The magnificence of Poland, a country in eastern Europe, brings magic to every traveler who ventures to this place. Poland is dotted with lakes, woods, rivers, and hills that beckon for some union with nature. Beyond these landscapes, you can discover picturesque cities like Warsaw, Gdansk, and Krakow. In this guide, you will get to know more about the best things to do in Krakow, one of Poland’s star cities.
According to legend, Krakow was founded by defeating a dragon, and how the city is today reflects something of that feat. Krakow is ever-mighty with attractions like a royal castle, beautiful church spires, and world-class museums. The city combines historic with the cosmopolitan. Are you wondering about the best things to do in Krakow? Read on.
10 Of The Best Things To Do In Krakow, Unveiled!
Here are the best things to do in Krakow.
1. Feel Like A Royalty As You Venture To Wawel Castle, The City’s Crowning Glory
Situated at the edge of Stare Miasto, Polish for “Old Town,” is Wawel Castle, a grand and old castle that overlooks the Vistula River since the Medieval times. It is not just one of Krakow’s most culturally-significant attractions, but one of the country’s, too. This fortress was once the home of Polish monarchs before transforming into a world-class art museum. There are lots of things to do in Krakow while you are here.
Don’t forget to visit the Crown treasury and armory to encounter dazzling artifacts of priceless historical value. Then, once you are done exploring its interiors, head outside to see views of the city across the water. You may also drop by the royal gardens for a delightful stroll.
2. Visit Market Square, The Most Iconic Place To See In Krakow
The Market Square, known in the vernacular language as Rynek Glówny, is dubbed as the most emblematic attraction in Krakow. It is so majestic that it is often the star on postcards and travel photos.
This spot is a beautiful square that is home to some of the most iconic sights that you should never miss on your things to do in Krakow itinerary. These include St. Mary’s Basilica (which you will learn about later on) and the Old Town Hall Tower.
Overall, Market Square is a lively and lovely place, filled with terraces, restaurants, and bars where you can eat, drink, and have a good time while enjoying the ambience of Krakow.
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3. Then, Head To St. Mary’s Basilica, A Must-Visit In Krakow
If you only have a limited time seeing the attractions in Market Square, you should place St. Mary’s Basilica on top of your list of things to do in Krakow. Being one of the major sights in Krakow that you shouldn’t miss, this religious building dates back to the 1300s, and until 1970 was considered a church, but now, it is a basilica.
You will be impressed by its original Gothic style, and will get even more impressed by the Baroque elements that have been added to this structure through the years. Marvel at its brick-colored façade that features two enormous towers, one that’s 69 meters high and the other at 80 meters.
4. Unearth Poland’s Past At The Muzeum Książąt Czartoryskich
Are you such a museum junkie that you are looking for a museum tour on your things to do in Krakow itinerary? We got you covered, and this museum is unlike any other.
Built by Izabela Czartoryska – a Polish princess and writer – to preserve Polish heritage, the collection at the Muzeum Książąt Czartoryskich, or the Princess Czartoryski Museum, is a glorious treasure trove.
Each artwork you will be seeing here sheds light on Poland’s history, offering every visitor with an aesthetic and enlightening introspective with art. Leonardo da Vinci’s “Lady with an Ermine” portrait painting is here, so you can feel free to admire it for hours, along with other pieces in the museum’s astonishing collection.
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5. Get Mind-Blown In An Underground Salt Cathedral
Warning: if you are looking for things to do in Krakow and you are claustrophobic, skip this. Kopalnia soli Wieliczka is an underground salt cathedral where first-time visitors descend at least 125 meters or 410 feet below the ground, and spend two hours in the depths of this former mine that produced tablet salt in the 13th century. See? It’s not for the claustrophobic.
Highlights of your tour here include visiting an underground lake, chapels adorned with statues carved from salt, and an enchanting salt cathedral with chandeliers, even. Everything around you here is carved from salt.
While Kopalnia soli Wieliczka is not part of Krakow itself, but located in Wieliczka, a town in Poland, it is easily reachable from Krakow by bus.
6. Reflect On The Centuries At Kazimierz
Aside from castles, old towns, and museums, you will also find neighborhoods to visit on your things to do in Krakow list. One of them is Kazimierz, a time-worn neighborhood along the Vistula River that exudes charm and history.
Here, you can tour the Gothic-style Corpus Christi Basilica, which is one of the oldest churches in Krakow. Then, discover the quarter’s Jewish heritages at various synagogues around, one of which is the Old Synagogue that tells more stories about this neighborhood, and another is the Jewish History Museum. You may also choose to visit the Remah Cemetery to commemorate the Jewish victims of the Holocaust.
7. Take A Tour Around Schindler’s Factory
If you’ve watched the highly-acclaimed movie directed by Steven Spielberg that also won multiple Academy Awards, “Schindler’s List,” you know the film is mostly set in Krakow. We know what you are thinking. Will you be able to see locations featured in the film as you enjoy the things to do in Krakow? Yes.
First of all, the titular character, Oskar Schindler, visited Krakow in 1939 to make his fortune from World War II. But he is unlike the other members of the Nazi party. Schindler saved more than a thousand Jewish inhabitants of the Podgorzé ghetto in Krakow to the death camps by providing them employment at his enamel factory. This factory, which is one of the places where “Schindler’s List” was filmed, is now one of the most popular museums in Krakow. It deserves your visit.
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8. Chow Down On Krakow’s Street Food
Many cities around the world can be identified by their street foods. If Paris is known for croissants, Ho Chi Minh for its bánh mì, and Vienna for its käsekrainer – in Krakow, the fanciest street food is obwarzanek.
Obwarzanek is a type of bagel – chewy, moreish, and topped with either sesame or poppy seeds. You can get a taste of them quite easily as they are found in stalls on almost every corner in Old Town. Don’t be shy to ask the locals who can tell you which stall offers the freshest.
But of course, there are more street foods you should try on your things to do in Krakow itinerary other than those bagels. For the best kielbasa, or signature Polish sausage, visit the Kiełbaski z Niebieskiej Nyski van just in front of the Hala Targowa market on ul. Grzegorzecka.
If Italy has pizza, Poland has the answer to or version of it, at least, the zapiekanka. Invented in the 1970s (quite young, right?), this sliced baguette is topped with mushrooms, melted cheese, and ketchup. If you want to be treated with lots of choices, find numerous zapiekanka sellers at the Okrąglak food court at Kazimierz’s Plac Nowy.
9. Refresh With A Thermal Hot Bath
Aside from refreshing with a thermal hot bath in the spring-fed pools at Bukovina Thermal Baths, this tour will also let you soak up the wondrous views of the Tatra Mountains and highland landscapes, as well as ride the Mount Gubalowka funicular, stroll Krupowki Street, and sample some mouth-watering smoked cheeses. While these places are not within Krakow itself, it isn’t a hassle to travel here, as it only takes a few hours to get here from Krakow.
10. Be Part Of One Of The Darkest Moments In World History At Auschwitz-Birkenau
This tour is perhaps one of the most striking things to do in Krakow, or nearby Krakow. This Nazi complex is composed of two concentration camps, Auschwitz I and Auschwitz-Birkenau. They are popular as you can find several operators offering tours to these areas.
While Auschwitz I has been remodeled and prepared for tourist visits, Auschwitz-Birkenau does not offer a friendly visit since it has been preserved to what it was originally. Guided tours are available for both these camps. Be part of one of the darkest moments in world history.
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Before Enjoying The Best Things To Do In Krakow, Know These Important Travel Tips
Traveling to Krakow can get pretty overwhelming, especially if you are visiting the place for the first time. If this is your second- or third-time, believe us when we say you can still get confused along the way. So, before you fly to this beautiful Polish city, get to know the most important travel tips. Enjoy the things to do in Krakow without the hassle.
- Pack according to the season. To “pack light” all the time may not apply when traveling to Krakow. Winters here can be cold and snowy, while summers can be scorching.
- Stay in the best neighborhoods nearby spots for sightseeing. While tourist attractions in Krakow are easily explored by foot or public transportation, many travelers who have been here would say it is wise to stay in neighborhoods nearby these attractions.
- Buy your tickets to popular attractions in advance. The Wawel Royal Castle gets fully booked weeks in advance during the summer. Entries to Rynek Underground and Schindler’s Factory are via timed slots, so buy your tickets to Krakow’s most popular attractions in advance. Also, make reservations for Krakow’s most in-demand restaurants in advance, too.
- Tip at least 10 percent in restaurants. Unlike other cities, it is customary to tip servers and bar staff in Krakow. Be in the know.
- Krakow’s churches are not museums. Many tourists make the mistake of visiting a church in Krakow like they are museums. Majority of Polish people are Catholic. In fact, very Catholic. So, churches in Polish cities like Krakow are still places of worship. They are not a visual spectacle.
Adventure Begins Now
Krakow is a traveler’s haven. It might not be the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Poland (you will think of Warsaw, its capital), but tourists love it in Krakow. With so many things to do in Krakow, you will find yourself impressed by its every corner.
In the heart of Europe, amidst the echoes from its past and the timeless charm of cobblestone streets is a Krakow that rhythmically dances through history, modernity, culture, and enchantment. From the dazzling spires of a royal castle to its mushy old town, the city reveals itself as an embroidery of wonder.