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Best Things To Do in Krakow

For several years now, Krakow has been the most fashionable destination in Europe and for good reason: Krakow will captivate you as soon as you set foot in the city.

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

6 min read

Best Things To Do in Krakow

Streets of Krakow | ©Ostap Senyuk

Discovering the secrets of Krakow and touring its streets and monuments is the ideal plan for a long weekend. The city and its surroundings offer plans that will stay forever in the traveler's mind. Here's what you can't miss on your trip to Krakow:

1. Take a guided tour of the city

Walk through Krakow's history-filled streets | ©Charlie
Walk through Krakow's history-filled streets | ©Charlie

Krakow's old town or Jewish quarter are the most identifiable place in the city because of the stories behind them. Although a walk through both places on your own is visually enjoyable, the experience of a guided tour is infinitely more enriching.

A local and specialized guide will show you the city through his eyes and will help you learn about its history and anecdotes beyond the facts that appear in textbooks. They will also show you monuments and places of great cultural interest that might otherwise go unnoticed.

You have different options for guided tours of Krakow: you can choose a walking tour (my favorite), by bicycle or by electric car. You also have specific tours for certain areas of the city like the Jewish quarter and other more generic ones to get a general overview of the city.

Regardless of the one that best suits your preferences, a guided tour of Krakow is always a good idea if you want to really get to know the city without staying on the surface. Here is a list of the ones that, for me, are the best to discover the city and its surroundings: Krakow Tours.

2. Visit the Auschwitz concentration camps

Entrance to the Auschwitz concentration camp | ©Pedro Antunes
Entrance to the Auschwitz concentration camp | ©Pedro Antunes

Located about an hour and a half from the center of Krakow by road, the Auschwitz concentration camps are one of the most visited places in Europe. What years ago was the capital of horror, today is a museum dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Nazi regime.

The visit to the Auschwitz camps can be done individually or through a guided tour (my recommendation). Many packages include the transfer from Krakow and are available in several languages. What you will see there are the remains of a historical period that is essential to make known among the new generations so that it will not happen again.

This tour is not recommended for children under nine years old and, on a personal level, I would not recommend it to very sensitive travelers because, although enriching, it can be quite hard even though at no time the guides recreate in lurid details. Here is my practical guide to Auschwitz Day Trips from Krakow.

3. Descend into the bowels of the Earth with an excursion to the Wieliczka salt mines

Detail of the decoration of St. Kinga's Chapel, Wieliczka Salt Mines | ©Dennis Jarvis
Detail of the decoration of St. Kinga's Chapel, Wieliczka Salt Mines | ©Dennis Jarvis

After Auschwitz, the excursion to the salt mines of Wieliczka is the most demanded visit around Krakow among travelers passing through the Polish city. This place has also been declared a World Heritage Site.

The most important thing to know is that it is advisable to book tickets well in advance. The mines are always visited with a guided tour available in several languages and are usually in high demand. You can book online either a full tour of just the transfer to Wieliczka from Krakow or entrance tickets with a guided tour of the salt mines.

In the Wieliczka salt mines you will find a salt carved chapel, a lake, chambers connected by a network of underground tunnels, or salt sculptures of famous people. They are located about half an hour away from Krakow and the complete visit takes about two and a half hours. Here is everything you need to know about Krakow Airport Transfers.

4. Visit the Oskar Schindler factory

Façade of the Oskar Schindler factory | ©Håkan Dahlström
Façade of the Oskar Schindler factory | ©Håkan Dahlström

Those who have seen Steve Spielberg's masterpiece will be clear about the relevance of this place. For those who haven't: Oskar Schindler was a German businessman who was dedicated to saving a large number of Jews from concentration camps by employing them as workers in his factories. After the war ended, Schindler was executed, but the descendants of his employees still honor him.

The visit to this factory located in the center of Krakow is a lesson in history from which emanates certain hope since, in the midst of all the horror that was experienced in the city with the Nazi occupation, there were people who resisted being part of it.

5. Tour the inside of the Wawel Castle

Patio of Wawel Castle | ©Dennis Jarvis
Patio of Wawel Castle | ©Dennis Jarvis

Near the historic center, stands the Wawel Hill and the imposing castle with the same name. From there you will have a perfect view of the city from the top and you can also see this Renaissance castle of the XIV century.

It can be visited every day from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm (in summer until 5:00 pm) and inside you will find the crown treasury, the royal armory, the royal apartments, the crypts of famous people, and my favorite place: the dragon cave. It is a highly recommended visit to do either alone or as part of a guided tour as the Wawel Castle is one of the emblems of the city of Krakow.

6. Stroll around the Market Square

Cracow Market Square | ©Francisco Anzola
Cracow Market Square | ©Francisco Anzola

In every city, there is a place to get lost in, to browse stores, watch the locals, have a leisurely lunch, or sit and rest. In Krakow that place is the Market Square, a medieval style square surrounded by colorful palaces. You will pass by it many times during your visit; enjoy it and explore each of its nooks and crannies at your leisure because it is worth it.

7. Enter the Cracow Cathedral

Interior of the Wawel Cathedral | ©Terrazzo
Interior of the Wawel Cathedral | ©Terrazzo

The city's Cathedral is located on Wawel Hill, is dedicated to St. Stanislaus, and is more than 1000 years old. It is one of the most important buildings in Poland so don't forget to look at it carefully and visit it inside, as the entrance is free.

Inside you can not take pictures and if you want to climb the tower to see the aerial views of the city you will have to pay about five dollars.

8. Discover the Collegium Maious

Patio of the Collegium Maious | ©Craig Wyzik
Patio of the Collegium Maious | ©Craig Wyzik

Located in Krakow's Old Town, the building in which Copernicus studied is notable for its beautiful inner courtyard. If you are interested in astronomy you have to visit the University museum, but if not you can also go at sunset, when the organized tours are over, to relax in the garden while admiring the architecture.

9. Visit the Barbican Fortress

Fortaleza de la Barbacana | ©Fred Romero
Fortaleza de la Barbacana | ©Fred Romero

This sturdy fortification is located in the center of Krakow and measures about 82 feet. It was built in the 15th century to protect the city from the advance of the Ottoman Empire and, although the visit to its interior is not necessary, you must go around it to appreciate its Gothic style. You'll find it just past the Florian Gate, the main entrance to the medieval walled city.

10. Taste Polish cuisine

Enjoy the typical Polish Pierogi | ©Quinn Dombrowski
Enjoy the typical Polish Pierogi | ©Quinn Dombrowski

The list of things to see and do in Krakow could not miss an allusion to Polish cuisine. The most popular drink in the country is known to be vodka, but what about the traditional dishes? On the list, you have delicacies like Pierogi, Paprykarz, or Zurek, all composed mainly of meat, pasta, and spices. Polish cuisine takes elements from other cuisines such as Armenian, Slavic, Turkish, German, Jewish, or French. The result, at least in my opinion, is exquisite.