragon’s cave at the bottom of the hill and enjoy breathtaking views of the Vistula River and Old Town.
Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory
This former enamel factory is now home to an exhibition called Krakow Under the Nazi Occupation 1939-1945. The ex-administrative building of Shindler’s factory tells the story how one person’s dedication has saved almost a thousand Jews during the WWII. It also tells the story of Nazi Germans who came to the city and disturbed the centuries-long relationship between Jews and Poles. It’s a must-visit place once here, so don’t miss it!
- Opening Hours: Winter Season (Nov-Mar): Mon 10 a.m – 2 p.m; Tue-Sun 10 a.m – 6 p.m
Summer season (Apr-Oct): Mon 9 a.m – 4 p.m [every first Mon of the month it’s open till 2 p.m]; Tue-Sun 9 a.m – 8 p.m [every first Tue of the month it’s closed]
- Entrance Fee: Adults – 24 PLN. You need to book your tour and buy the ticket online. Please check out this link
The Museum of Contemporary Art
The museum is located within the territory of the former enamel factory of Oskar Schindler. Here, you can see the works of local and international artists. Apart from the exhibition hall, there’s a library, a bookshop, contemporary art conservation laboratory, and a cafe.
- Opening Hours: Tue-Sun from 11 a.m to 7 p.
EntranceFee: Adults – 14 PLN. Tuesdays – FREE
This district of Krakow is one of the most inhabited areas of the city. It is one of only two planned socialist realist areas ever built and one of the most famous examples of social construction in the entire world. Built as an ideological city, its streets, design and certain height of buildings often relate to London or Paris.
Day Trips from Krakow
If you come to Krakow, you should have one day reserved for Auschwitz-Birkenau. Located in about 50 km west of the city, Auschwitz is a thrilling place to visit, leaving you with goosebumps and full of different emotions – sadness, anger, disbelief…
A quiet town of Oswiecim became a concentration camp of Nazi regime; however, it was not enough and Germans spread the camp to the close-by village Brzezinka covering at least 425 acres in total. Everything here was done in secrecy and Nazis made sure to keep it inaccessible.
There are no words describe the place. You should experience it by yourself. I know it can be quite emotional and moving, but it is part of our history – an unbelievable reality of the cruelest ruler of the 20th century.
- Opening Hours: Everyday. Dec 7:30 a.m – 2 p.m;
Jan & Nov 7:30 a.m – 3 p.m; Feb 7:30 a.m – 4 p.m; Mar & Oct 7:30 a.m – 5 p.m; Apr, May & Sep 7:30 a.m – 6 p.m; Jun, Jul, & Aug 7:30 a.m – 7 p.m;
- Entrance Fee: Adults – from 460 PLN depending on the guided tour you take
Wieliczka Salt Mine
Very close to Krakow, there’s an interesting place to check out – Wieliczka Salt Mine. The so-called table salt has been produced here since ancient times until 2007. It’s one of the oldest operating salt mines in the world.
Today, the mine is an official monument of Polish history and is open to the public for visiting. You can wander through labyrinthine passages, admire the old technology, visit the underground lake, chapels, and see the statues carved from the salt rock.
- Opening Hours: Everyday (except official holidays) Apr 1 – Oct 31: from 7:30 a.m to 7:30 p.m. Nov 2 – Mar 31: from 8 a.m to 5 p.m
- Entrance Fee: Adults – 89 – 94 PLN. This depends on a season. The ticket includes a free guide.
As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments down below, or connect with me on my social media channels. I will be happy to assist you as much as possible.