If you are looking for a new destination to spend an exciting weekend full of culture and new activities off the beaten track, then Krakow, Poland is the right city for you! Krakow is beautiful, cheap, and is not (yet) overrun by the big tourist crowds.
Believe it or not, Krakow is the most visited city in Poland, and this picturesque city is also Poland’s Capital of Culture. In Krakow, you will be enchanted by the city’s medieval architecture, artistic and cultural heritage, 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 colorful. Giving you the gist of the best thigns 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
Wondering what to do in Krakow? You can’t go wrong with a leisurely stroll through the historic center of the city, 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 it all; oodles of culture, cobbled streets, architecture straight out of fairy-tale, cool bars, and pretty cafes. The Old Town also has one of the largest medieval market squares in Europe, and it’s a great place to just lose yourself and enjoy watching the hustle and bustle of the city.
Rynek Główny, the Main Market Square
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 it is about 40,000 square meters.
Rynek Główny is also the home of numerous shops and cafes. Visit the square both during the day and in the evening to see all its beautiful splendor. You won’t regret it!
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 of the attackers while still playing.
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, and it strikes only on the most important occasions or holidays. This bell is considered one of the national symbols of Poland and is rung by 12 bell ringers together!
The cathedral is a can’t-miss attraction in the heart of the Polish metropolis.
Krakow Cloth Halls
In the center 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 the then King Casimir the Great. In fact, 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.
A 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 the Wawel Hill. There is also an imposing statue of the mythical creature to see 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 main market, and discover exhibits with interactive installations and archaeological finds whose artifacts 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 at the time of its construction and is very steeped in history.
One of the beautiful details of this church, named after St. Francis of Assisi, are 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 hours, when the light falls through the stained-glass windows creating an impressive atmosphere, it is truly marvelous!
Visit The Indescribable Neighborhood Kazimierz
You know a neighborhood 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 neighborhood in Krakow for your adventure.
This historically Jewish district is now a bustling creative hub full of colorful street art, the finest coffee, cool art galleries, pretty bars, interesting 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 huge annual Jewish cultural festival, the Galicia Hewish Museum, and more. The neighborhood was one of the main settings for Steven Spielberg’s movie Schindler’s List, so don’t be surprised if it feels kind of familiar.
In Krakow, city travelers have the opportunity to delve deep into the city’s turbulent history. This is the case at Oskar Schindler’s factory, which is located a bit away from the city center.
If you haven’t heard the incredible story of Oskar Schindler and his courage during World War 2, then 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 big 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, and it’s best to book your tickets online in advance, as there is a daily cap on the number of visitors.
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 neighborhood 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 important 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 that you can’t miss in Krakow. To date, some 30 million visitors from all over the world have come to this small town in southern Poland. To get here, it is best to take the bus from Krakow city center.
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, where you’ll find fine art, excellent coffee, unpasteurized draft beer, and delicious food, especially that giant Polish breakfast bagels…They are soooo good!
Check out Krakow’s Colorful Street Art
Krakow is increasingly becoming a hotspot for local and international talent to paint their colorful 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 neighborhood 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 find them.
Wieliczka Salt Mine
Looking for a unique attraction that promises some 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 absolutely 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, also made of salt.
Due to its immense size, only 2% of the mine can actually 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 truly exceptional. In total, it consists of 9 levels, with the deepest point being a whopping 327 meters deep.
Hundreds of feet below ground, the cavernous mine is decorated with elaborate statues, chandeliers, and even 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 quite fun to climb to the top, where you will have a fantastic panoramic view that is definitely worth the climbing effort.
Take a detour out of the city center and visit the Nowa Huta neighborhood. It is the easternmost neighborhood 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 fairly historic center. But don’t let that put you off; it’s easily one of the most interesting environments in the city. Built up 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 neighborhood, make sure to 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! Experience a great bird’s eye view of Krakow, the view of 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!
If you are in Krakow during the Christmas season, then you must go to one of the traditional markets around the city. The most famous one is in the main market square and it offers handicrafts and jewelry. You will find many beautiful pieces with amber in them; it is very popular in the region. There is also a wide selection of delicious dishes, including soups, stews, and tasty sausages.
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 every year 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 the Polish cuisine, pierogi. Similar to Italian ravioli, they are filled with various ingredients and can be boiled or fried. Enjoy them with a good Polish beer!
Also, not-to-be-missed is the Zapiekanka! As soon as you try a zapiekanka – a kind of half baguette comparable to the French Croque – you will understand why the snack is so popular in Krakow. You can buy Zapiekanka at Plac Nowy in the Jewish quarter of Kazimierz, among many other places.
Also, you must try an Obwarzanek; this is a delicious salted pastry. It is a typical Polish specialty, originated in Krakow, and is one of the traditional symbols of the city. You will find street stalls all over the city offering these treats sprinkled with salt, poppy seeds, or sesame seeds. You don’t want to miss these for sure!
Finally, start the evening with one of the famous Polish vodkas. The liquor is available in many brands and flavors; we recommend the place called “Pijalnia wódki I Piwa,” which literally means “drinking hall, where you can drink beer and vodka.” By the way, here you can try some delicious traditional dishes in addition to drinks.
If you’re looking for some peace and quiet 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-kilometer-long park belt, you will come across trees, colorful flowerbeds, and numerous fountains. Only a few minutes separate the lively city center from the well-kept park. Tip: Krakow has a huge 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 neighborhood, 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 pm; admission is free!
Warsaw may be Poland’s capital, but Krakow is the cool little sister that should definitely be on your bucket list. Despite its growing populace, 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.