Krakow is one of the most attractive destinations when it comes to Polish tourism with its rich and long history along with ancient, quaint architectural works. This Poland’s oldest city was recognized by UNESCO as a World Cultural and Natural Heritage in 1978 and a European City of Culture in 2000. Krakow will definitely be one of the most attractive Central European destinations you should not miss when you have an opportunity to traveling to Poland. So, what to do and how to plan a perfect budget trip to Krakow, Poland for the first-time? Let’s check out our Krakow blog (Krakow travel blog) with the fullest Krakow travel guide (Krakow guide, Krakow tourist guide, Krakow city guide) from how to get there, best time to come, where to stay, best places to visit and top things to do to figure out the answer!
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Krakow blog: Overview of Krakow
Where is the city of Krakow?
Krakow is Poland’s former capital, located on the banks of the River Wisla (Vistula) at the foothills of Wagel in the region of Lesser Poland and was established in the 7th century. It is one of the oldest and largest cities of Poland. This place is dubbed the cultural capital of Poland with a history of more than 1000 years and a huge cultural heritage.
Founding from the 7th century, the Polish city of Krakow soon became the economic, cultural and political center of the country. It was the capital of the Polish kingdom from 1038 to 1569. Dubbed the oldest city in Poland, Krakow was recognized by UNESCO as a cultural city in 1978.
Why should you visit Krakow?
- One of the cultural cities recognized by UNESCO. Previously, there were only seven cities in the world honored in this section (including Edinburgh, Melbourne, Iowa City, Dublin, Reykjavik and Norwich City). Up to now, the current list of world cultural cities is 28 cities.
- Krakow is known as the most beautiful city in Poland.
- Once the ancient capital of Poland for nearly 500 years before the King moved the capital to Warsaw.
- The world famous Kazimierz Old Jewish Quarter – the setting of “Schindlers’ List” – one of the best movies in American cinema history.
- A former residence and resting place of Polish kings.
- Wieliczka Salt Mine is very special salt mine when it also is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- The Polish city of Krakow is one of the largest academic centers in the country. Jagiellonian University founded in 1364 is one of the oldest universities in the world.
Krakow tourist guide: When is the best time to come to Krakow?
Krakow in particular and Poland in general are favored by nature, so the climate here is quite mild and pleasant. Therefore, you can make a Krakow travel itinerary at any time of the year, each season has its own beauty that is unlike any other.
However, for the most enjoyable and fun experience, you should visit Krakow at a time of little rain and not too cold. So, you should choose to come to this city around late Spring – early Summer (May, June) or late Summer – early Autumn (September, October). These are considered as the two times with the most favorable climate conditions for traveling, walking and exploring the ancient capital of Krakow. Moreover, this is also the time of changing seasons. You will easily feel the transformation, color changing of the charming mountain and river scenery in this peaceful city.
Krakow travel guide: How to get to Krakow?
There are many carriers operating flight routes to Krakow, to find cheap airfares as well as suitable flight routes you can access Google Flights, Skyscanner to refer to. There are also other ways to get to Krakow, check it out here.
Getting from the airport to the city center
Krakow Airport (officially John Paul II Kraków-Balice International Airport) is the Poland’s second largest airport, about 15km from the city center. Some ways to get from the airport to the city center of Krakow are as follows:
Shuttle train: Traveling time about 20 minutes and every 30 minutes with a trip. Operating time 4:06AM – 11:36PM. Tickets cost 9 zlotys (€2.1) and tickets are purchased at ticket vending machines at the airport. When leaving the baggage claim area, you should notice that there is an escalator to lead you to the train station.
Bus: Bus no. 252 or 208, every 30 minutes with a trip, tickets cost €1/way. The night bus no. 902 running at night from 11:20 p.m. to 4:50 a.m. To take the bus, you just need to go out the door, you will see about 3, 4 bus stops. Each bus stop will serving different types of routes such as long-distance bus, bus to city center. You find the first bus stop with the signboard on the side of the bus numbers like 252, 208 is correct. Bus tickets can be bought at ticket vending machines at the airport, ticket vending machines at bus stations or right on buses. Tickets can be purchased with a bank card (like Visa or Master cards), so it’s better to use this way than to exchange money at the airport and then use Polish currency to buy it.
Taxi: 15 minutes of riding for €20-35.
Krakow blog: Getting around Krakow
Means of public transport to getting around Krakow is quite convenient and easy. Mainly bus and tram. Ticket prices are the same and can be purchased at ticket vending machines at stations or on buses, or via apps such as SkyCash or MoBILET (buying via app is only for those own a Polish phone number). There are 2 types of tickets for 2 different zones: zone Strefa I (City Krakow) and zone Strefa I + II Aglomeracja (Agglomeration). Most of Krakow tourist attractions belong to the Strefa I zone. However, the Krakow airport (in Balice village) and the salt mine belong to the Strefa II zone.
Note that you should stamp on your ticket as soon as you get on the bus or tram. Buy tickets directly also have to stamp. There is no need stamp if you buy tickets via ticket apps above. The ticket price list is illustrated as shown below. In general, the single ticket price is only about €1 and the day pass is about €4-5.
Hop on – hop off tickets: €15 for 24 hours and €18 for 48 hours.
Krakow blog: Where to stay?
During my visit, I rented a room at the apartment Przytulny Pokój w Centrum- Stare Miasto for €25 / night for 2 people. The price is quite cheap, but the house is also near the center, so it is very convenient to travel. This place is about 5-10 minutes walk from the old town square or shopping center. You can share kitchen, washing machine, toilet with 3 other rooms. However, because the room is in the attic (loft), the room is quite small and low. Airbnb pictures are a bit virtual ^_^.
Below we recommend more best budget, mid-range and upscale hotels with good ratings and reviews you can refer to.
- Radisson Blu Hotel Krakow (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Mercure Krakow Stare Miasto (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Metropolitan Boutique Hotel (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Hotel Betmanowska Main Square Residence (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Sheraton Grand Krakow (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
Krakow tourist guide: Where to go, what to do?
Krakow Old Town (Stare Miasto)
Krakow Old Town (Stare Miasto in Polish) is one of the most famous old towns in Poland today. This famous tourist attraction in Poland has been the political and cultural center of Poland for more than 500 years. Krakow Old Town is also on the list of the first places to be awarded the title of UNESCO World Heritage Site. The center of Krakow’s old town is Rynek Glowny – the largest Main Market Square in Central Europe which is famous for its large square and St. Mary Basilica and the Cloth Hall.
Main square is located in the heart of the ancient capital of Poland. The square dates back to the 13th century and is surrounded by palaces, ancient buildings and the splendid church of Santa Maria. The center of this square is Cloth Hall with many souvenir stalls, stores. It was built in the sixteenth century. However, so far, it has been well-preserved through many ups and downs in history. Some prominent places you should visit:
- Cloth Hall
- Saint Mary’s Basilica (opening hours: 11:30AM – 5:45PM, ticket price €3, skip the line)
I think this square is quite beautiful. This is definitely one of the 2 best Krakow tourist attractions you should not miss when coming here.
Cloth Hall is a Renaissance building located in the central square of the old town of Krakow. This is one of Krakow’s most famous landmarks. The entire old town was listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1978. It was also a famous international trade center. During the heyday of the 15th century, Krakow had a large supply of imported products from the East, including spices, silks, leathers and waxes. Before the Renaissance, Krakow was the Royal capital of Poland, one of the most magnificent cities in Europe. However, the prosperity of the place did not continue. War and political conflicts led to the partition of Poland in the late 18th century, accelerating the city’s decline. By 1870, under the rule of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Cloth Hall was restored. It is also one of the proudest achievements of this period. Over the centuries, it has hosted countless guests, politicans, VIPs and is still in use today.
St. Mary’s Basilica
The cathedral consists of 2 bell towers of 69m and 82m high. At the second floor where you can hear traditional tunes. Usually once an hour. Therefore, when come here, you will feel very gentle and tranquil.
You can climb up the wooden stairs to be able to zoom out and have a panoramic view of the beautiful Polish city of Krakow. There is also a wooden altar that is considered the largest one in the world. You will feel the majesty and attraction of the space here.
Address: plac Mariacki 5, 31-042 Kraków, Poland
Historical Museum of the City of Krakow
The museum consists of 14 galleries scattered throughout the city of Krakow. In which the main gallery is located at Krzysztofory Palace on the Main Market Square. In addition, the gallery at Oskar Schindler’s Factory is also one of the most crowded galleries today. This place recreates the period of occupation of Poland during the period 1939-1945. If you plan to visit this museum, you should buy tickets online at least 1 week in advance. Admission is about €3 but it is very crowded with tourists.
The museum displays works on the History and Culture of Krakow as well as military collections (ammunition, guns, defenses and sharp weapons) of the time.
Address: Sukiennice, 31-011 Kraków, Poland
Hours: 11AM–5PM/Closed: Monday
A 2-min walk from Rynek Główny
Kazimierz (The Old Jewish Quarter)
Kazimierz (The Former Jewish District) is a Jewish quarter. In 1495, the Polish king expelled the Jews to Kazimierz, thereby ushering in an era of prosperity for this neighborhood. This tourist attraction has not only developed over the years, but also witnessed many ups and downs in the history of Krakow.
However, after World War II, the former Jews abandoned the area. From 1988 until now, every year the Jewish Cultural Festival is held to attract Jews to return as well as to promote tourism. Today, the Kazimierz area has gradually become a disorderly area, so you should not come here at night.
This is also the place where the movie “Schindlers’ List” is set – one of the best films in American cinema history telling the story of Schindler. A German merchant saved the lives of thousands of Jews during the time this race was hunted by Hitler.
This area is quite large and the houses are older than the rest of Krakow. My personal opinion, it is not too special.
Address: 30-001 Kraków, Poland
Wawel Palace includes Wawel Royal Castle and Wawel Cathedral. Wawel Palace is a Gothic palace built in the 14th century by Polish king: Casimir III the Great.
Legend has it that, once upon a time, there was a very fierce dragon living in the cave inside Wawel Hill, no one could defeat it. Then one day a young man named Krakus who plotted and killed the dragon. This young man later became a national hero and was greatly loved by the people. So the name Krakow city is also derived from this guy’s name. The 2 tourist attractions in Krakow you should visit when coming to Wawel are:
Wawel Royal Castle
Address: Wawel 5, Krakow 31-001, Poland
Opening hours: Sun: 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM/Tue – Sat : 9:30 AM – 4:00 PM
The Wawel Castle complex is located on the hill of the same name in the south of the old town. This tourist attraction is also one of the most attractive architectural works in Poland today.
This place is not only one of the largest castles in the country but also a place to show the kingship of the Polish empire during the 16th-17th centuries. The Wagel castle was the residence and resting place of the Polish kings at that time.
Address: Wawel 3, Krakow 31-001, Poland
Opening hours: Sun: 12:30 PM – 4:00 PM/Mon – Sat : 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Ticket price: free
It was once the place where the coronation and burial ceremonies of Polish kings are held.
Stained Glass Museum
In this beautiful city, there are many tourist attractions for you to choose as a place to come and explore. However, you will not be able to ignore an ideal destination like the Stained Glass Museum where a lot of beautiful works are made of stained glass. Therefore, instead of designing ordinary windows, these colored glass panels make this museum area even more attractive.
Address: aleja Zygmunta Krasińskiego 23, 31-111 Kraków, Poland
Hours: 11:30AM–6PM/Monday, Sunday: Closed
This is an oldest university in the world. Built in 1364 and so far this is considered a must-visit place in Krakow.
The courtyard is designed in an arc shape that looks very beautiful. In addition, there is an antique clock and wooden statues. Coming here, you feel like lost in a space of the medieval period. Many visitors when visiting this place feel excited because it makes you more curious and stimulates the imagination.
Walking around the river
The Wisla River flowing through Krakow will bring visitors wonderful moments of relaxation. You can take a walk along its banks, or organize a small picnic on lush lawns. Normally, this area is always bustling with many events being held. You can also dine on boats that go along the river when taking a cruise tour.
Joining a free walking tour
Like any other European city, there are free walking tours in Krakow that you can join. One of the most popular tour operators offering this type of tour is CracowFreeTours.com, which take you to visit the old town, Jewish old quarter, architectural structures, experience Krakow nightlife and Poland cuisine.
Climbing Kopiec Krakus Mound
If you want beautiful views over the city, spending time to visit Krakus Mound located in the Podgórze district, 3 km to the south of old town. However, you should only come here on clear, blue days to have the best view.
Address: 30-543 Kraków, Poland
Wieliczka Salt Mine
The Wieliczka Salt Mine is one of the UNESCO heritage sites, built in the 13th century and produced table salt until 2007. It is part of the oldest salt mines in the world and has become a historical relic of Poland. Besides the salt mine, tourists can also visit the museum with dozens of ancient statues, church and a vast synagogue.
To get to the salt mine you need to go down 800 steps stairs with a depth of 135m and can be go up by an elevator.
Ticket price: €23, with a tour guide is €40. Click on this page to receive a €5 discount code then book your tickets online here.
Some other Krakow tourist attractions:
- Street art: Ding Dong Dumb (Piwna 3a), Judah (Św Wawrzyńca 16), Bawol Square (Plac Bawół 3), and AGH mural (Czarnowiejska 50b)
- Bernatka Footbridge
- Botanical Gardens of the Jagiellonian University
- Miniature Park
- Planty Park
- Jordan Park
Krakow blog: What and where to eat?
- Traditional Polish restaurant: Restauracja Starka. The restaurant specializes in serving Polish dishes at fairly affordable prices. Only about €8-14/serving. You should reserve in advance.
- Italian restaurant Bianca right next to St. Mary Cathedral. Main dishes cost around €10-12.
- Vietnamese restaurant Hoan Kiem. This restaurant’s dishes are not very Vietnamese cuisine, but a bit of a Chinese cuisine. I also have eaten at Hoang Hai restaurant, but the food is not as good as in Czech or German (price range €5-7).
- Edo Fusion Asian Cuisine restaurant in the Jewish area with many delicious dishes such as Ramen, sushi, pad Thai. The price is around €7-8. That day, I ate Ramen and found it’s better cooked than in Helsinki. Near this restaurant, there is an East Asian restaurant that serving Vietnamese food, it’s quite ok. That day, I tried roasted duck rice, which was quite delicious. The price is also around €7.
Krakow travel blog: Suggested Krakow travel itinerary for 3 days
Day 1: Main square (St. Mary Cathedral, Cloth Hall), museum, old town. These places are all very close to each other and within walking distance. The old town here has a special feature that is surrounded by a very large park like marked the green part on the map.
Day 2: Wawel Castle Complex – Wawel Church – Kazimierz Jewish Quarter – Wieliczka Salt Mine.
Day 3: If you still have time, you should take a day trip to Tatra mountain – Zakopane town (2.5-3 hours by bus). The natural scenery of the mountains and forests is extremely beautiful and majestic, really! If possible, you should visit Zakopane for at least 2 days. I am really impressed with this place and perhaps until now, after have traveled through nearly 40 European cities, Zakopane is one of the two places I feel most excited about. Absolutely do not miss this place if you intend to travel to Krakow, Poland.
Krakow blog: Traveling cost
The mid-range cost for a self-sufficient trip to Krakow as follows:
- Hotel: €50/2 nights, shared
- Food and drink: €25/day (this one I spent a bit much, actually €15-20/day is okay)
- Traveling: €10/2 days
- Total cost is about €70 per day including entrance tickets to attractions. The cost is too good for a trip to Eastern European country.
Krakow tourist guide: Some tips before you go
- Traveling to Krakow is very wonderful but the cost is extremely affordable.
- Traveling to Krakow is cheaper than traveling to Budapest and more expensive than Lithuania or Latvia, the Czech Republic. Of course, Krakow is much cheaper than other famous European tourist destinations such as Venice, Paris…
- Krakow owns many beautiful scenery with many historical and cultural architectural works.
- he street is wide, clean and airy. I see that the streets are very less garbage and cleaner than many European countries.
- You should join a free walking tour in the old town. There are many different tours such as old town tour, Jewish quarter tour, Wawel castle tour. All tours are gathered at the old town square. Each tour lasts about 2 hours and there are about 3, 4 tours per day. You can tip as much as you want after the tour is over.
- Exchange money in the center of Krakow is usually has low rates, so I recommend that you only exchange a little. In places where bank cards can be used, such as supermarkets and restaurants, you should still use them. The exchange rate is much better than using cash. During my journey, I started using the card from the airport to take the bus to the center. I only pay in Polish cash at 3 Vietnamese restaurants and at the flea market.
- Near the old town, there is a very large Galeria commercial center. There are supermarkets and countless shops here. This place is also close to the train station and bus stop.
- Near the old town, there is also a Stary Kleparz that specializes in selling fruits and fresh products. Fruit is very cheap here. I bought cherries and raspberries here for €2.5/kg. Very surprised because the price was too cheap that I has never been seen before!
- Important: Pickpocketing and theft are becoming a problem in many European countries. You should be careful!
Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, from and to Krakow you can refer to
- Auschwitz Birkenau Museum Tour from Kraków
- Private Kraków International Airport (KRK) Transfers for Kraków
- Wieliczka Salt Mine Tour from Kraków
- Schindler’s Factory Guided Tour in Krakow
- Krakow Hop-On Hop-Off City Sightseeing Bus Tour
- Kazimierz Jewish Quarter Walking Tour in Kraków
- Krakow Food Tour on Foot