Krakow, to me, is like Warsaw’s cool, younger sister.
It was pretty much left unharmed by WWII’s bombing which makes it one of Europe’s best preserved medieval cities. It reminds me a lot of Budapest, but with way less of the rowdy party crowd (though you can still expect to find a healthy amount of that here, let’s be honest).
I’ve been to Krakow several times, both in the dead of winter and the dead of summer, and it always delights and surprises. From vintage shopping and exploring the Old Town, to wandering the local areas and learning about the harrowing history, there’s something in Krakow for everyone.
In this guide I’m going to tell you 12 things to do in Krakow (and see – not everything is a full-on activity!), make sure you know all the best places to eat, and answer any leftover questions you may have. Keep scrolling to start planning your perfect trip to Krakow.
🇵🇱 If you’re in the middle of planning a trip to Poland, don’t forget to check out the rest of my Poland posts and guides!
- 8 Fun Things to Do in Krakow
- Things to See in Krakow
- What to Eat in Krakow
- Where to Eat in Krakow
- Where to Stay in Krakow
- FAQs about Things to Do in Krakow
8 Fun Things to Do in Krakow
1. Wander Around the Old Town
It will come as a surprise to no one to hear that one of the best things to do in Krakow is to check out the Old Town. This is true for almost every quaint European city, so of course Krakow would be no different.
I will say though, much of the Old Town is a bit overwhelming and swarmed with tourists, so make sure you’re prepared to potentially be overstimulated. Ideally, I’d recommend checking this area out early in the morning or just before dinner time to avoid tours and day trip visitors.
There’s a ton to cover, so this section will be a bit hefty, but bear with me!
St Mary’s Basilica is basically the center of the Old Town, and a great place to start your exploration. The outside is, in my opinion, nothing to write home about (though the foundation dates back to the 13th century). However, the inside is actually pretty impressive.
If you’ve read the blog before, you probably know that I don’t often recommend churches unless they stand out to me, and this one definitely did. Its famous polychrome murals on the inside were super unique to me, and unlike most churches I’ve been into, so I definitely think it’s worth popping in.
Also dating back centuries is the Town Hall Clock Tower, which is the only remaining part of the original Town Hall from the 14th century. If you want, you can climb to the top!
In the same main center square is the Cloth Hall. This massive building has a Polish art museum on the upper level, a medieval history museum on the basement level, and operates as a market on the ground floor. This is also where you’ll find the Krakow Christmas Market, but more on that later.
These are basically the main bits of the Rynek Główny, the medieval town square. There are a lot of other churches, the city’s university, and plenty of shops to discover as you wander around the Old Town as well.
💡 Insider Tip: You can easily hit many of the Old Town’s best sites with the Krakow City Pass, which gets you into 40 museums for under €25—including both of the museums in the Cloth Hall, the National Museum, and some interesting historical homes dotted around the neighborhood!
Many of Old Town’s restaurants are touristy places, and the shops are similar, though of course there’s always going to be some outliers, so don’t let that stop you from exploring! Check out my **shopping in Krakow** post (coming soon) for the shops I would recommend visiting in Krakow’s Old Town.
2. Get You Bearings with a Walking Tour
A walking tour is such a basic—but often overlooked—option for a fun thing to do in Krakow.
Although I’m a pretty big fan of wandering aimlessly, I also find that a tour can be a great first activity when arriving in a new place. It’ll help you get your bearings and set the tone for the rest of your days in Krakow. Certain things will be checked off your list, and inevitably some new things do in Krakow will be added!
Although Krakow is a small city, there’s a lot to cover! Most walking tours will cover either the Old Town, Kazimierz (the old Jewish quarter-turned-hipster central), or Podgorze (the Jewish Ghetto during the Nazi occupation).
For those who want a basic intro to Krakow or only have time for one area, I recommend this Old Town walking tour that includes a visit to the famous (and beautiful) Wawel Castle.
If you’re interested in really delving into Krakow’s 20th century history, my recommendation would be either this tour of Kazimierz or this one of the Jewish Ghetto, which includes a visit to one of my favorite museums in Krakow, the Under the Eagle Pharmacy.
Finally, here are a few other tours that caught my eye for foodies or more ambitious visitors who want to explore all three of the above neighborhoods by bike in one day:
3. Browse Krakow’s Best Markets
Browsing a market, either to find a hidden gem or just for fun, is one of my favorite activities at home and while traveling! European cities always have a great selection of flea markets, and Krakow is definitely no exception. Let me take you through a few of my favorites.
Plac Nowy is probably not my favorite market, but it’s one of the easiest ones to find yourself at. It’s pretty unmissable, in the heart of Kazimierz. The market gathers around the square’s rotunda where you can also get snack bar-type food. I feel like this one isn’t the cream of the crop as far as markets go, but I’ve also seen some good deals on film cameras and vinyls, for example, so it’s worth a peruse! Sunday mornings are the best time to strike gold here.
Hala Targowa is only a 10 minute walk towards Kazimierz from the Old Town, and is one of the more well known and significant markets in Krakow.
It’s open daily, and you can find a wide range of stalls here, from butchers, to veggies, to antiques, to books, to random assortments.
I think Sunday is probably the most classic flea market day to visit, and you’ll be way more likely to find antiques, vintage clothes, and vinyls (i.e. the stuff it’s possible to fit in a suitcase!).
The Pijarska Art Market, which congregates on Pijarska street near the Floriańska Gate (to the north of Old Town) is a great combination of art and antiques. Even if you aren’t searching for a new piece for your collection, it’s nice to walk through to take a look at all the art that’s displayed.
Sukiennice, or the Cloth Hall, can be dated back to the mid 1500s, and is a UNESCO heritage site. The market is located in the main Old Town Square, and has food stalls, cafes, flower shops, and a ton of perfect shops to get any and all souvenirs you might want from Krakow.
4. Shop ’til You Drop
It’s really no secret that one of my favorite things to do in Krakow would be stimulating the local economy—it’s what I do whenever I visit a new place! Which is basically me trying to make my shopping addiction sound like less of a problem than it is…
But in all seriousness, I do love finding independent shops, local designers/makers, cultural pieces and vintage shops. Many of my favorite clothing pieces and different things around my apartment have been collected over the years of traveling and finding little gems everywhere I go.
In Krakow, some of my favorite shops to pop into are vintage shops (there are more/better options here than most other Polish cities I’ve tried), ceramics, jewelry, and antique shops. If you want to get my full shopping guide to Krakow, check out my shopping in Krakow post! (coming soon)
5. Get Cultured at Krakow’s Museums
For such a small city, Krakow has a seemingly endless list of museums—some of my favorites in Europe!
The nice thing is that almost all of Krakow’s museums are on the smaller side, meaning they’re good things to do in Krakow if you don’t want to eat up a whole day.
Here are four of my favorites, all of which can be visited with the Krakow City Pass card—an absolute steal that gets you into 40 museums and attractions for under €25.
Historical Museum of Krakow, Pomorska Street
The former headquarters of the Gestapo now houses a branch of the Historical Museum of Krakow. The exhibition covers life in Krakow during “times of terror”, and covers 1939-1945-1956.
The exhibit compares the totalitarian systems of Nazi occupation and communist rule, and uses the stories of people who lives through the time to showcase what it was like for citizens in Krakow.
Pharmacy Under the Eagle & Chair memorial
The Apteka Pod Orłem, or Pharmacy Under the Eagle, was once the only operating pharmacy in the Krakow Jewish ghetto during WWII. The owner, Tadeusz Pankiewicz was the only non-Jewish Pole that lived within the ghetto during the war, and unlike most business owners, outright refused to relocate his pharmacy to outside of the ghetto borders.
The museum is pretty comprehensive, despite being so small, and I thought it was really cool and worthwhile. We didn’t get tickets ahead of time, but rather just showed up on once-a-week the free day. It was still pretty uncrowded and we got in immediately!
💡 Insider Tip: be sure to check out the Empty Chair Memorial right outside, in the Ghetto Heroes Square, dedicated to the residents of the ghetto. And if you’re really taken by this part of Krakow’s history, I recommend this Jewish Ghetto walking tour which covers both sites and more.
Oskar Schindler’s Factory
If you’re planning a trip to Krakow, you’re probably familiar with the film Schindler’s List, which is set in Krakow and makes this museum one of the most famous things to do in Krakow.
The film is about Oskar Schindler, the owner of an enamel factory who saved roughly 1200 Jewish people being kept in the Podgórze ghetto from being deported to the nearby death camps. He did this by employing them in his enamel factory, which is where you’ll visit if you go to this incredibly moving and important museum.
Definitely make an effort to book in advance, as it’s common for it to be booked up. The museum is, of course, about Schindler, but the permanent exhibition actually is dedicated to Krakow during the Nazi occupation overall. It tells the story of what life was like under occupation, the racism against Jews, and the resistance that was brewing at the time.
Because there is so much to this museum, I highly recommend a guided tour of Schindler’s factory which will give you way more context that, frankly, I think you’ll probably remember better than simply reading all of the placards in the museum.
Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow (MOCAK)
The Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow, or MOCAK for short, is situated a bit further out of the center of Krakow, on a now demolished portion of land once occupied by the famous Schindler’s factory.
The museum focuses on art from the last two decades, and its mission is to support contemporary art, and bring contemporary art to the public.
The collection features pieces by both Polish and international artists, and it also happens to be one of the coolest buildings in Krakow!
6. Explore the Different Krakow Neighborhoods
Despite Krakow’s small size, it still manages to have a number of different and fun neighborhoods you can check out. We already covered Old Town, so now I’m going to share some of the other best areas to explore now!
Kazimierz is without a doubt the top choice I have for neighborhoods to explore in Krakow. The old Jewish Quarter is now Kraków’s “bohemian hub,” and is definitely where most of the cool and trendy businesses can be found today.
I’d suggest budgeting a half to a whole day to explore Kazimierz on foot, perhaps visiting the Old Synagogue or the Engineering Museum, followed by lunch and a bit of vintage shopping, and maybe a few beers at one of the neighborhood’s very chill beer gardens.
Podgórze, just across the river from Kazimierz, is known by some as the “up-and-coming” hipster neighborhood of Krakow. The former Jewish ghetto is now a very local and lowkey neighborhood with a ton of gems to explore. Three of the best museums I listed are in this area (MOCAK, Eagle Pharmacy, and Schindler’s Factory), as well as the Empty Chairs memorial.
Nowa Huta is a little bit off the beaten path, but I think it’s pretty cool. It was originally constructed as a Socialist Realist workers’ paradise, and was one of only two of these planned cities to ever be completed (the other is in Russia).
Though it’s now just a suburb of Krakow, Nowa Huta maintains its Cold War era features, like wide avenues and lots of greenery. It’s cool to walk around this suburb, but it’s even better to get the full effect with a tour in a vintage car from the communist era or a guided tour of the old Nowa Huta administrative building—two of the most unique things to do in Krakow by far!
Do note that there won’t be much else to do here as it’s one of the more local neighborhoods in Krakow, but it’s definitely worth making a half day trip to this neighborhood.
7. Take a Day Trip
One reason I love to give myself extra time in any city I visit is so that I can make time for at least one day trip. A day trip is one of my favorite ways to get a better sense of the country I’m visiting, especially if the trip I’m taking otherwise consists only of one city.
Krakow is a fantastic city to take a day trip from, so I definitely recommend it.
My number one choice is probably Auschwitz, due to the immensely important historical significance. That said, I think some of the other options are so great that you may want to consider taking more than one day trip from Krakow.
If you want to read all about the best day trips from Krakow, be sure to check out my day trips from Krakow guide (coming soon).
8. Visit the Krakow Christmas Market
This one obviously falls under seasonal things to do in Krakow, but if you’re looking for good things to do in Krakow on a winter trip, you’ve definitely got to make time for the Krakow Christmas Market.
It’s held every year from the end of November through January 1st. The entire medieval town square in the Old Town is transformed into a winter wonderland, with booths and a big tree and lots of festive cheer.
Going to the Krakow Christmas Market was without a doubt one of the most fun times we had in Poland when we visited in the winter, and it was also the best Christmas market we’ve visited (compared to Warsaw and Wroclaw).
You can enjoy mulled wine, beer, lots of yummy treats, and browse/buy souvenirs, handmade crafts and lots of truly unique Christmas decorations. The Christmas-themed Matryoshka (nesting) dolls I bought here are still some of my favorite Christmas decorations.
Things to See in Krakow
9. Discover the Interesting Street Art
There’s a lot of interesting street art in Krakow, so you should be sure to keep your eyes peeled while you’re exploring in order to see it all!
I love seeing the creativity of street artists and the ways that the street art adds to the energy of the neighborhood.
I’ve found that the most interesting/frequent street art can be seen in Kazimierz, but if you want a more targeted exploration of the street art in Krakow, you can take this street art-focused walking tour!
10. Walk Across the Bernatek Footbridge
If you decide to cross the Vistula over to Stare Podgórze (which you totally should by the way!) be sure to take a route that lets you walk over Father Bernatek’s Bridge to get there.
You kind of can’t miss this bridge because it’s pretty unique looking! Not only is it Krakow’s version of a love lock bridge (where people add padlocks to the bridge with their partners or friends), but there are also acrobatic sculptures hanging all along the bridge.
Walking along it is a fun experience because you get to see nice views of the city and check out the cool acrobatic installation.
11. Stroll in Planty Park
A very charming aspect to the Old Town of Krakow is that it’s entirely encircled by a green space called Planty Park.
In the summer months it’s full of green trees (which provide some great natural shade from the hot Krakow sun), and the entire length of the park is a great way to escape from the busy atmosphere of the center for a bit. The serene vibe makes it one of my top places to see in Krakow.
Technically the park is 8 separate gardens that are placed one after another, creating a seamless, circular walking path along the Old Town!
On the north side you’ll be able to see the Barbican (old city walls), and the south side leads you right to Wawel Castle.
12. Wawel Royal Castle
Okay so I’ve put this in the things to see in Krakow section just because, personally, most castles excite me in the same way that most old churches do, which is to say… usually not very much. However, Wawel Royal Castle is right in the Old Town, so it’s not like it takes a lot of effort to get to, and it’s pretty cool from the outside since it’s up on a bit of a mountain. If you wanted to check out the inside you absolutely could (and should!) do so.
The Wawel Castle dates back to the 16th century, and is surrounded by an imposing looking red brick wall. If you choose to take a look inside you’ll see various 16th century tapestries, royal apartments, jewels and ceremonial swords.
The adjoining Cathedral is also historically important, as it holds the tombs of many Polish monarchs.
💡 Insider Tip: While you’re near the Castle be sure to find the Wawel Dragon statue, which actually breathes fire! Pretty exciting!
What to Eat in Krakow
Eating is probably one of my number one favorite parts of traveling. I love exploring a new cuisine and checking out the local restaurant scene, and eating is truly one of the very best things to do in Krakow.
While you’re exploring Krakow (and the rest of Poland), be sure to keep an eye out for some of my favorite Polish dishes:
Pierogi are the obvious answer, and for good reason. These Polish dumplings are so good and in my opinion, never get old. My favorites are the Ruskie, which is potato and cheese, with grilled onions on top and sour cream to dip. Pierogarnia Krakowiacy, or Pierogi MR Vincent are my top picks in the city.
Kielbasa sausages are another must have in Poland, and specifically in Krakow. I’m personally a huge fan of getting a late night sausage at Sausages from the blue Nysa, a famous food stand north of Kazimierz.
This list wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention Zapiekanka, which is ultimately just an open-faced french bread pizza thing. It’s got a pretty big fan base in Krakow, and you’ll see them offered especially late at night or near bars and pubs. I think it’s good, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to try them (especially over other things on the list).
Finally, some honorable mentions that I love (but not as much as pierogi) are placki ziemniaczane (potato pancakes), golabki (cabbage rolls), and racuchy (apple pancakes).
💡 Insider Tip: Taking a cooking class is one of the best ways to engage with locals, learn more about a culture, and get a yummy meal! Check out my top picks for cooking classes in Krakow:
Where to Eat in Krakow
There are so many great places to eat in Krakow that it felt impossible to narrow them down, but I think I did okay!
Below you’ll find some of my favorite places. I’ve been to most of them, some of them I’m desperate to go to, and all of them I stand behind! I gave a little description of why I chose this place, and I’ve linked them all to Google Maps (one of my ride or die travel resources).
Light Bites, Cafes & Coffee
Massolit Books & Cafe – bookstore/coffeeshop
Fable Cafe – a bit out of the way, but great coffee
Coffee Garden – trendy, minimalist coffee shop in Kazimierz
Wesoła Cafe – sunny and cute cafe north of Old Town
Lunch, All Day, or Casual Dinner
Nolio Pop – neapolitan pizza in Kazimierz
Pod Wawelem – one of the most well regarded places to get classic Polish food in Krakow
Restauracja Biala Roza – Polish fine dining at a reasonable price
Czarna Kaczka – classic Polish dishes and reasonable prices. Specializes in duck.
W Starej Kuchni – casual atmosphere but great Polish food
Pierozki U Vincenta – casual pierogi restaurant in Kazimierz.
Chinkalnia – Georgian food in a cute corner spot.
Bar Mleczny Tomasza – traditional Polish milkbar.
Dym – classic everything cafe: coffee, beer, food, good atmosphere!
Cytat Café – all day cafe and bookstore
Dinner or Elevated
Restauracja Pod Różą – amazing restaurant inside a hotel
Wierzynek – pricey!! Great food in one of Poland’s oldest restaurants, dating back to the 14th century.
Cyrano de Bergerac – romantic French food in a brick vaulted space.
Zazie Bistro – trendy and fresh French dishes in Kazimierz.
Drinks, Dessert & Other
Krako Slow Wines – very local and off the beaten path wine bar
The Trust – cocktail bar
Kiełbaski z Niebieskiej Nyski – wildly popular iconic street spot for kielbasa, one of the best things to do in Krakow at night
Mleczarnia ogródek (Mlekowóz) – beer garden in Kazimierz
Stara Zajezdnia – giant beer hall on the edge of Kazimierz. They also have food.
Where to Stay in Krakow
As with the rest of this list, most of the best places to stay in Krakow are located in either the Old Town, Kazimierz or Podgorze. Here are some of my very favorites, but don’t forget to check out my full guide to hotels in Krakow for the whole list!
$$ | 4 Star | Heart of Kazimierz | Intimate & Effortlessly Cool
I stayed at the Warszauer Hotel on my most recent visit to Krakow, but don’t take my word for it—just click through to look at the pics and you’ll fall in love yourself! This place couldn’t be better located, but on top of that it’s a true boutique hotel: only a handful of rooms, cooked to order breakfast is included in the rate, and the design has a truly unique point of view. Oh, and don’t forget the complimentary Diptyque toiletries!
$$ | 4 Star | Opposite Central Station | Whimsically Chic
Coming from a Poland-specific hotel chain aimed at design-conscious younger travelers, PURO Stare Miasto does not disappoint. Aside from the extremely convenient location literally steps away from the main train station, this hotel leans into the mix of retro and contemporary vibes that defines the rest of the city. I’m obsessed with the light filled rooms on the upper floors!
$ | 3 Star | Old Town | Top Notch Design & Location
My #1 pick for saving money without sacrificing an iota of style is booking a stay at Angelus Apartments. There are only four units available, so book in advance—but if you can snag one, you’ll get a comfortable space complete with on-trend decor, coffee-marker and kitchenette, and even a record player! My hot tip? Keep an eye out for the one unit that features a balcony!
FAQs about Things to Do in Krakow
Is 3 days enough for Krakow?
Yes, 3 days is definitely enough for Krakow. What to see in Krakow in 3 days?
Well, it’s a pretty small city, especially compared to Warsaw, so you’ll be able to see pretty much every main neighborhood (Old Town, Kazimierz and Podgorze) in three days.
However, if you wanted to make time to take a day trip outside of Krakow, to Zalipie or Auschwitz, you may want to consider at least 4 days for your trip to Krakow.
This way you aren’t totally rushed during your time there.
Is Krakow a cheap city?
This is always going to be a relative question, but for the most part, yes Krakow is a pretty cheap city and there are many cheap things to do in Krakow. This is especially true if you’re coming from a major city like London or New York, where the prices couldn’t be more different compared to Krakow.
Not only are prices for food and drink incredibly low (beer, for example, is often around $2-3), but we also found very nice accommodation for much cheaper than it would have been in other cities.
Is Krakow a walkable city?
Yes! Krakow is an incredibly walkable city. Not only is it not that large of a city, but it’s also pretty flat overall and has good sidewalks throughout the city, making it really easy to get around on foot.
There’s also a great tram system if you find yourself too tired to walk, caught in the rain, or just wanting to get somewhere faster.
Is Krakow Christmas market worth visiting?
I think that the Krakow Christmas market is definitely worth visiting if you’re going to be in Poland around the holidays—it’s such a fun thing to do in Krakow in December.
When I visited Poland at Christmas time it was magical, and I loved seeing the Christmas markets in all the different cities I went to. But the Christmas decorations (on display and for sale) at the Krakow one were definitely some of the best and most memorable.
It was obviously super cold and kind of dark being in Poland in the winter (it gets completely dark by 3pm!), but I think it was totally worth it and made such a cozy, Christmassy trip.
Is Auschwitz a day trip from Krakow?
Yes, Auschwitz is definitely a doable day trip from Krakow, and one I highly recommend as it’s one of the most meaningful things to do in Krakow.
When we went it was an all day affair, catching a coach bus in the morning which took about an hour and half, followed by a tour of about 3.5 to 4 hours, and then catching the bus back.
So in the longest case scenario you’re looking at about 7ish hours altogether.
It was tiring but not overly tiring, and there are so many tours that go to Auschwitz that it was pretty low stress in terms of planning it out.
I highly recommend that you make time for a Krakow Auschwitz tour. It was a harrowing and moving experience, and our tour guide was fantastic.
Are you ready to explore Krakow?
I hope that this post about Krakow has been helpful in planning your trip to Poland! As I said before, there are truly so many unique things to do in Krakow that, in my opinion, go far too underexplored by most travelers.