Despite not being the capital of Poland, Krakow is one of the most visited cities in the country due to its importance during the twentieth century and its enormous historical legacy during World War II. In addition, its architecture and aesthetics have made it one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.
If you have always wanted to visit Krakow and its emblematic places such as Auswitch or the Salt Mines, then I am going to propose a 7-day itinerary around Krakow so that you do not miss anything of this incredible city.
1. Day Tour the Old Town of Krakow
You have a week ahead of you to get to know Krakow. That's why on this first day one of the best things to do is to get to know the city by getting to know its old town and start to soak up the atmosphere.
The Old Town of Krakow not only has an indisputable beauty, but also contains some of the oldest buildings as it was one of the few areas that survived the Second World War. I suggest a tour of its main attractions and a tasty lunch to sample Polish cuisine.
Built in 1498, this ancient fortress from medieval times is one of the most important points of interest in the Old Town of Krakow. To get there, you'll need to head to the streetcar stop called Teatr Słowackiego, just a few steps from the entrance of the site. From there, you will also have access to the entire Old Town to continue the rest of the day on foot.
In the Barbacana fortress you can tour for less than 2 euros all its network of passages and nooks and crannies and also enjoy some of the temporary exhibitions it houses. Undoubtedly, a return to the past of the city.
St. Mary's Basilica
Walking just two streets to the south, you can find another of the highlights of the center of Krakow; the Basilica of St. Mary. This impressive place is one of the most important monuments and has two high towers, one of them higher called Hejnalica that currently sounds every hour.
Visiting its interior costs between 3€ and 5€ but being able to see its spectacular wooden altarpiece up close is a must experience.
Lunch at the Market Square
At this point, it is time to stop to recharge your batteries and try the local cuisine. One of the most popular places and that is just a few steps from where you are is the Market Square, where you will find different stalls and restaurants.
One of them is the Hawelka, a typical Polish food restaurant that for a very affordable price will offer you the best delicacies of the city and in a privileged location from where to continue your visit.
Afternoon at Wawel Castle
To finish the day, I suggest you to visit another of the key places in the center of Krakow, the Wawel Castle. This place is in a strategic point of the city and over the centuries has been passing from owner to owner, becoming the first residence of the kings of Poland.
Today, this castle is full of attractions to visit and has become one of the most visited places by tourists. Inside, you can visit throughout the afternoon its different sections, among which are:
- The Wawel Cathedral;
- The John Paul I Cathedral Museum;
- The Dragon Cave;
- The Royal Palace.
2. Day Visit the Jewish Quarter
Much of Krakow's appeal lies in all the historical weight that was carried by the Jewish population at the end of the 20th century. However, it was centuries ago when the Jewish Quarter of Krakow was formed, what was once known as an independent village of the city.
This second day, I propose you to dedicate it to know in depth the Jewish Quarter of Krakow, a place full of history and key places for its culture and spirituality.
This square is one of the most central places in the Jewish Quarter of Krakow and, although it may not seem so now, centuries ago it was the main beach of the town of Kazimierz. To get there you can take streetcar lines 1,2,3,4 or 6 to the Plac Walnica stop.
Today it is one of the most popular starting points of the neighborhood and is notable for its large white building in the center which has been converted into an Ethnographic Museum.
Visit the synagogues
Inside the Kazimierz neighborhood, you will immediately realize the great weight that has the Jewish religion and culture. One of the most attractive plans that you can make during your route through the neighborhood, is to visit the two large synagogues that it has and which can be reached perfectly walking during the morning. These are:
- Isaac's Synagogue
- Remuh Synagogue
Lunch in the Jewish Quarter
To recharge your batteries after a morning on your feet, there is nothing better than stopping at one of the restaurants in the Jewish quarter to recharge your batteries and try some typical dishes.
I recommend you to try the Starka restaurant, one of the most famous restaurants in the neighborhood with a traditional Polish food and a gourmet touch that makes it very popular. You may have to make a reservation the day before so I recommend you to book well in advance.
Visit the Remuh Cemetery
After lunch, I suggest an almost obligatory visit to the Jewish quarter due to its historical importance; the Remuh Cemetery. This place is one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in Poland, with tombs dating back to the 16th century.
During the Second World War, many of them were destroyed and, after its reconstruction, the whole space was rearranged and, with the remains of tombstones, they recreated a "Wailing Wall" which is one of the highlights of the cemetery.
Tour the Mural of Illustrious Persons
To end the day, you can visit another of the most photographed areas of the Jewish Quarter of Krakow. It is a mural with the faces of the most illustrious people of the city and is shown as a street aesthetic in the middle of the neighborhood. It is located at Jozefa 17, outside the Wrega Pub.
3. Day Go into Podgórze, the Jewish Ghetto
You have already been able to know a little better the history of Krakow and it is time for you to enter fully into the enormous weight that this city had in Europe with the arrival of the Second World War. The Jews, at that time, were driven into a ghetto where the tragedy of the Holocaust would begin to unfold.
Despite the harshness of history, Krakow still has much to tell and that is why for this third day, I have reserved for you Podgórze, the Jewish ghetto that, even today, keeps memories of those tragic days.
Start at Bohaterow Getta Square
Bohaterow Square is one of the most emblematic starting points of this area of the city where all Jews were sent after the Nazi occupation. It was here that the fate of millions of citizens and their distribution to the concentration camps was decided.
Now, in its place, 60 empty chairs are scattered throughout the square in recognition of all the victims. To get there, you should arrive by streetcar to the Limanowskiego streetcar station.
Visit Oskar Schindler's Factory
Inside the Jewish ghetto of Krakow is a must-see stop that you can't miss and has an incredible story behind it. Oskar Schindler's pot factory was founded in Krakow and started by cheap Jewish labor. However, during World War II, its owner Mr. Schindler used it to save the lives of a total of 1,200 people by giving them jobs.
Today the factory is a must-see museum of memory that you can visit for around 15 euros and that I promise you will be worth it for the enormous historical value.
Very close to the factory is the most important contemporary art museum in the city, the MOCAK. I suggest you visit it after lunch and dedicate the time it deserves because it is full of works of all kinds and, if you like art and culture, for less than 5 euros you will feel at home.
See the remains of the Ghetto Wall
The Krakow ghetto was for many years separated from the rest of the city by a wall that enclosed the Jews. Today there are only a few remains located at number 62 Limanowskiego Street but it is interesting to visit them to learn more about what the ghetto was like at that time and get an idea of the recent history of the city.
4. Day Visit Auschwitz-Birkenau in one day
Auschwitz is one of the most important and most visited concentration camps still standing in the world. Within its walls the most brutal contemporary crimes in history were committed. Today it is a place of remembrance that is visited by millions of visitors.
Visiting this place is one of the essential plans in your visit to Krakow and that is why you will dedicate a whole day to visit Auschwitz and its neighboring camp in a solemn visit that will not leave you indifferent.
Morning visit Auschwitz
Auschwitz is located 70 kilometers west of Krakow so you will spend the whole day touring it between going and returning. To get there, you can choose to hire some of the organized tours that pick you up from the center of Krakow, or go on your own in a bus that takes about 1 hour to get there.
Once in the camp, you must get your ticket for a price of approximately 25 € to access the interior and tour the various rooms that will make your hair stand on end; from the sheds, to the gas chambers.
Rest and lunch in the area
You may not have much appetite when leaving Auschwitz, but to recharge your batteries, I recommend going to some of the nearby restaurants like Portobello to disconnect a little and continue with the afternoon visit to Auschwitz II.
Finish at Auschwitz II-Birkenau
To end the day, you should visit Auschwitz II-Birkenau, one of the largest concentration camps still standing and containing the most chilling rooms of what was the Jewish holocaust.
This kind of excursions are not recommended for children under 14 years old because of the harshness of the history. I also recommend you to hire a guided tour so you don't miss anything.
5. Day Visit the Wieliczka Salt Mines
By now you have already known much of the must-see Krakow and all its history, but there is still more. You can not leave this city without making one of the most famous visits in the whole country; its salt mines of Wieliczka.
Proclaimed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, these mines are composed of a multitude of chambers and even have a subway chapel that will leave you open-mouthed. Due to its location and its immensity, you will dedicate a whole day to visit it.
Tour the salt mines
This spectacular salt mine is located just 15 kilometers from Krakow and can be reached either by bus, on line 304, by car or through a guided tour. Arriving at the place, you will find yourself in huge subway galleries of more than 300 kilometers with all kinds of sculptures and passages carved in salt. Undoubtedly a marvel to visit.
The entrance to the salt mines usually costs around 50 euros and I recommend that you do it through an organized tour so you can be guided through the different rooms and learn a little more about the history of these impressive mines.
St. Kinga Chapel
One of the most incredible points of your visit to the salt mines of Wieliczka is to reach the subway chapel of St. Kinga, built entirely of salt and with dimensions that you will forget that you are underground.
6. Day Archaeological Tour to Krakow Mounds and Nowa Huta
You are nearing the end of your week in Krakow and this time I have reserved for you a day dedicated to two attractive places to see that, curiously, are very close to each other.
On the one hand, you will visit one of the five mounds or "kopiec" that are scattered throughout the city and have been places of worship for centuries. On the other hand, you will enter Nowa Huta, the Soviet quarter. Let's get started!
Visit the Wanda Mound
To get to this curious construction, you will have to go to the Kopiec Wandy station on streetcar lines 21 or 22, which will leave you next to the entrance. This mound, along with its 4 other brothers scattered around the city, are funerary places of worship that have been standing for centuries and are shaped like hills.
It is estimated that the daughter of the founder of Krakow was buried in the Wanda mound between the 7th and 8th centuries. Admission is free and it is ideal to visit with children as it is a natural environment like no other.
Lunch at Nowa Huta
Very close to the Wanda mound you will find one of the newest neighborhoods of Krakow, Nowa Huta, the Soviet neighborhood. But before entering to know it in depth, I recommend you to recharge your batteries in a restaurant in the area as Stylowa, where you will taste a little better Polish cuisine.
Tour Krakow's Communist Quarter
To spend the penultimate afternoon in Krakow I propose a walk through the neighborhood of Nowa Huta, a residential neighborhood created by the Soviets in the second half of the twentieth century in an attempt to create a "socialist realism". Among its streets you will find emblematic places such as:
- The Centralny Plac
- The Nowa Huta Museum
- The Soviet tank
- The Ark of the Lord Church.
7. Day Trip to Zakopane and the Tatra Mountains
You already know firsthand all the most important places in Krakow but, to finish your trip through this incredible place, I have prepared a farewell excursion to spend the day just 2 hours from here, in mountains that will conquer your heart.
The day will start in Zakopane and will take you through the most idyllic mountain scenery of the country, ending in the Tatra Mountains and the surrounding villages.
Gubałówka and Butorowy Wierch Mountains by cable car
The Tatra Mountains is a natural park that you can not miss to say goodbye to your trip to Krakow. To get there you can go by car but the best option is to hire a guided tour that picks you up in the center of Krakow and directs you throughout the day so you do not miss any detail.
One of the highlights when you get to Zakopane is to take one of the funiculars and climb the main mountains of the reserve, where you can enjoy a beautiful mountain scenery.
Zakopane Center and Tatra Museum
Returning back to the center of the small town of Zakopane, you will have the opportunity to see its picturesque houses and stroll through its colorfully decorated streets. In addition, you can also have a bite to eat in one of the local restaurants and visit the Tatra Museum, with all the history of the area.
Stop in Chochołów
On the way back to the city and to say goodbye to this incredible trip through Krakow, you will have the opportunity to stop in a picturesque village halfway called Chocholów, with typical wooden houses of the southern part of the country and where you can buy some handicraft souvenirs.