Things to Do in Krakow in 2 Days

Krakow, located in southern Poland, has become one of the booming destinations in Europe for an obvious reason: the city, despite not being very large, has a large number of attractions for all audiences.

Joaquín Montaño

Joaquín Montaño

12 min read

Things to Do in Krakow in 2 Days

Hotel Royal, Krakow | ©Ben Gyde

A historic center listed as a World Heritage Site, a Jewish quarter that stores centuries of history and an increasingly lively atmosphere are some of the many reasons to visit Krakow. Two days are the minimum time to spend in the city to see most of its attractions.

Day 1: getting to know the Stare Miasto, Krakow's medieval historical center

Stare Miasto, Krakow| ©Billy Wirawan
Stare Miasto, Krakow| ©Billy Wirawan

The area of the medieval historic center of Krakow is undoubtedly the most visited by tourists. Inside the old walled city are many of the monuments, churches and buildings that can not be missed, as well as a large number of stores and restaurants.

Its cobblestone streets full of beautiful houses painted in pastel shades are perfect for strolling through them and be surprised at every step.

To make this tour the best option is to book a guided tour, but you can also do it on your own.

Enter the historical center through the Florian Gate and discover the Barbican and the walls

To enter the Stare Miasto you have to go in front of Matejko Square, where an equestrian statue of Wladyslaw II, one of the kings of Poland, stands. The ensemble is known as the Grunwald Monument.

The old town was for centuries enclosed by walls, of which only a few hundred meters remain. The entrance to the town was the Florian Gate, built in the 13th century. Today, it is the only remaining gate and is the perfect place to start your visit to the historic center.

In the area, before going deeper into the medieval center, you can also see the tower of the Cabinetmakers, the tower of the Carpenters and part of the old city wall.

Book a guided tour of the old town

Walk along Florianska Street

Matejko House| ©Aleksandr Zykov
Matejko House| ©Aleksandr Zykov

To continue the tour you must enter the Florianska Street, which leads from the Barbican (a fortification of the late fifteenth century in which today are held exhibitions) to the heart of the medieval city.

This street is not only the best known in Krakow, but is also famous throughout Poland and every meter of the street is full of charm. Although it is now full of stores, cafes and restaurants, these are located in old buildings to be delighted:

  • Matejko House, number 41 on the street. This house was the residence of a famous painter of the same name and today there is a museum with his works and some military objects and historical costumes he collected.
  • The Jama Michalika cafe, a place that was a meeting point in the 19th century for artists and journalists of the city. Its interior is decorated in Art Nouveau style and is worth a look.
  • The Pod Hotel Roza, with a 16th-century Renaissance portal, and other historic houses lining the street are other points to look out for as you stroll along.

Book a guided tour of Krakow

Market Square, the heart of the Old Town

Krakow Market Square| ©Francisco Anzola
Krakow Market Square| ©Francisco Anzola

At the end of Florianska Street is the Krakow Market Square, undoubtedly the most famous place in all of Krakow. The buildings on the square, both those that can be visited and those that can't, are worth staying there for a while.

This square, which at Christmas in Krakow hosts a fabulous Christmas market and at Easter stalls selling handicrafts from several neighboring countries, has some attractions that are worth seeing more in depth:

  • St. Mary's Basilica: is one of the most important churches in Krakow. You can climb its towers to contemplate the views.
  • Cloth Exchange: this old market houses two different museums and souvenir stalls.
  • Old Town Hall Tower: built in the sixteenth century, you can climb the viewpoint that houses, but be prepared for a narrow staircase of over 100 steps.

Joaquín's Traveller Tip:

Every hour a small door opens in one of the towers of the basilica of Santa María and a trumpeter comes out of it and plays a short melody. If you're in the area, it's a fun time to spend in the square.

Grab a bite to eat in the area

This can be a good time to recharge your batteries. So that you don't have to stray too far from the route, I suggest you eat at one of these restaurants located near the square:

  • Milkbar Tomasza: this place is sort of a more modern version of the traditional Polish milk bars. The prices are very low and the service is very fast. Another advantage is that it has a menu in English. It is located on Świętego Tomasza Street.
  • Chlopskie Jadlo: although the price is high by Polish standards (about 15€ per person) this traditional food restaurant is worth it, especially for being located in the heart of the city. You can order from the typical pierogis to a zurek soup. It is at number 9 Grodzka street.

Joaquín's Traveller Tip:

the lunch time in Poland is earlier than in Spain. Normally, lunch is around 13:00, although in most places you will have no problem if you arrive an hour later.

Follow in the footsteps of Copernicus at the Collegium Maius

Inside the Collegium Maius| ©Allie Caulfield
Inside the Collegium Maius| ©Allie Caulfield

Still within the historic center is the Collegium Maius. The building, which has been renovated several times, was built in the 15th century and its classrooms have been visited by important figures such as Nicolaus Copernicus.

The visit inside, which can only be guided, is really interesting. In its rooms you will be able to see a large number of objects related to almost all areas of knowledge: physics, chemistry, meteorology, cartography and, of course, astronomy.

The courtyard of the building, with its fountain, is another must-see area. On one of the sides there is an old clock that opens every two hours and shows several wooden figures parading while the music plays.

Book a guided tour with Vodka tasting

Forget about time at Wawel Castle

The next point of the tour is located at the top of a small hill. This is the Wawel Castle, a fortification more than 1000 years old that houses the former seat of Polish royalty until the 17th century.

My recommendation is to book a guided tour of Wawel Castle to get to know in depth the rooms that can be visited there:

  • Lost Wawel: an exhibition on the history of the hill located in the basement of the palace.
  • State Rooms: several rooms with furniture, paintings, tapestries and other original objects of the palace.
  • Royal Apartments: the rooms where the royal family resided.
  • Treasury and Armory: as the name suggests, here you can see jewelry, weapons and armor.

In addition to these interior visits, the castle also has an outdoor garden that is worth a leisurely stroll.

Book a guided tour of the Wawel Castle

Don't miss Wawel Cathedral

Wawel Cathedral| ©Maciej Szczepańczyk
Wawel Cathedral| ©Maciej Szczepańczyk

Still within the castle complex is the impressive cathedral dedicated to St. Stanislaus, where you can enter for free. However, if you want to know it in depth and learn about its history, you can do so by choosing the option of hiring a guided tour of Wawel Castle that includes entrance to the Cathedral.

Inside you can see the Sigismund Chapel, which does have paid entrance, built in a beautiful Renaissance style and with a beautiful dome. It is also essential to take a look at the Mausoleum of St. Stanislaus and the crypt where several kings of the country are buried.

If you wish, it is also interesting to climb the Sigismund Tower and see the impressive 16th century bell that was installed in the defensive towers of the complex.

Book a guided tour of Wawel Castle

Walk along Grodzka Street until you reach the Market Square again.

Coming down the hill, look for the beginning of Grodzka Street, one of the busiest streets in the center. In addition to stores and beautiful buildings, this street houses the church of St. Peter and St. Paul, one of the most beautiful in the whole country, especially for its exterior decoration. My advice is to walk leisurely along this street and occasionally detour to its parallel, Kanonicza Street to enjoy some Renaissance houses and other churches.

At the end of the day's tour you return to the Market Square. Stay there to see the night illumination and look for a place to have dinner.

If you still have some rhythm left in your body and want to enjoy the best atmosphere of the city, don't miss the pub crawl in Krakow. 5 hours of non-stop partying!

Book a pub crawl tour in Krakow

Day 2: Krakow's Jewish legacy, from the synagogues to the Ghetto

Entrance to Auschwitz concentration camp| ©Rafael Wagner
Entrance to Auschwitz concentration camp| ©Rafael Wagner

Many tourists choose the morning of their second day to take a trip to Auschwitz or to visit the salt mines of Wieliczka. However, there are still many things to see in Krakow, especially if you want to get to know the city in depth, so the decision is up to you.

In case you decide to finish seeing the city, for this second day I have booked the Jewish quarter and the remains of the city's notorious ghetto.

Book the excursion to Auschwitz

Enter Kazimierz, the thriving Jewish quarter

After a leisurely breakfast, the tour will start in this beautiful neighborhood located south of Wawel Castle. The area can be easily reached on foot from the center, but if your hotel is too far away or you just don't feel like walking, you can always take a streetcar to the entrance of Kazimierz, the Jewish quarter of Krakow.

Kazimierz was born as an independent town founded in the 14th century, but already in the 19th century it was incorporated into Krakow. From its foundation until World War II it was the place of residence of the Jewish community. Today, the neighborhood is home to the second largest collection of Jewish monuments on the continent, behind only Prague.

To get to know the area well you can hire a tour of the Jewish quarter or wander through the streets discovering its beautiful corners. If you go on Sunday, you should not miss the antique market that is installed in the Nowy square.

Book a tour of the Jewish quarter

Enter the Old Synagogue to learn about the Hebrew culture in Krakow

Old Synagogue| ©Lars K Jensen
Old Synagogue| ©Lars K Jensen

A visit to the Old Synagogue, located in Szeroka Street, the oldest Hebrew temple in the country, is a must on your tour of the Jewish Quarter.

In addition to contemplating its exterior, it is also well worth going inside to see the Museum of Jewish Culture. Once you have paid the entrance fee, you will be able to witness the history of the Jewish community in Krakow thanks to the exhibits. You will learn about their culture, their way of dressing, their celebrations and, perhaps most shockingly, the persecution to which they were subjected by the Nazis.

Apart from the objects and photographs in the museum, the highlight of the interior of the temple is the prayer room, with an altar where the Torah was read and a niche in which the sacred texts were kept.

Book a tour of the Jewish Quarter

Discover the Remuh Synagogue Cemetery

Another synagogue in Kazimierz that you must enter is the Remuh Synagogue (also for a fee), built in the 16th century. Despite being the smallest in the neighborhood, it is the only one that still retains its religious function.

Behind the main building is a very interesting cemetery. Unfortunately, some of the oldest tombs were destroyed by the Germans and their remains used as paving stones for the streets.

Book a Segway tour of the Jewish Quarter

Stroll through the neighborhood and see the Isaac's Synagogue and the Tempel Synagogue

While strolling through the streets of the neighborhood you can't miss two other synagogues. Although you can enter both, it may actually be enough to see them from the outside.

The first is the Isaac Synagogue, at number 18 Kupa Street. The building, of rather simple architecture, was built in the 17th century on behalf of a Jewish banker and merchant.

The other synagogue you should visit is the Tempel Synagogue, the last one built in Kazimierz at the end of the 19th century. The highlight of the temple is its stained glass windows.

Book a tour of the Jewish Quarter

Eat in the Jewish quarter

No doubt that while strolling through the neighborhood you will have noticed the large number of restaurants in its streets. The ones next to the Old Synagogue are a bit more expensive, but they have a good offer of kosher dishes, which you will know if you book a gastronomic tour of Krakow.

If you prefer something less touristy, in the neighborhood you will not lack options, such as the simple Polakowski Restauracja (on Miodowa Street) or the Kuchnia Domowa Sąsiedzi (on the same street).

Book a gastronomic tour of the Jewish Quarter

A movie tour: Oscar Schindler's factory

Schindler's factory.| ©John C
Schindler's factory.| ©John C

To get to the next point of the itinerary you have to leave the Jewish quarter and cross the Vistula River over the Powstańców Śląskich Bridge. Then look for Lipowa Street, where you will find what is known as Schindler's Factory.

Schindler was a German businessman who managed to save the lives of more than 1000 Jews by using his kitchen equipment factory. Today, the factory is the site of the permanent exhibition "Krakow under Nazi occupation".

A tour of Schindler' s factory will give you an insight into the history of the city during World War II, as well as some of the objects used in the filming of the movie that made him world famous.

Book the Schindler Factory Tour

Remains of the horror in Podgórze, the Jewish ghetto

Surrounding the Schindler Factory is what remains of one of the most horrific places that existed in Krakow during World War II: the Jewish ghetto. The Nazis sent more than 15,000 people there to, in their words, "cleanse the city of Jews". To isolate them, they built a wall around the 30 streets where the deportees lived in overcrowded conditions.

Podgórze, the name of the neighborhood that housed the ghetto, has its center in Bohaterów Square. A monument consisting of 60 chairs has been erected there to commemorate the Jews who were moved to the area.

In Lwowska Street and Limanowskiego Street you can see the few remains of the wall that surrounded the Jewish ghetto.

Book a segway tour of the Jewish Quarter

Enter a hero's store: the Eagle's Pharmacy

On a corner of Bohaterów Square stands the Eagle's Pharmacy (Apteka pod Orlem), known for the resistance of its owner to leave when the ghetto was built.

Unlike other merchants in the area, the pharmacist preferred to remain there and it is estimated that he helped save several of the Jews who were moved there. Inside you can see today an exhibition about the atrocities committed by the Nazis.

Book a tour of the Jewish Quarter

Do not miss the facade of the Catholic church of St. Joseph

Continuing along the same bank of the river I recommend that you walk through the streets leading from the old ghetto to find the Catholic church of St. Joseph. Although its interior is quite simple, you should not miss the opportunity to admire its splendid facade.

From here you have to continue walking towards the river until you cross it again, this time over the Marshal Józef Piłsudski Bridge.

Another highly recommended option is to get on the Krakow tourist bus to finish the day of sightseeing reviewing the most interesting corners of the city and, perhaps, discovering new ones that will leave you wanting to return.

Book a seat on the Krakow tourist bus

Dinner at Plac Nowy

Plac Nowy by night| ©Kpalion
Plac Nowy by night| ©Kpalion

To finish the itinerary you have to go back into Kazimierz until you reach the New Square, Plac Nowy in Polish. There you will see a circular building in the center that was built to house a slaughterhouse. Today it is full of small kiosks selling food, especially zapiekanka, a kind of baguette with mushrooms and other ingredients.

Around the square there are also other stalls offering everything from grilled meats to homemade sausages. For dinner, there is no better place than here, either on one of the few chairs in the area or on one of the benches in the square.

Book a gastronomic tour of Krakow