Krakow is a city that has no defined season: its charms can be enjoyed at any time of the year. However, in winter the cold and occasional snowfalls can make it difficult to explore it comfortably. The good news is that the Polish city has specific winter attractions that are well worth a visit.
If you have decided to travel in December, you will not be short of things to do in Krakow, especially because of the proximity of Christmas. That is, many of the plans that await you will not be possible (or will be more difficult to do) in another period of the year. In this article I bring you some ideas so you can plan your winter getaway to the Polish city.
1. Christmas markets
As you know, the Market Square, with its 40,000 square meters, is one of the main attractions of Krakow. Its size undoubtedly contributes to this, but also the monuments located there: St. Mary's Basilica and the Cloth Market.
Between November 27 and December 26, the extraordinary Christmas Market takes place. During these dates the Market Square is filled with Christmas stalls with typical food, crafts, traditional cribs and many other objects. Although the protagonism is taken by the surroundings of the Market Square, I advise you to also drop by the Stary Keplarz Market, a market with a more gastronomic and Polish approach.
And, while you're at it, you can take advantage of the Christmas atmosphere to take a tour of the old town of Krakow while discovering its history in an environment with a different atmosphere than at other times of the year.
2. Skiing in Zakopane in December
Since it wouldn't be too unusual for your visit to Krakow in December to be accompanied by snow, why not enjoy it? That's when a getaway to the city's surroundings is the best option. If I had to choose one I would immediately say Zakopane, located 1 hour and a quarter drive from Krakow.
Taking a trip to Zakpane from Krakow means entering a small town of just 30,000 inhabitants that has a natural mountainous environment due to its proximity to the Tatra Mountains. The activities that can be developed there are innumerable:
- Dog sled rides
- Thermal baths
- Snowmobile tours
3. Take the opportunity to try Polish street food
Along with the Christmas markets, street food stalls proliferate in Krakow. There is a gastronomic specialty of Krakow that is practically only served in this type of stalls: the maczanka krakowska or "Polish hamburger".
What makes it different from the conventional hamburger is that the meat, in addition to being fried, is also cooked in a broth with cream. It is usually accompanied by pickles and some sauce from the cooking. They are common in Kazimierz, the Jewish quarter, and also in the Market Square. In fact, if you visit Krakow in winter you can do it without much effort, as the Market Square is packed during Christmas.
And, if you decide to try it in Kazimierz, where food stalls are abundant, I advise you to take advantage of it and make a tour of the Jewish quarter of Krakow.
4. Warm up with delicious Polish chocolates
Although it may not seem like it, Poland is a country with a strong chocolate tradition. This came from a German chocolatier who gave his name to what is now the best known chocolate in the country, Wedel chocolate, a brand that has been around since 1851, so it is a guarantee of quality.
In December it is very cold in Krakow, so is there anything better than having a cup of chocolate and a quiet walk? And if you want to try more flavors you can always take a gastronomic tour. Regarding chocolate, here are some places you can find in the center:
- Karmello: there are several establishments throughout the city. The most central one is located in Florianksa.
- Wedel: located very close to Florianska is the famous Wedel chocolate shop. The best option if you want something more traditional.
- Wawel: also in the historical center. A high quality firm that has been awarded several times.
5. Immerse yourself in nightlife on New Year's Eve
If there is an incentive to spend New Year's Eve in another country, this is to be able to experience such a lively night in clubs and streets that are unfamiliar to us. In Krakow there is a wide range of nightlife. If you need some ideas, here are a few:
- Single Scena Music Bar: especially suitable if you want a lively but quiet New Year's Eve. This pub has a bar and a space with tables, as well as a stage to enjoy live music.
- Forty Kleparz: perfect if you want to dance but you don't feel like something too massive or too loud.
- Frantic Club: the right choice if you are looking for a large nightclub, with several rooms and environments, and lots of people.
And if you want to get to know more clubs, you can always join a pub crawl around Krakow and keep going.
Just a tip. In Krakow you are not allowed to drink in the street, so if you are outside with a glass, you can be approached by a policeman. Although it is not always easy to control this aspect, especially if you are used to the permissiveness in Spain on this point, I recommend you to remember this rule. It could save you uncomfortable situations.
6. Ice skating in December
You won't be short of rinks to do it. The most popular is the one located in the vicinity of the Market Square, although there are also other very appropriate places to do it. Here are the most important ones:
If you opt for the latter, you can take a guided tour of Nowa Huta, as it is a very particular neighborhood that was created by order of the communist authorities in 1949 as an independent city. As you can imagine, it has a very interesting history.
Interesting information about the ice rinks
- Hours: usually from 09:00 to 21:00 hours, although it may vary slightly depending on the rink.
- Price: from 3 €, a very interesting price.
7. Discover Jewish music
In December in Krakow it gets very cold and that's why indoor activities are the favorite of tourists, and locals of course. Because of this, it is the perfect time to do that thing that at other times you would prefer to leave for later because you feel like being outdoors.
I am talking about a concert of Jewish music. Have you ever attended one? Specifically, in Krakow, you can listen to so-called klezmer music, a type of instrumental music that the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe used to play at weddings and various celebrations.
This type of music is extremely beautiful and intoxicating, being perfect to liven up an afternoon in the city, as the performances usually take place around 16:30. Best of all, the performances take place in a traditional Polish house, so the setting will take you back in time.
8. Visit the Wieliczka Salt Mines
The Wieliczka salt mines are one of the most special places in Krakow, without a doubt. They are an attraction that can be visited at any time of the year, as the temperature inside remains constant (around 17 degrees), but the good thing about the winter season is that there are fewer people and you can visit them more at ease.
Please note that during your visit you will enter a subway place with more than 800 years of history that has a total of 20 subway chambers that reach 135 meters deep. Inside you will find sculptures sculpted by the ancient miners and incredible cavities. Don't forget that this spectacular place was declared a World Heritage Site.
It would be a crime to go to Krakow and not make a stop at these unique mines in the world.
9. See Krakow under the snow in December
You should not be surprised if you come across a winter snowfall in Krakow. Which, on the other hand, wouldn't be a bad thing given that Krakow is a particularly beautiful city covered in snow. If that happens, take a trip to Wawel Hill, where from the heights you can see the snowy rooftops and the city stretching out on both sides of the Vistula.
It may also be a good opportunity to visit Wawel Castle and, if you are traveling with children to Krakow, to visit the Wawel Dragon, a sculpture located on the hill that represents a legendary dragon that is thought to have inhabited a cave located on this hill.
10. Bet on Krakow Mountain Festival
Between December 3 and 5, the Mountain Festival takes place in Krakow, a film event that brings together hundreds of mountaineers and climbers, as well as visual artists and documentary filmmakers.
It is one of the biggest audiovisual events in Poland and if you are interested in climbing, mountain sports and cinema it can be an interesting plan. Also, you don't have to worry too much about the language. It is an international festival, so not everything will be in Polish. In fact, there is a specific competition for works made in Polish, so if you want to make sure you understand everything, it is best to attend other parallel competitions.
11. Get to know the folk culture with the szopka (Polish nativity scene) competition
Nativity scenes are usually associated with the southernmost countries of Europe (basically Spain and Italy). However, Poland, faithful to its strong Catholic tradition, also has its own nativity scenes. They are called szopka and differ from the southern nativity scenes in that they usually represent typically Polish architectural elements.
These szopka are, in fact, Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO and approaching them can be an extraordinary way to learn firsthand one of the most important elements of Polish folklore.
It takes place on the first Thursday of December in the Market Square and usually involves between 100 and 200 people. If you want to discover more Christmas plans, here is more information about what to see and do in Krakow at Christmas.
12. Say hello to Mikolajki (the Polish St. Nicholas)
If you are traveling with children, it is worth knowing the celebration of Mikolajki, the Polish St. Nicholas, which takes place on December 6. On the eve, on the 5th, there are celebrations of this special date for the little ones. Children can enjoy seeing "Santa Claus" both on the Market Square and in the shopping malls. Of course, Mikolajki is very different from Santa Claus.
All the stalls offer everything from Mikolajki figurines to sweets and products associated with this holiday. They are as follows:
- Mikolajki-shaped cookies covered with powdered sugar.
- Red apples
What is the weather like in Krakow in December?
December in Krakow is a cold month. The winter weather has high temperatures between 0 and 5 degrees Celsius. On the other hand, the low temperatures are between 0 and 5 degrees below zero.
Likewise, snowfalls are not uncommon in winter, as well as rain and winds. I advise you to dedicate your winter getaway to explore the city, a place where, well sheltered, you will have no problems. Things change if you want to explore the surroundings, such as Auschwitz. In this case, adverse weather could ruin your experience or make it less satisfactory.
What is the influx of visitors to Krakow in December?
Krakow is, along with Warsaw, one of the most touristic destinations in Poland. However, you will not find overcrowding or crowds. However, December covers most of the Christmas festivities, as well as one of the city's main attractions: the Christmas Market.
It is foreseeable, therefore, that the city will see an increase in visitors during this month, although not in a way that might hinder your enjoyment. The holidays often attract a lot of domestic tourism and, although you may find more crowds in the "hot spots" (such as the Market Square), you will be able to visit all of Krakow's charms without much trouble.
What to pack in my suitcase when traveling to Krakow?
What to pack for your trip to Krakow is determined by the weather in December. I advise you to take warm clothes with you, as you may face temperatures close to or below freezing. Therefore, this is what you should take with you:
- A thick coat
- Thermal undershirts
I also advise you to carry in your luggage a list of exchange offices in the center of Krakow. Or, also, saved in your cell phone. As you know, Poland is not yet in the euro area and its currency is the zloty. One euro is equivalent to approximately 4.50 zloty. Something that can easily vary. I recommend you to check the euro-zloty exchange rate before leaving.
Regarding where to change, at the airport the commissions are very high. My advice is to change there the essential for transportation and, once in Krakow, change money in the exchange houses that offer more advantageous commissions.