Let’s be honest, some cities are much better for solo travel than others. Krakow is one of those cities. It’s not overwhelmingly large, and has a compact city center that is easily walkable. I have lived and visit Krakow often, and always look forward to wandering the streets by myself. For me, it’s one of the best ways to to take in the city. Ideally, a long weekend in Krakow is enough time to explore the city, especially if you’re coming from somewhere nearby in Europe. Here’s a guide to Krakow solo travel and tips on traveling alone through one of the most enchanting cities in Poland.
Is Krakow safe to travel alone?
Krakow has always felt safe to me, even more so than my own suburban city back home in the U.S. I feel perfectly comfortable walking home at night from the city center to my studio located down a quiet residential street. Since the city comes alive especially at night with all the bars and cafes, it feels like I was never really alone on the streets, especially when I was walking on the side streets.
Of course like any city there are dangers, and Krakow is no exception. With its high volume of bars there can be alcohol-fueled incidents, but if you don’t go looking for trouble, you should be fine. To be honest, I feel like the most trouble is from visitors, especially rowdy bachelor parties.
Eating Alone in Krakow
There are plenty of restaurants in Krakow catering to solo diners. From bare bones milk bars to cafes that have full menus, there’s no shortage of options for dinning alone. I don’t always feel this way when I travel, but here in Poland it seems a natural thing to eat by yourself, especially at informal restaurants.
It’s not unusual to see locals in milk bars eating by themselves, enjoying their food in silence. It’s a great way to experience a bit of Polish history from Soviet times and get delicious local comfort food while saving money since everything is dirt cheap. A great milk bar to check out is Bar Mleczny on Grodzka Street.
The cafes in Krakow are also a solid place to get a filling meal, where you can bring a book and sit for hours while lingering over your food. Cafe Botanica is a great spot for sandwiches, and Cafe Camelot has excellent breakfast options.
Even in more formal restaurants, I feel more comfortable digging into a plate of pierogi by my lonesome. There is something about Eastern Europe that seems more relaxed than Western Europe countries when it comes to dining, whether you are eating by yourself or with a group.
Things To Do In Krakow Alone
The Main Square may be touristy, but it’s one of my favorite places to go be part of a crowd. Wandering around the square, I would often find street musicians (some of them seriously very good) and join the growing audience around them. There was one guy who had a large YouTube following, and who became a regular stopping point on my stroll through the Main Square.
There are also free walking tours in Krakow for when you want to feel part of a group without actually engaging (a introvert’s dream). Tour options include Old Town Krakow, Macabre Krakow (a personal favorite), Jewish Krakow, Street Art, and World War II in Krakow. There is no booking required, you just need to show up at the scheduled time. There is also paid tours of historical sights like Schindler’s Factory, where you do need to sign up. These tours are a great way to get to know the city from an insider’s perspective.
Companies like Eat With allow you to spend the evening at a local’s home either eating a meal cooked by your host or with your help preparing traditional Polish dishes like pierogi.
St. Mary’s Basilica Tower
One of the best ways to see the city is from above, where after getting your workout climbing hundreds of steps, you will be rewarded with a stunning aerial view of the Main Square and the city beyond. Don’t forget to take a peak inside the ornate interior of the church as well.
This historic Jewish quarter of the city now houses numerous hip cafes, restaurants, and bars. It’s a great neighborhood to explore solo, where you can grab a zapiekanki (a open-faced baguette with pizza toppings) that is as big as your face from Plac Nowy. The Galicia Jewish Museum is worth stopping by to learn about the often sobering history of Polish Jews. The Remuh Synagogue is one of the last active places of worship in this neighborhood and dates back to 1550’s. Make sure to also stop at Alchemia, a candle-lit bar that is popular with the locals and tourist alike.
The green park that borders the entire city center is a great place to wander along and take in the sights from this beautiful outdoor space. You will often find obwarzanek (a cross between a pretzel and a bagel) kiosks around this park and they make a great snack to fuel your walk. The park takes you pass notable landmarks like St. Florian’s Gate and Wawel Castle and a bit beyond the Visula River.
This castle located walking distance from the main square is a great way to spend an afternoon, wandering through the grounds. You can purchase tickets for the castle and gardens as a self-guided tour (with the option of an audioguide) or join a guided tour. You can also buy a separate ticket for the Dragon’s Den, where you descend into the depths of a cave where legend has it that a dragon once lived. Highly recommended.
One of the best things to do in Krakow is to wander around and admire all the street art in the different neighborhoods. Kazimierz is walking distance from the Main Square and is full of street art along its narrow streets and ancient buildings, including the black-and-white Plac Bawół 3 mural that honors the Bosak family that used to live in the building before the war. Other street art close by the city center includes the dystopian Mural no. 658 (Krupnicza 26) on the side of the Józef Mehoffer House, and was created by M-City, one of the country’s best known mural artist.
For more murals, check out this guide from Discover Cracow.
The Best Time To Visit Krakow
The summer time can be hot and is not ideal to go if you’re crowd-adverse. That being said mid-September through October is a goodl time to visit with mild temperatures right before the freezing winter weather settles in. If you don’t mind braving the cold, December can be a fun time to visit, since Krakow doesn’t hold back when it comes to Christmas festivities.
Getting To Krakow
There are several ways to get to Krakow. I usually fly into Warsaw if I’m coming from abroad since it’s cheaper, and then either take a cheap LOT flight to Krakow or if I have more time take the train (around 2 hours). If you are taking the train from Warsaw, you’ll have to take the subway to the train station in the city center, which can be confusing. There are also buses that go from Warsaw to Krakow, which are the cheapest option, but will take about 8 hours. Of course if you want to fly straight to Krakow, you can go directly.
Getting Around Krakow
Krakow has a lot of its main sights within close distance from one another. If you stay near the Main Square, there is really no need to ever use public transportation or taxis. Coming and going from Krakow is easy because the train station is walking distance to the Main Square, which is where the tram from the airport also stops.
The city center follows an easy layout and is perfect for those who are worried about getting lost. As a solo traveler, this put my mind at ease, since I don’t have to rely on a map, and instead had a general sense of where I am most of the time.
Where To Stay In Krakow During The Winter
Krakow is a walking city, but during the wintertime one of the most important things to plan for your trip is to find centrally located lodging. The closer you are to the Main Square, the better.
Right in the heart of the city center, this luxury hotel is in a great location being right across the street from the Old Town, and a short distance to popular sights like Wawel Castle. There are two restaurants available on-site, which offers breakfast for an additional fee. Rooms are modern and have all the creature comforts of home.
This five-star hotel is conveniently located steps from the Old Town, and the Planty, the city park that surrounds the Main Square. An airport shuttle is available, that brings guests to their departure gates with a quick 20-minute ride. Friendly staff, a well-stocked restaurant/bar, and spotless rooms make a memorable stay.
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. On property there’s a restaurant/bar, a full-service spa, and rooftop terrace for guest to enjoy.
Are you team Krakow solo travel or do you prefer to see the city with others?
Photo source: street art