Things to Do in Krakow in 5 Days

Find out how to organize your visit to Krakow so you can see the must-see sights (and even take a short break) in just 5 days.

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

11 min read

Things to Do in Krakow in 5 Days

Wieliczka Salt Mine | ©Nigel Hoult

Krakow treasures many artistic and historical charms. Not in vain is it a UNESCO World Heritage City. Seeing them in detail can take our time, although it is possible to do it in 5 days. In this article I propose a planning of the visit so you can enjoy everything it has to offer. And we will still have plenty of time to explore its surroundings. Let's go!

Day 1: Tour Krakow's Old Town

Wroclaw Market Square| ©Hrs Poland
Wroclaw Market Square| ©Hrs Poland

It's best to start with the heart of the city and the most famous. Once we have imbibed the atmosphere of the city, we can spend the next few days exploring. Therefore, the first day we will take it easy: we will see the Cloth Market, St. Mary's Basilica, St. Florian's Gate and the Castle. For this, it is best to book a tour of the old town of Krakow.

Also, I advise you to get more information in this article on what to see and do in Krakow. And, of course, do not hesitate to book one of the many tours that will take you into Krakow with all the information you need to get the most out of the city.

Book a tour of Krakow's Old Town

Visit the Cloth Market

We start at the heart of the Old Town: the Cloth Market, where the Basilica of St. Mary, another of the most significant monuments of the city, is also located. The Cloth Market was, as its name indicates, the commercial and economic center of the city for centuries.

Although it already existed in the 13th century, its current appearance is purely Renaissance and from the 16th century.

Enter the Basilica of Santa Maria

The Basilica of Santa Maria is a beautiful Gothic temple that, throughout its history, was incorporating elements of other architectural styles. On the outside, it stands out for its almost fortress-like rotundity. But the best part is inside: its decoration and trousseau are simply impressive.

As a curiosity, you will see that every hour a trumpet sounds from the top of the basilica. According to legend, it was a trumpeter at the top of a tower who warned the city of the approach of the Mongols. The musician, however, did not have much time to play, as an arrow shot by the Asian invaders pierced him. Continue exploring the city's cultural heritage in this article on the best churches in Krakow.

Here's a tip: Poland is a very religious country, especially Krakow since it is the seat of the archbishop. Walking through the churches when there is mass can attract bad looks from the locals. Something that, if we come from Western countries, where these rules are somewhat more relaxed, can be uncomfortable.

Book a tour of Krakow Old Town

Explore St. Florian's Gate

St. Florian's Gate| ©Diego Delso
St. Florian's Gate| ©Diego Delso

About 10 minutes or so from the Cloth Square is St. Florian's Gate. An opportunity to see what the walled Krakow of the Middle Ages was like. It is a monument of extraordinary beauty despite its defensive function. If you want to continue exploring this facet of Krakow's architecture, take a walk around the Barbican and defensive walls as well.

After this walk, which can take up to 3 hours, it's time for a snack. Need some ideas? Here is more information on where to eat in Krakow.

After lunch, visit the Castle

After lunch, let's go to the highlight of Krakow: its Castle and Cathedral. They are located on Wawel Hill, at the southern end of the walled city and overlooking the Vistula River. It is a space that is a real sancta sanctórum of Polish history.

If you book a guided tour of Wawel Castle you can discover the luxury with which the kings of Poland lived, as well as their tombs in the Cathedral. These are the must-see spaces:

  • Sigismund's Chapel (Cathedral).
  • The Chapel of Santa Cruz (Cathedral).
  • Tombs of the Counts and Kings of Poland (Cathedral).
  • State Courtyards (Castle).
  • Treasury and Armory (Castle).
  • Statue of John Paul II (exterior).

To see the great majority of these charms, you will have to access the interior of the monuments. See this article for more information on how to get to Krakow Castle, opening hours and entrance fees.

Book a guided tour of Wawel Castle

Day 2: Dive into the Jewish Quarter and WWII Krakow

Szeroka Street in the Jewish Quarter| ©Paul Arps
Szeroka Street in the Jewish Quarter| ©Paul Arps

On the second day you can delve into the most historic city, especially the one that has felt the most the wound of World War II and the Holocaust, which was ruthless in Poland. There are many things to see in this regard, although I want to highlight three: the Jewish Quarter, the Krakow Ghetto and the Oskar Schindler Factory. All of these places are in close proximity, on the banks of the Vistula River, although the Ghetto and the factory are on the other side of the river.

Explore the Jewish Quarter

Also called Kazimierz, it was where the Jews of Krakow were located from the 16th century onwards. Over time, Kazimierz became one of the largest Jewish quarters in Europe, as attested by its high concentration of synagogues. I advise you to book a guided tour of the Jewish quarter and then visit one of the synagogues. The most important are the following:

  • Old Synagogue.
  • Remuh Synagogue.
  • Tempel Synagogue.
  • Synagogue of Isaac.

Also, a good complement to the visit can be to know more closely the Jewish Museum of Galicia. Its name has nothing to do with the Spanish region, but with the name of an ancient kingdom. Here are more things to do in the Jewish Quarter of Krakow.

Book a guided tour of the Jewish Quarter

Visit the Krakow Ghetto

Heroes' Square in the Krakow Ghetto| ©Marco Zanferrari
Heroes' Square in the Krakow Ghetto| ©Marco Zanferrari

From the Jewish Quarter, just across the bridge, you will find yourself in an area where you can see the Krakow Ghetto. Or rather, what is left of it. These are the remains of the wall that isolated the ghetto, one of the largest of the Nazi occupation along with Warsaw. Here, for example, the famous filmmaker Roman Polanski was born. It will not be the only cinematographic reference you will find in this area.

Enter Oskar Schindler's Factory

Immortalized by Spielberg in Schindler's List, Oskar Schindler's factory was the place where this German businessman took in many Jewish workers in order to save them from deportation.

If you are a lover of cinema, history or both it is a must that you book a guided tour of Schindler's factory.

Book a guided tour of the Schindler Factory

Day 3: Take a tour to Auschwitz

Wire fences surround the entire concentration camp.| ©Tomas Forgac
Wire fences surround the entire concentration camp.| ©Tomas Forgac

Auschwitz is located in the outskirts of Krakow. A place of terrible historical significance because of what happened there, but if you like history, it is essential that you book an excursion to Auschwitz.

You should dedicate a day to this place for several reasons. Firstly, because it is an extensive visit: there are two camps that are included in the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex; secondly, we will have to take the bus to go there and back. There are two ways to go:

  • On your own: There are several ways to go. Here more information on how to go to Auschwitz from Krakow.
  • With an organized tour: choose the one that best suits you among the different options of excursions to Auschwitz from Krakow.

Book a tour to Auschwitz

Visit the first Auschwitz camp

Auschwitz is actually two camps. One, smaller, was a Polish military barracks until the German occupation and the other, gigantic, is the one you know from the photos. The latter is the famous Auschwitz Birkenau, which I will discuss in more detail later. When you arrive at Auschwitz you will first be introduced to this camp. I will tell you what you will see there; although it is a list of horrors, whether you are passionate about history or not, it will give you food for thought:

  • The famous "welcome" to the camp forged on the gate: Arbeit macht frei.
  • The brick barracks.
  • The firing squad wall.
  • The cell of St. Maximilian Kolbe.
  • The only surviving gas chamber.
  • The crematoria.
  • Mountains of belongings (glasses, shoes...) belonging to the prisoners.

In addition, if you book an excursion to Auschwitz you can learn more about what happened there through the very didactic exhibitions that are located inside some of the barracks. Once you have completed your tour, you will board a bus that will drop you off at the Birkenau gate in less than 15 minutes.

Book a tour to Auschwitz

Get closer to Birkenau

Entrance to the camp| ©John C
Entrance to the camp| ©John C

This is the most impressive camp, both for its size and for having been the place where most Jews and political prisoners were killed of all the Nazi extermination camps. It is a huge extension of which only the barbed wire fences, large wooden barracks and the entrance to the gas chambers (these chambers, as such, were destroyed by the Nazis in their escape) are preserved. Basically this is what you will be able to do there:

  • Walk through the barracks and see how the inmates lived.
  • Visit the Holocaust memorial.
  • See the entrances to the gas chambers.

After the tour to Auschwitz you will be returned to the first camp, from where you can start your return to Krakow.

Book a tour to Auschwitz

Consider these tips for visiting Auschwitz

Auschwitz is certainly not for everyone. What you will see if you book a tour to Auschwitz is very strong. In fact, visitors often leave there totally dejected, so if you are sensitive, I advise you to think carefully about going. And if you are traveling with children, I also suggest you think about it. Especially because there are many things to see in Krakow with children.

Another thing to know is that the rules of respect inside are strict. It's not allowed to talk out loud or take pictures of the mountains of prisoners' belongings. Also, with the recent controversies of visitors taking selfies, this issue is more closely monitored. If, in spite of everything, you have decided to visit these extermination camps, here is all the information you will need:

After such an impressive visit, the best thing to do is to finish the day walking around or relaxing in a place where you can recover. A good place to relax is the Vistula River boulevards.

Book a tour to Auschwitz

Day 4: Don't miss Wieliczka Salt Mines

Salt Mine Extraction Gallery| ©Aleksandr Zykov
Salt Mine Extraction Gallery| ©Aleksandr Zykov

The Wieliczka Salt Mine is one of Poland's UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Not for nothing does it receive 1 million tourists a year. And it is worth it given its proximity (30 minutes by car) to Krakow. On this issue, see here all the options on how to get to the Wieliczka Salt Mines from Krakow.

It is a unique site, salt mines dug at unusual depths of between 60 and 130 meters. Moreover, it is not only composed of passages but also of sumptuous chapels. Find out more about what to see and do in the Wieliczka Salt Mines here. To whet your appetite, I show you some of the most significant places:

  • Copernicus Chamber.
  • Chapel of St. Barbara.
  • Chapel of St. Kinga.
  • Well of Cunegunda.

Keep in mind that if you book an excursion to the Wieliczka Salt Mines it will take you about 3 to 4 hours. The good news is that there are places to buy food and drink in the mines themselves, and even restaurants outside. Now I show you articles where you can expand on all the practical questions you may have:

Book a tour to the Wieliczka Salt Mine

Day 5: Take a short break

Warsaw Royal Castle Square| ©Vinicius Pinheiro
Warsaw Royal Castle Square| ©Vinicius Pinheiro

We've already seen the essentials of Krakow and the surrounding area, so how about reserving the last day for a getaway to another charming location? The great thing about Poland is that it's full of beautiful places, so you won't be short of options. Let's take a look at the different cities you can move to for your last day. For more details, I recommend you to check this article on what to see and do around Krakow.

Take note of the places around Krakow

Of the cities near Krakow, I would highlight some small towns or picturesque towns full of charm. Especially prioritizing that it doesn't take too much time to get to them. They are the following:

  • Tarnów: about 1 hour and 10 minutes by car.
  • Lanckorona: about 39 minutes by car.
  • Niepolomice: 35 minutes by car.
  • Zakopane: about 50 minutes by car.

Enjoy the best views in Zakopane

Booking an excursion to Zakopane is a must if you spend five days in Krakow. Known as the winter capital of Poland, it has dazzling panoramic views. Ideal for those who enjoy nature tourism.

In addition, you can relax in the outdoor thermal pools of this picturesque town located in the Podhale region.

Book an excursion to Zakopane

Take a cable car ride in Tatra

If you book a tour to Tatra, you'll get a glimpse of some dreamlike scenery, especially if you take a cable car ride up Gubalowka Hill, from where you can glimpse the Tatra Mountains and see Wielka Krokiew, an impressive ski jumping hill.

Book an excursion to Tatra

Delve into the figure of John Paul II Wadowice

Located in southern Poland, Wadowice is the birthplace of Pope John Paul II. If you book a Wadowice excursion, you will see the monuments erected in his memory located in the John Paul II Square.

In addition, you will visit the Museum of the Family House of John Paul II, which exhibits memorabilia and objects of the family.

And if you like sweets, you can taste the popular cream cakes called "kremowka".

Book an excursion to Wadowice

Explore Poland's religious capital: Czestochowa

Czestochowa is one of the oldest cities and the religious capital of Poland where you can visit the Jasna Góra Monastery where the miraculous icon of the Black Madonna is located.

If you book a tour to Czestochowa, one of the Pauline monks will guide you through this Catholic shrine.

Book a tour to Czestochowa

Get the best photo of your trip at Pieskowa Skala Castle

Located in the Ojców National Park, Pieskowa Skala Castle is a royal fortress perched on a limestone cliff.

If you book an excursion to the Pieskowa Skala Castle you will have access to a large art museum that gathers wonderful European must-see works. Please note, however, that it is only open between May and October.

Book a tour to Pieskowa Skala Castle

For the finishing touch to your trip visit Warsaw

The capital of the country. A very beautiful city, whose historic center is declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Although, yes, it is almost completely rebuilt since the city was razed to the ground after World War II.

The distance is 3 hours and 45 minutes. A less than optimal distance if you plan to return to Krakow. However, I recommend that you consider booking your return flight in Warsaw itself. To optimize your transfer time, find out the details on how to get to Warsaw from Krakow.

Whichever place you choose, I assure you that it will be an unbeatable highlight of your trip to Krakow.

Get to know Wroclaw

In Polish Wroklaw, in English we know it better by its old, more Germanized name: Wroclaw. It is one of the most important Polish cities (and one of the most beautiful). With a very Germanic look, something not surprising given the influence that this community exerted historically until the end of World War II.

It is located 3 hours and a half from Krakow. A somewhat less manageable distance, although it may be a great idea to fly back from Krakow, so you can see both cities comfortably! Anyway, here is some practical information on how to get to Wroclaw from Krakow.