Krakow is a city to which Christmas is particularly well suited. First of all because, given its temperatures, contemplating the snowfall is by no means an impossible mission. Second, because at this time of the year it is decorated with colored lights, which will give us some beautiful snapshots.
If you are thinking of visiting this Polish city at Christmas, I will show you what you can see and do at this time of the year. They will be, for the most part, plans to do in Krakow that are exclusive to this time of year or, at least, fit perfectly with what you are looking for in a Christmas getaway of these characteristics. Let's get started!
1. Christmas Market
With its 40,000 square meters, the square that houses the Cloth Market (also called Rynek Glówny) can boast of being one of the largest in Europe. A circumstance that makes this space one of the most impressive you can see at Christmas. The Christmas lighting and the lively atmosphere of its dozens of stalls where you can buy sweets, have a mulled wine or buy handicrafts contribute to this.
This market takes place between November 27 and December 26. If you do not want to miss it, remember to travel to Poland on these dates.
Christmas is the time for presents. If you are also a fan of shopping, Krakow has a lot to offer you. I will show you which are the most important shopping places in the Polish city. It can also be the occasion to buy gifts for your family. Krakow stands out especially for its traditional production of amber products. And also for its wood craftsmanship. In addition, buying one of its classic nativity scenes, declared Intangible Heritage by UNESCO, can be a great gift idea.
Commercial streets of Krakow
I start with the shopping streets because they are almost all in the center, which is also a guarantee that your walk will be embellished by Christmas lights and musical strings. Nothing better in this regard than dropping by Florianska Street, which connects the Market Square with St. Florian's Gate.
Krakow does not have huge shopping areas in the style of other cities, but it does have galleries that are very worthwhile. Moreover, they are located in the center of the city, which will make it easier for you to visit them without having to move in the winter cold or make bus connections with names of stops impossible to retain. I would highlight the following:
- Galeria Krakowska: The largest shopping mall in Krakow, located in the very center of the city.
- Kazimierz Gallery: Located in the neighborhood of the same name or, what is the same, the Jewish Quarter.
By the way, if you finally drop by Kazimierz, I encourage you to stop by one of the largest Jewish neighborhoods in Europe. Here you can learn more about what to see and do in the Jewish Quarter.
3. See the Christmas lights
Christmas lights flood Krakow since the end of November. You can enjoy them just walking around the center; although, perhaps, the lighting that stands out the most is the Christmas tree that can be seen in the Market Square.
Also worth seeing in terms of illumination is the interesting religious monument called the Bishop's Palace. A 17th century clerical residence that, at Christmas, is illuminated with a beautiful Christmas tree.
The lighting of the lights takes place a week before the beginning of December. It will therefore be just one more attraction of the many things to see and do in Krakow in November.
4. Admire the decoration of St. Mary's Basilica
Poland is still to this day one of the most Catholic countries in Europe. In other words, they take Christmas very, very seriously. That is why the churches are decorated during Christmas not only on the outside but especially on the inside. I advise you to go inside the Basilica of Santa Maria to enjoy these Christmas decorations.
Also, if you love Christmas decorations in churches, you can continue your exploration in the most beautiful churches in Krakow. The only thing I recommend is that you visit them at times that do not coincide with worship. Krakow's churches tend to be very crowded and attitudes that in Western European countries are normal, such as wandering around while the mass is taking place or some relaxation, in Poland can get you some bad looks.
5. Contemplating the snowy views of the city
Krakow in winter can be cold and reach temperatures as low as -10 degrees Celsius. A fact that will force you to travel with lots of warm clothes but that can also provide you with snowy views that in Spain are not at all common.
If you are lucky enough to have snow during your stay, I advise you to go to Wawel Hill. A point high enough for you to have great panoramic views. And with the Vistula River at your feet, what more could you ask for? In addition, you will have the Wawel Castle and the Cathedral right next to it.
6. Taste the Christmas gastronomy of Poland
Poland is a very sweet country, as evidenced by its delicious pastry specialties. Christmas is an ideal time to prove it, since there are many Christmas sweets that fill the windows of bakeries. But there are also other non-pastry specialties that are typical of these holidays. Here are some of the most characteristic ones.
There are several specialties. Many of them can be purchased in bakeries or restaurants. To discover the best options, check out the best restaurants in Krakow.
- Pierogi: These are dumplings with various fillings (usually potato, cheese or onion) that are served cooked or fried.
- Soups: The best remedy against the cold. In Poland soups are an essential element of its gastronomy. You will find soups of practically anything, although the most typical is the one known as Christmas Eve beet soup.
Is there a time of the year more prone to sweets and even to overindulge in them? Poland is a very confectionary country, so you won't be short of options to try. The ones that most catch my attention are the following:
- Obwarzanek: Delicious bread doughnuts with poppy seeds.
- Chocolate Wedel: Poland is a country with a long chocolate tradition. Probably one of the most famous chocolates is Wedel, named after the creator of the brand, a German entrepreneur who founded the firm in 1851.
7. Annual Nativity Scene Contest
Poland, in addition to celebrating the Three Wise Men, also celebrates a tradition that, at first glance, seems typical of more southern countries: nativity scenes. In fact, they take them so seriously that their nativity scenes are considered nothing less than Intangible Heritage by UNESCO.
An annual Nativity Scene competition is organized by the Historical Museum of the City of Krakow. This institution houses the cribs that, from the first Sunday of December can be visited without any problem until February.
If you are in Krakow on the first Thursday you can witness the curious ceremonial that accompanies this crib contest. It is, in essence, as follows:
Concentration of participants in the morning at the monument of Adam Mickiewicz. After the hejnal (the trumpet call that marks the hours from the tower of the Basilica of St. Mary), there is a procession with the nativity scenes through the Market Square.
A curious event that you can see from beginning to end. Another interesting plan may be to stop at the things to see and do in the Market Square and wait for the procession to appear.
8. Attend a performance of The Nutcracker at the Krakow Opera House
Few things are more typical of the Christmas season than performances of Tchaikovsky's ballet The Nutcracker. It is a widespread tradition, especially in Central and Eastern European countries and the United States, so Poland was not to be outdone.
In addition, Chopin's homeland could not but be characterized by having musical events of great quality and with the best performers. I suggest you take a look at the program that the Krakow Opera has prepared for Christmas. It is almost certain that you will find performances of The Nutcracker.
If you want, you can also attend one of the many music concerts in Krakow. During this holiday season, classical music predominates, sometimes taking place inside churches. A good way to enjoy the music and get to know the architectural heritage of the city.
9. Contemplate the manufacture of Christmas balls
A good way to get close to Polish handicrafts. It is a visit to the ARMAR factory-workshop. A place located 23 km from Krakow where you can experience firsthand how Christmas ornaments are made. The techniques used are very extensive and include glass blowing.
You will also have the opportunity to participate in a craft workshop, although that will depend on your ability with languages. Unfortunately, these workshops are not available in Spanish. However, if you are fluent in English, Italian, French, German or Russian, there will be no problem. The workshops last 2 hours and can be enjoyed from Monday to Friday at 09:00, 11:00, 13:00 and 15:00.
10. A plan for the little ones: the Dragon of Wawel
Christmas is the time of illusion par excellence. Therefore, if we travel with children, it can always be a good idea to introduce them to the magical, fairytale and fable elements that Krakow is home to. One of them is the famous Wawel Dragon, a sculpture that every five minutes expels fire from its mouth.
Although it sounds intimidating, you can rest assured that your children will not be harmed, as it is completely safe. The sculpture is located near the Dragon Cave, where centuries ago one of these creatures was thought to dwell. The cave can be visited, but unfortunately only in the summer months. If you want more family activities, here is more information about what to see in Krakow with kids.
Also, since the famous Wawel Castle is next door, why not visit it? Here is all the information you will need about how to visit the castle, opening hours and tickets.
These are the most Christmas plans to do in Krakow. Decide which one best suits your tastes or the plan you are thinking about and, simply, make it happen. Of course, don't forget a good coat, gloves and hat!
The influx of visitors to Krakow at Christmas time
Krakow is not a city with specific attractions of a summer season. However, it is certainly more pleasant to visit in good weather. That is the reason why at Christmas it does not receive as many visitors as in summer, although the influx is still relevant. Especially for the Christmas markets. Therefore, you will find visitors in the city center. However, attractions such as Auschwitz and the Salt Mines are less crowded at this time of year.
Krakow Christmas weather
The weather in Krakow at Christmas is basically cold with a chance of snowfall. In fact, the least cold average temperatures are usually between 0 and 5 degrees. And the coldest between 0 and 5 degrees below zero. Therefore, it is important that you travel to Krakow well but very well sheltered. Anyway, if the weather is an important criterion for you, you can learn more here about the best time to visit Krakow.
What to pack when visiting Krakow at Christmas time
What I recommend you is to be equipped with the best warm clothes to weather the cold and possible snowfalls that may surprise you. Therefore, do not forget to take with you
- Thermal undershirts
And another thing I recommend is that you take with you well prepared, either in a notebook or written down in your cell phone, a list of the different money exchange offices. Poland is not, for the moment, in the euro zone. Its currency is the zloty. One euro is about 4.5 zlotys. This value can change, so I recommend you to use this currency converter to confirm it well.
Change at the airport is the worst option, the rates are the highest. It is recommended that you change the minimum and indispensable to get to the city. Once there, in the center of Krakow, you will have several exchange houses. It is best that you have already located them before your trip, so you know which ones will be more advantageous. For more useful information, I recommend this article on tips for traveling to Krakow.