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Christmas in Krakow: TOP Things to Do & Practical Guide

    Christmas in Krakow is an enchanting and truly unique experience. The medieval old town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, adorns itself in festive decorations and illuminations. The air is filled with the delightful scents of local cuisine, and the vibrant atmosphere of the celebration warms the hearts of people, both locals and tourists alike, making it one of the most eagerly anticipated moments of the year. The renowned Krakow Christmas Markets take center stage in the heart of the Main Market Square. These markets, celebrated worldwide for their beauty and authentic ambiance, boast a centuries-old history and are adorned with captivating decorations that conjure a magical and lively atmosphere.

    Numerous food stalls grace the scene, offering delectable local specialties. Christmas in Krakow undeniably marks the best time of year to savor traditional regional street food, creating a gastronomic delight that is only enhanced by the festive surroundings. To stave off the winter chill, locals take pleasure in sipping on flavorful local beers and vodkas, as well as indulging in warm beer and mulled wine, which infuse an extra touch of merriment into the festivities. For those seeking a more substantial meal, regional restaurants serve up mouth-watering stews and expertly grilled specialties, ensuring a culinary adventure that will leave your taste buds yearning for more.

    This post aims to be your definitive guide to making the most of Christmas in Krakow. Discover the finest activities, events and attractions that the city has to offer during this special time of year. Whether you are planning a romantic getaway, a family vacation, or a solo adventure, we will provide you with all the tips and recommendations necessary to make your stay truly unforgettable.

    Christmas in Krakow: Everything You Need to Know

    Christmas in Krakow is a truly enchanting time, treasured by locals who spare no effort in adorning the city in the most delightful manner. Throughout December, the historic center’s streets come alive with the twinkle of Christmas lights and charming decorations, crafting a magical atmosphere that beckons thousands of tourists year after year. Undoubtedly, the pinnacle of this season is the renowned Krakow Christmas Markets, celebrated for their exquisite beauty and authenticity, ranking among the finest in the world. These markets boast a rich tradition in the city, dating all the way back to the year 1310, with the Main Market Square always serving as their enchanting backdrop.

    The Krakow Christmas Markets run from the final week of November until December 26th, though they often extend their festivities until January 6th. Nestled in the breathtaking Rynek Główny, the iconic Main Market Square, the markets are adorned with splendid decorations and captivating lighting for this special occasion. The square’s most famous monuments, such as Kraków Cloth Hall and St. Mary’s Basilica, are beautifully illuminated, and the square itself is filled with over 80 wooden stalls, local street food kiosks, and old-fashioned carousels for children.

    Within the Christmas Markets, you can discover a wide variety of local handicrafts, including items made of leather, wood, ceramics, embroidered tablecloths, and handmade jewelry crafted from amber or Bohemian crystal. Locals cherish visiting this festive hub to purchase exquisite Christmas decorations; among the array of options, hand-decorated glass Christmas tree balls are the perennial favorite. You’ll also find a diverse selection of souvenirs, scented candles, paintings, and postcards.


    Krakow Christmas Markets 2024 will be held from 24 November 2024 to 1 January 2025.

    And then there’s my personal favorite part: dozens of wooden kiosks where succulent local specialties are cooked on huge grills right in front of the customers’ eager gaze. As you relish the best of local street food, including delicious hot soups and warming beverages, you’ll find it the perfect way to fend off the chill of winter days.

    Best Things to Do at Christmas in Krakow

    There are more attractions in Krakow during the winter months than just Christmas Markets. Undoubtedly, this season transforms the city into a particularly evocative and vibrant destination, with a multitude of intriguing activities to explore and place to visit. Let’s delve into what Krakow has to offer during this enchanting time of year!

    Indulge in Delectable Local Delights

    Christmas in Krakow offers the perfect opportunity to savor a wide array of delicious local specialties. The region’s cuisine relies on simple yet flavorful ingredients, often prepared using cherished family recipes passed down through generations. To truly immerse yourself in the local culinary scene, consider joining one of the enjoyable (and mouthwatering) food tours. Accompanied by friendly English-speaking local guides, you’ll embark on a culinary adventure, discovering the authentic flavors of Krakow. These tours kick off at bustling local markets, frequented by the city’s residents, before leading you on a delectable journey through tastings of the finest local products. It’s advisable to secure your spot well in advance, as these tours tend to be in high demand.

    While celebrating Christmas in Krakow, you’ll encounter numerous food stalls scattered throughout the Old Town. Here, you mustn’t miss the chance to sample renowned dishes such as pierogi, steaming hot soups, roasted chestnuts, and an assortment of cured meats. For meat enthusiasts, there are stalls offering sandwiches laden with succulent meats, lard, cucumbers and onions. Additionally, you’ll find skewers and sausages, accompanied by an array of side dishes like potatoes, sauerkraut, and assorted vegetables.

    Make sure to try the famous smoked sheep cheese called Oscypek, traditionally grilled and served with or without jam. To satisfy your sweet tooth, explore the enticing selection of sweets and cakes that fill the square with delightful aromas. Among the dessert offerings, I highly recommend indulging in gingerbread, typically served as heart-shaped biscuits, homemade cakes, the traditional Hungarian pastry known as kurtoskalacs, waffles, cookies, and spiced nuts. The kiosks at the Christmas markets also offer warm beverages, including mulled wine (grzaniec) and the renowned local hot beer. You’ll be pleased to find that prices are quite reasonable, especially when compared to Christmas markets in other European cities.

    A must-do experience in Krakow, particularly during the Christmas season, is sampling the exceptional local vodka. Contrary to popular belief, vodka was actually invented in Poland, not Russia! You can book online your vodka tastings, which typically include a selection of up to six different types of local vodka and liqueurs, accompanied by traditional snacks.

    Explore the Charms of Krakow’s Old Town

    A stroll through the winding streets of Krakow’s Old Town is an absolute must when visiting this enchanting city. It holds the distinction of being the world’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it promises a captivating experience. Prepare to be captivated by the splendid Gothic and Renaissance-style monuments and historic buildings that grace the area. Boredom is simply not an option here, with numerous shops and shopping centers, including the renowned Galeria Krakowska adjacent to the train station, offering daily retail therapy opportunities, especially during the festive Christmas season.

    The beating heart of Krakow’s Old Town undoubtedly resides within the Main Market Square. This vibrant hub plays host to Christmas Markets, an array of dining options, and charming cafes where you can savor the best of Polish cuisine. Dominating the square is the magnificent St. Mary’s Church, an iconic symbol of the city. Its neo-Gothic interior beckons exploration, showcasing the famed altarpiece by Veit Stoss and lavishly frescoed vaults.

    The Kraków Cloth Hall, or Sukiennice, stands proudly on the market square. Once a textile market, it now houses a plethora of souvenir shops, local handicrafts, and even a 19th-century Polish art gallery, an extension of the National Museum in Krakow. Within the Kraków Cloth Hall, you’ll discover one of the city’s oldest cafes, Café Noworolski, historically frequented by artists, intellectuals, and writers. Step into its elegant, vintage rooms, sink into plush red velvet sofas, and savor a steaming cup of hot chocolate alongside a delectable slice of cake. Immerse yourself in the relaxed and inviting atmosphere of this establishment.

    Another historic Krakow gem is Jama Michalika, once favored by the city’s elite. By reserving a table for a traditional dinner, you can enjoy performances of folk songs and dances in the evening. Beneath the square’s surface, the Rynek Underground Museum awaits exploration, offering a permanent exhibition that reveals Krakow’s medieval past.

    Christmas in Krakow Market Square

    During the Christmas season, as you wander through the city center, you’ll find yourself drawn to free musical performances. Krakow hosts a myriad of events, from concerts and choirs to song and dance performances by local artists, children, and street musicians. The Market Square itself boasts a stage where local groups delight audiences with enchanting Christmas carols. Heading towards the Vistula River, you’ll encounter the Wawel Castle, a historic residence for Polish kings over centuries. After exploring the castle’s gardens, interiors, and majestic Wawel Cathedral, be sure to pause and take in the breathtaking panorama of the city and the river.

    For an informative and entertaining journey through Krakow’s Old Town, and discover many interesting things about its history and legends, consider joining the excellent Free Walking Tour, which departs every morning at 10:00. Knowledgeable guides fluent in English, Italian or Spanish lead these tours. It’s advisable to book in advance, as the tours operate in small groups and availability is limited.

    Still haven’t chosen where to stay?
    Here are our guides to the best accommodations in town:

    Best SPA Hotels in Krakow
    Best 5 Star Hotels in Krakow
    Best Hotels and Apartments IN Krakow Main Square
    Best Hotels and Apartments near the Old Town and Central Station
    Best Hotels and Apartments in the Kazimierz district
    Best Budget Accommodations in Krakow
    Best Hostels in Krakow

    Explore the Fascinating Museums of Krakow

    As you continue your journey through Krakow’s enchanting Old Town, be sure to make time for a visit to its captivating museums. One must-see is the Czartoryski Museum, where you’ll have the chance to gaze upon the renowned masterpiece “Lady with an Ermine” by the brilliant Leonardo Da Vinci.

    Equally remarkable is the National Museum of Krakow, boasting an extensive collection of both national and international artworks. Additionally, don’t miss out on the MOCAK Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow, dedicated to showcasing the best of Polish contemporary art.

    For a unique cultural experience, explore the Manggha Museum, renowned for hosting one of the world’s most significant permanent exhibitions devoted to oriental art. Here, you’ll encounter a wealth of Japanese culture, including costumes, objects, and artifacts.

    In total, Krakow boasts more than 40 captivating museums, many of which can be explored in less than an hour. To maximize your museum-hopping experience, consider purchasing the City Pass Krakow Card. This convenient pass grants you free entry to most of the city’s museums and offers unlimited access to the local bus and tram network. It’s the perfect way to make the most of your cultural adventure in this historic city. Here you can find the guide to the best Museums in Krakow.

    Explore the Enchanting Kazimierz District

    Just a stone’s throw away from Krakow’s Old Town lies the captivating Kazimierz district. This area, once the heart of the city’s Jewish Quarter, has transformed into one of Krakow’s liveliest and most charming neighborhoods, making it an absolute must-visit. Kazimierz beckons with a rich history and an abundance of cozy bars and restaurants that promise a delightful experience.

    In Kazimierz, you’ll find a trove of intriguing synagogues, with the Tempel Synagogue standing out as the most significant. Along the way, don’t miss the chance to explore the Izaak Synagogue and the Kupa Synagogue, both adorned with exquisite 17th-century interior decorations. As you continue your leisurely stroll, you’ll arrive at Ulica Szeroka, the former market square that now beats as the true heart of this neighborhood. Here, an array of restaurants and pubs offer the finest in traditional Polish and Jewish cuisine, making it an ideal spot for an evening of culinary indulgence.

    Overlooking the square is the Old Synagogue, Krakow’s oldest, which adds to the district’s historic charm. Should you cross one of the nearby bridges, you’ll find yourself in the former Krakow Ghetto, located in the Podgòrze district, where tragic deportations to concentration camps took place during the past. Today, remnants of the ghetto’s walls remain, alongside a solemn memorial in the main square, honoring the Holocaust victims. Also, make time to visit the renowned Eagle Pharmacy of Doctor Tadeusz Pankiewicz, celebrated for his courageous assistance to the ghetto’s Jewish residents.

    From this point, you can conveniently access Schindler’s Factory, famously depicted in Steven Spielberg’s iconic film “Schindler’s List“. Today, it stands as a compelling museum, chronicling life in the city during the dark days of Nazi occupation. Exploring these sites is essential for gaining a comprehensive understanding of Krakow’s history and culture. Therefore, I strongly recommend touring the Jewish Quarter and the Krakow Ghetto with a knowledgeable local guide. Daily, there are excellent free walking tours that provide deeper insights into the neighborhood’s history. Remember to book your tour in advance.

    For a more comprehensive experience, consider engaging in guided tours that offer a more in-depth exploration, encompassing the history of the Ghetto and a visit to Schindler’s Factory and nearby Plaszow Concentration Camp.

    ☞ Read our guide to the Best Free Tours in Krakow

    See the Magnificent Krakow Nativity Scenes

    Christmas in Krakow is a highly anticipated season, especially for the local artisans who have upheld the time-honored tradition of crafting intricate nativity scenes known as “Kraków Szopki” for generations. Each year, a vibrant competition is organized, drawing in scores of skilled artisans. This cherished tradition captivates the hearts of both the city’s residents and its visiting guests.

    This event draws numerous talented local artisans and stands as one of the city’s most cherished traditions. Its origins can be traced back to the 19th century when Krakow’s artisans began crafting these intricate representations to supplement their income during the festive Christmas season.

    The custom swiftly gained popularity, with people eager to not just purchase these masterpieces but also to revel in their beauty. Consequently, in 1937 the municipal authorities decided to establish the first official competition. Since then, barring the period of the Second World War, this competition has graced Krakow every year, growing in global prominence. In 2018, UNESCO recognized this cherished tradition as an Intangible Heritage Site.

    What makes these nativity scenes truly special are the meticulously crafted miniatures of historical buildings in Krakow that serve as the backdrop for the depiction of the Nativity of Jesus. Crafted entirely by hand using wood and tinfoil, these scenes are genuine works of art, showcasing an astonishing attention to the minutest details. The competition unfolds on the first Thursday of December, right at the Main Market Square, beneath the statue of Adam Mickiewicz, and the finest nativity scenes find a permanent home in the Historical Museum of the City of Kraków.

    5 Must-Dos During the Christmas Season in Krakow

    ⓵ – Krakow Guided Tour and Visit to the Ghetto and Schindler’s Factory
    ⓶ – Visit the Wieliczka Salt Mines (☞ Guided Tour from Krakow)
    ⓷ – Visit Auschwitz and Birkenau (☞ Guided Tour from Krakow)
    ⓸ – Sightseeing Cruise on the Vistula River
    ⓹ – Discover Krakow’s Old Town on a FREE Walking Tour

    3 Unusual Things to Do During the Christmas Season in Krakow

    ⓵ – Discover the Soviet bunkers in the Nowa Huta district
    ⓶ – Experience the thrill of the Krakow Shooting Range
    ⓷ – Chopin Piano Recital at Chopin Concert Hall

    Ice Skating with the Locals

    During the winter season, and especially during the festive Christmas period in Krakow, locals eagerly embrace the tradition of ice-skating, ensuring that the city boasts an abundance of ice skating rinks. While several rinks are set up throughout the city, one stands out as the most renowned: Dworzec Glowny, conveniently located near the Central Railway Station, just in front of the Galeria Krakowska.

    This delightful ice rink remains open to the public from late November through March, and if you haven’t brought your own skates, fear not, as you can easily rent a pair on-site. After a delightful session of gliding on the ice, you can unwind at Galeria Krakowska, a sprawling shopping center brimming with a diverse array of shops and cafes. Here, you can savor a refreshing beverage and partake in the festive spirit, as the Christmas season often brings forth complimentary concerts and exciting events. It’s the perfect way to round off a winter day in Krakow.

    Take a day trip to Auschwitz and the Wieliczka Salt Mines

    Krakow offers an abundance of captivating attractions and intriguing destinations to explore. Christmas in Krakow undoubtedly ranks among the liveliest seasons, ensuring there’s no shortage of activities to enjoy. However, a trip to this city would feel incomplete, especially for first-time visitors, without experiencing two historically significant sites: Auschwitz and the Wieliczka Salt Mines. These locations hold immense importance in the local history and provide a profound understanding of the region’s past.

    The Wieliczka Salt Mines are an absolute must-visit during your time in Krakow and can be easily visited on a guided day tour. These mines, among the world’s oldest, boast a labyrinthine network of tunnels that stretches for over 300 kilometers, with just a fraction accessible to visitors. Descending more than 320 meters below the earth’s surface, you’ll be led by an experienced guide to explore the cavernous salt-carved chambers adorned with intricate salt sculptures. Marvel at the enchanting underground lakes and even an awe-inspiring subterranean cathedral crafted entirely from salt!

    Another essential day trip from Krakow takes you to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp, offering profound insights into the tragic events of the Second World War. Conveniently, guided day tours from Krakow are available, encompassing round-trip transportation, admission tickets, and an official guide proficient in your preferred language. Booking in advance is highly advisable to secure your spot. Please note that the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp is closed on Christmas Day, while the Wieliczka Salt Mines shutter their doors on December 24th and 25th.

    The Best Christmas Eve Dinners in Krakow

    My first choice for enjoying something typical, tasty and budget-friendly is to go to the Christmas Markets. Despite the chilly outdoor setting (though there are plenty of benches near the food stalls for you to sit and savor your meal), this is undoubtedly the most authentic place—and a local favourite—to savor traditional dishes and immerse yourself in the enchanting Christmas ambiance.

    For those seeking a more refined dining experience, reserving a table at one of the restaurants open on Christmas is a splendid choice. It’s essential to note that not all restaurants operate on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, so advance booking is highly recommended. Moreover, it’s easy to fall into a tourist trap, so I’ve compiled a list of local favorites to help guide you.

    Several establishments typically offer fixed menus for Christmas Eve Dinner, featuring dishes that are emblematic of Polish Christmas traditions. I strongly encourage you to explore one of these cherished traditional restaurants:

    1. Restauracja Pod Baranem: This modern and inviting restaurant, conveniently situated near Wawel Hill, boasts an extensive à la carte menu showcasing Polish culinary specialties.
    2. Restauracja Szeroka 12: Nestled in the heart of the historic Jewish district of Kazimierz, this restaurant is a true culinary institution in Krakow. Located on the ground floor of the Rubinstein Hotel, it offers a fixed tasting menu with six delightful courses for both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Additionally, you’ll find an extensive selection of beverages to complement your meal.
    3. Restauracja Pod Aniołami: Tucked away in the heart of Krakow’s Old Town, this atmospheric restaurant exudes the charm of a medieval inn. Their menu features exquisite traditional Polish dishes, renowned for their marinated and grilled meats, as well as other classic Polish culinary delights.

    These recommendations ensure that your Christmas Eve Dinner in Krakow will be a memorable and authentic experience, whether you opt for the bustling Christmas Markets or the warmth of a traditional restaurant.

    How to Get There and Get Around

    Krakow has recently emerged as one of Europe’s premier Christmas holiday destinations. This distinction arises from its unique blend of charm, liveliness, a plethora of attractions, delectable cuisine, top-notch hospitality, and budget-friendly prices.

    Krakow boasts excellent connectivity with major European cities, making it an ideal choice for a weekend getaway or a short break. Krakow Airport, equipped with modern amenities, is conveniently linked to the Central Railway Station via a train service. Alternatively, you have the option to pre-book affordable private transfer services from the airport to your hotel, and vice versa. For more information, take a look at our easy guide on How to Get from Krakow Airport to the City Centre.

    Exploring Krakow’s Old Town is a breeze on foot, and you’ll find numerous high-quality hotels in the area at very reasonable rates. The city’s public transportation system, comprising buses and trams, is efficient and operates even during holidays. Additionally, holding the City Pass Krakow Card grants you free access to public transportation and complimentary admission to the city’s museums.

    Still haven’t chosen where to stay?
    Here are our guides to the best accommodations in town:

    Best SPA Hotels in Krakow
    Best 5 Star Hotels in Krakow
    Best Hotels and Apartments IN Krakow Main Square
    Best Hotels and Apartments near the Old Town and Central Station
    Best Hotels and Apartments in the Kazimierz district
    Best Budget Accommodations in Krakow
    Best Hostels in Krakow

    Useful Tips for Your Trip to Krakow

    Here you will also find ALL the advice you need about the Best Things to Do and See in Krakow and unmissable day trips, such as the one to Auschwitz and the one to the Wieliczka Salt Mines.

    Planning your trip to Krakow? These are our in-depth guides with everything you need to know to plan an amazing trip to Krakow:

    • KRAKOW TRAVEL GUIDE: Discover the top things to do and see in Krakow and explore the captivating attractions in the vicinity. This guide is your gateway to a remarkable Krakow experience.
    • KRAKOW TRAVEL TIPS: Our collection of best tips and tricks will equip you with everything necessary for planning your trip effectively. From logistics to cultural insights, we’ve got your back.