Krakow is the second largest city and one of the oldest cities in Poland, located next to the gentle Vistula River. Krakow is the cultural, artistic and economic center of Poland. The Old Town of Krakow was recognized as a UNESCO Heritage Site. To talk about Krakow, it is not possible to describe in several words or few sentences or a post or two. In this article, I will share what I have tried myself and found interesting while visiting Krakow. However, I strongly recommend that you read more about the history of Krakow. Incredibly interesting no less than Gdansk! So, where to go and what to do in Krakow Poland? Let’s check out my suggested the list of 13 top things to do in Krakow, must do in Krakow and best things to do in Krakow as well as best places to visit in Krakow, must visit places in Krakow to clear the answer!
- Krakow itinerary 2 days — How to spend 2 days in Krakow perfectly?
- Poland itinerary 5 days — How to spend 5 days in Poland to visit Warsaw and Krakow
- Krakow blog — The fullest Krakow tourist guide for first-timers
- Zakopane blog — The ultimate Zakopane travel guide: How to get & what to do in Zakopane Poland
- Gdansk travel guide — The ultimate Gdansk guide: Best things & what to do in Gdansk
Best things to do in Krakow: Visit Main Market Square (Rynek Główny) and have a Polish breakfast in the Cloth Hall
This is the largest medieval square in Europe. This square is surrounded by Cloth Hall and St. Mary’s Basilica. This square is also connected to the main tourist shopping street, where there are many stores, cafes and souvenir shops.
In Cloth Hall, there are many specialty shops and souvenirs, mainly selling amber gemstone. The price will be more expensive than normal stores outsides. Just outside along Cloth Hall there is a classy cafe that if possible I suggest you should try sitting down, sipping a cup of coffee, watching activities around the square. Coffee is drinkable, menu is varied and not too expensive compared to average in Europe. Plus, there’s live music performing by a Grand Piano player in the bar (I don’t know if they have one fickle musician. But I’ve been there twice and the player was a very handsome guy and he played Chopin very well).
You should climb the tower of St. Mary Church if possible. You will have a panoramic view of Krakow, I like it very much! And definitely should visit inside this church. Magnificent!
I highly recommend you to visit this iconic square and Cloth Hall at Christmas. The Christmas markets in Poland are especially vibrant and bustling, with cheap but delicious food, countless specialties. Moreover, around the city, there are also many native gifts (Colorful little churches statues as gifts). I like to hunt for such things like this, like hunting a treasure. Like in Wroclaw, I hunted for gnomes.
Best places to visit in Krakow: Old Town
The Old Town of Krakow is a bustling area with stores, restaurants, cafes and souvenir shops. Ulica Florianska (Florian’s Street) connects directly to the St. Florian’s Gate. In Krakow there are 2 gates, the Florian gate and the Barbakan gate, don’t be mistaken, they all dating back from the Middle Ages.
In general, Krakow’s old town is clustered together, making it easy to visit. Check out the list of attractions below to see where you can go in this old quarter.
- St. Mary’s Basilica – Cathedral of Mary
- Florian Gate
- Barbakan Gate
- Cloth Hall
- Rynek Underground (underground road, a historical road. Now, it is a museum).
Personally for me, the Old Town and the Main Square are on the must-see list for any visitor, but I was not very interested in. When I traveled around Europe, I saw that in cities in general and the old quarters in particular were all similar, full of tourists, full of restaurants, stores and gift shops. They are only just different in style and history. Before visit these places, I encourage you to read about its history a bit. Understanding and visiting will make more sense than just looking at these pictures.
This is similar to churches. I once lived in Italy for 3 years and also traveled quite a bit in Europe, and I must say that in terms of grandeur the Baroque churches in Italy belong to the “first class”, and the churches in France are “unbeatable”! If you like the church, you can enter to visit it, otherwise if you’ve visited the churches in Italy and France, you don’t need to see churches in other countries.
What to do in Krakow: Listen to Chopin at the Viennese style theater of Slowacki and the Saints Peter and Paul Church
The Viennese Slowacki style theater is very famous for its Chopin concerts. If you like classical music, you should give it a try. I listened to Chopin’s Concerto 1 concert here and was quite satisfied. Although not as grand and sophisticated as in Vienna, it still has a different style. Moreover, I chose to listen to Chopin here for a reason – Arthur Rubinstein is the greatest Polish pianist of all time, and one of the composers he best perform is Chopin! Although he was born and raised in Lodz (another Polish city that I will going to) but he is revered everywhere in Poland. Going to Poland to listen to Chopin is really no different from going to Vienna to listen to Mozart or Strauss, or going to Budapest to listen to Liszt!
I mention St. Peter and St. Paul Church for 2 reasons:
- It is one of Poland’s oldest Baroque churches. But ok, still not as splendid as the Italian Baroque churches. If you’ve been to the Vatican or St. Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest, all other churches are… the same with each other.
- The 2nd reason, there are often budget concerts here, tickets are usually only 40 – 50zl (about 10 euros). But I don’t recommend you to listen here, go to Slowacki theater instead. Last time I went to participate in a concert, including G-string, Bach concerto with orchestra, Vivaldi winter in four seasons, Canon in D by Pachelle, but it actually was quite disappointed than street music performances.
Best things to do in Krakow: Visit Wawel Royal Castle on Wawel Hill
Castles are everywhere, but “mixed” castles like Wawel are not. The unique thing about Wawel is that it is really… “big” (7,040 m2 (0.704 ha)), and it is a rather “messy” but relatively harmonious combination of Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque styles. This castle is quite large and spectacular including a museum and a church. In addition, there is also a bronze dragon statue at the end of a cave which was killed by the founder of Krakow, Krakus. Inside the Wawel Castle is an art museum with collections of Italian Renaissance paintings. But, well, would rather go to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence to see. Moreover, when it comes to museums, we have to go to the following sections.
Tip: The symbol of Krakow is the Dragon. Don’t forget to buy a lovely cotton dragon as a gift.
Address: Wawel 5, 31-001 Kraków, Poland
Hours: 9:30 AM – 4:00 PM
Designated as world heritage site: 1978 (2nd session)
Built: 13th and 14th centuries
Must do in Krakow: National Museum
Surely no one has never heard of the great Italian painter, architect, sage and inventor Leonardo from Vinci? He was one of the three pillars of the Renaissance, along with Raffael and Michelangelo. His most famous and most expensive painting is the Mona Lisa at the Louvre in Paris, France (trust me, half the world comes to Lourve just to see this. When I went there, I couldn’t even get close to it, the painting is small but the viewers were literally “crammed” into each other), and The Last Supper in Milan. But there is another equally famous painting, which is the Lady with an Ermine, and it is displayed in this National Museum in Krakow.
Of course, the National Museum has also many other areas to visit. It’s just a coincidence that when I came, they showed this picture. I’m not sure it’s always there. But there are still many other areas to visit here.
Address: al. 3 Maja 1, 30-062 Kraków, Poland
Hours: 10AM–6PM/Monday: Closed
Getting there: You can catch tram 20 to go to the museum.
What to do in Krakow: Schindler’s Factory Museum (Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory)
This is one of my must-go museums! The history museums of Poland are especially informative, interesting, creating a unique experience and close to history. I went everywhere, and I made the comment that: Art museums are the best in Italy and the Netherlands, then in France; History museums are much more special in Central and Eastern Europe than in Western Europe. Especially the Polish history museums, extremely wonderful! The museums of nature, Switzerland is the best!
Schindler’s List is a true story, made into a same name movie by Steven Spielberg. I highly recommend you watch this movie. Very emotional. But anyway, I would like to summarize this Schindler’s List: When the Nazis began massacring the Jews in particular, Schindler was a German businessman who at first only intended to get rich by exploiting the Jewish workers in your enamelware factory. But later he gradually covered for his Jewish community, finding ways to bribe the German elite and save lives, enclosing thousands of other Jews. He spent all his assets to save people. When his fortune was just emptiness, the World War 2 ended. The Red Army invaded Poland also when he had to flee, because he identified himself as a criminal because he belonged to the German Socialist Party. He planned to flee to the West to surrender to the United States. When he said goodbye to the Jews he had protected, all signed a paper proving he was the one who saved them, and a ring engraved with the words of the Talmud: “Whoever saves one life saves the world entire”. Later his Jews were released.
This museum really shows the atmosphere, scenes and spirit of this intense historical period, no less than Auschwitz camp. If you love history, this must be on the list of must-visit museums in Poland in particular and in the world in general!
Address: Lipowa 4, 30-702 Kraków, Poland
Must do in Krakow: Jewish District (Kraków Kazimierz)
Poland is home to a lot of Jews, so most of the concentration and extermination camps are located in Poland (which is very sad). But their presence is still imprinted in Polish history, culture and life, specifically as a Jewish neighborhood in the heart of Krakow. It is a typical residential area with bars, houses, lots of cafes, restaurants serving tourists, lots of synagogues. In the main square there is also The Old Synagogue — the oldest one of Poland. Now it’s a museum. I think you should not to enter, because it is quite small, the information is also limited. Moreover, you should read about the history of the Jewish people first. If so, go in and then go out, there’s no result.
In Jewish Quarter, in addition to the bustling shops, there is also a bookshop located near the Rubinstein restaurant, inside selling a lot of books on the history of the Jewish people, in Polish, English and French, looking very old. You can stop by and take a look.
Best things to do in Krakow: Pub crawl and vodka
“Dancing, disco in clubs, bars” – one of the indispensable activities in Poland, is no different from going to jazz in Bulgaria and pubs in Prague. There are countless bars and clubs here, so please visit Tripadvisor to find your favorite venues in Krakow neighborhoods. However, in my opinion, you are free to choose and drop by from one to another without having to check first. I didn’t even choose the street, just sat at this shop for a while, walked out, saw another good one, then stop by again.
Or, if you don’t want to “jump the bar”, you should stop by the alcoholic drinks pubs. It’s beer and spirits heaven (don’t expect to find wine). Try a few Polish traditional or Czech beers, or better yet, try vodka. From Pure Vodka to Flavored Vodka, the options are very diverse. Moreover, they are all very cheap. Poland is probably one of those rare countries where you can buy alcohol for some penny.
Must do in Krakow: Go up Kosciuszko Mound to watch sunset
Kosciuszko Mound is an artificial hill located outside the city, formerly used as a strategic viewpoint into Krakow. Now this hill becomes one of the famous tourist attractions of Krakow. Coming here to watch the sunset is really nothing more romantic.
Address: al. Waszyngtona 1, 30-204 Kraków, Poland
Top things to do in Krakow: Join the free walking tours
Krakow is famous for its very effective and interesting free walking tours. Each tour lasts 2 to 3 hours, and is available in many languages, not just English. All these tours do not require a reservation, are completely free, just show up. Of course, when finish the tour you can tip for the guide if you want. I will list the tours they have.
Krakow Old Town Tour
With 2 tours per day, during the tourist season (March to October) at 10am and 4pm between the Florian Gate and the Barbakan watchtower, in the off season (November to March) at 10am and 2pm, same location.
World War II Tour
One trip per day.
- Tourist season: July to October at 1:30 pm.
- Winter: November to February at 10:30 am.
- Meeting point: The Cross of Katyn, next to Gilles church.
- Tourist season from March to October: Every day at 10:00 am, 1:30 pm and 5 pm.
- Cold season: Every day, 10:30 am and 13:30 pm.
- Meet up location: Old Synagogue in the Jewish square I mentioned above.
These are the three most famous and most often chosen tours. Please look for a guide holding a yellow umbrella. Although it’s completely free, the guide still accept tips. Please refer here for more information.
What to do in Krakow Poland: Let’s get out! Wieliczka Salt Mine and Auschwitz concentration camp
Having taken the time to come to Krakow, it is best not to miss these two wonderful day-tours. They located quite far from the city, but these are worth trips. But the information about them is much more and complicated, so I will have a separate post.
Where to stay in Krakow?
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)
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