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
Krakow's Old Town or the Jewish Quarter are the most identifiable places in the city because of the stories behind them. Although a solitary walk through both places 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 of guided tours in Krakow: you can choose a walking tour (my favorite), by bike or by electric car. You also have specific tours such as the tour of the Jewish quarter of Krakow, the gastronomic tour or the tour of the old town of Kra kow and other more generic tours to get an overview of the city.
Regardless of the one that best suits your preferences, a guided tour of Krakow is always a good choice 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 Auschwitz concentration camps
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 (here's how to get to Auschwitz from Krakow) or through a guided tour. My recommendation is clearly the latter option; check the prices of tickets to Auschwitz and guided tours and you will see that it pays off.
However, keep in mind the Auschwitz schedules when booking your visit: I would suggest you to book it first thing in the morning since the duration of the tours to the Auschwitz concentration camps is usually about two hours and you will have time to recover from the impact of the visit before lunchtime.
Many packages include, in addition to the entrance to the Auschwitz complex, the transfer from Krakow and are available in several languages. What you will see in the Auschwitz concentration camps are the remains of a historical period that it is essential to make known to new generations so that it will never 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.
I leave you here my practical guide about Auschwitz Day Trips from Krakow and also some tips that will be good to keep in mind if you are going to visit the Auschwitz concentration camps from Krakow.
3. Descend into the bowels of the Earth with an excursion to the Wieliczka salt mines
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, so if you are wondering if it is worth visiting the salt mines from Krakow the answer is yes.
The most important thing to know is that you should book your tickets well in advance. Even if you choose to visit the Wieliczka salt mines on your own, 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 complete tour of just the transfer to Wieliczka from Krakow or just the entrance tickets to these salt mines near Krakow with a guided tour.
Some of the elements you will find in the salt mines of Wieliczka will be a chapel carved in salt, a lake, chambers connected to each other by a network of subway tunnels or sculptures of famous people made with salt (in this last point you can take some of the best photos of the salt mines of Wieliczka).
They are located about half an hour away from Krakow and the duration of the visit to the salt mines is about two and a half hours. You can also make a joint excursion to Auschwitz and Wieliczka salt mines from Krakow, this way the price of the Wieliczka salt mines tickets will be lower.
Finally, the best advice for visiting the Wieliczka salt min es is to wear warm clothes regardless of the time of the day you choose to visit the salt mines. Inside the mines the temperature drops and, especially if you visit the Wieliczka salt mines with children, the cold can play tricks on you.
4. Visit Oskar Schindler's factory
For those who have seen Steve Spielberg's masterpiece, the relevance of this place will be clear. For those who haven't: Oskar Schindler was a German businessman who dedicated himself 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 a 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 to be part of it.
5. Take an inside tour of Wawel Castle
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 to 16:00 (in summer until 17:00) 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
In every city there is a place to wander around, to browse stores, watch the locals, have a leisurely lunch or sit and relax. In Krakow that place is the Krakow Market Square, a medieval-style square surrounded by colorful palaces. You will pass by it many times during your visit; enjoy it and explore unhurriedly each of its corners because it is worth it.
7. Enter the Krakow Cathedral
The Cathedral of the city is located on the hill of Wawel, is dedicated to St. Stanislaus and is over 1000 years old. It is one of the most important buildings in Poland so do not forget to observe it carefully and visit it inside, since 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 four euros. If you find this visit interesting do not hesitate to add to your route some of the best churches in Krakow. You will not regret it.
8. Discover the Collegium Maious
Located in the old town of Krakow, the building where Copernicus studied stands out for its beautiful inner courtyard. If you are interested in astronomy you have to visit the museum of the University, but if not you can also go in the evening, when the organized tours are over, to relax in the garden while admiring the architecture.
9. Visit the Barbican Fortress
This robust fortification is located in the center of Krakow and measures about 25 meters. 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 dispensable, you have to go around it when passing by its side to appreciate its Gothic style. You will find it passing the Florian Gate, the main access to the medieval walled city.
10. Taste Polish cuisine
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? In Krakow' s restaurants you will find delicacies such as 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.
11. Visit Warsaw from Krakow
Another tip I can give you to plan your trip to Krakow is not to limit yourself to the city itself. There are many people who, before their trip, wonder whether it is better to visit Krakow or Warsaw, but the truth is that there is no reason to choose. If you have enough days during your trip you can go from Krakow to Warsaw on your own or on one of the organized excursions around Krakow- don't give up on either city! And if you want to know more I leave you this post about how to get from Krakow to Wroclaw. Poland is waiting for you.
Plan your visit in detail
As you can see, Krakow has a lot to offer to tourists, but being a big capital it also has seasonal events that you can't miss. Choose the date of your visit to Krakow (my recommendation is to travel to Krakow at Christmas, especially if you visit Krakow with children) and then check this list of the favorite months for travelers to visit the Polish city:
- What to do in Krakow in January
- What to do in Krakow in February
- What to do in Krakow in August
- What to do in Krakow in October
- What to do in Krakow in November
- What to do in Krakow in December
Every time of the year has its advantages. Whether you visit Krakow in winter, visit Krakow in summer, visit Krakow in autumn or visit Krakow in spring you will find things to do so book a minimum of 3 days for your visit (if you are less and want to save time I recommend you to book transfers between the airport and Krakow in advance). However, here you have several itineraries at your disposal that you can consult even if you go more or less days: