26 Things You Can’t Miss In Krakow, Poland

krakow

Updated On: June 04, 2024 by   Esraa MahmoudEsraa Mahmoud

If you are looking for a new destination to spend an exciting weekend of culture and new activities off the beaten track, Krakow, Poland, is the correct city for you! Krakow is beautiful, cheap, and not (yet) overrun by big tourist crowds.

Believe it or not, Krakow is Poland’s most visited city and Poland’s Capital of Culture. The city’s medieval architecture and artistic and cultural heritage will enchant you, and its gastronomy will spoil you on a culinary level.

Thanks to no less than 23 prestigious universities, many students live in Krakow, which is why the population is young and colourful. Giving you the gist of the best things to do and the best places to visit in Krakow, here are our picks of 26 things that you can’t miss in Krakow, Poland.

Go Into Fairy Tale World In Krakow Old Town

Krakow
Krakow Old Town

Are you wondering what to do in Krakow? You can’t go wrong with a stroll through the city’s historic centre, Old Town. Krakow’s Old Town is on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and it’s not hard to see why.

Krakow’s Old Town has everything: oodles of culture, cobbled streets, architecture straight out of a fairy tale, cool bars, and pretty cafes. It also has one of the largest medieval market squares in Europe, and it’s a great place just to lose yourself and enjoy watching the hustle and bustle of the city.

Rynek Główny, the Main Market Square

Krakow
Rynek Główny

The Main Market, AKA Rynek Główny, is located in the heart of Krakow and is the largest European marketplace of the Middle Ages. It has existed since the 13th century and is about 40,000 square meters.

Rynek Główny is also home to numerous shops and cafes. Visit the square during the day and evening to see all its beautiful splendour. You won’t regret it!

St. Mary’s Church

Krakow
St. Mary’s Church

The Main Market Square is also home to St. Mary’s Church, where every hour on the hour (day and night) since the 14th century, a fireman rings the hour bell by hand and plays the Krakow trumpet signal “Hejnał” in all four directions.

In the middle of the game, the signal breaks off abruptly in memory of the trumpeter who is said to have announced the attack of the Mongols (then called Tartars) in the 13th century but was killed by an arrow from the attackers while still playing.

Wawel Cathedral

Krakow
Wawel Cathedral

Built on a hill on the left bank of the Vistula River, Wawel Cathedral, the former residence of the kings of Poland, offers a one-of-a-kind view of the city. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as is the Old Town. Wawel Cathedral looks back on 1,000 years of history and serves as the coronation site of Polish monarchs and the burial place of numerous kings and archbishops.

It is worth mentioning that on the bank of the hill close to the cathedral, there is also the entrance to the cave where the fire-breathing Wawel dragon is said to have once lived. The Wawel Cathedral is perhaps one of the most famous attractions in Krakow. One of the most notable elements of the cathedral is the Sigismund Bell.

The Sigismund Bell is the largest of the five bells in the Wawel Cathedral in Krakow. It strikes only on the most essential occasions or holidays. This bell is considered one of the national symbols of Poland and is rung by 12 bell ringers!

The cathedral is a can’t-miss attraction in the heart of the Polish metropolis.

Krakow Cloth Halls

In the centre of the Main Market Square stands one of the most impressive buildings in Krakow and one of the most beautiful examples of Renaissance architecture, the Cloth Halls. The building was built in the Middle Ages at the behest of King Casimir the Great. Flemish and English cloths were traded here.

During the last centuries, the halls were destroyed, rebuilt, renewed, and modernized a few times. Today, visitors and locals can buy handicrafts and all kinds of kitsch here, eat in small restaurants and watch the hustle and bustle in the halls steeped in history.

Tip: Every year, Krakow hosts the Jewish Festival, during which concerts are played all over the city around the clock. It is a special experience for music fans; we highly recommend attending one of the events if you are there on time.

Dragon’s Lair

Legend has it that the city of Krakow was built on an ancient dragon’s lair, which remains a popular tourist attraction to this day. Called “Smocza Jama” by the locals, the karst cave is located under Wawel Hill. There is also an imposing statue of the mythical creature under Wawel Hill. Make sure to get a good photo of the statue while there.

Underground Museum of Krakow.

Visit the Underground Museum of Krakow, located underneath the primary market, and discover exhibits with interactive installations and archaeological finds whose artefacts can be dated back to the Middle Ages.

St Francis Basilica

St Francis Basilica is a stunning Art Nouveau church that will make your Instagram feed shine. Built in the 13th century, it was the only brick building in Krakow and is steeped in history.

One of the beautiful details of this church, named after St. Francis of Assisi, is the stained-glass windows. The famous stained glass windows are the work of Polish artist Stanislaw Wyspiański, and standing in front of them is a spiritual experience, regardless of your religious beliefs.

Visit it in the early afternoon when light shines through the stained-glass windows, creating an impressive atmosphere. It is truly marvellous!

Visit The Indescribable Neighborhood Kazimierz

You know a neighbourhood is good when the whole area has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you’re only here for a weekend, Kazimierz is probably the best neighbourhood in Krakow for your adventure.

This historically Jewish district is now a bustling creative hub full of colourful street art, the finest coffee, incredible art galleries, pretty bars, exciting museums, and much more. Despite its tragic role during WW2, Jewish culture has flourished here for hundreds of years and is still very much alive and well.

You’ll find numerous synagogues, a substantial annual Jewish cultural festival, the Galicia Hewish Museum, and more. The neighbourhood was one of the main settings for Steven Spielberg’s movie Schindler’s List, so don’t be surprised if it feels familiar.

Fabryka Schindlera

In Krakow, city travellers can delve deep into the city’s turbulent history. This is the case at Oskar Schindler’s factory, located a bit away from the city centre.

If you haven’t heard the incredible story of Oskar Schindler and his courage during World War 2, you need to watch Schindler’s List, the famous movie directed by Steven Spielberg! Schindler managed to save the lives of over a thousand persecuted Jews by giving them work in his factory, which was also a significant risk for him and his family.

The factory is now the site of the Oskar Schindler Museum, AKA Fabryka Schindlera, dedicated to his story and Krakow’s role in WW2. To get there, take the train downtown. It’s best to book your tickets online in advance, as the number of visitors is limited daily.

Ghetto Heroes Square

Take a moment to pause and commemorate the Jews murdered by Nazi criminals amidst the metal chairs in Ghetto Heroes Square. The Krakow Ghetto was created by the Nazis, who crammed over 15,000 people here in a neighbourhood where 3,000 previously lived.

Learn About the Holocaust in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp Memorial

It’s funny to say this, but this is one of the best things you can do in Krakow. Everyone who was in Auschwitz says how moving and unforgettable the experience was. As hard as it may be, it is essential to be informed about the horrible atrocities that took place during WW2, and this place is, after all, a memorial to the millions of people who gave their lives here.

The Auschwitz Concentration Camp Memorial is undoubtedly one of the most historical sights in Krakow. To date, some 30 million visitors worldwide have visited this small town in southern Poland. The best way to get here is to take the bus from Krakow city centre.

Bunkier Sztuki

If you like unusual and thought-provoking contemporary art, you’ll love Bunkier Sztuki. Not only is it a great gallery, but it’s also home to one of the best cafes in Krakow. Housed in a quirky greenhouse with a vintage vibe and surrounded by the tranquil Planty Gardens, it offers fine art, excellent coffee, unpasteurized draft beer, and delicious food, especially giant Polish breakfast bagels. They are so good!

Check out Krakow’s Colorful Street Art

Krakow is increasingly becoming a hotspot for local and international talent to paint their colourful creations on the wall. Some of the best works include the huge ‘Ding Dong Dumb,’ ‘Judah,’ ‘Robot’ by iconic Polish science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem, and the ‘Barcelona murals.’

Go to graffiti-covered Józefa Street or Plac Bawól if you don’t want to go with the flow. Or, if you want to learn more about the meaning and artist behind each work, there are tours, maps, and even a free app.

Let yourself drift in the Jewish quarter of Kazimierz, a young and alternative neighbourhood where you can find authentic street art on every corner. Also, if you’re looking for cheap but hip restaurants and bars, this is the area to see them.

Wieliczka Salt Mine

Krakow
Wieliczka Salt Mine

Are you looking for a unique attraction that promises awesome social media photos? Then, the UNESCO-protected Wieliczka Salt Mine is the place for you! This natural wonder attracts visitors from all over the world and for a good reason: 700 years of history are packed into this underground mine.

Located outside the city, the Wieliczka Salt Mine is worth a visit. Here, you can explore the tunnels dug into the rocks up to 150 meters deep into the mines. Also impressive is the large Kinga Chapel with its massive chandeliers, which are also made of salt.

Due to its immense size, only 2% of the mine can be visited. Still, there is plenty of room to admire the beauty of the salt labyrinth, crystal caves, chapels, and sculptures that make this place exceptional. It consists of 9 levels, with the deepest point being 327 meters deep.

Hundreds of feet below ground, the hollow mine is decorated with elaborate statues, chandeliers, and a lake. Thanks to the unique salty and humid microclimate, a trip to the mines is said to be good for your health.

 Day Trip to The Tatra Mountains

Also known as the ‘Polish Alps,’ the Tatra Mountains are about two hours south of Krakow and are great for a day trip to get out of the city. Head to the delightfully kitschy town of Zakopane, which sits at the foot of the mountains. The easiest way to get there from Krakow is by car, which you can rent. This is one of the best things to do while in Krakow.

Climb The Kościuszko Mound

This unusual-looking artificial mound was built to preserve the memory of Tadeusz Kościuszko, the leader of an uprising against foreign rule in Poland. It is 34 meters high, and it is pretty fun to climb to the top, where you will have a fantastic panoramic view that is worth the climbing effort.

Nowa Huta

Krakow
Nowa Huta

Take a detour out of the city centre and visit the Nowa Huta neighbourhood. It is the easternmost neighbourhood of Krakow; its name means “New Hut” because it was built for the ironworks workers who moved into it in the 1950s.

The Brutalist Nowa Huta district is quite different from the rest of Krakow’s somewhat historic centre. But don’t let that put you off; it’s easily one of the most exciting environments in the city. Built by the Soviets after WW2, Nowa Huta is home to incredible architecture, like the Tadeusz Sendzimir Steelworks and Plac Centralny.

The architectural style of Nowa Huta was copied from the standards of the Soviet Union at that time. While in the neighbourhood, visit the “Church of the Mother of God, Queen of Poland,” which was opened in 1977…It is a beauty to behold!

Fly in a Balloon

Looking for something thrilling? How about hopping in a balloon and soaring with it over the city? You’ll experience a great bird’ s-eye view of Krakow, which will surely be unforgettable. The balloon rises from the opposite bank of the Vistula River to the Wawel. This is an experience you shouldn’t miss!

Christmas Markets

If you are in Krakow during the Christmas season, you must visit one of the traditional markets around the city. The most famous one is in the primary market square, offering handicrafts and jewellery. You will find many beautiful pieces with amber, which are very popular in the region. There is also a wide selection of delicious dishes, including soups, stews, and tasty sausages.

Christmas Cribs

Speaking of the best time of the year, Christmas cribs have been designed and exhibited in the region since the 1930s. With great attention to detail, multi-story buildings with turrets, battlements, and stained glass windows are created. The artists who create these elaborate and unique nativity scenes gather yearly at the Adam Mickiewicz Monument to exhibit their works. Make sure to check their work; it is brilliant!

Indulge Yourself in the Krakow’s Cuisine!

Take a break during your tour of Krakow’s sights and treat yourself to one of the most popular dishes in Polish cuisine: pierogi. Similar to Italian ravioli, pierogi are filled with various ingredients and can be boiled or fried. Enjoy them with an excellent Polish beer!

Also, the zapiekanka is not to be missed! You will understand why the snack is so prevalent in Krakow when you try a zapiekanka—a half-baguette comparable to the French croque. You can buy Zapiekanka at Plac Nowy in the Jewish quarter of Kazimierz, among many other places.

Also, you must try an Obwarzanek, a delicious salted pastry. It is a typical Polish speciality originating in Krakow and is one of the city’s traditional symbols. Street stalls all over the city offer these treats sprinkled with salt, poppy, or sesame seeds. You don’t want to miss these!

Finally, start the evening with one of the famous Polish vodkas. The liquor is available in many brands and flavours; we recommend “Pijalnia wódki I Piwa,” which means “drinking hall, where you can drink beer and vodka.” By the way, you can try some delicious traditional dishes and drinks here.

Planty Park

If you’re looking for peace after sightseeing and culinary explorations, you’ll find it in the picturesque Planty Park. The large city park encompasses the entire historic core of Krakow and is a popular getaway for Krakow residents and tourists alike.

Walking along the green, nearly four-kilometre-long park belt, you will come across trees, colourful flowerbeds, and numerous fountains. Only a few minutes separate the lively city centre from the well-kept park. Tip: Krakow has a vast river promenade with a meadow and houseboats where you can have a bite to eat and a drink!

Experience Krakow’s Nightlife

Krakow’s nightlife is as entertaining as the sights you see during the day. Visitors looking for a casual atmosphere combined with a bar, event venue, and club for the evening should visit The Forum. Located in the Kazimierz neighbourhood, this is where Krakow’s hipsters hang out. Bonus: It’s also open during the day.

If you’re into jazz, we recommend catching a live performance at Piec Art, which takes place every Wednesday night from 8:30 p.m. Admission is free!

Warsaw may be Poland’s capital, but Krakow is its cool little sister, and it should be on your bucket list. Despite its growing population, Krakow is still one of the most affordable cities in Europe and a fantastic place to visit if you love fairy-tale architecture, insane desserts, stunning scenery, and a rich history.

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