By Jessica Russo
Immerse yourself in history and beauty in one of Poland's oldest cities! Walking through Krakow is like walking through a postcard. Think: cobblestone streets, colorful medieval buildings, and horse-drawn carriages. Here's some tips on how to enjoy the very best of Krakow!
What to Know
Known for its charming medieval old town and well-preserved Jewish Quarter, Krakow is as beautiful as it is historic. Get ready to feast your eyes on amazing architecture, and then feast on mouthwatering Polish dishes like bigos, sausages, and pierogies. Krakow has a huge foodie scene, so you will never be more than a few steps from a cute cafe or a fine restaurant.
Ready for the best part? The prices! Compared to most Western European cities, Krakow is a lot more wallet friendly. Order a few too many shots of vodka? Don't worry, your bar bill won't be too bad.
When to Go
While Krakow's beauty lasts all year, the very best times to visit are from March to May and from September to November. Why? Well, firstly, the weather is pleasant - sunny and crisp, but not hot. Secondly, and most importantly, Krakow becomes flooded with tourists during the peak summer months (June-August), so it's best to avoid those long lines and crowded streets.
How to Get Around
Getting around Krakow is half the fun of being there. Since most landmarks are within easy walking distance from one another, sightseeing on foot is the best way to really see everything. Walking around is fun because you may pass hidden gems you never would in a car! While there is no subway system in Krakow, taxis and buses are always easy options. Krakow also has a great tram system, which locals use frequently.
For a unique way to see the central historic area, take a horse and carraige or a bicycle rickshaw! Hop-on/hop-off bus tours are also great ways to see any city.
Where to Eat
Krakow is overflowing with dining options - from exceptional restaurants to small "milkbars" or "bar mleczny," quaint cafe-like eateries offering a few options of traditional Polish cuisine.
- Starka Józefa 14, 31-056 Kraków Phone: +48 12 430 65 38
- Restauracja Polska Beera Meiselsa 22, 31-058 Kraków, Phone: +48 500 013 714
- Pod Wawelem Kompania Kuflowa Świętej Gertrudy 26/29, 33-332 Kraków Phone: +48 12 421 23 36
- Zielona Kuchnia Restauracja Ambrożego Grabowskiego 8, 30-126 Kraków Phone: +48 12 634 55 22
- Kuchnia Polska "Gąska" 1, Bolesława Limanowskiego, 30-551 Kraków Phone: +48 604 957 571
- Czarna Kaczka Poselska 22, 31-002 Kraków Phone: +48 12 426 54 40
What to See
This stunning 16th-century castle is the centerpiece of Krakow. Be sure to visit its museum, containing five separate sections: Crown Treasury & Armoury, State Rooms, Royal Private Apartments, Lost Wawel, and the Exhibition of Oriental Art. Spring for a guided tour in order to be fully immersed in the history of this fascinating Renaissance palace.
Main Market Square - "Rynek Glowny"
Did you know this is the world's largest medieval market square? For tourists and locals alike, this vibrant square is the center of life in the Old Town. Somehow, you'll wind up here at some point most days, whether it's to hang out with a pastry, take a horse-drawn carriage ride, dine at one of the square's restaurants, or do some souvenir shopping.
St. Mary's Basilica - "Kosciol Mariacki"
Perched on the eastern corner of Main Market Square, this Gothic-style church is full of history. Dating back to the 13th-century, it was destroyed by the Tartars and then rebuilt, which is shown in its slightly mismatched styles and differing heights. This beautiful church is open to tourists and, if interested, mass is free to attend on Sundays.
Oskar Schindler's Factory
Yes, like the movie Schindler's List! If you've seen the film, you'll immediately recognize Oskar Schindler's Factory, which employed and imprisoned approximately 1,200 Jews during World War II. While Schindler was a Nazi sympathizer, he requested permission to keep those people in his factory, where they'd experience less harsh conditions than surrounding camps. Today, he is credited with saving their lives. Visit this powerful factory and learn all about the history of a very complicated time in Poland, and all over the world.
Tips and Tricks
To many's surprise, Poland is not considered Eastern Europe. Today, because of many factors including religion, recent politics, and economic developments, Poland is considered Central Europe. Trust us, you will be corrected if you call it Eastern Europe.
Poland does not use the Euro! The national currency in Poland is the złoty (pronounced zwoty and abbreviated PLN or zl).
Many people in Krakow speak English, so if your Polish isn't exactly up to snuff, you'll be able to get by. With that being said, it's always respectful to learn a few words and phrases of the language of the country you are visiting. Locals appreciate it and it's always fun to learn new things. A for effort!
Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum
Forty-two miles west of Krakow lies one of the most devastating concentration and extermination camps in history. Today, travelers visit this powerful site to learn about and remember the 1.1 million people who died there. The memorial and museum is free to visit every day between 7:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.
Ojców National Park
Feel like escaping the city? Take a short 40-minute drive north to this beautiful national park, where you'll breathe in fresh aromas of dewey greenery and blossoming flowers. With gorgeous scenery and free entry, what could be bad?
Wieliczka Salt Mine
Just a half-hour south of Krakow, you'll find Wieliczka, a fascinating salt mine which is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Get this - it just stopped churning out salt in 2007 after centuries of production! Its collection of meticulously carved statues and full-scale underground temple made of salt will absolutely blow your mind.
Keep in mind: This one requires walking. Wear comfortable shoes and prepare for some serious stairs.
Yes, this one is a two-hour drive, but boy, is it scenic. Snap photos out the window and stop along the way! The breathtaking mountainscapes of Zakopane will be worth the drive. Once you're there, visit Tatra National Park and gaze out at Morskie Oko, a gigantic teal lake in the middle of sky-high mountains. When you get hungry, grab a bite to eat in this cute little ski resort town!