Home to towering castles set against the cobalt blue sky, elaborate cathedrals, and elegant architecture, it’s no surprise that Krakow is considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in Poland.
Add in cute cobblestone streets, cozy cafes, trendy neighborhoods and let’s not forget the delicious Polish pierogi – it’s easy to see why so many people choose Krakow as their European travel destination.
If you are planning a trip to Poland, our guide is here to help. We cover everything you need to know for visiting Krakow including top things to see around the city, where to eat, stay, what to bring and more!
The Ultimate Guide To Krakow, Poland:
- Top Things To Do In Krakow
- Best Restaurants To Eat At
- Hotels & Where To Stay
- Krakow Airport & Flying There
- Weather & What To Pack
- Safety Tips
- Getting Around
Top Things To Do In Krakow
Whether you are in Krakow for just a few days or longer, here are some of the top things to see and do in the area. You can visit these attractions on your own or take a guided tour like this one.
Wawel Royal Castle
If you are in Krakow only for a short time, a visit to the Wawel Royal Castle is the one thing that you shouldn’t miss.
Perched on top of the Wawel Hill in Krakow’s Old Town area, the Wawel Castle is more like a giant fortress filled with colorful mismatched structures than your typical medieval castle. The Wawel Royal Castle was built in the 14th century and features a variety of architectural influences like Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque.
The Wavel Castle is one of the largest castles in Europe and it takes at least 2-3 hours to explore the castle complex. There is just so much to see within the castle walls like intricate courtyards, churches, and museums featuring important art pieces and tapestries.
As one of the most important monuments of Krakow, this location can get quite crowded. We did a walking tour of the Wawel Royal Castle during the day and it was packed full of tourists. We didn’t get to see everything we wanted so we returned another morning to experience it without the crowds (my favorite way).
Hours: Varies depending on the season. In summer the castle visitor center is open from 9 am to 8 pm
Cost: Free to walk around the castle grounds and a small fee to enter the different museums. Check the Wawel Castle website here for the museum pricing.
Location: Wawel 5, 31-001 Kraków, Poland
The Main Square (or Rynek Główny in Polish) is where most of Krakow’s hustle and bustle goes down.
Several of Krakow’s most important landmarks surround the Main Square making it a popular spot for visitors. Many tourists start with a visit to the Wawel Royal Castle in the morning and then head on to explore Krakow’s Main Square in the afternoon.
Built in the 13th century the Krakow Main Square was the epicenter of the city. Throughout the centuries this is where all trade, celebrations, public events (and even executions) took place.
Many of the original buildings still remain now complemented by cozy cafes and adorable outdoors patios. Grab lunch or an ice-cold beer at one of the cafes overlooking the plaza and enjoy some people watching – there’s plenty of commotion around the square to keep you entertained for hours.
Hours: Open to the public
Location: 30-062 Kraków, Poland
The Cloth Hall is one of the most important buildings near the historical Krakow Main Square. This building is quite elaborate and used to serve as the meeting point for merchants to discuss business during the 15th century when Krakow was the capital city of Poland.
Now the upper level of the Cloth Hall is used to showcase 19th-century Polish paintings and sculptures while the bottom level houses one of the largest underground museums in Europe filled with historical artifacts like pottery and coins.
The ground level of the Cloth Hall serves as a market for local vendors to sell souvenirs like amber jewelry, clothing, arts, and other crafts. If you’re looking for a bargain price, you probably won’t find that here, but it’s still fun to wander down these beautiful hallways while checking out merchant stalls filled with colorful trinkets and textiles.
Hours: 10 am to 6 pm
Cost: Ticket to the underground museum costs around $11. To purchase the ticket in advance click here.
Location: Rynek Główny 1/3, 31-042 Kraków, Poland
St. Mary’s Basilica
Poland is a very religious country which means that you’ll find a lot of beautiful churches all over the historical downtown area.
Built in 13th century St. Mary’s Basilica is one of the most significant churches in Krakow. Located near the Main Square, this church consists of an impressive multi-tower exterior and equally elaborate interior.
The St Mary’s Basilica was renovated in the 19th century at which point the ceiling inside was painted to look like a star-filled sky. This church is still actively used for mass and prayer but it is open during the day for visitors to view and admire the interior.
Hours: Visiting hours for tourists are from 11:30 am to 6 pm
Cost: 12 Polish zloty ($3 USD) to enter the church
Location: plac Mariacki 5, 31-042 Kraków, Poland
The historical Kazimierz district has undeniably seen a lot of change, especially in the last century. After suffering through WW2 and Soviet occupation this former Jewish neighborhood is now flourishing again but you can still see the remains of post-war scars around every corner.
Before WW2 the Kazimierz district was a rich cultural center and a place of residence for Krakow’s Jews. During WW2 Krakow’s Jewish population was forced to relocate to the Podgórze ghetto and death camps leaving the Kazimierz neighborhood abandoned.
Sadly from the community of 60,000 Jewish people that lived in Krakow before WW2 only 3000-5000 survived, many of which left Poland after. The Kazimierz district became one of the most run-down neighborhoods in Krakow and it wasn’t until after the Communism fall that this neighborhood started attracting attention again.
Release of the famous Steven Spielberg movie “Schindler’s List” brought worldwide recognition to the Kazimierz district – in fact, many of the movie scenes were shot right in this neighborhood. Efforts were made to renovate and turn this part of Krakow back into what it once was – a flourishing neighborhood filled with shops, restaurants, and synagogues, full of life, art and trade.
Now the Kazimierz district is one of the trendiest and most popular areas in Krakow. Our hotel The Golden Tulip was located in this district and we really enjoyed walking around its streets and learning more about the history of this neighborhood.
Cost: Free to walk around or sign up for a bike tour like this one that will take you through the Old Town and Kazimierz district.
Location: Area around Kazimierz, 30-001, 31-062 Kraków, Poland
Nowa Huta Communism Tour
If you’re looking for something a bit different, we highly recommend checking out the Crazy Guides tour of the Nowa Huta communist neighborhood. This tour is perfect for those who like learning about history and doing something “off the beaten tourist path”. Besides the standard tour of the old town (which you should totally do as well), this was one of the most entertaining and insightful tours that we did in Krakow.
Nowa Huta is a district on the outskirts of Krakow that was built during Soviet occupation in a typical communist block style and housed around 100,000 people. The main purpose of this city was to provide apartments for the nearby factory workers and in fact, the city itself was built by young men who wanted to work at the factory.
The Nowa Huta tour is around 2-3 hours long and our guide picked us up in an old 1950’s communist car called Trabant. We made our way to the Nowa Huta neighborhood where we dove into stories about the rise and fall of communism, visited a Russian restaurant, a typical “communist” apartment and watched some propaganda movies while taking vodka shots and eating pickles. Sounds weird and interesting? Well, that’s kind of the whole point.
Hours: Contact Crazy Guides for tour hours and availability
Cost: 169 Polish Zloty ($45 USD) per person
Location: The tour guides will pick you up and drop you off at your hotel
Wieliczka Salt Mine
The Wieliczka Salt Mine is located a 30-minute drive outside of Krakow and is one of the biggest attractions in southern Poland.
The Wieliczka Salt Mine operated as an active mine for over 700 years and contributed to the wealth and prosperity of Krakow, but now this salt mine is only used as a tourist attraction and quite the popular one.
If you have a half-day to spare, a visit to the Wieliczka Salt Mine is a must. Furnished with elaborate chandeliers, intricate statues carved out of salt, endless chambers and even its own private chapel, a tour of this salt mine is like nothing I’ve experienced before.
Note that the tour of the underground salt mine can take around 2-3 hours to complete and can get quite crowded, especially in the afternoon. If you can, plan to go early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the busiest time of the day.
Hours: 7:30 am to 7:30 pm
Cost: Tickets for international visitors cost around 89 Polish Zloty ($24 USD)
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Best Restaurants To Eat At
Hands down, Krakow has a pretty amazing foodie scene and there are tons of incredible restaurants to pick from.
In Krakow’s Old Town area you will find anything from local cuisine, to fancy establishments, cute hipster cafes, you name it… Krakow has it all.
Here are some of our favorite restaurants that we ate at during our time in Krakow.
If you’re looking to treat yourself, Szara Ges is one of the top-rated restaurants in Krakow and the place to go. Located next to the Main Square the Szara Ges restaurant is set in the prime spot especially for a lunch break while exploring the Old Town area.
Szara Ges is an upscale restaurant that serves local Polish cuisine with a modern twist. The interior of the restaurant is just stunning and I couldn’t decide what looked more visually beautiful – the food or the restaurant itself.
Cost: With appetizers costing around $12 and the main entrees going for around $20/plate this place is on the expensive side but is well worth the splurge. Note that the plates are a bit small but very delicious.
Location: Rynek Główny 17, 31-008 Kraków, Poland
Located in a trendy part of the town that’s filled with cafes and beautiful street art, Sasiedzi Restaurant is the perfect place to unwind and relax at the end of the day.
The menu here consists mainly of local polish dishes (the Pierogi dumplings are a must!) and offers tons of choices from meat to fish, salads and more. Plus dinner comes served with flavored butter (yum) and excellent wine choices.
During our dinner, we sat in their cozy courtyard and it made us forget that we were in the middle of a busy downtown area. Relaxing ambiance and friendly service was exactly what we needed after a long day of travel.
Cost: Appetizers cost under $8 and main plates go for around $10-$20
Location: Miodowa 25, 31-055 Kraków, Poland
Looking for a chill place to enjoy lunch or dinner? Then we highly recommend checking out Bazaar, a modern restaurant located in the trendy Kazimierz neighborhood.
Bazaar is a chic restaurant that serves French food with a bit of a Polish twist. The French onion soup is a customer favorite along with the grilled octopus dish.
Their dinner menu offers tons of different choices and while the plates are smaller in size, they are full of flavor.
The best part – this restaurant was only a 5-minute walk from our hotel The Golden Tulip. A nice bonus after having tired feet from walking around all day.
Cost: $8-10 for appetizers. Main dishes vary from $10-20
Location: Meiselsa 24, 31-058 Kraków, Poland
Hotels & Where To Stay
Our favorite part of the city was the Kazimierz district, the new “up and coming” area of Krakow. This neighborhood is filled with hotels, restaurants, cozy cafes, art galleries, and cute shops – buzzing with life during the day but not obnoxiously loud at night. Plus it’s located in the Old Town area, just a 15-30 minute walk from all of the major attractions like the Wawel Castle and the Main Square.
During our time in Krakow, we stayed at the Golden Tulip Hotel, a modern hotel in the Kazimierz district. The Golden Tulip hotel is elegant, clean, very accommodating and the staff was super friendly. Plus they served the most amazing breakfast buffet and the bathrooms came with a US plug adapter which I totally appreciated since I’m always charging like a million electronic devices at the same time. It’s the small things that bring me the most happiness, ya’ll!
PURO Krakow is another wonderful hotel choice in the Kazimierz district. Rated by many guests as one of the top hotels in the downtown area, PURO hotel comes with amazing amenities like free bike rentals, gym, bar, sauna, and a steam room.
If you’re looking to stay closer to the Main Square, the Hotel Polski Pod Białym Orłem is located in the prime spot, just a 5-minute walk from the plaza and all of the nearby historical landmarks. Besides the excellent location, this boutique hotel is quite unique and each room is furnished differently with elegant decorations.
Krakow Airport & Flying There
The main airport to fly into Krakow is the John Paul II Krakow Airport (KRK). This airport is located a 20-30 minute drive from Krakow’s downtown area so you will need to arrange transportation or grab a cab from the airport to get to the downtown.
This was my first time flying to Poland and for our flights, we chose to go with the Polish LOT airline. Whenever we travel internationally, we always try to go with a local airline based in that country. Usually, local airlines offer the cheapest tickets plus LOT is one of the oldest operating airlines in the world which I thought was kind of cool.
Our flight from Los Angeles to Krakow was about 14 hours long with a layover in Warsaw. LOT Airlines is based out of Warsaw so you can expect most of the flights coming from the US to have a layover there.
If your travel schedule is flexible, you may be able to score a round trip ticket with LOT for around $800 in the off-season. In the peak travel season like July or December, you’re probably looking to spend around $1300 on a round trip ticket. For latest pricing and availability check the LOT website here.
Unlike most other countries in Europe that use the Euro, Poland has its own currency – the Polish Zloty. At the current exchange rate, $1 USD will get you around 3.75 Polish Zloty.
While you may find a few places in Poland that will accept the Euro as well, for the most part, all establishments only accept payments in credit cards or in Polish Zloty.
You can get your dollars or Euro exchanged to Polish Zloty at the airport or take out Polish currency directly from a local ATM. For international travel, I always use my Schwab Debit Card that comes with the Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking Account. This Debit Card is free, charges no overseas withdrawal fees, and refunds any international ATM fees at the end of the month – a pretty sweet bonus.
Weather & What To Pack
Surprisingly the weather during our Poland trip in mid-June was extremely hot and humid.
I was sort of expecting weather in East Europe to be a comfortable 70-ish so I was shocked when the weather in Krakow was around 90 degrees just about every day.
Check the weather report before going and pack accordingly. Here are some essentials that we recommend packing for your trip to Poland:
- European Travel Plug Adapter. If you’re traveling from the US, you’ll need an outlet adapter to charge any of your electronics like your phone or laptop. While some Polish hotels have a US plug adapter in their bathrooms, not all of them do, so I highly suggest bringing your own – especially if you have multiple electronics to charge.
- Travel Backpack. Whenever I fly abroad I always bring a backpack on the plane with my laptop and my most important electronics in case my check-in bag gets lost (yep that’s happened to me). Although the backpacks that I use for traveling are not always the “most fashionable”, I tend to go with ones that have plenty of room for my electronics and have tons of secret pockets so I can also use it as a day pack for walking around and not worry about pickpocketers stealing my wallet (yep, that’s also happened to me).
- You’ll be doing a lot of walking so you’ll need comfy shoes like these cute Sorel sandals from REI.
- During the day I mostly wore shorts and light tank tops while walking around. The evenings got a bit chilly so I threw on a light jacket before heading out to dinner.
- Poland is the perfect place to make your fairy tale dreams come true. While most of the time I wear clothes that are pretty low key and practical, I did bring along a few flowy cute dresses to frolic in for photos.
- The weather in Poland was super sunny so bring a sun hat, sunglasses and lots of sunscreen to protect yourself from getting a sunburn during the day. For summertime, I personally love straw hats – they are very light, don’t make you sweat and match with pretty much any outfit.
- This hot weather brought out the worst in mosquitos and a few days in our purses looked like mini pharmacies stuffed with bug spray, anti-itch creams, and other meds to reduce the mosquito bite swelling on our arms and legs. (Pssst, This mosquito repellant is fragrance-free and works like a charm!)
For the most part, I felt very safe in Krakow and Poland in general. On this trip, I was traveling with a group of other people and we never left the hotel on our own.
Oddly the only time that I felt a bit uncomfortable was during our sunrise photography shoots in Old Town Krakow. A few times, while we were out shooting photos at 6 am we were approached by groups of local guys who seemed to have just left the bars (yep, at 6 am). A few of these fellows tried to strike a conversation with us but once they realized that we didn’t speak any Polish and were not interested, they didn’t bother us any longer.
From what I saw Krakow has quite the fun party scene at night. While we did not “hit up any clubs” on this trip and I personally rarely stay out past 10 pm in foreign countries, it seems like there are plenty of fun things to do for nightlife around Krakow.
As a female traveler, I am always extra cautious when traveling abroad. A few of my golden rules are: always be aware of your surroundings, try not to indulge in more than a couple of drinks, don’t walk around after dark, travel in groups and most importantly – always trust your gut.
During the day you can get around Krakow’s downtown area on foot. Most of the main landmarks are pretty close to each other and require a 30-minute walk at the most.
When we were short on time or felt too tired to keep walking, we hailed a cab or grabbed an Uber for a few bucks.
For any tours outside of the city boundaries, like visiting the Wieliczka Salt Mine or any other attractions in southern Poland, we used a private transportation company. For detailed pricing check the Transfer Airport Krakow website here.
Looking for more Poland inspiration? Check out some of our other Poland posts below:
- 6 Wonderful Things To Do In Poland’s Malopolska Region
- 10 Incredible Places To Visit Around Opole, Poland
Special thanks to @Polska.Travel group for hosting us and showcasing all of the best attractions around Krakow. For more Poland inspiration and assistance in trip planning visit the Poland Travel page here.