Krakow is a city that is magical to visit no mater the time of year. It feels like stepping into a real-life fairytale with the historic Main Square and the nearby Wawel castle on a hill. Of course history is not the only highlight of this vibrant city, where you can spend the night exploring the trendy bars of Kazimieriz or in the revitalized neighborhood of Nowa Huta. It’s also a city that is great for visiting whether you are with a group or traveling solo to Krakow. Here’s a list of things that will fill 3 days in Krakow, though of course you can always mix and match to cater to your personal needs.
Getting Around Krakow
The beauty of Krakow is that most of the sights are within walking distance of each other. The Main Square is about a 20-minute walk from the main train station. From the airport, there is a tram that connects to the train station. To reach further flung neighborhoods, there is a solid network of tram and buses to get you where you need to be. I didn’t know this until my cousin pointed it out, but you can actually buy train tickets in the covered underpass with all the shops on the way to the mall from the Main Square (versus going all the way to the main train station). Coming from the Main Square, enter the underpass and turn right where you’ll see a small ticket window labeled “kasa.”
Take a walk along the waterfront that includes beautiful views of Wawel and the city. Walk across the Bernatek pedestrian bridge, which was built in 2010 and links Kazimieriz to the neighborhood of Podgórze. This path along the river is also popular with cyclists and visitors can rent bikes in Krakow for the day.
Saint Mary’s Basilica
Located in the Main Square, this church is filled with history, including the trumpeter who marks the hour from a window high above in one of the two towers with his song. The interior is unsurprisingly beautiful, but make sure to not miss climbing to the top and seeing the city and the Main Square from above by purchasing a separate ticket. The stairs are a bit strenuous if you are in questionable shape like me, but once you see the aerial views of the city, trust me everything else falls away.
Spend a few hours touring the impressive home of former Polish royalty, including the Wawel Cathedral. A visit to Wawel is not complete without a visit to the Dragon’s Den. Just look for the signs and head into the underground cave where the city’s unofficial mascot is rumored to live.
Jagiellonian’s oldest college building is quite stunning, and even more so impressive when you learn that alumni include Copernicus among them. Make sure to time your visit with the musical clock that you can watch in the courtyard.
Kino Pod Baranami
This small independent cinema in the Main Square is one of my favorites in Krakow, and is always showing movies in English (including Polish ones with English subtitles).
Krakow is known for its cafe culture, and are ideal spots for not only a wide selection of drinks, but also if you’re looking for good places to eat in Krakow. Cafes are ideal for spending a few hours lost in a book or chatting with friends in the usually spacious interiors. For brunch, Cafe Camelot is a solid choice with its delicious French toast and cozy multi-roomed interior. Cafe Botanica is a personal favorite, where you can get a delicious panini and find a seat among the greenery.
Krakow has its fair share of street art worth checking out, where entire sides of buildings are covered with vibrant murals. Don’t miss M-City 658 (Krupnicza 26) created by Mariusz “M-City” Waras, one of Poland’s most recognized street artists. For a guide to some of the city’s best murals, check out this Krakow mural guide.
As the Old Jewish Quarter of Krakow, this neighborhood is filled with a rich, but dark history. Stop by the Galicia Jewish Museum to view a photo exhibit that represents the past and present Jewish presence in this area of the city. Make sure to also check out Remuh Synagogue, one of the last active ones in the area.
Once nighttime falls, bars like Alchemia and Singer are good places to start. And for late night munchies, make sure to stop at Plac Nowy for the carb-heavy zapiekanka (a large sliced baguette topped with cheese and other toppings) at Endzior.
There are plenty of tours around the city (just look for the ubiquitous golf carts), but the Free Walking Tour company is a personal favorite that has several excellent walking tours around the city. I took the Macabre nighttime tour and was highly entertained, and learned a lot from our engaging guide.
There are also paid tours like the food tour which is worth checking out as well.
The green park that encircles the entire Main Square is a great place to escape the crowds for a bit. Buy an obwarzanek (a cross between a bagel and a pretzel) from a vender nearby, grab a seat on a park bench and spend an hour or two people-watching. The are plenty of historical sights along the way, including the Barbican, a historic gateway that once lead into the Old Town via St. Florian’s Gate.
This once Communist-ruled neighborhood is experiencing a rebirth, and quickly becoming an exciting place to visit with microbreweries located in warehouses and hip cafes. The historical sights are also worth stopping by like the Plac Centralny with the looming statue of Lenin in mid-stride. Visit the Museum of Poland Under Communist Regime, before heading down the main thoroughfare of Roses Avenue to the Nowa Huta Museum. The Lord’s Ark is a church worth stopping by to see the first place of worship that was built in this neighborhood. Head to Restauracja Stylowa, for a sample of 1970s Krakow from the food to the decor. For an excellent private tour of Nowa Huta, look into Crazy Guides.
Though technically in the town of Oswiecim, the remains of this former concentration camp should not be overlooked. It’s sobering to say the least, but the tours is very informative and help visitors understand the different factors that contributed to such a unfathomable time in history. Give yourself a day to visit, whether you take the train in by yourself or go with a private tour that can pick you up from your hotel.
Where To Stay In Krakow
Staying walking distance to the Main Square is ideal, and there are plenty of choices at reasonable prices. Depending where you’re coming from luxury hotels in Krakow tend to be cheaper, especially if you are coming from places like Western Europe or the U.S.
A quick walk from the Main Square and Wawel Castle, this beautiful luxury 5-star hotel blends historical and modern decor effortlessly, and provides amenities like an indoor pool located in an underground vault.
Close to the city center, this is a solid choice for comfort and plenty of amenities, including a restaurant.bar.