The Krakow I knew as a student was a lot different than the one I came back to eight years later. I talked about the changes here a bit, but the main difference was that Krakow had become a prime tourist destination.
On the one hand it was exciting to witness this more international version of the city, but on the other hand I missed the old version where not everyone spoke English, and on some nights I had the Main Square mostly to myself.
No matter what form it was in though, I love this city like a second home, and thoroughly enjoyed my time there this time around. It was nice because I hardly had plans, and could focus on just doing the things I enjoyed the most.
Speaking of those activities, below is a list of my favorite things to do in Krakow:
Walk along the Wisla River
Preferably on a warm summer day, when everyone is sitting out on the grass and drinking beer.
Climb to the top of Saint Mary’s Basilica
I had never done this until this past visit, but the wait was worth it. The climb to the top is 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.
Visit a dragon’s cave
Not one to miss out on local folklore, a visit to the Wawel castle almost always ends at this underground cave for me. Legend has it that a knight saved the city from a fierce dragon, and thus it became the city’s mascot.
Visit the Collegium Maius
Jagiellonian’s oldest college building is quite stunning, and even more so impressive when you learn that alumni include Copernicus among them. This was another place that I had managed not to visit, even though I hardly had an excuse since I took courses in the university’s other buildings a block away.
Watch a movie at Kino Pod Baranami
One of the things that I love to do when I visit other countries is to watch a movie at a local theater. This small independent one in the Main Square is one of my favorites in Krakow, and is always showing movies in English (including Polish ones with English subtitles).
Spend a lazy afternoon in a café
As I mentioned in my post on Where to Eat in Krakow, this city does cafes quite well. You can have brunch, and then spend the next few hours lost in a book or chatting with friends in the usually spacious interiors.
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.
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 baguette topped with cheese and other various toppings) at Endzior.
Take a free walking tour
The Free Walking Tour company 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 a lot cheaper than regular food tours).
Wander around the Planty
The green park that encircles the entire Main Square is a great place to escape the crowds for a bit. A frequent activity of mine included buying an obwarzanek from a vender nearby, sitting on a park bench and people-watching.
Where To Stay
There are plenty of hostels (including party hostels if that is your thing), but I prefer to stay at the Mundo Hostel, which is a bit more mello and includes a delicious homemade breakfast every morning.
This time around I stayed in an Airbnb-rented studio, that was a 10-minute walk to the Main Square, but in a quiet residential neighborhood. The studio included a kitchenette, so I was happily able to cook some of my meals.
A hotel that I love in the center of town is the Vienna House Andel’s Cracow.
Basic Travel Info
Where to exchange money: the best rates are at Grosz kantor on Slawkowska, right off the Main Square.
Where to get a SIM card: I got mine from Orange in Galeria Krakowska for only a few dollars, and it included 20 minutes of talking time. There are also plenty of kiosks to get more minutes around the city.
Grocery markets: My preferred markets were the Carrefour Express stores around the city center, and also the giant Carrefour in Galeria Krakowska.
Airport transportation: there is a convenient tram that drops passengers off at the train station, and of course there are taxis.
Train station: right next to the giant mega mall, Galeria Krakowska, and walking distance from the Main Square.
What are your favorite things to do in Krakow?